On Tuesday, November 10, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment re-released George Lucas’s two “Star Wars” movie trilogies in all-new limited edition steelbook packaging. Coming less than five weeks before the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” this is Fox’s third re-issue of the popular space-fantasy saga since 2011. (And it probably won’t be the last; the studio holds the distribution rights to five of the six “Star Wars” films until 2020, and it owns “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” outright.)
“Star Wars” fans, especially those who clamor for the release of the original 1977-1983 Classic Trilogy in its pre-Special Edition form, will find that Fox’s focus is not on content but rather the packaging. As was the case with the studio’s October re-issue of its’ 9-disc “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” box set, the Blu-ray disc (BD) doesn’t have any new tweaks or cool extras; what’s different is the limited edition steelbox packaging.
The 2015 Steelbook Edition
“Following the destruction of the Death Star, Imperial forces pursue the Rebel Alliance to the ice planet Hoth. After a devastating defeat, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) journeys to the planet Dagobah to train with the Jedi Master Yoda. Meanwhile, in the Cloud City of Bespin, Darth Vader attempts to lure Luke into a trap by kidnapping Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). When Luke comes to their rescue, he must fight a fierce lightsaber duel with Darth Vader himself and come face to face with a stunning revelation that could change his destiny.” – “Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” Limited Edition Steelbook blurb
All of the major studios, including 20th Century Fox, rely on the revenue from home video and digital download sales to remain profitable. This is why it, like Paramount and Universal, reissues movies from popular franchises such as “Star Wars” so frequently. In many instances – especially during the videocassette and DVD eras – Fox attempted to give fans something new and different to entice them into buying extra sets of movies they probably already owned. For instance, when the Classic Trilogy” made its DVD debut in 2004, Fox included a fourth Bonus Disc full of extras, including the documentary “Star Wars: Empire of Dreams” and a collection of theatrical trailers. Four years later, in the Limited Edition re-issue of the Classic Trilogy, the studio offered each “Star Wars” film in two versions – the 2004 re-edit of the Special Edition and a 4:3 letterbox format presentation of the original 1977-1983 theatrical release.
For the 2015 Limited Edition Steelbook reissue of “Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the studio’s marketing department is trying to lure fans who are into “Star Wars” collectibles. Neither Fox nor Lucasfilm Limited – Lucas’s Disney-owned production company – have unleashed their digital artists to make further changes to Irvin Kershner’s popular sequel to “A New Hope.”
The new steelbook edition of “Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” consists of one 50 gigabyte (GB) Blu-ray disc (BD). The 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.
As noted earlier, no further changes have been made to the visuals or the dialogue beyond those made in 2011 for “Empire’s” BD debut. Many “Star Wars” fans will probably applaud Fox and Lucasfilm for not altering the movie any further. By the same token, the studio and Lucas’s company (now run by Kathleen Kennedy) did not include the 1980 theatrical edition that many viewers desire to see in high-definition.
Fox also doesn’t offer any new extra features in this reissue. As with the other five Episodes the studio is re-releasing in its Limited Edition steelbook series, the extras are limited to:
- 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
What is new in this re-issue? Fox is hoping that “Star Wars” collectors will like the snazzy new metal cases that come with the Limited Edition Blu-rays. 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 an Imperial Stormtrooper’s helmet, the silver “Star Wars” logo on the bottom right hand corner, and the subtitle “The Empire Strikes Back” under it. Mimicking Disney/Lucasfilm’s marketing for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the “Episode V” element of the film’s subtitle has been omitted.
On the inside cover, there is a still image from “The Empire Strikes Back” that shows Imperial All Terrain Assault Transports (AT-ATs or “walkers”) on the ice planet Hoth.
The back cover consists of a rendition of Roger Kastel’s iconic “A” style poster for “The Empire Strikes Back.” Known to fans as the “Gone with the Wind” poster, Kastel’s art depicts several scenes from the film and most of the major characters, including Luke Skywalker on a tauntaun, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 in a group to the side, and Han Solo and Princess Leia in a “Rhett and Scarlett about to kiss” pose.
For casual fans who already own previous BD releases of the “Star Wars” movies, the Limited Edition steelbox reissue of “The Empire Strikes Back” is probably not a must-have item. However, those Jedi Knight (or Sith Lord) wannabes who like snazzy-looking collectibles may want to add it and the other five one-BD sets to their collections on the merits of the packaging alone.