When did Lucasfilm forget how to select compelling Star Wars cover art?

The official Star Wars site announced Wednesday that Lucasfilm is re-releasing the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies as Blu-ray/DVD combo packs in October for the US.

Other than featuring new cover art and including DVD editions, the underlying content will be the same as the 2011 Blu-ray releases. As with the prior separate trilogy editions, the spectacular bonus discs found on Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set are not included.

Common in the industry, these re-releases are either for people who do not already have the 2011 versions of the movies or for Star Wars completists who must own every cover variant.

Though I’m a huge fan of these movies, I certainly do not collect covers, so this is not exciting news to me. In fact, I mention it here only because the new artwork reminded me of what a poor job Lucasfilm has done in that department for most of the last several home media releases of Star Wars.

For instance, below is the new art for the original trilogy set.

Cover art for STAR WARS: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY Blu-ray/DVD Combo Set (2013)

Cover art for STAR WARS: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY Blu-ray/DVD Combo Set (2013)

For this 2013 re-issue of the 2011 editions of the original trilogy, Lucasfilm uses a typical, boring shot of Darth Vader. Not only that, but it appears to be based on the Episode III: Revenge of the Sith version of Vader.

When ILM re-created the helmet for use in the 2005 prequel, they chose to make it symmetrical. Much like human heads, the versions of the Darth Vader helmet used in the original trilogy were asymmetrical. The Episode III Vader helmet always looks “off” due to its so-called perfection. This prequel imagery certainly should not be used on an original trilogy set.

The artwork chosen for 2011’s Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set (below) was hardly any better, though.

Cover art for STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA Blu-ray Set (2011)

Cover art for STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA Blu-ray Set (2011)

The release marked the first and, so far, only time that Lucasfilm made versions of all six films available in a single set. The drab, uninspired art evoked little of the magic of Star Wars. Young Anakin Skywalker walks towards the viewer on Tatooine, while a ghostly image of his future son, Luke Skywalker, walks away. While the painting symbolizes that the central characters of each trilogy choose different paths, surely an artist could create something more visually stunning for the Star Wars saga.

Unlike the 2013 art, at least the 2011 art contained some trace of humanity. The 2013 art continues in the unfortunate tradition of 1995’s VHS set that featured Darth Vader on the original Star Wars video box, a stormtrooper on The Empire Strikes Back box, and Yoda on the Return of the Jedi box.

Cover art of STAR WARS VHS Edition (1995)

Cover art of STAR WARS VHS Edition (1995)

This was the first Star Wars video set I was ever able to buy, and I remember being disappointed by the cover art compared to previous editions. The content of the movies more than made up for any perceived shortcomings in the art, of course.

A 1992 collection of the trilogy that I drooled over featured fantastic cover art based on the original movie posters. For instance, check out the 1992 Star Wars cover art over at the incredible Star Wars On Video site. This same poster art was the basis of the 2005 re-release of the 2004 editions of the original trilogy. It was unfortunately wasted then, much like it would have been had Lucasfilm used it for these 2013 releases.

Instead, while it would not affect my purchasing decision, my hope is that whenever Lucasfilm finally gets around to restoring the original theatrical versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi for an ultimate release, they will revert back to classic film poster art (my ideal choices are below). Then, the covers can finally live up to the contents.

Posters for STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and RETURN OF THE JEDI

Left to right: STAR WARS Style “C” International Theatrical One-Sheet (1977, Tom Chantrell), THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Style “A” Theatrical One-Sheet (1980, Roger Kastel), and RETURN OF THE JEDI Style “B” Theatrical One-Sheet (1983, Kazuhiko Sano)