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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope - 4k Blu-ray Review

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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Star Wars’ new caretakers, Disney, have gone to painstaking work to be able to release this series of films for the first time in 4K. After purchasing the franchise from George Lucas, acquiring 20th Century Fox, and continuing the Star Wars saga with (so far) 5 new movies, the studio has spent considerable time, care and finance to restore/preserve the original trilogy to a standard never before seen.

I’m not going to get bogged down in the controversy of Lucas and now Disney compounding the lack of choice by not releasing these films as they originally were. Except to say, I agree with all of out there that want the theatrical releases as we saw them, and I consider them historically significant and important to release. I will, however, give my thoughts on the special edition cuts and they will differ from this first generation Star Wars fan’s view of the original cut.

I now know, whatever agreements Lucas and Disney currently have, that it is absolutely possible for 4K theatrical masters of the original trilogy to be released. I hope one day, Lucasfilm finally gives the fans what they want. So here we are again, in all likelihood for the final time, in respect to physical media (…but never say never).

STAR WARS

There are few films in history that have the distinction of not only killing at the box office, but also of possessing an absolutely flawless combination of all participants, performers, creatives, money men and and timing to be considered perfect and paradigm changing. Star Wars is one of them.

While ‘A New Hope’ (the first of Lucas’s revisions) is how it’s now known, in 1977 it was simply Star Wars. There was no expanded story at the time. There were no prequels or sequels to contradict or refute its narrative, or boggle the minds of all of us then. This was a straight down the line fantasy of a bored and restless farm boy and his dreams of getting away coming to fruition in spectacular (if tragic) circumstances. {googleads}

Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) humdrum life is thrown into upheaval when his uncle purchases two droids. The droids carry secret plans for the Rebellion to defeat the Galactic Empire, who are hot on their heels. When one of them, R2D2 (Kenny Baker), accidently reveals a message from a Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) for an Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness), Luke’s life quickly is turned upside down. Tragedy and secrets from his past lead him to follow Obi Wan on a mission to deliver the message. What awaits him is all the adventure and thrills a young, idealistic man could wish for... but it will come at great cost.

The imagination on display in the picture is vast to say the least. The characterization is cleverly archetypal, making them instantly recognizable and relatable. In this crazy universe of Wookies and Jawas and dark lords with asthma (couldn’t resist, sorry), you still are able to—through the likes of Luke, Han and Leia—effortlessly immerse yourself in Lucas’s fantasy and relate to them and everything unfolding around them.

The story at this point in the franchise is a relentless propelling of narrative in the most wondrously digestible way. It tastes so good. Every character, set piece, effect and sound in this movie is the best there has ever been.

Star Wars, as it once was known, is a product of immense willpower in Lucas, and a rare confluence of the most talented company of artists ever assembled. It is, in this reviewer’s estimation, one of the greatest adventure movies ever made. Have I gushed enough? Okay, time for some levity.Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE

To be accurate, this reviewed disc is not Star Wars; it is Star Wars: A New Hope—a revised beginning to a now nine part saga. Yes, I know Episode Four’s subtitle was added on theatrical rerelease in the late 70s. But this product’s origins begin in mid to the late 90s. You see, after Spielberg wowed the world with Jurassic Park, Lucas had decided he could finally actually produce anything he could imagine with CGI. As sort of a warm up, before tackling the prequels, he applied these new tools to the original trilogy. In cinemas all over the world, we saw new scenes and ‘improved’ special effects.

For context sake and for those that weren’t there, this was following on from what fans refer to as ‘the dark times’; a dearth of Star Wars related content from when Return Of the Jedi ended its theatrical run and the few minor attempts to maintain interest quickly disappeared. The idea that any new Star Wars product was coming had the world chomping at the bit. The reaction to the original trilogy releases modifications, while in theory piqued interest, did not generally sit well with audiences come release time. In fact, it pissed many of them off.

Several times over the years, Lucas revisited the editing and effects of his original masterpiece to increasing resistance from his audience. It started in the viewers’ eyes as a curiosity; scenes like Jabba confronting Han; the extended entry into Mos Eisley; redone ships and creatures. But viewing any of these revised edits quickly shows that it pales to the tight, genius and Oscar Winning editing of Paul Hirsch, Richard Chew and Marcia Lucas. Added scenes are clunky and intrusive to the narrative; the ‘Han Shot First’ scene changes the intent and character of Solo; the ever increasing digital additions, such as putting rocks in front of R2 as he cowers from desert marauders are just plain useless, as are some of the changes in Ben Burtt’s original sound design. But perhaps the greatest sting to the generation of folk that grew up with the original is the fact that this is the only choice offered. While every other hit movie out there with a half dozen different edits has copious releases that give you an option, Lucas decided we would have to settle for the latest do-over of his tale. That is now, and continues to be, a big, big, big mistake.

Now, I am not personally a hater of the special editions. I am interested in seeing what limitations Lucas thought he had back in the day, and enjoy studying what additions he made/makes to get it closer to what he saw in his head. But as a film, the re-edits are always, in my estimation, less. They are not as tightly constructed as Star Wars was. They are bloated with redundant scenes and changes that add nothing to an already perfect story. In addition, as a piece of a nine part saga, the other eight films make it a story full of plot holes. This film is set 19 years after Revenge of the Sith? Well fuck me are the Tattooine suns hard on Obi Wan’s skin, because he aged fast and BADLY. That is one of but many, and it always struck me, as more films were added to the cinematic canon, how ropey the narrative of Star Wars became.

A New Hope is a changed beast from where we started, and sad to write an imperfect one. While I unequivocally give Star Wars 5/5, A New Hope is a solid movie plagued by bloated scenes that shouldn’t be there. I will continue to sing its praises in the blu-ray section below, but every time I watch the revised cuts, no matter spectacular they look, I always end at the same conclusion: It’s still fun but a lesser film for it.

4/5 stars

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

4K

4K UHD Details:

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Disney / Buena Vista
Available on Blu-ray
- March 31, 2020\
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX; Japanese: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K Blu-ray: Region free; 2K Blu-ray: Locked to region A

Okay, Disney has released the Skywalker Saga in a beautiful bankrupt making box set that includes all nine movies and omits Rogue One and Solo. In Australia, where this reviewer hangs his hat, one would have to hand over $400 smackaroons for the nine flicks. Your read that right! So we didn’t go that route. I found a deal on single 4K releases and decided that would be the way to go for two reasons. 1. I got all 11 Star Wars films for half the price of the box set. (Honestly, how does that work, Disney?) And 2. The design of the box set—a kind of massive book—requires you to man-handle the discs out of cardboard slips, and I can see that quickly going bad.

VIDEO

Okay, no more whining. This is spectacular work. Reliance MediaWorks took all the camera negatives and scanned then assembled a true 4K native re-master of the special edition, replete with some new Lucas edits and changes. The film has never been seen in this detail. I like the new colour timing choices and think they’re closer to the original and more natural. These discs, as opposed to the Disney+ digital 4K version, offers only HDR10 and not DOLBY VISION. I say only as a query, as the latter is now deemed the cat’s pajamas of HDR. This is a subtle by impressively applied and never before experienced depth of picture. The space is as inky and deep and remiss of any crush as has been laid upon a disc. Explosions, lightsabers, and lighting get a heightened kick and really stand out. There is a vastly improved noise reduction and edge enhancement presence that only intermittently makes itself known. There is some evidence of fake grain added to the special effects that sometimes help to blend the 2k effects into the 4K master and sometimes stick out. The detail in the picture, while enhanced in many shots, is as organic, dimensional and detailed as has ever been seen. The skin tones, hair, shiny helmets, droids and Lucas’s used future have never looked so good. This is a massive uptick from any previous home release.

AUDIO

DOLBY ATMOS 7.1 presents a solid new mix that out classes the compressed Disney+ comparable mix. Its base is of particular heft, quickly making itself known in the blockade runner opening scene. Dialogue is crisp and clean. Directionality effects are decent, with a few stand outs throughout. Your speakers will definitely get a good workout, and your receiver won’t need to be dialed anywhere near as high as I had to on Disney+ to achieve the same level of immersion.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Blu-ray disc only

  • Audio Commentary: George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren.
  • Audio Commentary: Cast and Crew (Archival).

Special Features:

I made this pact a while back. If a company does not offer new content in the way of supplemental material, I won’t bother reviewing them. There are no features on the 4K disc. You do get a blu-ray (which is a 1080p of the new restoration, not previous editions of the blu ray) and a special features disc filled with stuff released many time before. SNORE.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual content and language.
Runtime:
121 mins
Director
: George Lucas
Writer:
George Lucas
Cast:
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Genre
: Adventure | Sci-fi
Tagline:
A new hope.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Just you reconsider playing that message for him!"
Theatrical Distributor:
20th Century Fox
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 25, 1977
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 31, 2020.
Synopsis: Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.

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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

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