Star Wars (1977-1983) in 4K - with new changes
There is hardly a film series on which fans have such a love-hate relationship with releases on new media as with Star Wars. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) still inspire today with their groundbreaking special effects, and interest in new releases that meet today's home cinema standards continues to be correspondingly high. However, it is well known that George Lucas has repeatedly reworked his babies digitally over the years since the theatrical re-releases in 1997. As an example with links for Episode 4: In the Special Edition at that time the differences were the most extensive and discussed rather critically. From VHS to DVD small things were changed again and on Blu-ray new differences were added.
In 2012 Lucasfilm was bought by Disney, but the distribution rights for the original trilogy were to remain with 20th Century Fox until May 2020. In March 2019, however, this company was also acquired by Disney. With this background, fans have of course always speculated on the extent to which Lucas himself might have made changes for the highly anticipated 4K release - or Disney which have their own history of altering some of their classic titles. Either way the restoration of the original theatrical versions was asked for as well. A broad home cinema release has not yet been announced, but on November 12, 2019 Disney has launched a new subscription video on-demand (SVOD) streaming service called Disney+ in America, Canada and the Netherlands in parallel.
Exclusively as VOD the Disney+ subscribers get the original trilogy in 4K with HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for the first time. The movies seem to follow the 2011 Blu-ray versions in most regards. Fans have been eagerly reporting on this in English-speaking forums since the early morning. Quite quickly a rather striking new deviation from all previous releases was spotted and documented with short video clips (see Twitter/Streamable link below). The infamous shootout between Han Solo and Greedo in Episode 4, which was probably the most hotly debated scene in the Special Edition at the time, has been altered once again.
It remains to be seen when this version (or possibly even a further revision) will also be available outside Disney's streaming service. We are unable to provide any information on other possible adjustments at this time but surely there will be a few comments on this subject in fan communities. In any case, the saga of different versions still continues with yet another medium. As a last sidenote: In many European countries, Disney+ will be available from 31 March 2020.
Hollywoodreporter heard from a Disney rep that George Lucas had allegedly made this change in 2012 before the above mentioned acquisition of Lucasfilm to Disney.
For a direct comparison here are the FOUR earlier versions of that same scene