The force is strong with this one. The best 'Star Wars' movie since 'The Empire Strikes Back'
I can’t thank Disney and Lucasfilm enough for sending me this advance copy of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Blu-Ray. I was geekin’ out like a fat kid on a buffet line when I received this copy in the mail, it was like Christmas in Spring, it was like having my birthday party all over again, there’s no better way than that to describe such joy. The box art cover alone looks so pretty, it’s hypnotic, I can’t keep my eyes off of it, this blending of the old original generation with the new is just as thrilling as the movie itself. Now, the Blu-Ray, contains so many bonus features, I’m going to talk about some of them here, but heads up, it may be spoilery.
Let’s talk quickly about the film first and if you recalled my review back in December, I made it clear that although I understand fans’ criticism about it being more or less a rehash of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” because of the countless similarities not to mention a bigger form of death star, and I totally understand it, but again, what a relief to have this all nostalgia stuff considering the bitter aftertaste that the prequels left in our mouths all these years. The prequels were such a drag, they were essentially political thrillers with no element of fun, and so for J.J. Abrams to bring that fun back from the old original films, just feels o so good. We badly needed it, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS reminds us of what we love about this franchise. And you see Han Solo, Leia, and Luke along with the new characters like Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren, this is the perfect way of handing the baton to the next generation; moving the story forward while keeping that excitement intact. And much of that is explained in the Blu-Ray’s bonus features, now once again, the following contains SPOILERS
The “Secrets Of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey” segment is more than an hour’s long featurette that comes in four chapters, and it chronicles the journey of this project from the very beginning which includes Lucasfilm’s decision to hire J.J. Abrams. Some of the fascinating points I notice is that they decided to hand the script from Michael Arndt to J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan solely because Michael Arndt, though he is a master storyteller, usually takes a couple of years, that’s just the way he works, but Lucasfilm had a timetable and they needed the script done a bit faster. Bringing in Kasdan was I think a wise move on their part, this is a man who’s had history with this franchise, if anybody knows how to move the saga forward, it’s Kasdan. And what can I say about J.J. Abrams that hasn’t been already said about him, the man knows how to revitalize a franchise, he did it with “Mission Impossible,” he did it with “Star Trek” and now he did it with “Star Wars,” he knows how to jumpstart a franchise for new audiences.
This featurette also gives you tons of behind-the-scenes including audition videos for John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. Ridley in particular, one of the big reasons why Abrams chose her was because she could basically cry on cue, and she could do it again and again if she had to. What a talent for such a young age to be able to easily tap into and unlock those emotions whenever she wants to. Another thing to admire about the casting choices is that I think it’s very diverse, with the inclusion of Oscar Isaac as well, but even more than that, they were willing to take the risk of putting a female, an unknown actress, as the lead hero, it goes to show you the faith the filmmakers had in Ridley and in the story.
The third and fourth chapter of that featurette is where things get really spoilery, so it’s best to not watch the bonus features before you watch the film, because those chapters deal with what happened to the original three (Han Solo, Leia, and Luke) leading up to Han Solo’s ultimate fate. At one point, Harrison Ford told an interviewer that it was necessary for the story, it seems that Ford was at peace with that decision. And then it cut to the final shooting day for Harrison Ford, J.J. Abrams and cast and crew applauded the legendary actor and gave him endless hugs.
“The Table Read” segment shows you the cast members reflect on when they first came together to read the movie’s script. What I would give to have been there, it must’ve been an incredible mind-blowing experience for Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and John Boyega to be in the same room with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, I wouldn’t have been able to get over it for days. “Building BB-8” of course is about the new adorable droid, he’s more mobile, more agile than R2D2 and C3PO combined although we can never bring ourselves to forget about the two icons, but BB-8 was the film’s ultimate scene stealer. It made every kid on earth wishing they had their own BB-8 to play with. The “Crafting Creatures,” “ILM: The Visual Magic Of The Force,” and “Blueprint of a Battle” give you the technical and the choreography aspects. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is not nostalgic only in terms of its casts and its story, but also the fact that J.J. Abrams and his crew chose to use as much practical effects as they could and the would fill in the gaps with CG and the performance capture and the digital magic. So these featurettes somewhat let you in on where the practical effects ended and where the CG began.
I was one of those who was confused when John Williams got Oscar-nominated for scoring STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Don’t get me wrong, Williams is a legend and I will forever admire him but I thought that spot would’ve gone to another composer whose film may not be a sequel or whose music was not built on already existing material, but the “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony” bonus feature segment proved me wrong. Clearly maestro Williams, even at his age, is still able to come up with new, refreshing themes for such characters as Rey and Kylo Ren, yes the overall music is familiar but Williams knew how to add something more, just kind of like what J.J. Abrams’ was trying to accomplish with Maz Kanata’s bar, it was their trying to have cantina without having cantina, if that makes sense at all. That sense of familiarity when it’s actually new at the same time, that is what I think John Williams did with his score for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. The other segments are the ‘Force For Change” which is for a good cause and a few deleted scenes that when you watch them, you'd understand why they got left in the cutting room floor, mainly because they were unnecessary, they didn’t add or take away anything from the story or the characters.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWKANS is available on NOW. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I don’t need to tell you how imperative it is to have this as part of your collection, unless you’d want to wait till EPISODE VIII and EPISODE IX Blu-Rays arrive so you can own whatever ultimate collector’s edition they’ll unleash then, but I’m not that patient.
FEATURE RUN TIME: Approximately 136 min.
RATING: PG-13 in U.S.; PG in CE; G in CF
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
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