This is not a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I've already written about it extensively and, if we're being honest, you've already seen it. Everybody has seen it. You know if you want to own the movie. And I'm more interested in the art of film rather than the A/V of Blus, so I don't feel like I can tell you if the bitrate of the interlace in the transfer from the original elements is any good. The movie looked good on Blu to me. I had no complaints.
No, what I'm writing about here are the special features. In 2016 you have a lot of choices as to how you approach your home video, and one of the main reasons you might want to stick with outmoded physical media is that you like the extra features included on the discs. The making ofs and the behind the scenes featurettes. The stuff that adds to the experience. The stuff you won't get when you watch the movie on a streaming service some day. So how do the special features on The Force Awakens Blu stack up?
Let's put it this way: the making of doc does not mention Harrison Ford's accident.
Again: the making of doc does not mention Harrison Ford's accident.
To be fair there may be legal reasons why this stuff wouldn't be fully explored on the disc - maybe there are still lawsuits in the air, after all - but to not mention it? To not talk about the challenges a shift in the schedule made for the film?
Of course five minutes into the doc I knew I was in for fluff bullshit. That was when the doc pretended that JJ Abrams was the first filmmaker Lucasfilm reached out to for the movie, which simply isn't true. And which simply is a less interesting story - the tale of winding up to revisit Star Wars and how so many major filmmakers didn't want to be the guy picking up George Lucas' legacy is interesting, and speaks to the enormous shadow cast by Star Wars. The story here isn't that Lucasfilm wanted Brad Bird more, it's that JJ was the guy who finally said, "Fuck it, I'll put myself on the line."
The rest of the making of is a quick breeze through the process, one that contains little to no depth. It's a pity, because the making ofs on the Prequel DVDs/Blus are extraordinary and insightful, giving us a real look at the process - and the mistakes made along the way. I'll never forget the footage of everybody walking out of that first screening of The Phantom Menace, unsure what to make of what they saw. There is nothing even a quarter as honest on this making of.
The next thing you see after the making of is a doc about the famous table read, the one where the first picture of the assembled cast was taken. But this is perfunctory, giving us minor clips mixed with EPK talking head interviews. Why not give us the read? Why not allow us to see the different script that began shooting? The archives of Lucasfilm are so open when it comes to all of the old films - it's a bummer that Disney is keeping more hidden from us.
There are other features on the disc as well, some of which are at least more interesting than the surface level survey that is the making of. A piece on the creation of the climactic saber battle is interesting, and it spans from the creation of the set to the actual shooting. I quite liked the look at the creation of BB-8, and the revelation of how many different ways his performance was created. And the look at the creatures of the film is fine, if shallow. One of the joys of a new Star Wars is the expansion of the galaxy through new creatures and characters - I would have loved a better bestiary in this feature, a rundown of more of these wonderful practical beasts and aliens. Every one of those guys has a name, after all - share them with us!
The features are a mixed bag, but what really weighs everything into disappointment are the deleted scenes. They're barely here - just snippets of moments without context. Are these the only deleted scenes from the film? Maybe (I doubt it), but at the very least have JJ intro each one and talk about why it was cut. For instance there's a short snow-speeder chase (so short and abrupt that it clearly is bookended by other, not included, deleted scenes) - why isn't it in the film? Is there a scene with Constable Zuvio that explains why anybody thought he should be a toy? Is this really all you have, a quick succession of moments tossed on the table artlessly?
I can't figure out if the rest of the stuff - a better making of, more deleted scenes - are just never being released or if there's another Blu waiting. Maybe they're holding all the stuff for the ultimate trilogy edition or something. As it stands these special features do not offer enough value to recommend the Blu over a digital purchase.
Of course that won't stop me from linking to it below just in case you're one of those competists who has to have everything on physical media.