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Star Wars the Force Awakens Blu-Ray Review

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It was an exciting weekend in our house. Yes, Easter celebrations meant a lot of sweets and goodies, but we also received a review screener of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My eight year old son and I saw it in theaters on the day it came out, and have been dying to bring it home ever since. So now that we have it in our sweaty little hands, how does it hold up on the small screen and repeat viewings? How are the bonus features? Are there any easter eggs on the disc?

STAR WARSThat was a long three days. The disc arrived right before we left town to spend Easter with family. None of the aunts, grandmas, or in-laws were interested in seeing it, so we had to wait a few days. It was torture. Anyway we popped in the disc and watched it for the first time since we saw it in the theaters. And we watched the bonus features, and we’re watching it again tomorrow night. So let me give you the rundown.

The movie
You probably don’t need me to tell you that the film absolutely holds up on the small screen, and is just as enjoyable over multiple viewings. There’s a good chance you saw it several times in theaters. So anyway, yes we loved it. We had planned a small screening for our friends to come over and watch it, but we couldn’t wait so I kept asking my son “Are you sure you want to watch it tonight, and then again two nights later?” He looked at me like I asked him if I could have his Easter candy. Speaking of which, we’ve been watching all those easter egg videos on youtube, so it was cool seeing certain those shout-outs in the context of the full film. (I didn’t know about Daniel Craig until after seeing it in the theater, so that’s one example)

One of the main attributes that links this film with the original trilogy and distances it from the prequels is the re-watchability. We watched this film twice in three days. And we may plug it in again this weekend. After watching any of the prequels, I didn’t have any desire to see them again.

Bonus Features
There is a sizable number of bonus features included. In fact they’re on a separate Blu-Ray disc from the film. We poked around to try and find hidden bonus features but haven’t stumbled upon any ourselves yet. We’ll keep an eye out. Here are our favorite features:

  • Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey – this is a feature length behind-the-scenes feature. It’s split into four chapters, so you can watch it in chunks if you desire. It begins with the Disney acquisition, and travels through the concept phase, preproduction, and principal photography. It was a fun watch, and even though we thought we had viewed every piece of Force Awakens ephemera about the making-of before the movie came out, this feature was almost all new stuff.
  • Building BB-8 – This was one of our favorites. It was cool seeing the puppetry behind bringing BB-8 to life. There’s a lot of side-by-side footage showing you the dude in a green morphsuit pushing BB-8 around on poles like a lawnmower with the completed footage where he’s removed. Now that we have seen the Sphero toy, and that comicon reveal with the fully RC BB-8, we forget that there was a lot more to bringing BB-8 alive. Does it “kill the magic” at all? Not really. I’ve watched all kinds of Henson behind-the-scenes features, and I still see the Muppets as real. They’re real to me, dammit!
  • Crafting Creatures – We also loved seeing the crafting behind all the monsters and aliens. The use of practical effects shows a love for the craft, and the source material. But this feature also shows how they used motion tracking to bring Maz Kanata to life. Watch as ILM covers Lupita Nyong’o in hundreds of tiny white dots and replace the actress named Most Beautiful Person in the World by People Magazine with a toad. Is this the biggest casting blunder since casting Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman? C’mon people. And they show us how they filmed Snoke’s scenes. They really put Andy Serkis about 20 feet in the air looking down at Domhnall Gleeson and Adam Driver in a huge cavernous soundstage. Oh! And did you know that R2D2 was provided and operated by a member of the R2 Builders club? Can you imagine how crazy that is? I feel bad for the other members of his club though… having to hear stories from the set.
  • ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force – I also love watching digital effect before-and-afters. This feature showed the love and care put into bringing the Millennium Falcon back to life. Another observation that sets this film apart from the prequels; this time around the special effects were used to advance the story and keep you in the action, rather than showing off how expansive you can make a digital stage. I thought the prequels spent a lot of time showing off “here’s a CGI character, look at his double flip into a pool of water!” or “look at this huge Naboo castle! It’s really just a green screen!” Yes there was some showing off, but that was not the driving force.
  • Deleted Scenes – We loved watching the deleted scenes, some were deleted for obvious reasons, or just to move the story along a bit quicker, but there is a snow speeder chase that looked great. It also features a LEGO toy we have seen but never understood. Kylo on the Millennium Falcon was also cool.
  • Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight – and of course its fun watching how they choreograph a lightsaber battle. I remember watching the old behind-the-scenes from Empire Strikes Back and being very disappointed watching David Prowse and Mark Hamill banging together broom sticks covered in reflective tape. Nowadays it appears they use ForceFX sabers that are already glowing with the right colors. Of course the sounds and additional digital effects seal the magic of the scene, but it’s a bit more fun to watch. The set was also very impressive.

We also watched, and generally enjoyed, the features about John Williams, the Table Read, and the Force for Change winner. All of the bonus features are enjoyable by both kids and adult fans alike, and worth trading discs to enjoy.

Do you need me to tell you to watch this movie again? You do need me to tell you to pick up the three disc set and have it watch over and over. Swing by Amazon.com and secure your purchase right now. It comes home April 5.

I loved the mix of old and new. You have the familiar faces in Leia, Han, Chewbacca and Luke. We thrill to see the Millennium Falcon fly again and watching lightsabers clash. But there’s also things we’ve never seen before, such as Kylo force freezing a laser bolt mid-air, and using TIE fighters to shoot at individuals on the ground. Yes there was some familiar ground covered in the Starkiller Base and it’s defeat, but most importantly, this film accomplished what it needed to. It needed to remind us of the joy we felt when watching the original trilogy, and wipe our minds of the prequels. I’m actually happy to identify as a Star Wars fan again.


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