Star Wars hits Blu-ray next year

Long-awaited announcement comes with disappointment for fans.

Normally, press releases are the bane of my existence. I receive hundreds per week, dozens of which arrive over the weekend, so coming back to my inbox on a Monday morning usually entails sifting through piles of announcements, irrelevant 90 per cent of the time, to find actual messages that I need to reply to.

On occasion, however, they’re more exciting than any interview opportunity, freelance pitch or news tip that I ever receive, and one of these rare moments happened this morning when I had an email through announcing the release of Star Wars on Blu-ray.

For reference, the release is below.

Highly Anticipated Complete Star Wars™ Saga
Readied for High Definition Blu-ray Debut

LONDON (August 16, 2010) – Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced at The Star Wars Celebration V event in the USA that the complete Star Wars Saga will come to Blu-ray Disc with a worldwide release in Autumn 2011. The Star Wars Blu-ray Box Set will feature all six live-action Star Wars feature films utilizing the highest possible picture and audio presentation, along with extensive special features – including documentaries, vintage behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, retrospectives and never-before-seen footage from the Lucasfilm archives.

“Blu-ray is the absolute best way to experience Star Wars at home – in pristine high definition,” said George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars Saga. “The films have never looked or sounded better.”

Featuring celebrities, costumes, live entertainment, screenings, autographs, collectibles, panels and much, much more, Star Wars Celebration V is THE official Lucasfilm convention – and the biggest Star Wars party in the galaxy! Taking place in Orlando, FL from August 12-15, Star Wars Celebration V commemorates the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and the ongoing, weekly adventures of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

Lucasfilm, STAR WARS™ and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd.  All rights reserved.  All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

Exciting stuff, yes? Very much so. I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time, as I’m sure the vast majority of you have as well. Yeah, we moan about how many times we’ve bought Star Wars over our lives, how many iterations are released suspiciously close to the holiday seasons, or we can recognise an unsettling truth in the various interviews that come out with those attached to the films years later. But the thing is, a high definition version of the original trilogy is simply too cool to pass up. It may even be what that finally convinces me to (get a credit card and) buy a proper television.

Disappointment is round the corner, however, as has become traditional for the franchise since the execrable prequels were released. The New York Times managed to get hold of George Lucas over the weekend to talk about the BD release, and found out that it would only be the digitally enhanced editions that would be making the jump over to HD. “It’s a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version.”

Lucas makes the point that the quality of the original theatrical versions isn’t very good, and that’s fair enough. But it does feel as if you’re banging your head against a brick wall sometimes with the Star Wars franchise. People know that it isn’t very good, that the effects aren’t as advanced as what can be accomplished today and that yes, the alien does look like a puppet or a man in a suit. But we don’t care. Such furor occurs over tinkering with the source material because what it was is such an essential part of the series’ charm. It’s about preserving the original soul of the films, not about upgrading them to look like they were made in 2010.

I’ll still be buying the films in HD, like most people will, but it’s a savage disappointment that we won’t be having the original theatrical editions included, and being mollified by never-before-seen clips isn’t really working.

Mainly, there’s just an overriding sense of pessimism that come Autumn 2012, we’ll be reaching into our pockets for the new announcement of the Blu-ray theatrical versions.