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 4: A NEW HOPE
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
As already mentioned: "Maclunkey" dominated the furious fan discussion in the last months. Right before the shooting there is an additional close-up of Greedo, which, on closer inspection, was probably just re-created from a shot in the surrounding area. The very quick change of position seem rather choppy, so that the flow of this scene was rather deteriorated by this choice in the opinion of many fans. Definitely a questionable adaptation.
Apart from that you'll mainly find corrected movie mistakes. Already in earlier versions backgrounds with missing effects were standardized, but individual shows were overlooked. For example, some missing stars in space or a shadow on R2-D2 behind the stones were added now. But the fact that towards the end the previous correction of a Y-wing that suddenly disappeared from the picture is now missing again can only be classified as sloppiness.
In general, different colour choices can still be attested. In regards of adjusted colour grading, this can be seen more detailed in picture comparisons e. g. here or on Caps-a-holic. From our point of view, it's especially interesting that weird pink tendency of the oversaturated first Blu-ray edition are now a thing of the past. In some scenes they have been removed deliberately and in other scenes black parts of the picture are no longer visible or have been added.
All in all, the reworking of this groundbreaking classic is by no means perfect. The desire of many fans for a release of the original theatrical version remained unheard of. Nevertheless, the 4K remaster has some clear advantages and is highly recommended to those interested in an upgrade to the highest picture quality possible today. There is no question about some of the remaining or even added flaws - but most of the new adjustments actually benefit the movie.
The new BD has 16 frames (0.6 sec) of more black screen to start with.
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.
The rolling credits were also stored on the European Blu-ray for Germany and Italy in the respective languages. With a respective audio selection in the menu, the film starts accordingly.
03:40-04:32 / 03:41-04:33
During the shootout in the hallway, the old HD version often had a particularly strong pink tint. This is immediately noticeable in the second shot of the exploding door, where the colours in the new master have now been changed specifically in this area. With almost every shot after that, it seemed as the entire picture was briefly dipped into the paint bucket when watching the old Blu-ray. For the new version it was adjusted to more natural tones.
See also the shot of R2-D2 in the aisle in the 5th minute as a further indication of generally reduced pink tones. Followed by a screenshot of an explosion from the 107th minute.
Still though, the pink is visible in a weakened form also in the new master: It can be seen, for example, in the shooting fights during Han's escape in the 55th minute or in the 74th minute as well as in the 87th minute when he is walking through the corridor.
07:07-07:11 / 07:07-07:12
Here, the new master clearly shows more stars.
In general such backgrounds have been discussed many times over the years and the lower resolution or compression/filter peculiarities of some versions often may have caused this. With the mentioned shot here, however, it at least seems to our eyes like an intentional update.
10:15-10:22 / 10:15-10:23
After several identical shots, the sand and sky are completely different here in a long shot with C-3PO. The 4K remastered sand corresponds to the original cinema version, the sky is completely new.
14:44-14:47 / 14:44-14:47
The shadow/outline of the droid (see in the middle of the first screenshot and on the right of the second one) was now hidden completely in black for the first time ever.
25:32-25:46 / 25:33-27:16
In order to be consistent with a following close-up, additional clouds above the moon were already added in 2004 for the Special Edition. These were recreated in 4K and are thus a little more clearly visible. Maybe it's only conspicuous thanks to the heavily colour saturated image of the first Blu-ray edition.
The relevant area zoomed in:
27:13-27:16 / 27:13-27:17
The next morning you can see Mark Hamill standing in the small room on the right side of the picture in the first shot from above. For the 4K-master this goof was digitally eliminated. In the immediately following shot a fly flew onto the lens on the right side of the picture. It was now removed as well.
Again we also zoomed in to the respective parts:
30:11-30:13 / 30:11-30:13
After Obi-Wan lifted his hood, in only one of the many shots of R2-D2 the shadow of the stone was forgotten in the old Blu-ray master. This has now been corrected for the 4K-master, with his body also being half in a darker tone. You can also see here that the stone itself was also slightly reworked for all shots in this perspective. The position is a little bit different, besides it is now in the same color. In the old Blu-ray master, the part in the middle of the top of the picture was a bit darker.
From 50:00 on, the original English version of the new 4K remaster finally features burnt-in subtitles. For the first time they reproduce the look of the original theatrical version during Greedo's parts of the dialogue. Same story almost 3 minutes later during the conversation with Jabba.
Unfortunately, for the German and Italian versions Disney did not make the same effort. With the respective audio selection the film can at least be seen without English subtitles, which would have been inappropriate. Nevertheless, the fitting translation is only available in the rather boringly normal, player-generated subtitle font.
50:53-50:55 / 50:54-50:56
After Han has said "I bet you have", the old Blu-ray version by Fox proceeds with a medium long shot where Greedo shoots first and shortly after that Han shoots as well. Greedo, clearly visible a dummy, then explodes in frontal view.
In the 4K remastered versions there is the notorious "Maclunkey" moment instead: Exactly this is the word you see Greedo say briefly in close up, although unlike the others this shot has no burnt-in subtitles. Then both shoot in the medium long shot, which here now happens at the same moment - as in the original theatrical release. The following explosion is much shorter, especially without the two striking frames showing the clearly recognizable dummy at the beginning. In this blog entry it is assumed that the word could be translated as "This will be the end of you", which of course would have been a bit much subtitle text for the very short shot. It is also pointed out that this moment is supposed to be a zoomed version of a previous shot, where a figure in the background was digitally removed.
4K-Remastered 0,25 sec (6 Frames) länger
52:40 / 52:41
Here you could see Jabba's slightly bigger 1997 tail for just 4 frames at the beginning of the fade. In the course of the first Blu-ray version he was digitally polished up and for the 4K-Remaster these 4 overlooked frames were now also adjusted at the beginning, so that the smaller tail can be seen here as well.
59:13-62:14 / 59:14-62:15
Luke's lightsaber is blue again, while on the old Fox Blu-ray it had a rather greenish shimmer in this scene. BTW: In the previous scene with Luke in the 33rd minute it was blue before already, so there was no need for another adjustment.
61:58 / 61:59
Another mini-correction during this scene: The beam was suddenly colorless on the old Blu-ray as well as the previous DVD. This wasn't the case with the 77 and 97 versions before, and with the 4K remaster the correct yellow color tone was restored here.
Note: For the "detention hallway" scene from the 77th minute on around here it is mentioned that the set has been reworked one more time. Especially compared to the original version, it was already changed significantly on the old Blu-ray. However, we couldn't discover the mentioned new mini adaptation in 4K. This part of the long tunnel is only very small in the background and shouldn't really be noticable at all when viewing the film "normally".
85:41-85:44 / 85:42-85:45
Hardly noticeable: The Aurebesh writing, which was only replaced first in 2004, was newly created. The font size is slightly different. See the beginning of the text below compared to the vertical line in the middle.
90:36-90:37 / 90:36-90:37
The last DVDs/Blu-rays had a small colour mistake in one shot, because Ben's lightsaber was purple. In the 4K-remastered it's now blue here as well, like in the shots around.
91:27 / 91:28
Only a few single frames in the middle of the shot and therefore hardly noticeable: Ben's lightsaber glows continuously, while in the old master only a slight glow was visible for a this quick moment. This was already a correction compared to the original version, where the effect was completely missing in this show. So now the "adjustment draft" of 2004/11 has been completed.
Note: According to this overview on Digital Bits at 96:02 the tie-fighter should be further left in the picture in the old 2011 Blu-ray. With this a film error (visible soundtrack element on the film reels) was concealed on the right of the picture. Allegedly the tie-fighter was only moved to the middle of the picture with the new 4K remaster. But this is not true, already on the 2011 Blu-ray the picture detail was exactly the same as on the 2019 master. So this mistake was probably already corrected by the jump from the 2004 DVD to the first Blu-ray. See a screenshot of the old 2011 Fox Blu-ray used for our comparison:
98:36-98:40 / 98:37-98:41
In the upper left corner of the picture some lights have been added in the 4K remaster.
Note: Almost 4 minutes later at 103:10 you can see the lights in both versions. So the 4K remaster is now consistent in this respect.
107:35-107:38 / 107:36-107:39
Strangely enough, the shot here was darkened in the semicircle on the left side of the picture. This is no longer the case in the 4K remaster.
109:31 / 109:32
At the end of a shot an earlier error was corrected here for the 2011 Blu-ray: In the last few frames the Y-wing at the bottom suddenly disappeared from the picture. Strangely enough, this error now reoccurs in the 4K remastered version. The plane at the bottom suddenly disappears a bit too early again.
Remark: The already linked overview article on Digital Bits also e.g. mentioned the shot at 111:04 with flying parts in an explosion. Here, however, only the filter tool used for creating the old Blu-ray was probably a bit more active than it should have been for single frames. But we couldn't detect "print damage" or any other real change here.
The further differences mentioned in the article 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.