If you held off on purchasing the first Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney has rewarded you with a new 4-disc collector’s edition, which we’ll review in this post. The new box set features the theatrical version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 3D Blu-ray, Standard Blu-ray, DVD, and a disc of bonus features. It also includes codes for digital downloads of the 2D version of the film and the new bonus features from the Collector’s Edition.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 1-2 years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is effectively Episode 7 of the Star Wars franchise. If you’re somehow in the .034% of America (conservative estimate) who has not seen the film, you can read our Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoiler-Free Review.
Suffice to say, I thought The Force Awakens was a really strong film that was a worthy successor to the original trilogy, even if it’s relatively “safe” and in some ways plays almost like a quasi reboot of A New Hope. It’s a strong film that will create a new generation of Star Wars fans in a way that the prequels did not, and will rekindle a lot of people’s love of Star Wars. It feels like a Star Wars film, and is a ton of fun to watch.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s turn to the Blu-ray release. As a threshold matter, I think it’s worth owning this film, be it on DVD, Blu-ray, or what-have-you. It’s an enjoyable film with plenty of re-watchability, particularly if the type who will do a Star Wars marathon before the release of each new film.
The audio & video on the standard Blu-ray (and this goes for the previous Blu-ray release, as well) are exceptional, and are a nice demo of high end home theater setup. As should be expected for a high profile film like this, Disney did an excellent job with the audio and video transfers. With that said, since there are already a ton of reviews out for the original Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ll focus on what’s new in this review…
Obviously, there’s the 3D version of the film in this box, bringing the disc count up to 4 for this edition. At only ~$5 more than the original Blu-ray release, if you’ve yet to purchase The Force Awakens, it makes the most sense to buy this collector’s edition since it comes with so many different versions of the film. Have a copy for the living room, bedroom…even the bathroom if you have one of those fancy in-mirror televisions!
Multiple copies aside, probably the most important feature included in the collector’s edition for Star Wars fans is the audio commentary with director J.J. Abrams. We know a lot of fans who were disappointed with the original Blu-ray release due to the lack of commentary track, and many more speculated that this was being intentionally held back for a Christmas-time release, forcing fans to double dip.
Well, that proved true. Abrams is one of those meticulous directors who creates layers of detail in all of his films that are easily missed on a first viewing. That, coupled with him being a Star Wars fan (and the ‘hidden’ nods that I noticed on my first couple viewings) made this something I expected to be good.
Sure enough, it is. It’s not just marketing fluff or self-adulating highlights of the ‘astute’ decisions of the filmmakers (some commentary tracks seem like a soapbox for filmmakers to explain away criticism for people who didn’t ‘get’ it). Instead, Abrams provides details about what we’re seeing–and what we aren’t. Production decisions that were or were not made, the rationale for that, character development, and technical aspects of production.
It’s a good mix of ‘how the sausage was made’ and fun geek-talk from a professional Star Wars fan…who also happens to be the director. Abrams has a ton to say about the film (it feels like he could’ve recorded 2-3 different commentary tracks) and there is never a dull moment. Without a doubt, this is the reason to buy this version of The Force Awakens over the first release.
Beyond that, there are several other new bonus features. The longest of these is The Scavenger and the Stormtrooper: A Conversation with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, which is the only one over 10 minutes long. Here, the lead stars of The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, talk casting and chemistry. There are clips of table reads, on-set filming their scenes, and more. The behind the scenes element of this (including appearances by Simon Pegg) make this a strong extra.
Another new extra is Foley: A Sonic Tale. Lasting under 5 minutes, this is a neat look at the practical side of sound effects. It’s really intriguing–but too short.
Likewise, Sounds of the Resistance is a featurette focusing on the effects work of Skywalker Sound. In addition to lightsaber whooshes and R2-D2’s bleeps, there’s an emphasis on BB-8’s robotic tones. (I didn’t realize Bill Hader was involved with this.) This is a more satisfying extra, but I still would’ve preferred this and the previous extra were combined into one ~30 minute ‘sounds’ extra.
Dressing the Galaxy is a neat look at costuming, particularly how they came up with all of the new looks for the film. It’s a bit superficial, but the short (~6 minute) duration probably dictates that.
Inside the Armory details how classic weaponry from the original films influenced the designs for The Force Awakens. In particular, it looks at Kylo Ren’s “controversial” cross-guard lightsaber, and the new stormtrooper weapons. This also includes several interviews and how the lightsaber effects were accomplished. This is a solid featurette.
Finally, there are 3 new deleted scenes added to the original batch of 6 deleted scenes. These are all fairly short, but one is particularly funny (at least, I thought so). It’s interesting to think about how different the tone of the film could’ve been–bordering on a Marvel film–had a couple of these scenes been retained.
On top of this, you have the legacy bonus features, the unequivocal highlight of which is the 70 minute making-of, Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey. There are another 6 featurettes that I’d say are strong (including a BB-8 one and another on how the ‘snow fight’ scene was made–two of my favorites).
Overall, The Force Awakens is a strong entry into the Star Wars universe, and this Blu-ray set is excellent. If you purchased the first Blu-ray, it’s tough to recommend buying this, too. Superfans are going to want it for the exceptional commentary, but there’s nothing else that I would consider must-own content in terms of new extras. However, if you have yet to purchase any version and are contemplating which to purchase as a gift this holiday season, this is definitely the version to get. Even if you don’t have a 3D television (and let’s be real, most –I think about as many people bought those as Sega Saturns), it’s the version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to own. What do you think…do you own this version or the previous release? Worth owning?