4K UHD Blu-ray Review: ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’

(C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you are a regular visitor to A Certain Point of View, Too, you probably remember that I bought the exclusive-to-Best Buy Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga 27-disc UHD/HD Blu-ray box set earlier this year. At $249.99 (plus sales tax, fees, and surcharges), this is the most expensive box set I’ve ever purchased.

Considering that I already owned the hi-def Blu-rays (BDs) of all nine films that come in the Skywalker Saga box set, you might think that I was crazy, but this set – which Lucasfilm and Buena Vista Home Entertainment released on March 30 – included the Original and Prequel Star Wars trilogies on the ultra-high definition 4K Blu-ray disc format.

This is how I acquired my copy of Star Wars: A New Hope on 4K UHD. Image Credit: Buena Vista Home Entertainment via Best Buy. (C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

You see, when I bought The Skywalker Saga box set, I already owned a 4K UHD TV set and a compatible player, both by Samsung. For various reasons, I didn’t get them set up until last Friday, so even though I was able to “test-watch” some of the regular (1080p) HD Blu-rays in the 27-disc collection, I’ve only just begun to watch the Star Wars 4K Blu-rays with Episodes I-VI.

Today I watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which is not only my favorite installment of the Skywalker Saga but is also my favorite movie of all time.

A New (UHD) Hope for Home Entertainment

Luke Skywalker Begins a Journey That Will Change a Galaxy

Young farm boy Luke Skywalker is thrust into a galaxy of adventure when he intercepts a distress call from the captive Princess Leia. The event launches him on a daring mission to rescue her from the clutches of Darth Vader and the Evil Empire. Join their mission in breathtaking 4K Ultra HD! – Back cover blurb, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Although I do not have Star Wars: A New Hope in its individual Ultimate Collector’s Edition 3-disc edition that Lucasfilm and Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) released on the same day as Best Buy started shipping The Skywalker Saga sets to pre-order customers or stocking them on store shelves, its contents (one 4K UHD disc with the film, plus its 1080p counterpart and a 1080p Bonus disc) do comprise one-ninth of the 27-disc collection ensconced in the Death Star-themed box.

Here’s what you get in the 4K UHD edition of Star Wars: A New Hope

Specifications for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 4K UHD[1]

Video
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (47.81 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: HDR10
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio

English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Japanese: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1


Subtitles

English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish

Discs

4K Ultra HD
Blu-ray Disc
Three-disc set (1 BD-66, 1 BD-25, 1 BD-50
)

Digital
Digital 4K
Movies Anywhere, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play

Packaging

Slipcover in original pressing
Embossed print

Playback

4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free

My Take

I am new to the world of 4K Ultra High Definition television and high-dynamic range (HDR) technology, so let’s see what the folks at CNET have to say about the (relatively) new video format before I get into my thoughts about Star Wars: A New Hope’s 4K Blu-ray.

Per CNET writer Geoffrey Harrison’s What is HDR for TVs, and why should you care?

HDR, or high-dynamic range, is the current “must-have” TV feature. TVs that support it can usually offer brighter highlights and a wider range of color detail, for a punchier image overall.

HDR-compatible TVs are now very common. Nearly all midrange and high-end TVs have HDR. At the same time HDR TV shows and movies are becoming more common, both on streaming services like Netflix and Ultra HD Blu-ray disc.   

Further on down, Harrison elaborates on what this all means for us viewers:

HDR expands the range of both contrast and color significantly. Bright parts of the image can get much brighter, so the image seems to have more “depth.” Colors get expanded to show more bright blues, greens, reds and everything in between.

Wide color gamut (WCG) is along for the ride with HDR, and that brings even more colors to the table. Colors that, so far, were impossible to reproduce on any television. The reds of a fire truck, the deep violet of an eggplant, even the green of many street signs. You may have never noticed before that these weren’t exactly how they looked in real life, but you sure will now. WCG will bring these colors and millions more to your eyeballs.

I’ve watched Star Wars countless times in many home video formats, starting with VHS videotape in the early 1980s all the way to Blu-ray and even digital-only video on my computer and TV, but I had never seen the oft-updated George Lucas’s 1977 space fantasy with images so sharp and clear that I can discern details that I had never seen before .

As familiar as I am with Star Wars – I have, after all, been a starstruck fan for over 43 years as I write this – I was surprised at how much detail you can see in a 4K UHD TV with HD10 HDR.

With HDR and ultra-high definition technology, almost everything you see on your TV screen looks sharper, less artificial-looking, and more life-like. When you look at See-Threepio (C-3PO) and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) for the first time aboard the Tantive IV blockade runner, for instance, you not only marvel at how much more weathered Artoo looks now, but you’ll also notice that Threepio also has more dings, scratches, and dents than you saw when watching Star Wars in other formats, including at the movies or on Blu-ray, even.

There, are, of course, imperfections that will pop up and possibly annoy you. Viewers may see odd clumps of frozen “grain” that follow characters around as they move across the screen in some scenes, and the 4K UHD format’s sharper resolution reveals details the audience was not meant to see, such as the inexpensive materials used to make Darth Vader’s helmet or seams in some of the costumes. Every so often, you might also notice stray “elements” such as odd vertical lines that shouldn’t be there, especially since we’re dealing with the oft-tinkered with post-1997 Special Edition and not the Star Wars 1977 theatrical release that many fans still yearn to see officially released by Lucasfilm.

But I can forgive Lucasfilm and BVHE for a few bits of visual imperfections, although I must admit some surprise about some of the differences I have noticed in the color palette of the HDR/UHD 4K version of Star Wars.  

For the most part, the surprises have been mostly good ones. The skin tones, the various textures and colors of the costumes, the hues of the various lightsaber blades, laser beams, and spacecraft engine flares are more “realistic” and lifelike, and the visuals now have more depth and definition that you feel as though you can almost reach and touch Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.

Curiously, the new technology causes viewers to see things with a slightly different color palette. The Star Wars main title and the opening crawl text now look tangerine-orange instead of the bright yellow we’ve seen in every previous format, including celluloid film in theaters.  It’s not off-putting, mind you, but It does take some getting used to.

This is because HDR has a tendency to render things a bit darker than previous formats. This manifests itself in some surprising visual changes, but it also adds depth to the Images on the screen. I no longer feel like I’m watching a 2D film – even though I am -but rather almost as though I were in the smoky and dimly lit cantina in Mos Eisley, dodging Imperial stormtroopers’ blaster bolts aboard the dreaded Death Star, or flying in an X-wing fighter along with Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin.

If you have a 4K UHD TV and a 100% compatible player – UHD Blu-rays will not play on regular (HD) Blu-ray players, after all – and you haven’t bought any of the Star Wars films, A New Hope is the one you should start with if you are going to go the “individual title” path to creating a 4K UHD collection.  (Ideally, you should just buy Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, but I do recognize that the box set is both expensive and hard to find.)

All in all, I think Lucasfilm and BHVE did a nice job with the UHD 4K release of the film that kicked off the Star Wars franchise and took audiences into a classic hero’s journey set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”


[1] The specs apply to both the Ultimate Collector’s Edition and Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, except for the Packaging category, which is that for the former.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

2 thoughts on “4K UHD Blu-ray Review: ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’

  1. I noticed looking at the comparison video how much darker the Ultra-HD looks before you brought it up. Not sure I would invest in this technology. I already have DVDs and blue-rays of most of the films I like, plus many more in the convenient digital format.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am slowly getting used to the darker tint of the UHD 4K Blu-rays. The darker image does take some getting used to, but you do get more of a depth perception, and I like how more lifelike people look on the screen.

      That having been said, although I will probably get into the habit of getting new titles in 4K UHD, I will NOT replace all of my DVD or Blu-ray titles on a 1:1 basis. Just the obvious favorites, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and a few others.

      As for digital only…I will redeem codes that come in new purchases, but I won’t go “only digital” because the video and audio quality of “digital only” is a bit inferior to that of physical media. I’ve noticed this in my audio library…the sound is a bit “softer” on digital albums than it is on CDs.

      Like

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