A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a franchise was born with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. George Lucas struck gold at the right time to help usher in the era of the mega-blockbuster - and Hollywood hasn't looked back since. This is where it all started - even though it's not quite the same movie it was 40 years ago as George has felt the need to "improve" things - but its heart is the same and it's just as exciting as it ever was. Disney brings A New Hope to 4K UHD Blu-ray with a native 4K transfer and HDR10 that's generally pleasing overall with a few caveats and a rousing Atmos mix - if you notch up the volume a tad. Recommended.
So much has been written about Star Wars let alone Episode IV: A New Hope by now that I really don't have a whole lot of insight to add beyond my own personal experience with it. Sadly born a few years too late, I wasn't in the theater when Star Wars took the world by storm. Like many of my generation, I grew up watching Luke, Han, Chewy, and Leia battle the Empire on VHS - and on a bootlegged tape at that!
My family had one main VHS player - a massive Sony model that must have weighed about two dozen pounds - and my dad bought a Hitachi video camera set - that came with second player/recorder in a shoulder sling duffle bag. Rather than buy all of our first tapes with a huge price tag, my dad was very economical and simply rented the tapes and recorded copies. Our first copy of Star Wars was just such a tape with simple red lettering on a white sticker that read "Star Wars - Three Stooges." Yes, my dad also recorded a few Three Stooges shorts after the credits because there was room left on the tape's extended play recording mode.
I didn't see A New Hope in theaters until the 90s when Lucas released his "Special Editions." No need to go into the laundry list of odd choices good George made and for whatever motivation; I've long since moved on as they've just stopped bothering me. Also, the fact that numerous beautiful fan restorations exist in the wilds of the internet - I'm content if I really need to see an unaltered version of this one. Regardless of which version I see - I'm always excited the first time Luke fires up his father's lightsaber. Countless viewings over three decades have never dulled the film for me. It's not quite my favorite Star Wars film - but it's the one that got the ball rolling and I will always love it.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope blasts it's way out of hyperspace onto 4K UHD Blu-ray from Disney in a three-disc 4K UHD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital set. Housed in a two-disc black case with identical slipcover artwork, the 4K UHD disc rests on top of the bonus features Blu-ray disc. The 4K disc holds no bonus features and opens to Disney's standard language / "start the movie" menu structure.
A New Hope is certainly that on 4K UHD after the somewhat muted appearance of the prequel trilogy on the format. As George was preparing these films for 3-D runs - that sadly didn't pan out - new 4K masters were ordered when Disney entered the frame. As such A New Hope certainly makes a stunning first impression with a new native 4K restoration and HDR10 grading. However - there are a few things to sort out upfront. For whatever reason, an effort was made at the time of these restorations of the Original Trilogy to strip back the grain presence as much as possible. While details are absolutely gorgeous here, there's often a clumpy frozen appearance to film grain that does stand out in a variety of scenes. It's not horribly distracting, but you do notice it from time to time.
With that caveat out of the way, the rest of the visual presentation is a wonder. It's amazing how clear and crisp the details are for this film. I felt like I was seeing textures and patterns in the clothing, set design, and the impressive creature work for the first time.
Likewise, with HDR10, colors pop off the screen without being otherworldly altered. Yellows like the opening crawl have a slightly more golden tone than I'm used to seeing - but nothing unpleasant. Vader's red lightsaber and Obi-Wan's blue lightsaber are stunning examples of primary pop and presence. Likewise anytime you get some splash of color it looks terrific. Skin tones are healthy throughout. Black levels are nice and inky giving Vader's armor the ominous look of dread it should always maintain. Space battles are magnificent allowing the star field to glimmer as X-Wings zip along the silvery Death Star. After the iffy grain structure, my only real complaint is the shoddy older CGI insertion effects - Jabba just never looked convincing and with all of the "fixes" made through the years - I wish they'd gone back and redone that effect. It still looks soft and out of focus compared to the live elements and the effect of Han "stepping" on his tail is never convincing. But those are really small quibbles for a transfer with a lot to love.
Well… it wouldn't be a Disney Atmos track if you didn't have to adjust the volume at least a little bit! Same is the case here for A New Hope. You do have to tweak it a bit, but similar to my experience with Rogue One - I felt like it was well within my normal + / - 3 range. I didn't have to blow things out for the experience to sound full and engaging as it should. But, once you get that volume at the desired level - you can sit back and enjoy the ride! That first shot when Lea's ship is being attacked by the Star Destroyer is just awesome! The laser blasts stitch across the soundscape with the rumble of engines rattling your subs and then the big ship passes overhead - it all sounds so damn good! I'd love to hear this track in a movie theater on a massive screen!
So, as expected action sequences really notched things up nicely but what I really loved about this mix is how "open" the worlds and location of this Star Wars feel. The hallways of the Death Star have a nice echoing quality. Busy control rooms have that expected mechanical hum quality. Tatooine feels vast with nice subtle wind effects to keep that sense of open space alive. When needed the mix bounces to life in all the right ways. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout - I love that they didn't change the old scratchy 20th Century Fox fanfare! Aside from volume adjustments, this is another great mix!
No supplements are on the main 4K disc, instead, all bonus features new and archival are found on the included Blu-ray discs. All in all, this is an impressive range of bonus features that if you haven't gone through them already - you're in for a nice set of materials to pick through.
Feature Film Blu-ray Disc:
Bonus Features Disc:
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope may well be one of the greatest and most important blockbusters of all time. It changed the game in Hollywood virtually overnight. In so doing, it spawned five sequels, three prequels, and two side-films in addition to a variety of television series with massive numbers of comic books and novels to expand the universe that is the galaxy far, far away. I've loved Star Wars since I was a small boy devouring our bootlegged tape with repeated viewings. Sure, I'd have loved for the original unaltered theatrical releases to come with this new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set, but I'll take what I can get - legally - and love it just the same. The new 4K transfer with HDR10 is often stunning with incredible detail clarity and bold colors. The clumpy frozen grain is a bit unsightly but not terrible. With the new Atmos mix turned up to an appreciable level you have a bold and exciting way to experience Star Wars at home. Recommended.