Recently, The Mary Sue drew my attention to Harmy’s Star Wars: Despecialized Edition v.2.5, a collective effort by certain skilled Star Wars fans to restore the original trilogy to the experience of watching it in the theater (but in HD!).
The need is pretty clear. Though there are rumors of Disney releasing a blu-ray edition of the “un-special” editions of the films, there is no official version available in HD that maintains the original cut and look of the film.
The short below shows the sources and some of the editing used to create the Despecialized Edition.
The many sources, examination of each source’s limitations and flaws, and tricks to rebuild original footage are simply fascinating to a film geek like myself. The color correction alone is worth the effort, nevermind the Greedo shooting first or digitally added Jabba. I hadn’t realized how tonally different the original color palette was and how that effected my viewing until I saw them side-by-side. That color correction also illuminates why the prequels appear so fake. The original Star Wars had a color palette that suggested grounded realism, not sci-fi fantasy.
Watching the featurette for the DE brought to mind scholars attempting to rebuild Shakespeare’s intended Hamlet. There are three different surviving versions of the text, each seemingly sourced from a different person connected to its performance at the Globe, but none are Shakespeare’s script. Scholars go word by word, line by line, attempting to rectify differences in voice, meaning, and “quality” to produce the text the public reads as Hamlet.
But it also made me think of the reconstruction work that has been done on the Mona Lisa: meticulous stripping of layers and restoration of color, hi-tech scans to see beneath the upper layers of paint.
And I honestly think this is the same. If we can’t get the original version from George and Lucasfilm/Disney, by golly, fans will make it. Their efforts are nothing short of the precision, skill, and historical and artistic understanding of restoring a da Vinci or Shakespeare. Ironically, they’re doing it with a living artist’s work, because he can’t keep from tweaking it, and they think he’s f*ed it up.
Of course, the Despecialized Edition isn’t exactly legal, though downloads are “acceptable” if that person already owns the Star Wars blu-rays. See the information on the YouTube page for more directions on how to get yours.