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Blu-ray Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition title

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
3D Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
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: November 15, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was one of my favorite movies of 2015, and is a film I’ve written a lot about here — bottom line, I love it! Does it have its flaws? Sure, but nothing that I feel hampers the enjoyment of watching it. While there are those who feel it’s a retread of the original trilogy, I believe that it’s a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe.

The film was released in Blu-ray back in April and included a host of bonus features that delved into the making of the sequel. But, sadly, it didn’t include feature-length audio commentary, which is an extra I love on home video releases, especially for an extravaganza like this. Now, Disney has released The Force Awakens as a 3D Blu-ray Collector’s Edition that does include commentary from J.J. Abrams, which to me makes this set worth getting. It also includes the original bonus features, along with several all-new featurettes. So, if you don’t already own this, definitely grab this collector’s edition.

This 4-disc collector’s set includes the theatrical version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 3D Blu-ray, Standard Blu-ray, and DVD, and contains a disc of Bonus Features, as well as a code for the Digital HD download of the 2D version of the film, and another code for the Digital download of the new bonus features from the Collector’s Edition. All of this is housed in collectible packaging with an attractive lenticular cover, which I love love love. And, now this is a small thing that I really liked: A lot of collectible sets like this come shrink-wrapped with a marketing-type of backing slip that gives the list of bonus features, audio and visual specs, and imaging either from the film and/or of the disc’s packaging itself. But this slip is basically a homeless piece of paper. And if you’re like me, and you feel you need to keep every little part that comes with it, you’ll find it frustrating when you see there’s nowhere for this thing to live. In this set, they actually make it so that the paper can be slipped around the box, without interfering with its space on the shelf. Way to go, packaging people!

If for some reason you have no idea what Star Wars: The Force Awakens is about, here’s the deal: It’s 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the final film in George Lucas’ original trilogy, but Lucas had nothing to do with it. Instead, Disney and Lucasfilm handed the reins over to director and co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams, who was clearly very passionate about the project, and unlike with his reboot of the Star Trek universe, he kept the lens flare to a minimum.

While the Rebellion’s triumph over the Empire led to the creation of the New Republic, a nefarious new offshoot of the Empire called The First Order is gaining strength. Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is now General Leia Organa, and she’s leading a small resistance group against The First Order, which has a Darth Vader-obsessed Sith named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as one of its prominent members. Meanwhile, her estranged husband Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are still flying around the galaxy, but without their beloved ship, the Millennium Falcon. The droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) are also back, but notably absent is Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who everyone is trying to find, including…

… the newbies, namely Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who’s on the desert planet Jakku searching for clues when he’s caught by Kylo Ren’s crew. Poe meets a conflicted soldier named Finn (John Boyega), who later meets a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley), who finds Poe’s droid, the adorable, lovable rolling-ball BB-8. It’s all connected!

There’s lots of classic Star Wars action, humor, and special effect, plus a ton of new characters, weapons, locations, and props. The aforementioned rundown is merely just the set up for all that ends up happening in this long-awaited sequel. I enjoyed watching the film yet again, and with audio commentary, and with descriptive dialogue, so basically, this new addition feels like old times… and it’s good.

See below for more details on the bonus features and offerings from this box set, all with my own commentary.

DISC SPECIFICATIONS:

FEATURE RUN TIME: 136 minutes
RATING: PG-13 in U.S.
ASPECT RATIO: Blu-ray Feature Film = 2.40:1
DVD Feature Film = 2.40:1
AUDIO: Blu-ray = English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks
DVD = English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio Language Tracks
LANGUAGES: English, French & Spanish
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French & Spanish

I want to point out that I watched some of the movie with the Descriptive Audio turned on, because my life-long best friend is blind, and many, many times in our lives, I’ve provided the “descriptive audio” for movies and televisions for her. So, when this feature is available, I try to check it out to see if it would be good for her, and I have to say, I loved this for myself! The audio is great, and the narrator is very well-spoken and keeps the story interesting. I also turned on closed captioning for the hearing impaired, since I am one of those people, so it was a super overload of The Force Awakens and I dug it!

Bonus Features

3D COLLECTOR’S EDITION BONUS FEATURES

These are NEW bonus features that are included ONLY with the 3D Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, released November 15, 2016. Aside from the commentary, all of these are housed on a Bonus disc in a category called BONUS FEATURES, and they appear after the listing of original extra. For the Deleted Scenes, the existing and new scenes are now combined into one heading.

[NEW] Audio Commentary with J.J. Abrams – This full-length commentary from director J.J. Abrams was the main reason why I felt I needed to have this Collector’s Edition. For a filmmaker like Abrams who’s incredibly detailed and involved in world building, I knew his commentary would be something I’d love to hear, and I was right. I’ve watched a lot of these types of tracks over the years, and they are not always thrilling and sometimes the person doing it seems bored or reluctant or even put-upon. Abrams, though, gives us tons of tidbits and details about not only what we’re seeing, but what almost was. He also talks about some technical aspects of sound, audio, stunts, and props, as well as dialogue and character development. And, he mentions things he wished he would have done differently, which is interesting. He just has so much to say, and it’s all things that I want to know about. If you enjoyed the film and like getting the behind-the-scenes info, definitely watch with the audio commentary turned on. Note, the sound on the film is low with the commentary on, as it should be, but I also felt like the commentary audio was too low; I had to turn the sound up very high for this, but that was my only grip. The content itself is excellent.

[NEW] Foley: A Sonic Tale (4:02) – This new short featurette has to do with the Foley artists who created the sounds from the movie, like when stormtroopers run, or Rey drags her junk around, or a character’s clothing makes noise as they walk. I wish this one was longer, because we get to see the sound artists taking practical steps to create the right sounds. I love seeing stuff like this.

[NEW] Sounds of the Resistance (7:15) – A slightly longer sounds featurette focusing on the effects work of Skywalker Sound, which gives us the legacy bits like the lightsaber whoosh and R2-D2’s bleeps, as well as new material, like Kylo Ren’s dialogue through his mask and the droid BB-8’s robotic tones. Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz both performed and consulted for the new, lovable orange and white rolling ball droid. Skywalker Sound has a grand history and a great team of artists, so this was a nice little behind-the-scenes bonus.

[NEW] Dressing the Galaxy (6:27) – Here we meet costume designer Michael Kaplan, who led the team tasked with keeping the characters dressing like they’re still in the Star Wars universe, but also give them a fresh look. Particularly challenging characters were Kylo Ren, who had to be similar to Darth Vader but also a standout on his own, and Rey, who lives in the desert as a scavenger. They also had to get Finn from stormtrooper to hero, and mostly on a hot, desert environment. Then, of course, there was the return of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, who’s a much older man now, but he’s still styling. Ford talks a bit about working with Kaplan, and what went into his new attire. Carrie Fisher also returned as Leia, who went from rebel to General for The Force Awakens, but she still needed several outfit changes. Another cool featurette showing what goes into the little details, as well as the major ones.

[NEW] The Scavenger and the Stormtrooper: A Conversation with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega (11:45) – This is the young, lead stars of The Force Awakens Daisy Ridley and John Boyega sitting down together talking about their casting and chemistry. There’s also clips of them doing table reads, talking on set with director J.J. Abrams, filming their scenes, and more. Obviously, working on the Star Wars sequel was an opportunity of a lifetime for them, so it’s not so far-fetched that the two would be singing the film’s praises. There’s also on-set footage of Simon Pegg, who Ridley got to share scenes with, as well as a look at some of the returning characters, who Ridley and Boyega worked with.

[NEW] Inside the Armory (8:17) – With a name like Star Wars, there has to be weapons. Here, we see how the classic weaponry from the original films influenced the designs for this sequel. Some of the standout weapons in the new film were Kylo Ren’s crude crossguard lightsaber, and the new Z6 Baton that the “Traitor” stormtrooper (codename: FN-2199) wields. Along with the armory team, there’s also interviews with director J.J. Abrams, star Mark Hamill (returning as the Jedi Luke Skywalker), star Daisy Ridley (who plays Rey), and star Adam Driver (who plays Kylo Ren). One of the most intriguing parts of the making of the original films was how they did the effects for the lightsabers, and here we see more of that, as well as the actors filming with their props.

Deleted Scenes
Leia and the Resistance (:17)
Unkar Plutt at Maz’s Castle (:50)
Tunnel Standoff (1:00)

The original Blu-ray release included 6 Deleted Scenes, which are still here, but now 3 more scenes have been added. They all appear on the disc in the “Deleted Scenes” category of the “Bonus Features” folder. The three new ones are all great and make me wish they had put more of Leia in the finished film. STILL no scene of Leia giving someone – Rey? – the lightsaber. The one at Maz’s Castle is awesome — more Simon Pegg!!! The final one is a standoff with Han, Chewie, and Finn against a bunch of stormtroopers, and it’s all for comic effect, which is likely why it was cut. It doesn’t quite fit with the tone at that point in the film, and it also veers into Guardians Of The Galaxy territory; the trooper even sounds like Chris Pratt!

CLASSIC BONUS FEATURES

Below are the bonus features that came with the standard Blu-ray Edition that was released in April 2016.

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
Finn and the Villager (0:31)
Jakku Message (0:47),
X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed (0:22)
Kylo Searches The Falcon (0:50)
Snow Speeder Chase (0:48)
Finn Will Be Fine (0:23)

This area includes six scenes that were deleted from The Force Awakens, totaling just over four minutes. Some of the deleted footage is very short and not all 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 that will give you chills. The effects on some of these don’t appear to be finished, so keep that in mind while watching.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition

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