There was mass hysteria* yesterday when Disney and Fox announced that all six Star Wars films would be available to download in HD from Friday!
Goodness, how very lucky we are. I mean, how else was I going to be able to watch any of the films? It’s not as though they haven’t been released once or twice before.
George Lucas was always pretty canny with his release strategy, but now that Disney owns the rights, the franchise has been handed on to the past masters of re-releasing video. Who else could re-release their best-selling Frozen in a sing-along version and sell it to parents again – which as far as I can see, just means turning subtitles on by default?**
And these new videos are really “priced to go” aren’t they? £20 each or £69 for all six films!
Suddenly that Secret Cinema airing of The Empire Strikes Back seems reasonable at £75. Of course, you can buy the exact same quality films on BluRay for £49 currently at Amazon. Sure you’ll have to rip the video yourself somehow if you want to play the films on a tablet. But then why are you watching films on a tablet or smartphone you fool? Seriously, you shouldn’t be watching films on portable devices with Facebook notifications popping up, and listening via the bundled headphones you got with it.***
These downloads come with loads of “new” bonus material. And I’m sure that it’ll somehow be different to the bonus material that has previously been released on DVDs and BluRays. I mean they have definitely held back the best stuff until now, haven’t they?
Sadly, the one thing that they could have done to interest me even slightly in these downloads, they’ve completely avoided. That, of course, is to release the original trilogy in their original versions****, but digitally cleaned up and rescanned. Instead we have to put up with Lucas’ “tinkered versions” or go hunting around on the web for fans who’ve “de-specialised” the films themselves.
No doubt these versions will come out in due course, since it’d be money left on the table from Disney’s perspective if they didn’t. And leaving tables left covered with money doesn’t feel like a Disney sort of thing to do. But I hope we don’t first have to wait for the 3D versions to pass through. Remember them? They started with The Phantom Menace, “Remastering” it in 3D. Or as I like to think of it, “Getting teams of people working frame by frame in Photoshop somewhere like India, to fake-up 3D.”
At time of writing, the Amazon ranking for these new digital releases is one star, with every commenter giving the price as the reason for their lowly ratings.
Star Wars is just the latest example of this bizarre media excitement when something that hadn’t previously been made available digitally, is, er, made available digitally. We’ve had bands from The Beatles to AC/DC on iTunes, and Harry Potter on the Kindle amongst many others. The only reason these properties have been held back is for marketing reasons. Why are we playing their game? What kind of person was holding out on listening to The Beatles or watching Star Wars because they weren’t available in their preferred format? “Sure, I could buy Sgt. Pepper on CD and rip it myself, but I’m hanging in there until Apple rips it for me!”
In the meantime, this is another reason to hang on to devices capable of playing physical media before totally going digital. A bit like back those catalogue CDs that somehow are cheaper in a physical format than the digital album on Amazon (At time of writing Bridge Over Troubled Water is £3.00 on CD, which includes a bundled mp3 version, or £6.39 for just the mp3! And this was literally the first example search I tried.)
Me? I might have to go back to my Laserdisc of Return of the Jedi.
* OK – mild comment may be more accurate.
** OK – there may be a dancing ball or something that runs along the words.
*** OK – you might be watching via Apple TV or Chromecast or something on your big TV. In which case, good. And yes, whiling away the hours on a long flight with a film is good. But you’re probably not truly appreciating the majesty of some of these films on a 5 inch screen.
**** And no, I don’t buy the oft-given argument that these versions no longer exist and that somehow they were destroyed in the making of Lucas’ other editions.