Good news, Star Wars fans: the original trilogy is returning to Minneapolis’s Parkway Theater this month for the first time in 20 years.
“Star Wars is the quintessential summer movie,” says Eddie Landenberger, cofounder of the Parkway. “Sure, May 4th perhaps would have been more appropriate—but, alas, we did not have approval for this screening until mid-May.”
Luckily for all of us, the team at the Parkway was able to secure digital prints of the 1997 special edition, so viewers will be able to see the mostly original trilogy without the George Lucas Blu-ray tinkering that has been lambasted since its release in 2011. Unfortunately, though, we fans will still have to deal with Greedo shooting first, the weird new dancing at Jabba’s palace, and the song sequence in Return of the Jedi. I’m admittedly not as emotionally tied to these changes as some fans; I didn’t mind some of the added scenes, or at least I didn’t feel they detracted from the essential core of the narrative of the film. (That said, let me be clear: Han shot first, and that’s a fact.)
For me, it’s the Blu-ray editions that are truly difficult to watch. In particular, the dialogue Lucas added during Darth Vader’s return to the light side of the Force made Return of the Jedi nearly unwatchable for me. The infamous added “No!” during the climax of his return to the dark side completely ruins the narrative of that scene—I always felt like it was in Vader’s character to silently make the decision to turn on his father figure and save his son. It was this scene specifically that prompted me to scour the web for a way to watch the original trilogy in high def, which led me to discover Harmy’s Despecialized Edition, the result of a dedicated fan spending years of his life painstakingly tracking down and restoring copies of the original films in high definition.
The Despecialized Edition appears to be fans’ best bet as of now to view the saga in its unaltered form, since Disney has no plans of releasing the restored original trilogy to high definition. Rumors still abound as to the reason, covering everything from a rights dispute with 20th Century Fox to Lucas himself inserting a clause into the Lucasfilm sale agreement. Perhaps we’ll never know. However, the Despecialized edition returns the trilogy to all of its former glory in high definition. What’s glorious about this Despecialized edition? It’s all free to anyone who owns the Blu-rays as long as you don’t try to profit off the downloads or resell them. It will take you some time to complete the steps, as you have to download every chapter of the Blu-ray individually and then recombine everything and convert it into a file format of your choosing. The result is well worth the time, however, as I now completely unaltered versions of the films that play beautifully on my home theater system. This task took me about two weeks to complete, but with better hardware than my old laptop, it might take you a weekend.
For most of us, though, seeing the 1997 versions on the big screen at the Parkway Theater will be an excellent replacement and a better use of our time. The movies are running on three consecutive Sundays: A New Hope on July 14, Empire Strikes Back on July 21, and Return of the Jedi on July 28, 2019. There will be showings at noon, 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. on each of the screening days (click here for tickets). These are movies that are meant to be seen on the big screen, and I’m excited that the Parkway is bringing them back where the sci-fi spectacle belongs.
As part of the three-Sunday event, the theater is bringing out members of the local 501st Legion chapter and an entirely mobile, full-scale R2 unit to help you enjoy the spectacle, so get your cameras ready. The theater will also be adding special cocktails to its menu in honor of the trilogy.
With the Skywalker Saga purportedly coming to a close this December, Star Wars mania is at a fever pitch as we wait to see how Rey may or may not be tied to the Skywalkers or Solos. It seems fitting for fans to spend some time with the original trilogy, especially as those of us gear up to see it one last time before the saga is complete.