Friday, April 15, 2016

Behind the Scenes of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Blu-ray

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” recently hit home entertainment platforms and I took some time to go through the special features for the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD edition. We all know how great the movie is already, so I didn’t see the point in going over all that again. J.J. Abrams did a wonderful job recapturing the fun and adventure of the original trilogy while establishing new characters and plot devices to carry the story forward for a new generation.

Lucasfilm and Disney give “Star Wars” fans a glimpse into the making of the latest chapter in the most epic space saga. The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD edition comes with a little under two hours of bonus material. Although I would have liked to see more, what we’ve been given is a joy to take in.

“Secrets of ‘The Force Awakens:’ A Cinematic Journey” is an hour and ten minute long documentary made up of four chapters. George Lucas is seen briefly addressing the move to Disney before we delve into the developing and making of the movie. We get a lot of great footage of the process and production coupled with interviews with the cast and crew. You can especially see the excitement and enthusiasm J.J. Abrams had in bringing his vision of a Galaxy Far, Far Away to life.

While the documentary covers some impressive ground and is par for the course when it comes to “Making of” features, I still feel like there’s so much more to see. They never got into Harrison Ford’s injury and how the filming schedule had to be re-arranged because of that. The incident wasn’t even mentioned at all. I enjoyed what I received here, but I know there’s hundreds of hours of footage laying around somewhere.

"The Story Awakens: The Table Read" gives us a small taste of the day the entire cast came together to take in the script. Mark Hamill actually read the narrative around everyone’s parts. It’s an exciting look at what was really going on behind the now legendary black-and-white photo Lucasfilm released to get fans amped up.

“Crafting Creatures” highlights the craftsmanship and painstaking work it takes to bring practical aliens and monsters to life. Although there might be a lot of CGI used for “The Force Awakens,” it’s no secret that J.J. Abrams wanted to go back to using real makeup and costumes to fill Maz Kanata’s watering hole and other intergalactic locales.

"Building BB-8" is a look at the different ways everyone’s favorite robot was brought to life for “The Force Awakens.” It’s a revealing featurette which delves into the technical and practical effects used for the film.

“Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight” takes us behind the scenes of the gripping lightsaber battle on Starkiller base. Way more effort was put into this action-packed showdown than many would think. They built an entire set with real trees, fake snow, and background paintings. The actors actually used prop lightsabers to stage the duels.

"ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force" shows the techs behind the CGI and special effects handling their business. Emphasis was put on the importance of using CG to enhance specific practical effects and on-location models and sets versus digitally creating them. The creation of the Millennium Falcon is highlighted in great detail.

"John Williams: The Seventh Symphony" gives us insight into the orchestration of the latest chapter in the "Star Wars" saga. We reflect on his past work and new material for “The Force Awakens.”

“Force for Change” delves into the charity work brought on by the release and making of the movie.

While other reviewers seemed unimpressed with many of the deleted scenes, I found them to be entertaining. A few of them were even ones that would have been interesting to see in the actual movie. “Finn and the Villager” help to establish the character’s inner conflict over killing for the First Order. “Snow Speeder Chase” shows us an unfinished sequence where Finn and Rey are being pursued by Snowtroopers. “Kylo Searches the Falcon” takes the villain on board his father’s famous ship accompanied by Snowtroopers. He takes a moment to reflect (on his childhood, I’d like to think) in the cockpit before sensing the presence of Han Solo.

“Jakku Message” would have introduced General Leia earlier in the movie. “Finn Will Be Fine” is an extremely awkward exchange between the doctor and Rey. “X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed” just seemed extraneous and unnecessary to the overall picture.

The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD edition of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” makes it so much easier to dive deeper into the impressive revival of George Lucas’s greatest cinematic achievement. Of course the HD transfer is superior both visually and sonically. I can’t think of anything better than owning this latest chapter in the “Star Wars” saga and being able to watch it any time I want.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital download.

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