Blu Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D
Re-releasing new editions of movies has become standard practice with the distribution of films on home media, but one of the oldest offenders of the dreaded "double-dip" has been the Star Wars Saga. This series has been released more times than the average man can shake a stick at and with Disney's acquisition of the franchise, the end is likely nowhere in sight. When first released earlier this year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was available in numerous "retailer-exclusive" editions; a Steelbook here, an extra bonus feature there, but sadly no Director's Commentary could be found within earshot.
Well thank the maker, because with the recent availability of the 3D Blu-ray of The Force Awakens, interested fans finally have the much sought after Director's Commentary by J.J. Abrams. As an added bonus we also get new brand new features, plus two that were formerly part of the Target Retail Exclusive. More on those later, but let's get to what Star Wars fanatics have been frothing at the mouth for; that sweet, sweet audio commentary.
J.J. Abrams offers a very fan-centric commentary on the new disc, filled with enthusiasm and a love for the film that's becoming increasingly rare with filmmakers these days. Commentary tracks can be seen as a chore for most directors, with some refusing to even partake (Spielberg and Tarantino, I'm looking at you.). Abrams however seems happy to walk the viewer through the Herculean creative process that it took to bring The Force Awakens to the screen. This track is absolutely brimming with both trivia and technical notes that I found to be fascinating.
Early on, Abrams tells an oft-told story by many of his generation, of how he was blown away as a young child seeing Star Wars for the first time. After that he gets down to business, discussing how he wanted various ship designs in Episode VII to directly pay homage to the groundbreaking concept work of Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie was the original concept designer for the original Star Wars trilogy and his work as a science fiction artist can not be understated. His impact on the industry was and still is meteoric in stature. Abrams also reiterates what he's said before in interviews, that the special effects in Force Awakens were used to enhance the story and not distract. Personally, this made me smile because I took it as a subtle jab at George Lucas's CGI drenched Prequel Trilogy.
Concerning the new characters of Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren, Abrams says he wanted a new story with a new personality that incorporated the DNA of what came before in the original trilogy. Mentioning how the lore of the series informs everything in The Force Awakens, from Rey living in a downed AT-AT, to Kylo Ren modeling his helmet after Darth Vader, it was thrilling to hear that the director has a reverence for lore, the sort of stuff that is normally reserved for superfans.
Not to spoil the entire commentary, but here's a few other fun tidbits that Abrams reveals:
- It was Spielberg's idea to blow up the sinking Tie-Fighter.
- Captain Phasma's design was actually a Kylo Ren prototype.
- Rey's goggles are a mangled Stromtrooper visor.
- Simon Pegg helped with rewrites?!
- Ben Schwartz and Bill Hader helped voice BB-8?!?!
As mentioned earlier, in addition to a fantastic Director's Commentary, we also get a slew of bonus features that should keep fans entertained for the better part of an afternoon. Most of these bonus features are carry-overs from the previous releases but we do get some terrific new featurettes focusing on the sounds of The Force Awakens. Foley:A Sonic Tale is a quick look at the artists who contributed the foley work for the film (BB-8 rolling through the sand is actually a disco ball!). Another new feature, Sounds of the Resistance, examines how the sound crew took inspiration and guidance from Ben Burtt, who created many of the iconic sounds that make fans instantly think of Star Wars.
This Collector's Edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is what we should've gotten right out of the gate, but hey, even Mickey Mouse needs to pay the bills, I suppose. The new Blu-ray is well worth the price of a "double-dip" and will without a doubt be one of the most attractive packages to grace your shelf.