STAR WARS 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray: What I’d Like To See

No, Lucasfilm/Disney/Fox have not announced the release of Star Wars on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format yet. I apologize to anyone who quickly saw that and got excited, but I couldn’t think of any other way to title the piece. Clickbait was not my intention. But, now that you’re here, please stay for a while and participate! With the strong embrace of streaming from the mainstream, we don’t exactly know how embraced the 4K Ultra-HD format will be in the years to come. If there is one certainty from the format, its that the classic Star Wars films will one day make the jump to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Every format and collector eagerly awaits the debut of these films as they usually take a few years before arrival. And each time has come with both excitement and light controversy. Star Wars has released in a similar “business as usual” fashion ever since the mid-1990s. With this article, I’m hoping to present a different method, one that breaks from their traditional release pattern and style. This isn’t going to be a history of Star Wars on home video as I’d done for Halloween, but what I’d like to see going into the next format. I’d also love for people to join in on the comments and suggest their own (somewhat realistic) ideas. 

Since 1995, the Star Wars release pattern has been pretty uniform. Those THX Editions boasted the final opportunity to own the original trilogy on home video. They came out as the full trilogy set. I believe they also were available individually the same day. The sell, however, was to own the entire trilogy. 1997 followed in similar fashion with the Special Edition trilogy available right off the bat (A set that would be repackaged with new art when The Phantom Menace came out). DVD saw the release of the classic trilogy as a set exclusively for the first year and the followed with individual releases. For Blu-ray, they sold it as a complete saga or by the separate trilogy and only later would release individually.

For over two decades, Star Wars has been celebrated and ushered on home video as a complete trilogy first and foremost. It’s great to be able to own all three of the films in the current format right from the jump. You get “improved” presentations of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to marathon right upon release day.

Strangely enough, when it comes to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of Star Wars, I want to suggest that Lucasfilm do the opposite…

Instead of celebrating the classic Star Wars trilogy as a whole, let’s honor each one as an individual work. A slower roll out that gives the stage to one of the films at a time. And let’s do our best to make each release the definitive home video version for physical media home video and the collector. I realize the marketing strategy of Star Wars is based upon getting the same people to buy it up over and over. 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray feels like it may be the point in our physical home video market that becomes the most niche its ever been. With things continually giving in to streaming no matter how hard we try to plug our fingers in our ears and yell “la la la la I can’t hear you!”, why not try and make this the most significant last gasp effort for the biggest films in cinema history.

Let’s not do the Star Wars and Indiana Jones thing (Which have honestly been very nice releases), but borrow a page from other elite film releases on DVD and Blu-ray. Its time to take a page from Blade Runner, The Lord of the Rings and Alien films when it comes to Star Wars. Like those films, the Star Wars films all had multiple cuts both celebrated, divided and derided by their fanbases. Why not give everyone access to all of them in one release to either choose from, study or watch the evolution from the original theatrical release to the 2011 Blu-ray edition of the film.

At this point, Star Wars most resembles Blade Runner with as many cuts and alterations George Lucas has made to his creations. In 2007, Warner Bros released the most definitive home video version of any movie with their Blade Runner set. Through a series of branching options and multiple discs, they were able to present fans with every cut of the film, including a workprint. Alien found itself giving fans a choice of a restored director’s cut or the original theatrical version.

Currently, Star Wars has 6 versions of the film available through the years and different formats. Easily, the most wanted version of the film is the 1977 theatrical release. But are you sure that’s the one you want? Hang on a moment, I’ll get there. Then, there was a rerelease of the film that added the subtitle of “Episode IV: A New Hope” to the opening crawl. Said text was not present upon initial release and was added to be uniform with its sequel “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back“. In 1995, the VHS/Laserdisc final home video release of the original trilogy featured the THX restorations. This extensive work was done to not only remaster the films in general, but to correct effects dating and mistakes that were becoming much more visible with better video quality. Light boxes around ships in space, see-through cockpit dashboards and light saber efficiency were all improved with this new restoration. And…I don’t think anyone complained about these cosmetic fixes.

Complaints did start to arrive with the 1997 Special Editions (Though, some people did welcome the changes and/or aren’t bothered by them). These versions of the film not only continued to clean up the picture but also added CGI elements to the feature not only to enhance effects but to create different exteriors and added backdrop elements. Its the birthplace of “Han shot first!” They also added back in a few deleted sequences (Featuring Jabba the Hutt and Biggs Darklighter). When the films came to DVD 8 years later, they would continue to work on the effects they added (A better rendered Jabba, looking closer to Return of the Jedi) and tinker even more with the films (Removing some of the 1997 stuff as well). One final bit of adjusting came with the 2011 Blu-ray release, with some added elements.

Every new home video release brought a demand for the original unaltered versions of the films to be released. The only time it came close was the individual films’ release on DVD, which came with a direct port of the Laserdisc versions that left so much to be desired (set to 4×3 letterbox even). George and Lucasfilm have held firm constantly on not releasing the original versions. That whatever new one he put out was the definitive edition. This has led to groups restoring the films in an unofficial capacity with the de-specialized versions. And I must say, they have gone to impressive lengths to recreate their desired playback of Star Wars.

Why not just toss us every version of the film in its best quality so we can decide for ourselves? Surely a new Atmos track will be drafted, but also offer us a lossless option of the original theatrical mix. Maybe a limited edition, multi-disc set that contains all of them. There is probably also some form of a workprint/early version of the film that fans would go crazy for and kill to see that could be added to the mix. I don’t care if the source is a VHS, put it on there! And for the regular “I don’t care about your bells or your whistles” folk, put out a single edition 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with just the most recent version of the film for mass consumption.

I haven’t even spoken of any bonus features yet, but having each version of the film tells a history within itself for the film geek and film collector. With the bonus features, what’s left to say that’s new about Star Wars? Lucasfilm has long prided themselves on having new bonus features every time that allows you to hold on to previous formats with good reason. Let’s stop that. Make this an archival treasure trove of all the bonus features that came before. That Leonard Maltin interview that played before the THX VHS tapes? Put it on there! The deleted scenes? Yes please (And more if you’re holding back!). Empire of Dreams? Make my dreams come true and do this!

As far as what new things could be added? Maybe there are some alternate takes or candid behind the scene footage that could be compiled. I’m not sure new interviews are necessary, but how about trying to obtain and include vintage talk show appearances and promotional interviews during the release of Star Wars/Special Editions with Carrie, George, Mark, and Harrison (And others). Oh, and there are auditions galore that you could include as a bonus feature as well (Kurt Russell as Han and William Katt as Luke is one of my favorites). Blow us away with one we don’t even realize exists/have heard about but not seen (Al Pacino)! If you need a new feature, grab some celebrities/critics and have them talk about why they love the unaltered versions or have some stick up for the Special Editions.

Packaging should go crazy! Give me something bigger and bulkier. Its Star Wars, I’m not concerned with it fitting on my shelf! The digibook packaging as done for the saga set, as well as Indiana Jones and Alien sets, are very nice. We can do one of those for each film, individual discs for cuts and bonus features. Try as hard as you can to craft something that celebrates the original poster art for the cover of the box. Inside, include a little postcard set with all the poster art from release and over the years similar to that of the Universal Monsters collection. A lovely book inside with a good couple of essays and exclusive photos like the ones seen in the JW Rinzler Making Of books would be cool.

Again, this would be a release for the original film. 1977’s Star Wars itself is a landmark and absolute phenomenon in motion picture history. It was a standalone film before it was a series. Even today, it stands on its own as complete work from start to finish. Let’s go back to treating it like one for the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Afterward,  you roll out The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi over a year with one every four months; each film encompassing the full scope of the individual work. Sure, the price point would probably be a steeper one per movie ($50 plus, I’d be guessing), but its STAR WARS. I’m sure most collectors, happily or reluctantly, would be willing to shell out the necessary funds for a release of that measure done right and being given what we want within the release.

Am I crazy? Most likely. Will this be how they wind up doing it? Probably not. Is it reasonable to think they could do a release like this? Yes. As we’ve seen with The Lord Of The Rings Extended Edition sets, the Blade Runner set (Which was almost fully ported over in its 4K release. Sorry workprint!) and Alien releases, you can do a boffo release for just one film. And when it comes to movies, no other has a bigger fanbase with the most willing of wallets to open when you put something out. I’d be willing to wait out each film’s release if each one was released in this fashion.

Oh, and I most certainly would want the damn Holiday Special included with either the Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back release. Let’s go full on completionist here! My personal desired version of the film would be a good print of the THX remasters from 1995 (With a branching option to have or have not the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle). I’d like the original films, but looking as good as they could without the shadowboxes around the ships or the see-through cockpits. That’s me though. I’ll suffer through the shot where Darth Vader has a white lightsaber to get that one! What say you? Do you support my idea? Any add ons or subtractions? Sound off in the comments and may the force be with you.


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

4 Responses to “STAR WARS 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray: What I’d Like To See”

  1. James Richter

    Wonderful ideas! I’m with you!

  2. James Richter

    Great ideas! I’m with you.

  3. Jacob Destree

    Your ideas are the best case scenario. Since I am crazy for commentaries I would also like to see a couple new commentary tracks added. Lord of the Rings has four commentary tracks per film and that’s the gold standard. In addition to porting over the old George Lucas track and the archival interviews track, I would add a new one by an esteemed film critic and maybe one by a noted “superfan” who could break down the toys/ collectibles/ pop culture angle.

  4. Tom Holste

    Ooh, man, I’d love the Star Wars films with branching options and multiple discs! I would even go for the 1977 version without “Episode IV” in the crawl, as well as having restorations done by the likes of Adywan.

    For the prequels, I would love to see some acclaimed fan edits included that tighten the pace and structure of those movies. (I’m not saying it’s ever going to happen, but I would love to see that!)

    As for the Holiday Special, I would only want to see that included if they used the Rifftrax commentary. 😀 While we’re at it, throw in the Ewok movies and some Droids episodes!