In one of the quickest theater-to-disc journeys I’ve ever seen (I mean, the film is still playing in the theater in some places), Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts on Blu-ray and DVD today. Yes, we’re allowed to celebrate! I’m sure many of you have had it preordered for a while now.
Quite honestly, I don’t really see the point in reviewing the movie. You’ve already seen it – numerous times, probably. And if you’re a fan, you’re going to buy this. So I’m here to talk about the extra features you get with the physical version. What’s included?
Well, right off the bat, this is a three-disc set, and it’s actually kind of nice to see Disney not skimp on the packaging and design. I still buy physical, and I’ve noticed a lot of “generic” discs lately with minimal design – basically a printed title only. By contrast, each of these discs sports a beautiful image. The Blu-ray features the Millennium Falcon, the Blu-ray bonus disc (yes, it’s a separate disc) has the now-famous photo of the cast assembled for the first table read, and the DVD has Rey and BB-8. The art is a lovely touch that’s fallen out of practice for some reason.
Note: If you’re looking for a 3D or 4K version of the film, you’ll have to wait. Neither has been released or announced.
The set also comes with a digital version redemption code so you can watch the film through iTunes or DisneyMoviesAnywhere. Interestingly, though, there are a few obvious omissions here. There is no feature-length commentary, and none of the trailers are included. With trailers as phenomenal as those made for The Force Awakens, including them on the Blu-ray seemed like a no-brainer.
So what are the bonus features?
Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey: This constitutes the bulk of the special features, and it’s hands-down the best. Clocking in at around an hour and ten minutes, this is a full-on making-of documentary that pulls back the curtain and reveals a ton of incredible details about what went into making the film. It’s fascinating. The doc traces the film from before preproduction (it actually starts with Lucas selling the franchise to Disney), and then J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy are our guides through the development process. Through behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive interviews, we’re treated to a glimpse of concept designs, drafting the story, casting, location filming, an appreciation of Pinewood Studios, the challenge of re-creating the Falcon, and so much more. Some of the more enjoyable and revealing segments are the actors’ unique takes on the origin and development of their own characters and the inclusion of legends Dennis Muren and John Williams. Casting a shadow over everything, though, is Abrams’ vision and sole mandate: “Tell a story that will delight us.”
Deleted Scenes: Six brief deleted scenes are included: Finn and the Villager, Jakku Message, X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed, Kylo Searches the Falcon, Snow Speeder Chase, and Finn Will Be Fine. None of them adds significantly to the film at all, and it’s obvious why all were cut. In the interest of maintaining the surprise and not spoiling anything, I won’t describe them. But I will say that they exist in various stages of completeness (i.e., the VFX isn’t finished in a few), and only Kylo Searches the Falcon and Snow Speeder Chase chose completely new scenes that show a different direction the film could’ve taken. We still don’t see the scene on Jakku where Rey shuts off BB-8 as she considers Unkar Plutt’s offer to buy the droid.
The Story Awakens: The Table Read: This is a four-minute look back at the first table read that brought the entire cast together. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and several cast members recount their memories of that day. What was interesting to me is that Mark Hamill read the script (a task usually left to the director), because really – what else would he have to do? Another interesting tidbit is that Kylo Ren is here (and in the Secrets of The Force Awakens doc) pronounced as “Keelo Ren” by various crew members.
Crafting Creatures: At nine-and-a-half minutes, this is the longest of the other special features, and it focuses on the non-human creatures that make up the film. Puppets, animatronics, and full alien costumes – this short doc features all of the practical costumes and effects employed to bring the world of The Force Awakens to life in a believable way. From Chewbacca to Unkar Plutt, the variety of creatures (and techniques used to create them) is astounding.
Building BB-8: A six-minute vignette about the design and construction of everyone’s favorite droid. What’s fascinating here is how we can see the different types of BB-8 units that were constructed: the “puppet” unit, the motorized version with robotic appendages, the remote-control “wiggler,” and a lighter “dummy” version that the actors could pick up and carry.
Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight: This seven-minute look at the climactic battle between Kylo Ren and Rey and Finn takes center stage here. This one is amazing to watch since it shows how that set was built. Yes, it was an indoor set built to look like a forest. Also revealing is that Abrams says the entire scene was borne out of simply wanting to have a lightsaber fight at night in the snow. He thought it would look cool. Oh, the power of a big-budget director.
ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force: If the Crafting Creatures short focused on practical effects, then this eight-minute short focuses on the digital and VFX that went into the film. It spends a fair bit of time with the mo-cap technology used on Maz and Snoke, but it also touches on the marriage of practical and digital that was so carefully employed on The Force Awakens.
John Williams: The Seventh Symphony: If you’re a Williams fan, then this seven-minute short will be right up your alley. It’s basically seven minutes of fan worship. All of the behind-the-scenes footage with Abrams and Williams is adorable since it’s so obvious that Abrams is beside himself with glee. I have to admit, when I first listened to the Williams’s score for this film, I was unimpressed. But I’ve grown to appreciate it, especially after listening to David W. Collins’s expert analysis on Star Wars Oxygen.
Force for Change: Also included is a brief three-minute short about Force for Change, how it started, and what has been accomplished so far. Narrated by Kathleen Kennedy, it’s a good insight into the charity for those who are unfamiliar.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of the Blu-ray and DVD set for review purposes.