06 May 2011

"Star Wars" on Blu-ray Update

I'm actually two days late with this one.  Lucasfilm sent out an e-mail 29 April with the following image, teasing the formal announcement of the content of the forthcoming Star Wars Blu-ray box sets:

Naturally, I logged onto the website that morning and made my way through the site until I reached the content list.  I'm willing to bet Lucasfilm won't mind me sharing it here.  Each of the six films features two commentary tracks; one will be the recording already available on each of the DVD releases, where the secondary track will be a mash-up collecting remarks from assorted interviews given by various cast and crew.  I suspect those will play very similar to the cobbled-together commentary tracks on the majority of the James Bond DVDs.

Each trilogy gets one disc (Prequels on Disc 7; Original Trilogy on Disc 8) of "deleted, extended and alternate scenes; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; matte paintings and concept art; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; and more."  It's Disc Nine that has the lion's share of bonus content:

  • NEW! Star Warriors (2007, Color, Apx. 84 Minutes) – Some Star Wars fans want to collect action figures...these fans want to be action figures! A tribute to the 501st Legion, a global organization of Star Wars costume enthusiasts, this insightful documentary shows how the super-fan club promotes interest in the films through charity and volunteer work at fundraisers and high-profile special events around the world.
  • NEW! A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later (2010, Color, Apx. 25 Minutes) – George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams look back on the making of The Empire Strikes Back in this in-depth retrospective from Lucasfilm created to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie. The masters discuss and reminisce about one of the most beloved films of all time.
  • NEW! Star Wars Spoofs (2011, Color, Apx. 91 Minutes) – The farce is strong with this one! Enjoy a hilarious collection of Star Wars spoofs and parodies that have been created over the years, including outrageous clips from Family Guy, The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother and more — and don’t miss “Weird Al” Yankovic’s one-of-a-kind music video tribute to The Phantom Menace!
  • The Making of Star Wars (1977, Color, Apx. 49 Minutes) – Learn the incredible behind-the-scenes story of how the original Star Wars movie was brought to the big screen in this fascinating documentary hosted by C-3PO and R2-D2. Includes interviews with George Lucas and appearances by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX (1980, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Learn the secrets of making movies in a galaxy far, far away. Hosted by Mark Hamill, this revealing documentary offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into the amazing special effects that transformed George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back into reality!
  • Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Go behind the scenes — and into the costumes — as production footage from Return of the Jedi is interspersed with vintage monster movie clips in this in-depth exploration of the painstaking techniques utilized by George Lucas to create the classic creatures and characters seen in the film. Hosted and narrated by Carrie Fisher and Billie Dee Williams.
  • Anatomy of a Dewback (1997, Color, Apx. 26 Minutes) – See how some of the special effects in Star Wars became even more special two decades later! George Lucas explains and demonstrates how his team transformed the original dewback creatures from immovable rubber puppets (in the original 1977 release) to seemingly living, breathing creatures for the Star Wars 1997 Special Edition update.
  • Star Wars Tech (2007, Color, Apx. 46 Minutes) – Exploring the technical aspects of Star Wars vehicles, weapons and gadgetry, Star Wars Tech consults leading scientists in the fields of physics, prosthetics, lasers, engineering and astronomy to examine the plausibility of Star Wars technology based on science as we know it today.

At first glance, many fans are wary that the bonus features from the Prequel Trilogy DVDs are not listed (including "The Beginning" from The Phantom Menace and the outstanding "Within a Minute" from Revenge of the Sith).  Also conspicuously absent is the feature-length documentary, Empire of Dreams that was included with the Star Wars Trilogy DVD box set in 2004.  It's possible, though, that these things are covered by the ambiguous Disc Seven and Disc Eight descriptions.  I did see Star Wars Tech on the History Channel a while back and liked it (though I felt Batman Tech was much more interesting).

The Internet is full of fans adamant that they will not buy this, nor should anyone else, because the original theatrical cuts of the original trilogy are not included.  I favor those cuts, too, but not to the point that I would reject this release over their absence.  The most interesting thing will be to see how younger fans react when they see the prequels and, for the first time, discover that they, too, have undergone the kind of tweaking that has incensed original trilogy fans since 1997.  We know that a digital Yoda will replace the atrocious puppet Yoda in The Phantom Menace, but there's no telling what else Lucas has seen fit to alter.

I have to say I'm not terribly excited by much of the Disc Nine content.  I tip my hat to the fans of the 501st for all the charity work they do, but their story better be absolutely stunning to justify 84 minutes.  Like, I need to find out they've raised a million dollars for Crohn's research and directly taken out seventeen mid-level al Qaeda operatives.  I wish the fantastic documentary, From "Star Wars" to "Jedi": The Making of a Saga had been included here, but I know it will never again see the light of day as Lucas openly contradicts several tenets of the revisionist George Lucas Is a Visionary dogma that has become standard these last 15 years.

Cover art has also been posted.

The Prequel Trilogy:

The Original Trilogy:

I don't personally care for the individual trilogy boxes.  Had they just been Yoda and Darth Vader, maybe I'd go for them.  As it is, the overloaded collage look just feels like something from a fan tribute website more than a professional, official package design.  I do, however, love the simplicity of the Complete Saga box.  I've read lots of griping about that one, decrying that no one cares about young Anakin, that the notion of Anakin Skywalker being the central figure of the series is retroactive nonsense, etc.  I remember watching the original trilogy on Christmas 1992 or 1993 with my mom on USA.  She'd never seen them before, and gamely agreed to give them a go.  It took her little time or effort to determine that while Luke Skywalker is the protagonist, the dominant theme of those films was Darth Vader's implied rise, fall and redemption.  I think too many fans have gotten carried away with their Boba fetish and been hung up on secondary and tertiary characters to even realize what the main thrust was.

In any event, I'm determined to buy the Complete Saga box set from Amazon without paying a penny out of pocket.  My plan is to accrue Amazon credit via Swagbucks.  Right now I've got $15 credit with another $5 e-certificate redemption pending.  The pre-order price is currently $89.99 (down from the $139.99 MSRP).  It's very unlikely I'll search my way to enough Swagbucks to pay for this by the time of its release (16 September), but that's okay.  I'll get it when I get it.  

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