by Jim Lynch

iTunes and Star Wars: Thanks but no thanks, Disney!

Apr 24, 20159 mins
Consumer ElectronicsOperating Systems

Disney has finally released the first six Star Wars movies in the iTunes store, but it's too little and far too late. I won't be buying them.

With a new movie scheduled for release in December, Star Wars is getting lots of media attention these days. And Disney, the company that now owns the Star Wars franchise, finally decided to release the first six Star Wars movies on iTunes. While some Star Wars fans might be excited about this, you won’t find me buying the Star Wars movies on iTunes anytime soon.

Here are five reasons why I’m going to take a pass on buying the Star Wars movies from the iTune store:

1. The iTunes versions aren’t the original versions of the Star Wars movies

One of the most disappointing things about the Star Wars films that are available in iTunes is that they aren’t the original versions of the movies. Instead they are the “revised” versions done by George Lucas that have significant alterations that were not in the original versions of the films.

Yes, some of the special effects are better and I can understand why some people might enjoy that part of the downloadable versions of the films. But special effects are secondary to story and character integrity for me, and when Lucas made his changes, he turned me off to watching the films.

Here’s a brief sample of some of the changes in the iTunes versions of the movie from the original theatrical releases:

1. Greedo still shoots first, with Han a close second.

2. Darth Vader screams “Nooooooo!” when he throws the emperor to his death in Return of the Jedi.

3. The band and song changes in Return of the Jedi.

4. At the end of Return of the Jedi, it is Hayden Christensen and not Sebastian Shaw who plays Anakin in spirit form.

5. The lame shockwave explosion when the Death Star blows up at the end of the first Star Wars film.

What I’ve listed here is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of irritating changes that George Lucas has made to the Star Wars movies. For an exhaustive list of the many changes Lucas has made to the films over the years, see Empire’s excellent article “Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes.”

2. The Star Wars movies on iTunes cost too much money

The Star Wars movies – particularly the first three – have been around for a long time and most people have seen them already in one form or another. But you wouldn’t know that by the pricing in the iTunes store. For example, if you buy the films separately you’ll have to pay $19.99 each. Or you can buy $99.99 for the entire collection of all six films.

Is it me or is this the digital form of highway robbery? I don’t blame Apple for this, of course. It’s Disney who is setting the price here, but it seems very steep to me for films that have been around for so many years. $4.99 for each film seems fairer to me, with $24.99 for the entire collection.

But the current pricing is way out of line, given the age of these movies. Who wants to pay that much to see films they’ve probably already seen numerous times?

And to make matters even worse, the SD versions of the films – that don’t come with iTunes Extras – are priced exactly the same as the HD versions! Huh? Why would anyone buy the SD version for the exact same price as the HD version? It had to be some marketing genius at Disney that came up with this incredibly stupid idea.

3. Not enough extras to warrant the purchase price of the Star Wars films in iTunes

Each of the films comes with some iTunes Extras, and that’s fine as far as it goes. You can, for example, listen to interviews with some of the movie’s stars in The Empire Strikes Back. Or you can listen to writers and Star Wars historians talk about the “Star Wars that never was” if you buy Revenge of the Sith.

But none of that stuff is enough to get me to buy the films. The single best “extra” that Disney could have included with each film is the original version of the movie. Imagine how excited people would be if they were able to see the films the way they were originally made, without George Lucas’ annoying changes, and at no extra cost. My guess is that Disney would sell far more if they’d done that then they will with the lame extras that are currently included.

4. The Star Wars prequels still stink

One of the other problems with the iTunes versions of the Star Wars movies lies with the prequels themselves. Frankly, they still stink and there’s not really much that Disney can do about it. Those three films – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith – simply are what they are and there’s not much that can be done to fix them.

One minor but appealing change would be for Jar Jar Binks to be edited out of the iTunes versions completely. That would certainly go a long way toward at least making The Phantom Menace a better movie. But I doubt Disney would go for it, alas.

5. Disney’s condescending press release about the Star Wars movies

One of the things that really irritated me about the Star Wars movies finally becoming available on iTunes was the press statement issued by Disney about it. Here are a couple of snippets for you to check out, click the previous link to read the whole thing.

“Since the debut of the first film nearly 40 years ago, Star Wars has become a worldwide phenomenon with legions of fans from every generation,” said Alan Bergman, president, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s only fitting that audiences enjoy this legendary saga and its many fascinating behind-the-scenes stories on a wide variety of platforms, and we’re very excited to finally bring all six films to Digital HD for the first time.”

“We’re thrilled that fans will be able to enjoy the Star Wars saga on their digital devices wherever they go,” commented Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “These films broke new ground in technology, design, sound, and visual effects, and we’ve created some very special bonus material which delves into the saga’s rich history, including new and never-before-released conversations between legendary Star Wars artists — the masters who helped George bring his iconic universe to life.”

Um…well perhaps fans could have enjoyed the movies on their devices quite a long time ago if they’d been…you know…released years ago like so many other movies on iTunes. The fact that Disney is pretending to be excited about it really grates on me. It’s as if the company has just discovered digital downloads for the first time and…gee…wow…wants to enlighten fans to this amazing new technology. Ugh.

Of course many fans simply decided to pirate the movies ages ago, and probably have copies on as many devices as they want already. And I don’t blame them one bit, given how long it has taken for the movies to finally be made available legally. I have to wonder how many sales Disney has lost by not releasing the films sooner. There have probably been millions of pirated downloads of the Star Wars films over the years, and each of those could have been a sale if the movies had been available in iTunes and other digital stores.

Some Star Wars fans were also underwhelmed by the iTunes release

I’m not the only one who was less than impressed with the release of the Star Wars movies on iTunes. Take a look at some of the comments in a thread on the MacRumors forum from when the movies were first announced:

Bill Killer: “Let me know when the original theatrical releases are available.”

Levitynyc: “Yuck at the price. THE BLURAYS ARE CHEAPER! Yuck at it being the Special Edition crap.”

KadMac: “Sorry, but no thanks. I want nothing to do with these digital downloads which are the exact same as the blu-ray versions. If it was the same as the Special Edition DVD versions, I would be game. Sorry, but adding a totally lame “Noooo” to Darth Vader’s scene when saving Luke from the Emperor was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It used to be an epic scene but they went and ruined it. It might seem nit picky for some but I can’t give money to that.”

Fivetoedbear: “…I will still covet the DVDs of the original theatrical releases that I got as bonuses in a box set so long ago. They were created from the laserdisc masters. And bonuses? The original versions were the main event to me. George, when somebody 14 years old is blown away by your work, you let them see it that way forever.”

Plutonius: “I would get it if it was the version where Han Solo shot first.”

More at MacRumors Forum

As you can tell from the comments by MacRumors readers, the iTunes versions of the Star Wars movies attracted some seriously negative feedback. Of course there are folks who are excited by the release of these films in a downloadable format, but they might just be a bit of a minority among long-time Star Wars fans.

It’s a real shame that Star Wars has come to this. The release of the films on iTunes and other digital stores should have been cause for celebration but instead it’s turned into rather a “so what?” kind of moment for many of us. Your mileage may vary of course, and if you buy the iTunes version of the movies then more power to you.

But I’ll pass on them. Thanks anyway, Disney.

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