Release Date(s)2015 (April 5, 2016)
Studio(s)Lucasfilm/Bad Robot (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
A little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in December of 2015 and, much to everyone’s shock, it did pretty well for itself... okay, I’m bleeding sarcasm here. It’s difficult to overlook the movie’s success, but more importantly, it helped to reinvigorate a franchise for a particular set of people who felt alienated from it for many years. And yes, I know Bill already posted an in-depth review of this release here at The Bits, but I believe I’m going to be a bit more positive than Bill about The Force Awakens. Not because Bill was overly negative, but because I’m going to be overly positive. I’ve talked about this movie ad infinitum on social media and in podcasts, and I’ve come to no further conclusion than I did when I first set eyes upon it – that it’s a great movie.
The movie’s opening line “This will begin to make things right” informs you right away what you’re in for if you’re a jaded fan of the original Star Wars. I was one of those fans. Obviously, I didn’t see the movies when they were originally theatrically released, but I did grow up seeing them on TV and later on VHS. After that, everything started to fall apart. Personally, I was never over the moon for the prequels, but like many people, I was in denial for many years as to just how bad they actually were. Over the course of time, and through George Lucas’ willingness to alter the original films whenever he saw fit (without providing the original versions), I grew to generally dislike Star Wars and the fandom surrounding it, as did many others. Even up to the release of The Force Awakens, the amount of merchandise and the many levels of it was totally overblown. You could hardly lead your life without running into it in some form or another. Some even felt that because of this, the movie was dead in the water already. That’s where I felt disagreement welling up inside me.
At the end of the day, all that I wanted out of all of this was a good Star Wars movie... not even a great one. Just one that mildly entertained me with some decent characters with a story that made some sense and had some cohesion to it. Then information about the movie began leaking out – it was going to be shot on film, it was going to rely mostly on practical special effects, and The Empire Strikes Back veteran Lawrence Kasdan was going to co-write it. It seemed that they were doing everything within their power to try and recapture the magic, no further evident than when the trailers hit and we all had our first glimpses of what J.J. Abrams and company had been up to. And when the movie finally landed, it hit hard, breaking box office records left right and making piles of money.
After its release, the comparisons between the original trilogy, specifically, the first movie, came fast and furiously. It seemed to be all that anybody could talk about. No one seemed to really have an opinion about the movie based upon its own merit. A lot of folks felt justified in saying that it was a bad movie because it relied heavily on what came before it, and they were all, and still are, dead wrong. To me, the obvious way to go IS to get some familiarity into the proceedings. The prequels didn’t feel familiar at all, except in name. There’s this character named Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he doesn’t resemble or feel like a character that I’ve ever met in this universe previously. And there are situations and scenes happening, but none of them feel like they belong in this universe. They feel completely alien and out of tune with what’s came before. The Force Awakens is the total opposite. Not only do the characters that we’ve come to know already return and feel like they belong, but the similar plot elements that are reused and refashioned tell a completely new story with new characters while incorporating old ones.
For me, The Force Awakens is a masterfully-crafted piece of modern entertainment, and those that can’t feel that or understand it, I pity them in a way. It’s not that we don’t get Star Wars movies often, but we don’t get blockbuster movies that are crafted very carefully during the writing, shooting, and editing processes that work on a very basic audience level without feeling the need to pander. Though to be fair, there was probably no way that the movie was going to satisfy all Star Wars fans, or even people who were going to see the movie regardless. That being said, some of the off-handed, and even intentional, remarks leveled at the movie sometimes seem to come from a place of straight-up ignorance or unwarranted hate. It’s shameful that we live in a time when the Internet has, more or less, completely destroyed anyone’s ability to absorb a movie and enjoy it without any outside interference. This includes all of the trailers, TV spots, previews, advertising, and merchandise, of course, but more importantly the negative people who don’t seem to want to like or appreciate anything that someone has worked very hard to make. If you love the movie, great, and if you don’t, that’s fine too, but have genuine reasons to do so without resorting to slander or ignorant comments. Anyways, enough of this soap box talk. The Force Awakens is, simply put, a great movie, my favorite of last year, and I’ll go down defending it if I have to.
As for the presentation found on this release, you couldn’t ask for one better. Bill covered it extensively already, obviously, and there’s little more that I can add. It’s a very sharp, beautiful transfer, soaking in visual information with a terrific 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack. Additionally, there are soundtrack options in both French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and an English Descriptive Audio Track. For subtitles options, you get English SDH, French, and Spanish with English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese options for the extras.
Speaking of which, there’s a nice bevy of supplemental material to dig through. Starting things off is the much-talked about Secrets of The Force Awakens documentary, which is a wonderful look behind the scenes. There are also six behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Story Awakens: The Table Read, Crafting Creatures, Building BB-8, Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight, ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony); a set of six deleted scenes (Finn and the Villager, Jakku Message, X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed, Kylo Searches the Falcon, Snow Speeder Chase, Finn Will Be Fine); a Force for Change promo; a DVD copy; and a paper insert with a Digital HD code, which supposedly includes the additional deleted scene Tunnel Standoff. It’s quite obvious that not everything was included on this release, not the least of which includes the trailers, TV spots, and the 3D version of the movie. It all suggests that another release of the movie is quite likely, one that will probably include all of what’s missing and possibly more. We’ll have to wait and see.
Regardless, Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives on Blu-ray in a dazzling manner. No film is perfect, but this film is perfect for me, and that’s all that I really care about. Soapbox ranting aside, it’s at the very least an enjoyable movie experience. And if you love the movie like I do, this release is a no-brainer. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons