The second biggest complaint Star Wars fans have about George Lucas‘ later involvement in the franchise is the prequel trilogy. Those who saw one or all of the original films in theaters weren’t the biggest supporters of The Phantom Menace after its release in May 1999, but their kids loved it. Hence the biggest problem with Lucas — the alterations he made to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with the pre-prequel “Special Editions” released to theaters in 1997 and further post-prequels edits. Not only did these changes dramatically alter the movies fans had cherished since childhood, but they also prevented older generations from sharing their experiences from May 25, 1977, May 21, 1980 and May 25, 1983 with the next.
Even if parents held onto old VHS tapes or LaserDiscs, their children will never see high definition remastered versions of the original films cleared by Lucas. DVDs released in 2006 included the original versions — but in non-anamorphic SD transfers. Rumors persist that Disney’s ownership of Lucasfilm means original Star Wars Blu-rays are on the way, and maybe this will happen in homes or theaters sometime soon. As Lucas’ recent Washington Post interview points out, however, “he’s a passionate defender of an artist’s right to go back and tweak his work.”
Enter Petr “Harmy” Harmáček, one of the most famous Star Wars fans to come out of OriginalTrilogy.com — an online forum dedicated the preservation of its namesake — and the creator of the Star Wars “Despecialized Edition.” Since 2010, Harmáček and others like him have worked to recreate the theatrical cuts in HD. These efforts are often collaborative, with one editor picking up where another stops. However, after the Czech Republic native released his first Despecialized Edition in 2011, he became the face of Star Wars fan edits the world over.
He doesn’t mind the attention, especially because it has had such a positive impact on his life and the lives of those he cares about. In a YouTube video titled “Introducing the Despecialized Edition and Its Sources,” the English Cultural Studies major says his little brother was three years old when he first began the painstaking process.
“I wanted to show him the original version when he was old enough to watch Star Wars,” he says. “My little brother got introduced to the adventures of Luke Skywalker at the age of five using the Despecialized Edition version 2.1, and he totally loved it.”
While Harmáček discusses his younger brother, the image of the excitable sibling wearing a Darth Vader helmet appears on screen. It calls to mind those who weren’t lucky enough to see Star Wars untouched by digital effects, additional scenes and continuity changes. The sentiment behind it, of sharing what Lucas first brought to life in 1977, is why the Despecialized Edition resonates so strongly with fans. Not just because they can relieve their own childhood, but because they can share it with their children.
“He’s doing God’s work,” said one Uproxx editor. “His are the versions I’ve been showing my kid.”