Fans restore the 'Star Wars' edition creator George Lucas has declined to release to HD quality
Credit: Lucas Films Ltd.

Some anonymous Star Wars fans have gone rogue!

Longing to see an unaltered edition of 1977’s A New Hope — without the decades of special edition makeoversa group reportedly spent thousands of dollars and years of effort to restore to a faded print of Star Wars to the best-seen-yet high-definition version of the original cut of the film — and then leaked it online.

Calling themselves Team Negative1, the group (at least, their leader claims there’s a group) quietly released their “Silver Screen Theatrical Version” last month to message board acclaim. Then on Tuesday, film writer Corey Atad posted a lengthy interview with the primary fan behind the restoration, chronicling his extensive frame-by-frame efforts to recreate a version that’s quite close to what fans first saw in theaters 39 years ago.

The Silver Screen version is without the special editions’ dialogue tweaks, visual polish, and Mos Eisley’s added CGI creatures, and Han naturally shoots first (Atad points out that it’s actually jarring to realize that not only does Han fire first, but Greedo doesn’t shoot at all). There have been similar renegade restoration attempts in the past (such as the fan-made Despecialized Edition), and the Silver Screen edition still has plenty of visual flaws (pops, scratches, color issues). But connoisseurs of bootleg Star Wars video claim this edition is the most impressive they’ve seen so far.

George Lucas has famously refused to release a high-quality 1977 version of his classic film. He defended the decision to Today in 2004: “The special edition, that’s the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it’s on VHS, if anybody wants it. … I’m not going to spend the, we’re talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I’m the one who has to take responsibility for it. I’m the one who has to have everybody throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they’re going to throw rocks at me, they’re going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not finished.”

Even back when the sci-fi hit was re-released in theaters in 1981, the print had already been changed, with Lucas adding the A New Hope title — the first of many tweaks to come in subsequent home video versions on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. There’s now a generation of Star Wars fans who have never seen the original, scrappy, handmade-feeling Star Wars. “We know that anyone under 30 kind of prefers the clean, sharp, detailed look,” the Silver Screen version’s restorer explained. “Then the older crowd, the retro crowd, is like, ‘give me the grain and give me the matte boxes and give me a little weave in the picture.’ It’s kind of like CD vs. vinyl.”

Of course, this online version isn’t available by any legal means. A representative for Lucasfilm declined to comment. For more, check out Atad’s full deep-dive interview.

Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope
  • Movie
  • 121 minutes