On November 10, five weeks before the premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens. ” 20th Century Fox re-released Blu-rays of the six existing “Star Wars” saga films in “limited edition” steelbook packaging. This is the second time that Fox, which owns the distribution rights to the five Episodes produced by George Lucas’s Lucasfilm Limited until 2020 and owns “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” outright, reissues the Blu-ray versions of the popular space-fantasy series since 2011.
Of course, this is not a new development in the long history of the “Star Wars” franchise. When videotape was the dominant home media format in the 1980s and 1990s, Fox reissued the unaltered editions of “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” and its sequels “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” at least three times between 1982 and 1995. After Lucasfilm modified the Classic Trilogy in 1997 for its Special Edition 20th Anniversary re-release, Fox produced two sets of VHS tapes; the last one was released in 2001, shortly before the DVD of “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace” made its debut. And since 2004, DVD editions of “A New Hope” and its two Classic Trilogy stablemates have been issued and reissued several times, the last time being in 2013 when they were bundled with the 2011 Blu-ray versions.
The 2015 Steelbook Edition
“Nearly two decades after the rise of the Empire, young farmer Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) meets Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who has lived in seclusion on the desert planet of Tatooine. Obi-Wan begins Luke’s Jedi training, telling him of the Rebels’ battle against the Empire and the power known as the Force. Soon, Luke, Obi-Wan, and a charismatic mercenary named Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca, join forces to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the Empire’s massive warship, the Death Star, controlled by Darth Vader.” – “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” Limited Edition Steelbook blurb
Like most movie studios – Paramount Pictures has done this with its “Star Trek” franchise, too – 20th Century Fox uses various marketing tricks to squeeze every penny it can from the “Star Wars” films. With this Blu-ray release, the studio focuses its attention to the packaging rather than the content.
The new steelbook edition of “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” consists of one 50 gigabyte (GB) Blu-ray disc (BD). The disc is identical in appearance – it even has the same label – as the BD in Fox/Lucasfilm’s 2011 “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” box set and its 2013 re-release.
As far as the movie itself is concerned, this edition doesn’t offer fans anything new, either. Neither the studio nor Lucasfilm have announced any more edits or changes to “A New Hope” by the now-retired George Lucas. Nor did Fox listen to fans’ pleas to include the original 1977 theatrical release of “Star Wars.” The version of “A New Hope” that comes in this re-issue is the same one as in the 2011 box set, and the only extras are:
- The 2004 DVD edition’s audio commentary track by writer-director George Lucas and various cast and crew members
- The 2011 BD edition’s audio commentary track culled from archival interviews with Lucas, various actors and production crew members
So, why should “Star Wars” fans get this reissue? As noted above, Fox emphasizes the packaging rather than the content. (In other words, it’s the cover that matters.)
For casual fans who already own the 2011 “Complete Saga” box set, the limited edition steelbook with “A New Hope” may be somewhat redundant if they’re not into “Star Wars” collectibles. A few, of course, may buy it (and the other five films of the saga) as insurance in case the 2011 disc gets badly damaged. Many consumers may take a pass, although per Amazon, sets are selling briskly in early November.
Clearly, though, Fox is targeting those fans who not only love the movies – even the much criticized Special Editions – themselves but also enjoy collectible items, including limited edition packaging.
For the 2015 re-release of “A New Hope,” 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has created a cool-looking steelbook case. The front cover art features a right-leaning close up of Darth Vader’s face mask and helmet, the silver “Star Wars” logo on the bottom left corner, and the subtitle “A New Hope” under it. In a nod to Disney/Lucasfilm’s marketing for “The Force Awakens,” the “Episode IV” element of the film’s subtitle has been omitted.
The back cover art is a partial reproduction of Tom Jung’s classic 1977 “A” one-sheet poster. Jung’s painting features a sexy, leggy Leia, a bare-chested and lightsaber-wielding Luke, and R2-D2 and C-3PO in the foreground, and the nebulous but menacing visage of Darth Vader in the background. (The summary blurb, contents listing, cast and crew info, and other “back cover” copy is included in removable cardboard inserts that come off once you remove the protective plastic lining that all new discs come in.)
Fox also includes a nice graphic touch for the inside covers of the box. For “A New Hope,” the studio added a still image of the Lars homestead on Tatooine, with Luke standing off to one side and looking at the binary sunset. (The BD compartment is located so the disc rests on top of young Skywalker’s picture, so it needs to be removed in order to reveal the complete image.)
Overall, since the 2015 reissue doesn’t have any new extras (or, thankfully, any editorial changes), it’s not exactly an essential purchase. However, for fans who like nice-looking collectibles or want a backup copy as insurance for their 2011 “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” BDs, this reissue might be worth getting.