Star Wars – Blu Ray Boxset Review

Star Wars: A New Hope was released when I was born, so it’s something I grew up with as a kid. I used to have the toys, played the different arcade and console games over the years, and now after a year long wait since being announced, the Star Wars saga has finally made it’s way to High Definition format Blu Ray, the perfect format for a special effects laden science fiction epic. Here at the Monday Movie Show, we’ve been looking over the set to give you a run down of what you get in the release.Which one to choose?

Three boxsets have been released, The Complete Saga which retails for approximately £60-70, The Prequel Trilogy, and The Original Trilogy, both of which retail for approximately £35-40. Both of the Prequel and Original Trilogy boxsets contain 3 Blu Ray discs, one for each movie. The Complete Saga comes with a total of 9 Blu Ray discs, with the first 6 matching the discs from the trilogy boxsets and three bonus discs of extras that are not included in the seperate trilogy boxsets.

Special Features

Each of the movie discs contain two commentary tracks. Disc 7 contains bonus materials for episodes 1-3, and disc 8 contains bonus materials for episodes 4-6. On each these are separated up into categories for each movie, with subcategories for each of the worlds the movies take place in, and then finally into categories of Interviews (Video interviews with the cast and crew), Deleted/Extended Scenes (where applicable, some of which have never been released before, and some of which are only animatics that were dropped before filming), The Collection (a collection of 360ᵒ animations of items from the movie, some with commentaries on the items) and Concept Art Galleries. Disc 9 rounds out the set with over 90 minutes of spoofs from TV shows and other media, and a hours of documentaries including:

  • The Making Of Star Wars (0:49:01)
    • An original making of program made at the time of A New Hope’s release.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX (0:48:05)
    • A special effects ‘making of’ made for The Empire Strikes Back original release. Narrated by Mark Hamill.
  • Classic Creatures: Return Of The Jedi (0:48:07)
    • Looking at the creatures of Star Wars and their creation. Presented by Carrie Fisher
  • Anatomy Of A Dewback (0:26:17)
    • Looking at the effects update for the Dewback creatures back when the special edition was created.
  • Star Warriors (1:24:00)
    • Documentary following a group of fans who create fan costumes.
  • Star Wars Tech (0:45:36)
    • Looking at the technology features in the Star Wars saga.
  • A Conversation With The Master – Empire Strikes Back – 30 Years Later (0:25:11)
    • A lengthy interview with director Irvin Kirshner.

Picture

Some images have a slight blurryness to them on A New Hope in particular and some in The Empire Strikes Back, as if the light balance has been too bright when filmed, this may just be the result of the original filming conditions and being magnified more by the HD image. With the newer movies, the picture image is incredibly clear, at times too clear that it shows up the difference in lighting between actors/items that were physically there when filmed and CGI characters/creatures that were added in around them. This also stands out on some scenes where the actors were filmed in front of a CGI background.

There are still some artifacts around the edges of ships in some shots – in particular in A New Hope (see the Tie Fighter images from A New Hope below) but still quite a few on both The Empire Strikes Back (The Millenium Falcon chase through the asteroid field) and Return Of The Jedi (The Rebel Alliance fleet as it prepares to jump to hyperspace), there has been some attempt made to clean up some, but the problem is more noticable as the blackness of space is much darker in an HD image. This is really something that should have been cleared up and is a shame as Lucas spent time adding some effects to the movies but not using the time to clean these artifacts up.

DVD Image vs Blu Ray Image (Click To Enlarge)

**WARNING – Blu Ray images are large and may take time to load**

The Phantom Menace

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Attack Of The Clones

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Revenge Of The Sith

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A New Hope

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The Empire Strikes Back

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Return Of The Jedi

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Audio

The sound mixes for the original trilogy in DTS ES 6.1 are amazingly clear, and the surround mix seems to make a much better use of the rear channels than the DVD releases, now if only there had been original versions of the movies on the Blu Rays with this cleaned up audio!

Running Times

One odd thing of note is that the discs appear to be a direct copy of the U.S. versions, as though there is no additional footage yet the running times of each movie differ from the DVD versions due to a slight difference in the playback framerate.

  • The Phantom Menace – DVD 2:10:43 Blu Ray: 2:16:10
  • Attack Of The Clones – DVD: 2:16:39* Blu Ray: 2:22:28*
  • Revenge Of The Sith – DVD: 2:14:22 Blu Ray: 2:20:06
  • A New Hope – DVD: 1:59:37 Blu Ray: 2:04:45
  • Empire Strikes Back – DVD: 2:02:15 Blu Ray: 2:07:22
  • Return Of The Jedi – DVD: 2:09:15 Blu Ray: 2:14:47
* Attack Of The Clones was cut by 2 seconds on DVD by the BBFC to remove a headbutt for a PG rating, this scene is reinstated on the Blu Ray.

What Has George Tweaked?

Unfortunately, the Blu Rays only contain the Special editions of the movies originally released on DVD in 2004 with new effects and additional scenes added to the original trilogy. But George isn’t content to just stop there, he’s decided to ‘tweak’ a few things in them further for the Blu Rays. Fortunately, the changes are minor and in some cases,  could actually be considered an improvement:

  • In A New Hope when Ben Kenobi appears to scare off the Sand People, the sound effect of his scream is new and different from the original version.
  • In the canteena scene with Han and Greedo, Greedo still shoots first (unfortunately) but the timing has been altered so that it is literally a fraction of a second before Han shoots. Still not as good as the original version, but way better than the special edition version.
  • Additional dialogue added to the end of Return Of The Jedi now has Vader saying ‘No’ twice when he decides to kill The Emporer after his attack on Luke.
  • Special effects have been applied in Return Of The Jedi to the Ewok’s eyes in the majority of shots to give them more realistic looking eyes and also has them blinking.
  • In The Phantom Menace, all shots featuring Yoda which were originally filmed with a puppet, have now been replaced with a CGI Yoda.

Things We Wish Were Included

Star Wars is a 20th Century Fox release, the same company that released the excellent Alien boxset earlier this year. On that for each of the four movies in the set were an isolated musical score audio track in 5.1 surround. As this is the same company, it’s a shame that they didn’t think to do the same on this, especially as the music seems to be mixed for the movies in surround sound.

Something else not included in the set that really should have been included are three fan made documentaries – Star Wars Begins, Building Empire, and Returning To Jedi, all of which are made by a fan named Jambe Davdar. (Details here).

These feature length documentaries show the movie with alternate and unreleased fotage added in, and scene specific commentaries, plus many more behind the scenes material that must be seen, and can be downloaded online if you search, or can be viewed on youtube (Some in segments, and some in full). I highly recommend you watch these, they are particularly interesting for the amount of behing the scenes material included.

Star Wars Begins

Building Empire

Returning To Jedi

Posted on September 14, 2011, in Features, Reviews, Watch Movies! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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