Comparison between the first Blu-ray edition by 20th Century Fox (various releases starting in 2011) and the new Blu-ray edition by Disney (from 2019 as a stream on Disney+, from 2020 on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K-Blu-ray).
Overview of the versions of STAR WARS - EPISODE 6: RETURN OF THE JEDI
It should be known that George Lucas has revised his legendary science fiction saga several times over the years, so here is just a quick overview of the versions of Star Wars. The two successors had the same fate and our linked comparisons offer more detailed information:
Special Edition (1997): The most drastic adjustments were made here for a new theatrical release and new VHS editions.
Meanwhile, 4K UHD is of course the new medium and basically it's not very surprisingly, this now results in a fifth, official movie version. It premiered in November 2019 on Disney's new streaming service Disney+, where especially the "Maclunkey" innovation during the infamous shootout between Han and Greedo in Episode 4 was much discussed. It also turned out that George Lucas had made the changes already in 2012, right before he sold Lucasfilm to Disney. The other two entries of the original trilogy have some minor alterations as well, not as obvious as in Episode 4 though.
Home video releases of the 4K remastered Disney version
Disney+ was launched in European countries a year later than in the US. In Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, among others, on 24 March 2020, which meant that the new 4K versions were available to streaming subscribers. We've already taken a first closer look at the version then. Home video releases were made available shortly afterwards on physical media, i.e. 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD. Disney has also equipped the "old" formats Blu-ray and DVD with the new version.
Here it can be noted that Disney's streaming master and the new Disney Blu-ray, which we primarily used for the comparison, are exactly identical in terms of the adjustments. There were no real differences between the SDR version of the 4K stream and the new Blu-ray. The 4K Blu-ray is identical to this new Blu-ray, although (as with the stream) there are of course some plain quality differences to be noted due to HDR and the generally higher resolution in 4K.
Based on the first release years mentioned at the beginning, the different versions are often distinguished by exactly these numbers. We found this a little difficult, especially with regard to the latest version, because it was released in America in 2019, but in Europe and on home video media not until 2020. The old Blu-ray by Fox also received several new editions over the years and was therefore sometimes labeled 2016 on YouTube videos, for example. We have therefore preferred to use the term "4K remastered", which, as mentioned, also applies to the new Blu-rays and DVDs.
The differences in the 4K remastered Disney version
While "Maclunkey" of Episode 4 (see our detailed comparison) clearly dominated the discussion, in Episode 5 the exploding generator was the most obvious change. The changes in episode 6 are a bit more subtle, but they are also quite abundant.
Probably the most serious improvement is difficult to show in this report: A whole film reel was annoyingly scanned out of focus in the first Blu-ray edition. This faux pas was corrected with the rescanning. Affected is the area quite exactly in the middle of the movie, where among others our heroes land on Endor. A really strange and several minutes long, giant deficiency of the old HD master is finally fixed.
Apart from that, previous digital adjustments have been reworked a little again, which is especially noticeable when seeing Vader without helmet. His eyebrows were already retouched before, but this effect has now been refined again in the 4K Remaster. The eye area of the Emperor was also reworked once again. Poorly copied fliers and matte paintings have also been touched.
This brings us to some goofs that were fixed for the first time: When Vader marches over a loading ramp, a small black hole could be seen in the studio set in the past and this was now retouched. Also the speeder, which the Ewoks let explode on a tree, has been better integrated into the background for the first time. In general, there are a few colour subtleties, where it's often not quite clear whether this was deliberately changed or whether only the old Blu-ray filters produced some disadvantages.
All in all, the reworking of the last movie of the original trilogy probably offers more positive adjustments. However, the wish of many fans for a release of the original theatrical version remained unheard of. Particularly critically discussed differences such as Vader's "Nooo!" and the hologram of Hayden Christensen were adopted 1:1. Nevertheless, the 4K remaster has some clear advantages and is highly recommended to anyone interested. One can argue about many a shortcoming without question, but quality-wise the remaster is clearly the best edition of the film so far.
The Fox and the Lucasfilm logo are a little different. Also the introductory blue font differs slightly. No difference in the following rolling credits in yellow.
New Blu-ray 0,7 sec longer
08:59-09:48 / 09:00-09:48
Probably not a conscious change, but already a bit noticeable: The shimmer around Luke's hologram is now rather bluish.
From around the 10th minute onwards, there are hardcoded subtitles for Jabba's sentences i supposedly the original font from the theatrical release. However, this only applies to the English version, in other languages the picture remains clean and only player-generated subtitles are shown.
47:37-48:12 / 47:38-48:13
Similar to the scene with Luke's hologram mentioned at the beginning, the shimmer around Obi-Wan also looks different in color. What stands out is the close-up, which is illustrated here, where the old Blu-ray showed him very milky. In the 4K remaster his look fits better to the shots before and after.
49:46-49:52 / 49:46-49:53
Probably not a new change, but a nice example of how the 4K remaster, even on these badly compressed screenshots, surpasses the old version in quality. The lines of the planet hologram in the middle are now clearly visible, whereas they were a muddy, overblown hodgepodge before.
54:48-54:53 / 54:48-54:53
Here, in the first Blu-ray version, curiously enough, a blue shimmer ran almost diagonally across the right half of the picture. This has now been corrected, so the space background looks uniform.
As already mentioned in the intro: A complete film reel in the middle of the old Blu-ray was scanned out of focus. Ilustrated here only with a zoom from the scene in the 55th minute. This problem of the old HD master lasts for several minutes.
82:52-82:56 / 82:53-82:57
When Vader got out of the ship here, you could see a small black spot under the ramp at the lower left of the old version. This probably marked the transition from studio set to matte painting. With the 4K remastered, this goof was digitally erased for the first time.
87:19 / 87:20
Here the old Blu-ray once again had "bad mattes". With the 4K-Remaster this part was cleaned up a bit in the right/center of the picture.
95:21 / 95:22
A curiosity with the old Blu-ray, probably only caused by bad filter usage, but which would never be noticed in regular viewing without a single frame check-up (found in the article on Digital Bits). During the battle, the image here is dyed all white for one single frame of a shot. With the old Blu-ray, a grey box has crept in at the bottom right, presumably taken over from the frames before and after. This is no longer the case in the 4K remaster.
95:44-96:41 / 95:45-96:42
The eyes of the emperor were newly coloured in various close-ups. Same game again later in the 104th minute, but always the same perspective.
103:11 / 103:12
Another scene, which was described in detail in the article on Digital Bits with three comparison pictures. They primarily only show differences to the pre-HD versions but no really relevant difference between 2011 Blu-ray and 4K-remastered. During R2-D2's short circuit, parts of his body and even the resulting sparks as well as the steam had already been added for the Special Edition before. A few frames should differ in the 4K-Remaster, as the adaptation of the 2011 HD version was specially recreated for 4K. What's most noticeable here, however, is the moment illustrated here, when the old Blu-ray once again had a strange glow in blue. This is not visible anymore now.
103:58 / 103:59
Again no change in the actual sense, but another example for the simply nonsensical colour scheme of the old Blu-ray: The explosion should have probably not looked as blue as shown here.
107:16 / 107:16
Useful correction of a goof: When the speeder is wrapped around the tree by the Ewok and explodes, the explosion was visible in all old versions behind the CG speeder. Now this was blended in more realistically for the first time.
119:30 / 119:30
When the executor explodes, the lens flare effect in the upper right corner of the picture has been slightly weakened in the 4K remaster.
120:37-121:58 / 120:38-121:59
From here you can see Vader/Anakin in several shots without his helmet. Already in 2004 his eyebrows were removed digitally and in 4K this has been renewed a bit cleaner. The first picture is very noticeable, because when Luke takes off his helmet, one of his eyebrows is visible under the wandering shadow shortly. This is no longer the case. The head shape around the eyebrows was also changed a bit in the other perspective with Luke in the background - see transition to Luke's arm in the second picture.
125:46 / 125:47
As you can see from the position of the plane coming into the picture from the right, the crossfade was retimed here. The 4K remastered comes a bit later.
Shortly after, Digital Bits mentions marginal adjustments during the transition from Mos Eisley to Naboo, which was also added for the SE. Except for a slightly cropped picture at the top, we couldn't see any difference here though.
The further differences mentioned in the article on Digital Bits mostly refer to adjustments already made in the old Blu-ray master compared to earlier releases, which we have already covered in our previous cut reports.