With less than five weeks to go before the release of Disney/Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has joined the pre-premiere frenzy with its third reissue of the Classic and Prequel “Star Wars” Trilogies on Blu-ray. On Tuesday, November 10, the studio that originally released George Lucas’s space-fantasy saga set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” rolled out the six existing “Star Wars” films in all-new Limited Edition Steelbook packaging.
As many fans know, “Star Wars” is one of the most frequently re-released movie series in the history of home video, and chances are that Fox – which owns the distribution rights to the five films financed by Lucasfilm Ltd until 2020 and owns “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” outright – will milk its cash bantha in the future. Most studios, after all, stay profitable through home video sales and digital downloads, so it’s not surprising that Fox is offering this Limited Edition re-releases even though Lucasfilm stopped tinkering digitally with the movies when George Lucas retired in 2012.
The 2015 Steelbook Edition
“As the Empire prepares to crush the Rebel Alliance with a more powerful Death Star, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) rescues Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of crime lord Jabba the Hutt. On the forest moon of Endor, the Rebels plot to destroy the Empire’s new weapon with help from a tribe of Ewoks. Luke confronts his father Darth Vader in a final climactic duel on the Death Star. In his final moments, Vader is faced with a momentous choice…with the life of his son and the freedom of the galaxy hanging in the balance.” – “Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” Limited Edition Steelbook blurb
As is the case with the other five “Star Wars” Blu-ray reissues, neither 20th Century Fox nor Lucasfilm have made any changes to director Richard Marquand’s 1983 capper to the original Luke Skywalker trilogy. The new steelbook edition of “Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” consists of one 50 gigabyte (GB) Blu-ray disc (BD). The Blu-ray disc looks exactly like the BD (down to its label) in the 2011 “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” box set and its October 2015 re-release.
In addition, Lucasfilm’s digital artists did not make any changes to the visuals or audio tracks of “Return of the Jedi” beyond those made for the 2011 BD release. Many “Star Wars” fans will probably be happy about this development. However, Fox and Lucasfilm (now run by Kathleen Kennedy) did not include the 1983 theatrical edition that many viewers want to own and enjoy in high-definition.
The 2015 reissue of ‘Return of the Jedi” also doesn’t have any new extra features. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment only includes the following extras, which were ported over from the 2011 Blu-ray edition:
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
All right. So if Fox didn’t include a high-definition copy of the 1983 cut of “Return of the Jedi,” a Death Star’s worth of new extras, or even a digital copy (Disney owns the rights to digital downloads, by the way), why should fans spend more money on a Blu-ray most of them already own?
Apparently, Fox is aiming the Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-rays at the sizeable – if sometimes finicky – group of “Star Wars” fans that’s into collectible packaging. Each steelbook package is attractively designed and features artwork on the front, inside, and back covers.
The front cover art features a close up of Emperor Palpatine’s hooded and yellow-eyed visage, the silver “Star Wars” logo on the bottom right hand corner, and the subtitle “Return of the Jedi” in blue lettering under it. Perhaps in a nod to Disney/Lucasfilm’s marketing for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the “Episode VI” element of the film’s subtitle has been left out.
In the inside cover, Fox has included a still image from the climactic Battle of Endor. It features the unfinished second Death Star, parts of the Imperial and Rebel fleets, and Rebel Starfighters in dogfights with Imperial TIE fighters and interceptors.
The back cover of the “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’s” Limited Edition steelbook features part of artist Kazuhiko Sano’s “B” poster for the movie’s 1983 release. This artwork features a lightsaber-wielding Luke Skywalker, Han Solo holding his trusty blaster, one Ewok warrior, and the famous (and fan-favorite) rendition of Princess Leia in her skimpy slave girl outfit. Other characters in the illustration include Jabba the Hutt, his majordomo Bib Fortuna, a Gamorrean guard, and (viewed only partially) Darth Vader.
Naturally, many fans who already own any of the previous Blu-ray releases of the “Star Wars” films may wish to take a pass on this Limited Edition set. It doesn’t offer any new content, and some might see Fox’s move as a corporate cash grab that coincides with the upcoming release of a new “Star Wars” film it doesn’t own. Other “Star Wars” fans, however, are buying the new sets; as of this writing, “Return of the Jedi’s” steelbook Blu-ray is ranked seventh in sales in the Movies & TV > Blu-ray > Science Fiction category in Amazon’s Movie department. So if the executives at 20th Century Fox are crazy, then they’re crazy as, well, foxes.