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The restoration of the original movies ... or the lack thereof Gripe, share rumours and theories, squash rumours etc

#1 User is offline   Just your average movie goer Icon

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 02:24 AM

I am clearly a man with my head in the clouds. No, I am. You see, for some strange reason, I seem to think that just because a trilogy of films is of considerable cultural significance, a sentiment shared by the American Film Institute and the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, that it shouldn't be too much to ask for it to be given a standard DVD presentation - you know, the kind that is given to virtually every other movie, regardless of whether it's a much loved epic like Lawrence of Arabia or a cheap piece of trash that should never have been made.

Apparently, I ask too much.

And there was my nice little introduction to this well-known topic. Yes, it's been beaten to death with a sackful of bricks but all the same, I'd like to open more discussion on it if anyone's interested. You can gripe some more about it if you want, you can share rumours on what's happening now regarding this issue, you can squash said rumours if you think you know better and you can discuss all your conspiracy theories on why these movies, that we expected to be among the earliest DVD releases, have still not been given proper DVD treatment at this late date.

One of my gripes with it is the simple selfishness Lucas is displaying. For right or wrong, he is the custodian of these much loved films but if he isn't willing to give them the treatment they deserve, then he should give them to someone who is. There are numerous people out there who would be willing to restore these films, such as Robert A. Harris to name one(who's restored Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, My Fair Lady, Vertigo and Rear Window among others).

You can read what he has to say about it in second first post on this page from Criterion's forums.

Another thing that bothers me is that these films were largely restored anyway before they were tinkered with. Would it have broken the bank at Lucasfilm if they had completely restored them before doing the tinkering? We're talking a few extra minutes here and there. They could have finished the restoration process, left some unaltered copies aside for posterity and then gone back and put in all those silly little chages.

Futhermore, there is no reason why it should be an either or proposition. Numerous directors release multiple versions of their films. For instance, I've got The Blues Brothers at home. It's got two discs. On one disc, there's the theatrical version and on the other, there's the extended cut. Speaking for myself, I like the theatrical cut better but you see, by doing it this way, it's not an issue. I can watch whichever one I prefer.

Rumour - Lucas destroyed all the original negatives - hacking them up to put in his special edition alterations

Feel free to share your thoughts on this. Personally, I find it hard to believe as it'd be almost criminal - and it'd be such a senseless act of vandalism, I can't imagine that anyone, even Lucas, would do such a thing.

Secondly, I find it hard to believe that there are as few original sources as Lucas repeatedly claims. When he says they've trawled through the archives, I don't believe him for a second. And if their archives are really that abysmal, then surely there'd be original reels from cinema runs or negatives in the hands of private collectors.

Rumour - the negatives are too old

If that's the case, then I'd like Lucas to explain to me how the hell they managed to do such a clear restoration job on Casablanca, which was made thirty five years earlier than Star Wars.

Another rumour I've heard that was interesting was that Lucas had to give his ex-wife Marcia a cut of the profits of Star Wars re-releases but because his new tinkered versions are not the same as the originals, this gives him some kind of legal loophole in which he doesn't have to do this any more. I know. I find it hard to believe so take it for what it's worth. Although, then again, I found it hard to believe that any of the prequel movies were written, shot, produced and released so what do I know?

Moving on - something else that interests me about the whole debacle is that by refusing to restore the originals properly, he is practically begging for bootleg restorations to be made. In fact, it may be that in the future, the only real custodians of this much loved trilogy will be a select few individuals on the net who have the resources and the know-how to do their own restorations - and the handful of people who are able to acquire them. It's also going to have otherwise law-abiding fans desperately searching through dodgy sites (that probably install rootkits and viruses all over their computers) because they are unable to acquire these films through an official legitimate source.

They'd be wasting their time too. As I see it, it is highly unlikely that any amateur film restoration artist will be able to produce the goods.

I've so far seen two hopeful leads on the internet and both of them have been disappointments. One restoration was by some guy who uses the name Adywan - and numerous fans on the net praise his work as being the definitive edition of Star Wars. Now, I have no idea how to use torrents and what not and I don't want to - because I don't want dodgy problems on my home computer that might screw it up or allow unknown users on other computers to tinker with it. Give me direct downloads or don't give me anything (yes, Lucasfilm would probably remove any sites that offer versions of the original movies for free download, I know)...

... anyway, I found some clips from his edit on You-tube. Firstly, he is technically very good at what he does and the clips looked great. However, while he fixed some things, he was not content with doing a straight restoration. Instead, he had to do his own special edition - and the result is a whole lot of new irritating additions that detract from the viewer's enjoyment of the film: CGI planets in front of the Death Star, changing the severed arm on the cantina floor to some type of severed flipper (I kid you not), inserting that stupid, stupid, stupid (did I say stupid already?) stupid Episode I lightsaber music in the scene where Ben fights Darth Vader and inserting The Imperial March in the battle of Yavin (completely disrupting the flow of the scene). There may have been more but I stopped clicking on the links to check them out as I had had enough. Nobody who counts wants another bloody special edition of these films. Is it so damn hard to simply restore and let live?

So much for that one.

The next one I found seemed a lot better. This was just what we wanted: a straight restoration. The screencaps looked really good - and it wasn't just mixing elements of the new DVDs with corrected frames from original sources. This guy had colour-timed everything and hand painted frames to get them just right, had compared frames with stills from old books and had basically gone to a lot of effort.

Then it came to it. The guy was just restoring the films for himself. On his website (I think it's called Star Wars: The Legacy Edition), he made it very clear that he was not going to risk legal troubles with Lucasfilm and was simply showing other people how to do their own restoration. Well, that's peachy. That really is. However, I'd wager that this guy has a hell of a lot of technical know-how, experience and equipment that the average person does not. It is not a useful guide. Yeah, I could use a photo editor to redo a frame - but I couldn't reinsert that frame into a film without losing the audio... and that's just one thing that comes to the top of my head. Now, he says he's showing other people how to do what he's done. I say he's just showing off. All his site is going to do is just dash people's hopes. If he's just restoring the films for himself, then he should just do it quietly and not go on about it. Mind you, I think he's probably an asshole anyway - he had this article on his site where he just went on a bitter rant against people making Star Wars fan films, saying how they're not real film-makers because they haven't dedicated their lives to learning the art etc. I mean, I've seen some of these fan films and yeah, they suck, but honestly... I can't see what this guy's problem is. These people making fan films are just having a bit of fun - and the chances are that they've never claimed to be film-makers anyway. What a jerk.

So where does that leave us? At the moment, it looks like the chances of seeing a proper restoration of the Star Wars trilogy are pretty slim. Although if anyone knows otherwise, feel free to fill us in.

This post has been edited by Just your average movie goer: 19 February 2010 - 02:30 AM


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Posted 19 February 2010 - 11:39 AM

I can't imagine that films this relatively modern and that have been as huge as they've been are short on original copies. Sure, accidents do happen and unfortunately many films have been lost to fires and deterioration and such, but we're talking about films that are not even 35 years old. And 3 of the biggest films of all time. Lucas is spinning like there's no tomorrow if he's trying to convince everyone that he's short on copies of the orignal films to do a restoration sans the Special Edition "upgrades." It seems pretty clear to me that he just wants what he considers to be the definitive versions out there and not what he views as lesser films. You see these films on TV now and it's always the Special Editions. How much you want to bet you'd see the original versions aired instead if they were released in remastered or HD versions? He doesn't want that at all. He wants people to see the newer versions or nothing at all.

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