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Han Shot First!

Han Shot First!

~ Brendan Quinn

For a good chunk of Star Wars fans, George Lucas’ “Special Editions” were, unfortunately, the films that we grew up watching. It wasn’t until the Internet really took off in the late ‘90s that I discovered the rabbit hole of rage and disappointment that older fans-ones who had the good luck to be born in an era where they could go to a theatre on opening night to see the movies- had been embroiled in since Lucas decided his original cuts needed a modern makeover.

“Han shot first!” “Too much CG!” “Why is ghost Anakin young when Kenobi and Yoda are old?” etc…

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While it doesn’t need to be said, it would appear that the wrath of the nerd is something to behold. However, the other side of that coin features a different quality.  Tenacity. Why wait for Lucasfilm to do all the work when a single, dedicated fan has the technology to do it themselves?

Enter Petr “Harmy” Harmáček.

Harmy grew up in the Czech Republic, and when the wall fell in ’89 the country was flooded with previously-banned American blockbusters… like Star Wars. Although Petr was young at the time, he remembers the impact the movies had on his mind and what would eventually become his biggest passion project as an adult.

“I grew up in democracy and with it came many Hollywood blockbusters, which had been forbidden under the communist regime, including Star Wars, so in my country I’m part of the original generation of Star Wars fans,” Harmy says.

As Harmy got older, he began to dabble in film restoration and remastering for older movies. With no formal education in film or digital effects, everything Harmy has done he’s learned on his own accord.

“I have always been an avid movie fan and I started my work on Star Wars as a hobby and I learned everything from scratch from online tutorials and such, and my skills improved with each new version and now I actually do have a job in the field thanks to it,” he says.

Over the next five years, and still carrying on, Harmy has been diligently working on the project. It’s an ongoing mission for him, especially as a hobby and not a paid venture. He is quick to credit other force wielding film buffs for their efforts, stating that while this is his passion project, a lot of the restored footage and clips come from other fans like himself. Keeping his goal in mind, to bring the original films, with the unwanted additions amputated and bringing modern, HD visual fidelity to the nearly 40-year-old footage.

“While working on those, I learned so many new tricks that I decided to start over, this time with the goal to remove as many changes as possible without compromising the visual quality too much. And because again, doing this, I learned new skills, but also because other fans were also relentlessly working towards the goal of preserving the original versions and so new, better sources became available, I made a few more updated versions, but always with that same goal – to improve the visual quality, while removing even more changes.”

While the idea of working for “the love of the art” seems to be lost in this day and age of pirating, Harmy is adamant that this half-decade long endeavor is purely for the fans, but If other benefits come along with that, than all the better. A demonstration of digital prowess is better than any degree, and Harmy now has his dream job working for Nanotech Entertainment’s 4K Studio.

“I started working on it as a little personal project, which I was going to share with a few friends I made online at www.originaltrilogy.com, and I never expected it to become as huge as it now has,” he says.

Continuing, “I get mostly very positive reactions – it always warms my heart when someone tells me what an emotional experience it was for them to see the original in all its glory again.”

Of course, watching these restored versions at home is fun, but it would be a real blast to experience in a theatre full of like-minded fans hooting and hollering at all the right moments. If there were only an option available for Nelsonites to see these films in their original glory before The Force Awakens drops on the 18th…If only…

Brendan Quinn is a blogger for The Civic Theatre.  Outside of writing, Brendan enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, and studying the First World War.