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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Disney Movies Anywhere



Star Wars is simply back! Forget the awkwardness of the prequels and trying to bring The Force into the scientific world, this is the return to the spirit of the original trilogy! While there is nothing better than seeing old friends from the original trilogy back on the big screen, it is truly the action, the humor as well as the energy that has been recaptured here.

The Force Awakens introduces to us a whole new group of actors who will move the franchise forward. The new cast will impress you. The dynamic between John Boyega's Finn and Daisy Ridley's Rey is wonderful. It feels warmly familiar and yet different all at the same time. They seemlessly blend in with the established cast of Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca. But the real strength is Adam Driver's performance as Kylo Ren. Kylo is powerful, cruel and angry. BB-8 is a complete joy and if you haven't fallen in love with him yet, you will.

The Force Awakens also recaptures the feeling of A New Hope. That feeling that just in front of you is adventure and greatness. These things were definitely missing in the prequels. The same sense of hope and wonder from the original trilogy is here in The Force Awakens.

The familiarity here has as much to do with the dialogue as it does with the use of both practical and computer effects. Lawrence Kasdan brought that level of familiarity to The Force Awakens. Having rewritten The Empire Strikes Back and co-writing Return of The Jedi, no one understands the characters of Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca better and it shows here. J.J. Abrams brings with him his clear understanding of tightly controlled storytelling, with a fantastic ability of setting things up and paying them off and a real feel for action. The lightsaber battles feel more fluid and realistic than even the ones we witnessed in the prequel trilogy. Even the X-Wing and TIE fighter battles have a real sense of physicality that not even the prequels could come close to.

J.J. Abrams and his team have created a film that lives up to not only the Star Wars name, but to fan expectations as well. But perhaps the films greatest achievement is that the film can be enjoyed without having seen the original trilogy. I cannot wait to see what both Rian Johnson and Colin Tevorrow have planned for the following sequels.




Video Quality:

The 1080p transfer is amazing! Disney always brings us some of the very best transfers and this one is no exception! The deep dark blacks of space, the color of the sand on Jakku and the bright green of Takodana all pop off the screen! The bright blues and reds of the lightsabers are crisp. Details from facial features, to textures, to set pieces show off every nuance. A reference quality transfer and easily the best any Star Wars film has looked!



Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is terrific! The soundtrack is encompassing. Wait until you hear to the scenes aboard the Millennium Falcon. The sounds inside the ship make you feel as if you are in the cockpit. John Williams' score has never sounded better. Dialogue is crisp and clear. Lasers sounds like they are literally bouncing all around you. X-Wings and the TIE fighters swoop around you and you feel as if you are in the middle of the battle. Amazing audio to compliment a superior video presentation! 


Bonus Material:

A large amount of bonus material is found here. Sadly there is no audio commentary. 
  • Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey (1080p, 1:09:14 total runtime): A four-part making-of feature
    • Chapter One: Focus on the beginning of Star Wars under the care of Disney, to bringing in J.J. Abrams to direct, taking a look at the first ideas, the return of many of the people that worked on the original trilogy to this project, staying faithful to the original trilogy, and taking a look at the new characters and familiar returning ones. 
    • Chapter Two: The next chapter takes a look at the actual filming. We literally get to look at Day One, development of the new characters, building the Millennium Falcon, and a look at two old friends in Han Solo and Chewbacca. 
    • Chapter Three: The third chapter takes a look at the new cantina and the creation of the new characters that populate it, some of the digital work on new characters such as Maz Kantana and Supreme Leader Snoke, working with droids, a look at the return of Princess Leia and details on Kylo Ren. 
    • Chapter Four: The final chapter looks at the end of Han Solo. We get a better look at the decision behind this send off to everyone's favorite smuggler. We also get final thoughts from the cast and crew on the movie and the franchise.
  • The Story Awakens: The Table Read (1080p, 4:01): We only get parts of the first table read of the script with the cast and crew. 
  • Crafting Creatures (1080p, 9:34): A far too short look at the building of many of the characters for the movie.
  • Building BB-8 (1080p, 6:03): A look at everyone's new favorite droid from early design, to construction, to BB-8's place in the movie and the different variations of BB-8 to be used for different situations in the movie.  
  • Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (1080p, 7:02): A closer look at  the epic lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren from the construction of the set and the physical preparations for the scene. 
  • ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force (1080p, 7:55): Another far too short look at how digital effects work together with the movie's practical effects. 
  • John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (1080p, 6:51): A look at John Williams' work on all the Star Wars movies.
  • Deleted Scenes (1080p): Finn and the Villager (0:31), Jakku Message (0:47), X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed (0:22), Kylo Searches The Falcon (0:50), Snow Speeder Chase (0:48), and Finn Will Be Fine(0:23).
  • Force for Change (1080p, 3:22): A look at the charity efforts of the film.

Conclusion:

The return to a galaxy far, far away is an amazing one. We get to see old friends and make new ones. We get an amazing film that lives up to not only the Star Wars name but to fans expectations as well. We get an amazing reference quality transfer with audio to match and an impressive amount of bonus material. One of the best blu-rays out and it is only April. Star Wars: The Force Awakens deserves a place on your shelf or in your digital collection. 

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