The Internet exploded like the goddamn Death Star yesterday when the Blu-Ray editions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi allegedly leaked two and a half weeks ahead of their official release date. Excitement quickly turned to vitriol as fans laid eyes on the latest round of revisions supposedly implemented by the ever-finicky George Lucas—the most controversial of which found Darth Vader making a dubious callback during Return of the Jedi’s climax to his embarrassing final bellow in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Furious Wampa jockeys began canceling their Blu-Ray pre-orders en masse, but some doubt remained. Was this leaked footage realer than Real Deal Holyfield, or was it complete bupkis?
The latter seemed possible, as much of what we were seeing on these alleged rips did not offer the color or audio corrections Lucasfilm had promised for the Blu-Rays. I mean, come on, would our cherised special effects wizards really waste their time giving the Ewoks digital eyelids and painting in singular rocks only to ignore the much larger tinting and sound problems that plagued the 2004 DVD releases? Don’t you think they would have spent the past seven years making sure Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber is blue in every single frame of the first Star Wars as opposed to preventing Ewok Restasis?
As it turns out, the probable answers to those questions are, in order, “LOL, fuck yeah!” and “LOL, fuck no!” New York Times Arts Beat writer Dave Itzkoff got ahold of someone at Lucasfilm this morning who confirmed, at the very least, that Vader’s “NOOO!” is now a part of Return of the Jedi. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. Thus, I think we can assume everything else we’re seeing is legit. From what I understand, it’s relatively impossible to fake the quality on display in some of these clips, and Digital Bits Editor Bill Hunt did tell us two weeks ago after attending a semi-clandestine Star Wars press junket that the Blu-Rays would offer “a few new ‘surprises'” (none of which he could elaborate upon at the time).
Welcome to 2011. Ewoks can now blink, R2-D2 has gained the ability to pass through solid matter, the original unaltered trilogy continues to languish in non-anamorphic DVD hell, and Darth Vader is officially King of the Grumpy Man-Children. Have a nice day!
I’ll try to post a semi-comprehensive list of all the Blu-Ray changes I’ve read about for the OT later on (EDIT: Done!). Right now, I have to go clean the dried vomit out of my Chewbacca costume. Thankfully it’s a rent-to-own deal, so I’m not in too much trouble. Wookiee fur isn’t supposed to be effortlessly clean and well-groomed anyway, right?
UPDATE: Lucasfilm has now confirmed all the Star Wars Blu-Ray changes we’ve been kvetching about. Quoteth the Phantom PR Rep, “We hope fans will wait to see for themselves how they fit into the Saga before making any judgments.” Bantha poodoo. Guess this means, in turn, all the color/sound mistakes present in the leaks are totes legit as well. Again I say Bantha poodoo.