The history of Star Wars fan restorations began in earnest with the “Despecialized Edition” project from Petr Harmáček. Beginning in 2010, Harmáček undertook the tall task of creating new edits of the original trilogy using a variety of sources. While these versions were widely praised by other fans, some believed the project could be taken even further. Since then, additional efforts have been made to restore the original cuts using original 35mm film prints, color alteration, and other techniques.
At the moment, the most advanced instance of this is Project 4k77 — an effort begun in 2016 using original film print scans to create a version of the first “Star Wars” cut that would look serviceable on modern 4k screens. After 4k77 was completed, yielding a finished product that’s pretty close to the genuine artifact, the group of fans known as Team Negative 1 began working on Project 4k83 and 4k80, restoring “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” respectively.
These projects have been celebrated for their historical significance. Many believe that regardless of how one feels about Lucas’ changes, it’s wrong not to have the original cuts available for historical and preservational purposes. Unfortunately, because the projects are fan-led and unsanctioned by Lucasfilm, their legality is in a constant state of limbo. The solution most fans still hope for is a proper release of the theatrical cuts from Disney itself.