A galaxy far, far away is about to look and sound better than ever.
Today marks the debut on Blu-ray disc of George Lucas' epic Star Wars sci-fi saga. The series will be made available in three editions, a complete, six-film version and three-film versions of the original and prequel trilogies.
Local Star Wars fanatics had mixed reactions to the films' release on the latest video format.
While they said they appreciate technical improvements such as remastered audio and video, fans pointed to leaked information about tweaks to scenes and characters as unnecessary changes that detract from the spirit of the original films.
"I've seen some of the changes they've made on the Blu-ray versions, and ... I find myself wondering if Lucas is now doing these changes just for the sake of change," said Jeff Hickey, historian of Chattooine, a local Star Wars costuming group.
Hickey says he was introduced to Star Wars at age 5. Throughout the history of the series and its numerous re-releases, Hickey said he has approved of some changes and been appalled by others.
"If technology allows you to add more ships to a scene, or clean up degraded film, or fix production errors, I'm fine with that," he said. "It's unnecessary for my enjoyment of the films, but if that makes him [Lucas] happy, they're his movies to change."
Star Wars has been released on virtually every major home video format, beginning in 1977 with Super 8 clips of the first film, "Star Wars" (later renamed "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope").
Full versions of the films began releasing in home video formats with a laser disc edition in 1982. Numerous re-releases have followed, from VHS trilogy packages and wide-screen versions to special edition DVDs.
In 1997, Lucasfilm released a special anniversary edition of the original trilogy, including new special effects, such as computer-generated characters layered onto pre-existing scenes. Subsequent home releases retained these alterations, some of which are controversial among fans, such as an alteration to the shoot-out between pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and a bounty hunter in the original film.
"[Han] was a smuggler, and he was quick, but not quick enough to dodge a blaster from five feet away," said Josh Lang, 26, who has been a Star Wars fan since age 5.
The additional effects and characters added to the special editions of the original trilogy released in the late 1990s create a "cluttering" effect that removes the elegant simplicity of the theatrical originals, Lang said.
"George Lucas took out a lot of the imagination and excitement," he said. "He seemed like he was putting stuff in just because he could.
"I don't know what was going on in his head. He had very, very good films back in the '70s and '80s. I think every little addition they add is killing it."
In addition to high-definition audio and video transfers, the Blu-ray re-release will feature more altered scenes. Leaks of clips from the Blu-ray edition feature additional voice-over lines and visual alterations, such as adding blinking eyes to the teddy bear-like Ewoks in "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi."
Lang said he still loves the series, despite these and other changes, but will not be buying the Blu-ray editions of the film because he doesn't own a compatible player.
Jonathan Cantrell, 35, however, plans to pick up his copy today.
While the consistent tweaking is irritating, it's something fans of the series have grown used to, Cantrell said.
"With Lucas, you just kind of come to expect it," Cantrell said. "He's always going to tweak his baby."
Ralph Covino, 35, is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a long-time Star Wars fan. He is teaching his fifth iteration of "Star Wars and the Roman Empire," a first-year seminar drawing parallels between ancient history and the Star Wars saga.
Lucas has long been a proponent of taking advantage of new technologies to enact changes on his films, Covino said, adding that that trend isn't likely to stop, as long as new editions continue to sell.
"They [Lucasfilm] have been at the forefront of the merchandising revolution from the very beginning," he said. "They know they have the fan base, and we're going to buy them, no matter what.
"We know it; we just have to accept it from time to time. They know it as well, which doesn't help matters."
ABOUT THE COLLECTION
- Format: Blu-ray discs.
- Cost: $140 for The Complete Saga. Prequel and original trilogy collections (middle and right) are also available for $70 each.
- Number of discs: 9 in The Complete Saga (3 discs for each trilogy).
- Video: 1080p.
- Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 surround sound.
ON THE DISC
Here are some of the documentaries that make up the more than 40 hours of bonus content on the complete Star Wars Blu-ray saga.
- "Star Warriors" (84 minutes): A documentary tribute to the 501st Legion, a global Star Wars costuming group.
- "A Conversation With the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later" (25 minutes): Crew members involved in the production of the second film discuss and reminisce.
- "Star Wars Spoofs" (91 minutes): A collection of pop-culture Star Wars spoofs and parodies, including clips from "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" and a video by Weird Al Yankovich.
A LONG TIME AGO
1977: Theatrical release of "Star Wars" (later known as "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope").
1977: First appearance on Super 8 format.
1980: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back."
1982: First appearance on laser disc format.
1983: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi."
1984: First appearance on VHS/Betamax format.
1989: First appearance in wide-screen.
1997: Theatrical release of special editions of the original trilogy.
1999: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."
2001: First appearance on DVD.
2002: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones."
2005: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith."
2011: First appearance on Blu-ray.
According to the organization's Facebook page, members of local Star Wars costuming group Chattooine will be making an appearances in coordination with the launch of the Star Wars Blu-ray. Members will appear in costume from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Best Buy at 2290 Gunbarrel Road.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...