It’s a Trap: Looking at Star Wars Blu-ray Rumors


Last weekend, Star Wars fans sensed a great disturbance in the Force: An “exclusive report” on broke the news that Disney would be releasing the original cuts of the Star Wars trilogy (sans digitally-altered scenes and George Lucas’ add-ons) on Blu-ray. Aside from anything related to Episode VII, this was potentially the biggest news the fanbase had heard in a long time.

But some padawans had a bad feeling about this development, and it turns out they were right: We won’t be seeing Sebastian Shaw return to the party on Endor anytime soon, and Han will still be firing a bit too slowly in his shootout with Greedo. Several other news sites quickly debunked the “exclusive,” pointing out rather convincingly that if Disney intends to release the original films unaltered, they have to go through Fox, which owns the distribution rights. (It’s a pretty complicated situation.) Our collective hopes were dashed. It was as if millions of fan voices cried out in excitement and were suddenly silenced.

And they have a right to be disappointed. It seems we come closer and closer to getting these cherished Blu-rays, only to see the plans dipped in carbonite time and time again. But there’s a bright spot to all these rumors, one that may even hold potential for the upcoming films.

You could argue that all this hullabaloo only amps up the pressure on Fox and Disney to strike a deal, but that’s iffy, because Lucas is notoriously against this plan himself. He firmly believes that the 2004 versions of the original trilogy are the embodiment of what he intended the films to be.

But I would argue that the fans’ excitement over the unaltered versions, even for a fake report, is making waves in the Force that J.J. Abrams and company are picking up on. And it’s impressing upon these filmmakers why the fans want these Blu-rays: not just because this is the Star Wars most fans grew up with, but because it’s the way Star Wars works best.

One of the main criticisms of the prequel trilogy is its overreliance on CGI to tell its half of the Star Wars saga. Those criticisms aren’t completely fair, but there’s still something missing in Episodes I-III that IV-VI have in spades. It all goes back to Lucas’ plan when filming A New Hope: He told the staff to avoid cleaning the props and sets, because he wanted the universe to have a lived-in feel, complete with all the uncleanliness and disorder that a real, fully-conceived universe would have.

That atmosphere Lucas was going for is also tied to the original trilogy’s use of practical effects, and how it really helped sell the swashbuckling, Saturday morning-serial feel of the Star Wars universe. Not only did sequences such as the Death Star attack or the speeder bike chase feel more immediate and exciting, but using real sets with real actors led to plenty of goofy moments and happy accidents that only made the series more endearing.

But will the makers of the third trilogy subscribe to this philosophy, especially under the eye of Lucas, who loves his green screen technology? There’s no way to know for sure until the movies come out, but there are several good signs. Last year, producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy emphasized that practical effects were part of the new team’s strategy in developing Episode VII:

"“The conversation we’re having all the time now about Episode VII is how much CGI. We’re looking at what the early Star War films did; they used real locations with special effects. So (for Episode VII) we’re going to find some very cool locations, we’re going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox.”"

And just this past week, Episode VIII director and new trilogy scribe Rian Johnson confirmed that practical effects are taking precedence over computer graphics on the set of Episode VII:

"“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome. I think people are coming back around to (practical effects). It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”"

It’s anyone’s guess whether these statements will hold up for Episode VII, or even over the course of the entire trilogy. But I have faith that the filmmakers have a good read on the Star Wars pulse, and with this renewed fervor over the original trilogy, they have a better idea of exactly the type of Star Wars that fans are craving.