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Blu-ray Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster wide version

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Blu-ray Combo Pack
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: April 5, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens began as my most anticipated movie of 2015 and ended being my favorite film of the year. While seeing director J.J. Abrams’ newest installment in the Star Wars franchise in IMAX was a delight, viewing the film in Blu-ray at home multiple times was just as entertaining. Matter of fact, since the Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with a Digital HD copy, I also enjoyed viewing it on my iPhone.

Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, the new film takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the final film in George Lucas’ original trilogy that saw the Rebel Alliance finally overthrow the Empire. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is still flying around hustling his way through the galaxy with his trusty co-pilot and friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), while his love Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leads a small resistance group against The First Order, an offshoot of the Empire backed by a Darth Vader-obsessed Sith named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Meanwhile, the Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) meets with a secret order of Jedi worshippers on the desert planet Jakku to try to uncover the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Also on the planet is a young, unsuspecting orphan girl named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who inadvertently becomes entangled in the fight between the Resistance and the First Order after she rescues a rolling ball droid named BB-8 and meets a mysterious young man Finn (John Boyega) who says he’s with the Resistance.

Several original cast members return to reprise their roles, including Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Peter Mayhew (Chewbecca). But while the new movie does focus a lot on its new cast characters – namely Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren — Han Solo and Chewbacca get headlining time for sure.

Daisy Ridley completely takes over The Force Awakens as one of the best characters of the entire franchise. Her Rey, who is someone to root for, shines in every scene, and carries the film all on her own.

The movie has a few twists and turns, as well as reveals — some of which are obvious, yet still exciting — but as expected for this new trilogy, this first entry also leaves a lot unanswered, which is why multiple viewings are not only warranted but welcomed.

Also, the Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with a host of Bonus Features, and the more the merrier on a film like this one. Big Star Wars fans (myself included) want every clue they can get on something like this, which makes bonus features like Deleted Scenes and commentary all the more enticing. This home video release includes behind-the-scenes featurettes on the story, film score, visual effects, creatures, the BB-8 droid (my favorite new character!), and more.

Owning Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a no-brainer for any Star Wars fan, and if you loved the movie in the theaters, you’ll definitely want to see it again on Blu-ray (or, if you want to, on DVD and Digital HD, which is included in the Combo Pack). If you didn’t catch its theatrical release, don’t hesitate to grab it now.

Bonus Features

Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey – Broken up into four chapters, this hour and 10 minute mega-feature is the definitive making-of feature documentary. The filmmakers talk about reinvigorating the Star Wars cinematic legend, and the new cast express their fear and excitement to be part of such an iconic franchise, while the original trilogy actors reveal what motivated them to go back into the fold. Even Star Wars creator George Lucas makes an appearance here.

The Story Awakens: The Table Read – This was the first gathering of the entire cast, both new and original members, and it was the photos from this session that were used to announced the actors. This 4-minute featurettes gives a look at this table read, including Mark Hamill saying the icon “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” along with some interviews about this historic event.

Building BB-8 – This is 6 minutes of my favorite new character, BB-8, the little orange and white rolling ball droid, who teams up with Rey. BB-8 is beyond adorable – and he’s practical! The character is the perfect addition to the droids of the Star Wars universe, and is perfect on screen on his own and with his precursor, the equally lovable R2-D2.

Crafting Creatures – J.J. Abrams brought practical effects back to the Star Wars franchise, and in The Force Awakens there’s plenty of new creatures — over 100 of them! This nearly 10-minute featurette goes behind the scenes for these new creature characters, and the practice effects team shows what they did to make these come alive.

Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight – One of the greatest sequences of the film is the lightsaber battle in the snow. In the trailers, this is where we saw Kylo Ren ignite his unstable crossguard lightsaber. This 7-minute featurette goes into detail about this sequence, how it was done, and what went into making it, especially the set.

John Williams: The Seventh Symphony – The award-winning amazing composer John Williams returned to the franchise to provide the score for The Force Awakens and this 7-minute bonus feature shows the 83-year-old legend and his orchestra recording the score. Williams is also interviewed about doing the music, and the filmmakers gush over having Williams back on board. The film could not have gotten off the ground without the magic of Williams’ score behind it.

ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force – ILM was once again behind the magic of the visual effects, as they were for the previous films. These people are total wizards, and it’s thanks to them that The Force Awakens is so immersive. This 8-minute featurette also goes into detail on how the motion-capture performances were done, including those with Lupita Nyong’o and the master of mocap himself, Andy Serkis.

Force For Change – This is about the “Star Wars: Force for Change” initiative, that not only gave fans a chance to be in the money, but brought people together to help to raise funds to the UNICEF charity. This 3-minute featurette also includes many of the stars talking about the charities they were supporting and interacting with fans.

Deleted Scenes – This area includes six scenes that were deleted from The Force Awakens, totally to just over four minutes. Some of the deleted footage is very short and not al that significant, but there’s one scene with Leia at the Resistance base that would have been a great addition to the film, and then another of Kylo Ren aboard the Millennium Falcon will give you chills. The effects on some of these don’t appear to be finished, so keep that in mind while watching. Surprisingly, the scene with Leia and the lightsaber isn’t included, which is a bummer.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Video

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