I don’t normally review Blu-Ray/DVD releases, but if there was ever a movie to warrant such an occasion, how is it not Star Wars: The Force Awakens? And let’s be honest, this is just another excuse to talk about Star Wars, so what the hell. I have no doubt down the road that Disney will release “The Super Duper Holy Crap Balls Ultimate Special Collector’s Stanley Cup Edition,” that will have gold and silver wrapping with a fifty foot action figure on the casing, so eventually we’ll have to buy this again. For now though, this is a very satisfying release, with better than average special features. Aside from one omission (we’ll get there), I can’t imagine what else you need on here. You get an in depth documentary, deleted scenes, specialized segments, and most important of all, the actual movie. FYI – it still kicks ass.
Before we get into the details, let’s make one thing clear: I’m reviewing what’s on the Blu-Ray. That’s it. I’m not comparing exclusive Target/Best Buy/Wal-Mart/Whatever special versions. I’m not going to sit here and compare Blu-Ray packaging, alright! As far as I know, everything has the same features, so leave me alone!
SECRETS OF THE FORCE AWAKENS: A CINEMATIC JOURNEY
This is the primary special feature, and it lived up to its title. About an hour long, it’s everything I could have wanted from a documentary detailing the making of this film. Everything from pre-production, all the way to the last scene of the film was awesome.
From the day this movie was announced, everyone made a big deal about using practical effects over CG. That was clear. I remember watching the “Making Of” feature on The Phantom Menace, and it felt like 80% of the documentary were people sitting on the computer animating Jar Jar. With The Force Awakens, you see how important the actual set designs were, as well as all the practical creatures. They don’t completely ignore CGI though. They state repeatedly that CGI should be used only when necessary. That is the correct response, and something more movies need to adapt. There were more physical sets and vehicles than even I thought possible.
What I appreciated most was how much time they spent on the characters. It’s more proof that J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan understood what people loved most about Star Wars. It wasn’t the special effects, it was the characters. They go into depth at how arduous the casting process was, in particular for Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. One of my favorite character moments from The Force Awakens is an early scene with Rey where she puts on the Rebel helmet. We get to see Abrams directing her on that scene. To see the level of care Abrams has for that character moment was heart warming to see.
There’s other great conversations between Abrams and Kasdan, especially in how they wanted to approach Kylo Ren, my personal favorite character in the film. Every important character got their moment, as the filmmakers and actors talk at length at how they wanted to approach their roles. Abrams even talks about why they gave Threepio a red arm! A lot of the Han Solo stuff in particular gave me chills. There’s a ton of discussion on Han’s first and last scenes in the film. It’s fantastic. It of course culminates with Luke Skywalker, which was the exclamation point on the whole documentary. My only complaint is they spent too much time on Captain Phasma. I cared just as much about Captain Phasma in the documentary as I did for her in the film – not at all. I appreciate the actress (Gwendoline Christie), but can we please stop trying to make Captain Phasma a thing? She looks cool, that’s it!
All in all, a marvelous behind the scenes look at how this mammoth of a film came together. There’s even a stellar piece of trivia about the holochess scene. There were certain aspects I wish they spent more time on, but that’s why we have the specialized vignettes.
These weren’t very long, but they were detailed as hell. The only one I wasn’t crazy about was “The Making of BB-8,” only because you actually got cooler anecdotes from the proper documentary, which really shows him in action. If you’re a huge fan of the character though, you’ll appreciate the BB-8 process beginning to end.
The first bonus feature I watched when I popped my disc in was the Table Read. I wish this was longer, but it was wholly satisfying to watch all these actors come together and read the script for the first time. If there was ever a time I wanted to be a fly on the wall, it would have been this room, at this particular time. It even answers one of the questions I had after seeing the film – why did Mark Hamill need to be there? As it turns out, he was the narrator. That’s bad ass.
We get a more in depth look at the practical effects, with special care to the creatures. What a delight to see all the actual costumes and animatronics they used. I almost shed a tear at all the Chewbacca parts. They even got the same actor who played Nien Nunb from Return of the Jedi. If you don’t know who Nien Nunb is, why are you even reading this? With all the practical effects though, they still gave ILM a lot of love. Even in this segment, they talk about restraint with CGI. Again, it warms my heart. One of the cooler special features I didn’t expect to care about was the making of the light saber fight on the snow planet. I love a good light saber battle, but it’s the construction of the snow set that really blew me away.
Out of all the special features on this disc though, there’s no question which segment had the most impact. John Williams. It’s eight minutes of watching a musical god construct his craft. They even go in depth on the creation of “Rey’s Theme,” easily the most iconic new piece of music. If you’re a long time Star Wars fan, there’s no doubt you’ll drool over this segment.
THE DELETED SCENES
Let’s get this out of the way right now – I’m not a deleted scenes guy. I really don’t care. They are deleted scenes for a reason. If you’re most excited about seeing deleted scenes, you will be supremely disappointed. They weren’t worth the time. I had no expectations on these, and cared even less. I know a lot of you will rant and rave about it though, so I’m warning you right now, this is literally nothing. You see Kylo Ren walk into the Millennium Falcon, a terrible snow speeder chase, and a somewhat decent scene between Leia and Threepio. That’s it.
YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY BUYING THIS
If there were no special features, I’d obviously recommend buying the movie. It’s Star Wars, for crying out loud. My only regret is no Director or Cast commentaries? What the hell? I guess they have to save something for the next release. It seems like audio commentaries are becoming less and less of a thing. Oh, well.
I hope Disney releases the theatrical versions of the original trilogy on Blu-Ray someday. They have to know people would come out in droves to buy them, so I’m guessing that has to be a George Lucas mandate. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Bottom-line: Buy The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray, if you haven’t already.