On April 5, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the much-anticipated Blu-ray/DVD set of director J.J. Abrams’ blockbuster hit “Star Wars:The Force Awakens.” The first installment of the long awaited Sequel Trilogy and seventh live-action film in the “Star Wars” saga, “The Force Awakens” was last year’s biggest box office hit. Now, the Force seems to be with the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm, as “The Force Awakens” is the best-selling Blu-ray/DVD combo set on Amazon.com and other sellers.
“Visionary director J.J. Abrams brings to life the motion picture event of a generation. As Kylo Ren and the sinister First Order rise from the ashes of the Empire, Luke Skywalker is missing when the galaxy needs him most. It’s up to Rey, a desert scavenger, and Finn, a defecting stormtrooper, to join forces with Han Solo and Chewbacca in a desperate search for the one hope of restoring peace to the galaxy.” – from the package blurb
“The Force Awakens”: The 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Set
In many ways, Walt Disney-owned Buena Vista Home Entertainment took its cues from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s previous “Star Wars” DVD and Blu-ray disc (BD) releases. Much thought was given to the design of the packaging – a simple but elegant black “jewel case” with Drew Struzan’s magnificent A-poster on the front cover, and a stylized slipcover bearing the “Star Wars” logo.
The three-disc set consists of:
BD 1: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – This disc contains the 136-minute long feature film in 1080p high definition. The disc art features a still image of the Millennium Falcon being pursued by First Order TIE fighters over the desert planet Jakku. The film is presented in widescreen format with a slightly higher aspect ratio (2.40:1) than the theatrical release’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Audio options include an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, as well as French (Canadian) and Spanish audio tracks in Dolby 5.1 stereo. The BD also features subtitles in English (for hearing impaired viewers), French, and Spanish.
BD 2: Bonus Features – This disc contains several extra features devoted to the making of “The Force Awakens.” These include:
Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey — For the first time, discover the complete story behind the making of The Force Awakens, revealed through in-depth footage and exclusive interviews with the actors and filmmakers in this full-length documentary.
The Story Awakens: The Table Read — Cast members, familiar and new, reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie’s script.
Building BB-8 — See how J.J. Abrams and team brought the newest droid to the screen, creating an instant fan favorite in the Star Wars universe.
Crafting Creatures — Watch movie magic as the filmmakers bring a cast of new creatures to life.
Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight — Go deeper into the epic, climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.
John Williams: The Seventh Symphony — The legendary composer shares personal insights of his work on Star Wars and The Force Awakens.
ILM: The Visual Magic Of The Force — An insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie’s visual effects.
Plus — Deleted Scenes
The BD label art is a black-and-white photo featuring director J.J. Abrams and the cast of “The Force Awakens” at a table reading during the movie’s pre-production. All of the documentaries and featurettes have the same video, audio and subtitle specifications as the feature film.
DVD: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – This disc contains the standard definition version of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for DVD players and computers that can’t play Blu-ray discs. The cover art depicts Rey and the Sequel Trilogy’s new droid sidekick, BB-8, as they trek across sand dunes on Jakku.
Is the Force with this Blu-ray set?
For the most part, Buena Vista Home Entertainment produced a “Star Wars” BD that nearly matches the quality of 20th Century Fox’s BD and DVD releases of George Lucas’s Original and Prequel Trilogies. The package design is simple and elegant, even though some consumers may not like the way that the BDs are stored (one atop the other), and the black jewel case looks cool.
The extra features are interesting, especially Laurent Bouzerau’s “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.” This behind-the-scenes documentary not only features footage shot on various locations and London’s Pinewood Studios, but also interviews with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac. Perhaps not surprisingly, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas is only seen in an early segment about his retirement and Lucasfilm’s sale to Disney in 2012.
“Secrets of The Force Awakens” is divided into four chapters; the BD features a Play All option, but viewers can choose which chapter they want to watch if they don’t wish to see it in one sitting. It’s an interesting documentary, especially for fans who are interested in the creative process that goes into making blockbuster franchise movies.
The other featurettes delve into specific aspects of making “The Force Awakens” that weren’t covered by “Secrets of the Force Awakens.” These shorter documentaries focus like a laser on such topics as the creation of BB-8 and the choreography of the movie’ climactic lightsaber duel on Starkiller Base.
What makes the extras unique in this set in comparison to those in BDs and DVDs released by Disney’s competitor Fox is the inclusion of “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony.” The legendary composer’s contribution to the six “Star Wars” films overseen by George Lucas has been mentioned in previous behind-the-scenes materials. However, this is the first time that an entire featurette is devoted to an interview with Maestro Williams, whose music is an important element of the “Star Wars” saga.
The only flaw in this set is the omission of an audio commentary track in the feature film itself. Unlike Steven Spielberg, director Abrams usually provides insightful and amusing commentaries in home video releases of his films. Not so in “The Force Awakens,” which makes “Star Wars – Episode VII” the first film in the franchise to not have audio commentaries by the director, cast members, or production crew. Maybe Disney figured that fans had enough behind-the-scenes stuff on BD 2, or perhaps the short turnaround time from theatrical run to home video release precluded the addition of a commentary track.
Still, Buena Vista Home Entertainment did a remarkable job with its first BD/DVD of a “Star Wars” feature film. J.J. Abrams’ foray to that galaxy far, far away looks and sounds great on HD TVs, especially large sets connected to 5.1 stereo home theater systems. In addition, the cool packaging and bundle of interesting extra features makes the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” BD/DVD set a must-have addition to any movie lover’s home video collection.
- Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (30.04 Mbps)
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
- Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
- French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc
- Three-disc set (2 BDs, 1 DVD)
- iTunes digital copy
- Google Play digital copy
- DVD copy
- Slipcover in original pressing
- Region free