I know I said I cancelled my Amazon order; and I did. I figured I could get the extras discs separately; which is the main reason I really wanted the set anyway. But then I read the review of the disc set and decided I better pick up the series anyway. So while I haven’t gone over the entire set of nine discs with a fine tooth comb, I have spent the better part of my waking hours this weekend exploring as much as possible. I’ve watched the entire original trilogy in its entirety and watched all of the bits and parts of the prequels I can stomach (and actually really like and appreciate). So here’s a stream of consciousness recap of the entire set – possibly the most hotly anticipated home video release of all time.
I’ll get it out of the way first. They’re excruciatingly terrible. At least the previous changes from the special editions sort of made sense. They were tying to tie story lines together a little bit more cohesively or just playing around with digital effects as practice for the prequels. Some don’t work, some I actually like. With the new changes to the Blu-ray release, I honestly feel like George Lucas is deliberately slapping his fans in the face. There is no reason for the major changes and it’s like he purposely wants his films to be look worse and sound worse. Wicket the Ewok is no longer cute. He now creeps me the fuck out. He looks to be infected with the rage virus. But whatever. I’ve harped on these things enough over the past couple of weeks and the internet is buzzing all over the place about it… but it’s all terrible terrible terrible.
In some ways, this is like watching the trilogy for the first time. Everything looks different. Everything. It’s almost surreal. The detail within everything is staggering. This is both a hindrance and an advantage. The textures on all of the surfaces now feels so much more real; or at least… tangible. This works amazingly well for details within the models of the vehicles, some of the props, costumes or simply the walls within buildings. Every surface has intricate markings or scratches on them. Every little dent or scuff mark on C-3PO is now vary evident. The Millenium Falcon has piping, intricate venting mechanics and all sorts of doohickeys and wear that I’ve never seen before. The Death Star (particularly the half completed Death Star in ep. VI) has grid lines and girders and all manner of detail within its paneling. It’s really fun and astonishing to go back and analyze everything all over again and see all sort of new nuance not noticed in my first 421 viewings of the films. In short, I never realized how many Imperial Officers had an acne problem.
Now that said, it also really brings some of the flaws of the films to the forefront; particularly in episode IV. A lot of the props used in IV (and the other films to some extent) were very “just make do and hide them with cinematography” items: droids in the Jawa Sand Crawler, garbage in the Death Star trash compactor and even some of the costuming. In standard definition, those flaw are hidden well and just look like used space junk. In 1080p, some of Star Wars looks like bad Halloween slap together or styrofoam with a shitty paint job.
The shadow boxes that were around the ships in space were fixed in the special edition. Some of those problems are now visible again. In ROTJ, the ships entering the Death Star have transparent boxes surrounding them all throughout much of that chase sequence.
Despite these flaws, some of the staple characters look completely fantastic. I was worried that the added detail would make Yoda look like a midget in a crappy rubber mask. In fact, he actually looks better; it’s astonishing how great Yoda looks. Same goes for Jabba the Hutt, the Taun-Tauns, the Tusken Raiders, etc. Sadly though, some the creature do end up sort of looking like rubber muppets (Greedo, Space Slug, etc.).
Then you’ve got the sound transfer. Holy hanna, the sound. The new lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 tracks are ridiculously awesome. Ben Burtt’s sound effects have never sounded better. Dialogue is crisp without losing any of the surround effects or being drowned out by said effects. The space battles are screaming wicked, the various hums of the Death Star rattle the sofa and the speeder bike chase is brilliantly executed in its surround sound design. And of course John Williams’ score. It’s perfect. Period.
This is where the real treats with this box set lies. Besides all of the older documentaries now available all in one place (“making of” for all three films, creature design docs, legacy of Star Wars, etc.), there is a 90 minute montage piece of famous farce and spoofs from television shows (Family Guy, 30 Rock, That 70′s Show, Robot Chicken, The Simpsons, The Daily Show and many more), animated shorts, YouTube legacies and fan films.
This only scratches the surface however. A full disc is devoted to extras for all three films. Each film is then divided into segments showcasing the various locations in the film. For example, The Empire Strikes Back is divided into four categories: Hoth, The Millenium Falcon’s escape (deep space), Dagobah and Cloud City. Each of these sub sections is further divided into various sections: an overview, deleted/extended scenes, concept art and prop/model highlights. Here is where it gets crazy. Each prop or ship model then has all manner of viewables. For example, if you click on the AT-AT, you can look at the design of the actual model used in production. You can zoom in for extreme detail of various locations on the model, you can swivel around for a full 360 degree view. Most of them also have featurettes associated with them in which there are interviews with the puppeteers, model makers, cameramen, etc. And most also feature archival footage of behind-the-scenes movie making magic.
Most of the deleted scenes I had not seen before. Everything from Luke and Wedge talking about the good ol’ days at Tosche Station to Han and Luke et. al. making their way through a sand storm after destroying Jabba’s sail barge. Not to mention the footage of the Wampa killing off Imperial Storm Troopers. All told there are about 23 deleted scenes ranging in quality and length. Note: I had seen a couple of these deleted scenes on the “Making the Magic” CD-Rom a number of years ago as well as on YouTube. The quality however is nothing compared to what we’re treated with here.
Honestly, I spent a good 3-4 hours over the weekend checking out all of this stuff and I still haven’t finished it all. Everything in here is not just extra gimmicky garbage thrown in to make the discs appear more bulky. This is fascinating and well designed stuff in here.
Despite the changes, this set it well worth the purchase for true Star Wars fans. For eighty bucks, there are a lot worse things you could do with your money. Visually it looks fantastic – and even when it doesn’t look fantastic, it’s interesting and fun to spot the flaws or the enhancements. It’s really worth it for the extras alone. It’s one of the nicest sets I’ve ever purchased on Blu-ray.
The movies are as cringe worthy as ever. Terrible, crappy, shitty acting from pretty much everyone involved (except Ian McDiarmid). Eye-rollingly awful dialogue with humor that makes me wanna puke. Non-sensical story lines and CGI that looks nothing even close to as realistic as the model work of the 70s/80s.
You thought these things were cartoony before? That’s nothing compared to what the magic of Blu-ray has done to them. They look even more like a video game now. Everything is plastic with no sense of tangibility or a “lived-in” feel. Smooth, polished edges on everything and it’s completely plastic and lifeless. It’s bright and colorful and there’s a lot of shit going on, but it’s just about as bad as the Transformers films in terms of sheer sensory overload.
If it wasn’t set in the Star Wars Universe, this series would actually probably be a lot of good clean fun for kids movies. I’d probably even like them quite a bit (see Speed Racer). But since it takes everything that was great about the originals and presents them for the A.D.D. among us, mostly I just shake my head through most of it.
I haven’t even bothered yet. From what I’ve read, it’s pretty much the same type of stuff from the original trilogy extras. I’ll probably check out some of it at some point soon. But as of now, just know it’s basically the same type of stuff, but probably no where near as interesting or nostalgic.
I did go through and check out bits and parts from episodes I and III. There is some good stuff in here. I don’t outright hate the films. The sound design still kicks all sorts of ass and the epic multi-tiered duel in Revenge of the Sith has some really great moments; not the least of which is some of the cinematography and shot selection. Basically I’d say you’re probably alright with just picking up the original trilogy and skipping the complete saga or the prequel trilogy unless you’re a completist like me.