Yesterday was the launch of Disney+ in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands, and with it came (almost) all of the Star Wars films. Every single one, available to stream, as long as it wasn't called The Last Jedi. Obviously people got into the swing of thing by rewatching the saga on Disney's long-awaited service, and to their horror they found a brand new change to the now-infamous Han vs Greedo scene.
Now, instead of keeling over silently, Greedo utters a word that sounds like "Maclunky" right as Han shoots him.
In the Disney+ version of Star Wars Greedo now shouts "MACLUNKEY" before getting shot. This is now my favorite version because why the hell not? MACLUNKEY! #starwars#maclunkeypic.twitter.com/k1XmP8wAZT
— Eric Fell (@ericfell) November 12, 2019
Now people are a bit weirded out buy this, because it's yet another change to the scene that doesn't add anything. Which is really strange, especially after Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said she wouldn't do any tinker (or tamper, if you want to go that way) with the films because "those will always remain [Lucas's]" (jump to 16 minutes to hear her exact words).
— Sean Buckley (@seaniccus) November 12, 2019
The thing is, though, that a Disney rep has told The Hollywood Reporter that the change was made by Lucas himself, which isn't all that unbelievable. Lucas made a habit of changing the original trilogy everytime they were released. But does this mean Lucas has had that sort of creative control recently?
The rep claimed that the change was made to A New Hope before Disney acquired Lucasfilm (and the Star Wars franchise) back in 2012. Which is frankly rather unbelievable, because that would make it, at the very least, seven years old. Has it been sitting around in a vault ignored until now? Or was it released post-2012 and nobody noticed? I set about to try and work this out.
It's totally possible that Greedo has been saying Maclunkey for a while now, and the people who notice these things just never realised. Or, if anyone did, it never gained much traction. The only thing to do with that uncertainty was to go back and check for myself.
I already have three versions of A New Hope at home, which made this pretty easy. There's the 2006 'Limited Edition' DVD that comes with the theatrical (and unaltered cut) plus the 2003 version of the Special Edition, and the Steelbook Blu-ray which the copyright information tells me was released in 2015. Then I went and bought the digital version of the film, which was also released in 2015, and checked the version of A New Hope that's currently available on-demand with Sky Q.
If any of these versions of the film had Greedo's newly-minted last words, it would be the ones from 2015 right? It was after the acquisition, and if what Disney says is true that would have been the 'true' version of the film at that time. Well we'll get to that.
The Theatrical Cut
Thankfully Lucas's tinkering of this scene makes it really easy to tell which version is which. The one above features Han as the only shooter (jump to the six minute mark to see it) and means this is the theatrical cut of A New Hope. As everyone remembers, Greedo does not say Maclunkey right before he dies.
The Special Edition
Now here we have the Special Edition version of the scene, as first seen in 1997. As you can tell Greedo shoots and misses, while Han retaliates by shooting him in the face. As expected, and remembered by all, Greedo does not say "Maclunkey".
So I can't find the right clip of the Blu-ray edition of this scene by itself, so this comparison will have to do. It's the one in the bottom left, featuring Han and Greedo shooting simultaneously. Once again Greedo does not say Maclunkey. In fact, he doesn't say it in any of the four versions in case you didn't believe the earlier clips.
Greedo did not say Maclunkey in this one either. I did have video, but the audio failed because I do not have Sky and was forced to watch the scene via a video call to my girlfriend who does. So you'll just have to take my word for it, though you can go and check if you really don't believe me.
Despite coming after the Disney acquisition, and after the time Lucas supposedly made the Maclunkey cut, this version of the scene is exactly the same as the Blu-ray that was released in 2011. Greedo does not say Maclunkey.
The Digital Version
Released in 2015 around the same time as the steelbook, but to much more fanfare. Again this is after Lucas supposedly locked in the Maclunkey cut, but lo and behind Greedo doesn't utter it here either.
So What Now?
You'd have thought that if Lucas had a brand new version of A New Hope lying around when Disney came knocking, it would have been released by now. Obviously A New Hope still belonged to Fox back in 2015, which was before being absorbed into Disney itself, and meant the House of Mouse wasn't the entity directly distributing the steelbook or the digital editions of the film. But Fox will have obtained a cut to use from Lucasfilm, and it's weird that they wouldn't hand over the one used by George Lucas.
Obviously one possible solution to this conundrum is that the Maclunkey cut is actually exclusive to the 4K version of A New Hope. We knew that a 4K version existed before now, and it was confirmed it was the 'most recent' version of the special edition and not one of the earlier cuts.
While the first home 4K projector didn't arrive until May 2012, and the first commercial 4K TV in November of the same year, the higher resolution had begun rolling out to cinemas in 2011 - giving George Lucas plenty of time to start work on remastering his films for the new resolution. While it wasn't clear whether 4K would take off as a commercial thing, he still had films to push back into the cinema.
Lucas was tinkering with 3D at the time, with the intention of re-releasing all the Star Wars films in 3D one after the other. io9 theorises that the Maclunkey cut was a byproduct of this, with Lucas having the films remastered in 4K ready for their eventual 3D release. Considering he had already swapped puppet Yoda for CGI Yoda in Episode I, it's seems more than likely he was making changes to other films as well.
The Phantom Menace was the only film to get a 3D re-release, though, as the Disney takeover scuppered Lucas's original plans. But if a 4K remaster of A New Hope had already been done at that point, it seems that's what we have now. You have to admit the timing fits weirdly well.
It doesn't really explain why the Maclunkey cut didn't appear in the 2015 releases, since this was around the time the 3D version of A New Hope would probably have hit cinemas had everyone stuck to the original plan.
Perhaps George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy will shed light on this in the near future, but for now we can't be sure. But, it's certainly not impossible that this really was George Lucas's final tweak to the Han vs Greedo shootout. Even if it took a weirdly long amount of time for the public to see it.