Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm, Why Won’t You Let Me Give You My Money?

March 25th, 2016
,

Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm:

Hi!  My name is Josh, and I’m a pretty big fan of two franchises that you each own, Star Trek and Star Wars.  Now, I’m not a dress-up-in-costume-as-one-of-your-characters at a convention or movie theatre level of fan, but I am the type of fellow who owns three copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  (For those keeping score at home, I have the original bare-bones DVD as well as the Special Edition DVD that contains the Director’s Cut of the film and lots of special features.  I kept the original bare-bones DVD because I vastly prefer the original theatrical cut of the film.  I also have a third version of the film in high-def, on blu-ray.)  I have two copies of every single Star Trek film (DVD and blu-ray) and also two copies of the three original Star Wars films (the Special Editions on VHS and all the films on DVD).  And I do also have to admit that I own the three prequel films on DVD.  (All three prequel films have great special features that I have enjoyed watching, though I believe that Episode III is the only prequel I have watched more than once on DVD.)

So, I love Star Wars and Star Trek, and I’m a collector.  That means I’m someone who your companies — companies whose main reason for existence is to make money — could probably get to buy all these movies again.  Actually, it’d be pretty easy.  Actually, I am DESPERATE to buy all these movies again, if only you’d let me.

Let’s begin with Disney/Lucasfilm, the owners of Star Wars.  As I have written about at length several times on this site (including this piece when the films were released on blu-ray), I consider it a crime against cinema that the original theatrical versions of Star Wars are not available for purchase.  In any format.  It’s really quite unbelievable.  The original Star Wars trilogy are three of the most popular and influential films of the last fifty years.  This isn’t some now-forgotten cult favorite.  The Star Wars franchise is a huge ongoing business for you guys, Disney!  You might recall that you released a little film a few months ago called The Force Awakens that earned you a bazillion dollars.  But, you might say to me, Josh, you can buy Star Wars on nice shiny blu-rays!  So what’s the problem?  Well yes, I can buy the Star Wars original trilogy on blu-ray, but these are not the original theatrical versions.

Brief history lesson: The Star Wars films have been messed with over and over again by George Lucas and Lucasfilm.  The theatrical versions are different that the VHS versions, which are different than the “Special Edition” versions (which were released to theatres in the nineties and then on VHS), which are different than the DVD versions, which are different than the blu-ray versions.  Each release of Star Wars has seen tinkering and adjustments, with some major changes (Greedo shooting first, the insertion of the Jabba scene) and some minor changes (adjustments to the sound effects and the color of the lightsabers).  Some of these changes I enjoy (I love the new space-ship battle sequences added into the Death Star fight in the Special Edition of Star Wars) while some make be absolutely crazy (Greedo shooting first, Luke’s girly-man yell added to the DVD version of Empire when he falls down the shaft at Cloud City, Darth Vader’s ridiculous “NOOO!” yell added into the blu-ray of Return of the Jedi when the Emperor zaps Luke with lightning).  Now, George Lucas had and has every right to tinker with his films.  But I also feel that he had an obligation to release the original versions of these films that the world fell in love with.  Seriously, name me one other major movie from the last fifty years that is not available on DVD or blu-ray?  It’s crazy.

So come on, Disney!  (I’m sure most people reading this know that Disney bought Lucasfilm a few years ago, a move that led directly to the release of The Force Awakens and the wave of new Star Wars films coming in the next few years.)  I am begging you to let me give you my money!  I would be delighted to buy all the Star Wars films for a third time if what I was buying was the original theatrical versions of the films.  (What I really dream of is a version where seamless branching is used to contain ALL the many different versions of each Star Wars film, so that viewers could select their preferred option.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Look what an awesome job Warner Brothers did with their Blade Runner blu-ray set!  In addition to one of the greatest set of special features of any blu-ray/DVD ever made, the set contains every single different version of Blade Runner, all four of them.  I would pay a lot of money for a set like this for Star Wars.)

Which brings me to Star Trek.  Why would I be happy to buy all of the Star Trek films (well, at least the ten original ones, not JJ Abrams’ two nuTrek reboot films) yet again?

I’m glad you asked!  You see, there are two main problems with the versions of the Star Trek films currently available on blu-ray.  First, with the exception of Star Trek II, which was given an excellent restoration before being released on blu-ray, all nine other Trek films have been released using old masters of the films.  Blu-ray is amazing, but for a film to really shine on blu-ray it has to be properly prepared, with a high-resolution master of the original film elements.  The Star Trek masters are not great, and so the films (other than Trek II) don’t look anywhere near as good as they should look in high-definition.

Second, the various releases of the Trek films on DVD and then blu-ray have never had a great array of substantive special features.  The special features on the Trek films have always been very random and not-well put-together.  The short featurettes on the discs only provide a superficial look at the making of these beloved films.  I would love to see a real, in-depth documentary created for each of the Trek films.  Look at the incredible making-of documentaries that Charles de Lauzirika has created for almost every Ridley Scott film on DVD/blu-ray.  These feature-length documentaries are often as good if not better than the films themselves!  Look at the extraordinary documentaries that the same Mr. Lauzirika put together for all the Alien films for Fox’s magnificent Alien Quadrilogy set.  Look at the 5-to-10 hours of in-depth, lovingly-made documentaries that every single one of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films has had, accompanying it’s “Extended Edition” release.  Look at the amazing hour-and-a-half-long documentaries produced by the spectacular team of Robert Meyer Burnett and Roger Lay Jr. for each season’s release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray.  These are the types of in-depth, made-with-care special features that the Star Trek films deserve but that Paramount has never seen fit to give them.

And, if I can add a third complaint about the Trek films on blu-ray: the Trek films actually have the opposite problem of the Star Wars films in that ONLY the original theatrical versions of the Trek films are available in high-def.  I would love for the far-superior “Director’s Edition” of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as Nicholas Meyer’s subtly-different but much-preferred by me director’s cut of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (that was released on VHS and the original bare-bones DVD) to be released on blu-ray but, so far, no love for either.  (From what I have read, Paramount, I don’t think anyone working for you even has any idea that these different versions of the Trek films exist!)  (By the way, geeky sub-note about Star Trek VI — the “special edition” DVD actually contains a third version of the film, again slightly altered by Nicholas Meyer, but I don’t like those changes.  I prefer the second version.  Will I ever get to see that version in high-definition?  I doubt it.)

Paramount, you have released many, many different editions of the Trek films on DVD and blu-ray.  It seems like almost once a year you repackage the films in new sets with new covers and in different combinations.  But you’ve never given a Trek fan like me a reason to buy the films yet again, even though I TOTALLY WOULD BE HAPPY TO if you put any effort at all into these re-releases!

This year is Star Trek’s fiftieth anniversary, and I was hoping that would be an excuse for you folks at Paramount to try to sell the Trek films to Trek fans yet again.  And, well, it IS, but yet again you are not giving me a reason to give you the money that I so desperately want to give you.  Bill Hunt from The Digital Bits has the skinny on your plans for the 50th anniversary, and they are a huge swing and a miss.  What are we getting?  A blu-ray version of The Animated Series (who cares!) and a 4K remaster of Star Trek II, the ONLY Trek film that actually has a decent blu-ray version!  Can anyone explain the logic there??  Unbelievable.  In that linked piece, Bill Hunt lists exactly the things that Trek fans like me want to see, the things that would make us all buy these films again.  But Paramount, in your wisdom you have decided to do none of these things.

It’s a shame.  I would love to own high-definition versions of these films that I love, Star Wars and Star Trek, in my preferred versions and with decent special features.  I would gladly shell out a LOT of my hard-earned dough for the privilege of buying these movies for yet another time!

Sure, might a casual fan pick up this year’s 50th anniversary re-release of the Star Trek films?  I suppose.  Might there be some obsessive fans who just have to own every single re-release of these films even if the only change is new cover art?  There are probably a few.  But I suspect that there are a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars fans out there like me.  We’re fans and we’re collectors.  We know a lame re-release when we see it.  But give us a REASON and we will not only give you our money, we will do it happily!  The rejoicing across the internet should the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars films ever be released would be a mighty thing indeed, I guarantee it.  Those blu-rays would SELL.

Paramount and Disney, let’s be honest with one another.  I understand that you corporations don’t really care about the fans.  You just care about making money.  But it seems to me that if you just cared a little bit more about the fans, and these movies that we love, that you could be making a LOT more money.  You’d certainly have more of my precious cash.  Oh well.  Guess I’ll just save a little more for my kids’ college tuitions instead.

Thanks for listening.  Much love,

Josh

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone