DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been rereleased in a 4-disc Collector's Edition.
Read our review of the Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) movie poster Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2015 / Running Time: 138 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: J.J. Abrams / Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt (screenplay); George Lucas (characters)

Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Ken Leung (Admiral Statura), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley)

Buy Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

By many measures, Star Wars is the biggest franchise in the history of cinema. The original 1977 film redefined the word "blockbuster" with a gross above and beyond anything previously heard of. Its two sequels, released over the next six years, were not as profitable, but still earned more than twice as much as any other film from their years.
Though ostensibly dormant for the next decade and a half, the Star Wars trilogy remained insanely popular through rampant, repeat home video viewings. When creator George Lucas reissued the three movies in theaters with tweaks and additions as Special Editions in early 1997, each opened in first place and added significantly to their already substantial returns. Only seven new films released that year pulled in more at the North American box office than the original Star Wars.

The enduring passion extended another two years when Lucas began releasing a new trio of prequels that preceded his iconic trilogy. Though tough to quantify, it seems as though Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace may have been the most anticipated film ever. It performed extremely well at the box office, but the heightened expectations seemed to breed some disappointment from critics and critical moviegoers. Things got worse before they got better, but even the more favorably received Episode III - Revenge of the Sith was not enough to lift this new trilogy to the level of the beloved original one in most fans' eyes.

Furthermore, that original trilogy was increasingly rubbing the faithful following the wrong way as the result of Lucas' unwillingness to release it in its original, unaltered form. In Lucas' mind, Star Wars belonged to him, not the people who made him a multi-billionaire. So if he felt the need to keep making changes here and there, as he did, he was going to do it and no one could tell him otherwise. After the prequels, Star Wars seemed destined to live on in television animation and a steady stream of merchandise, but no one was really clamoring for Lucas to make good on his long-shared claim of the original trilogy being Episodes IV through VI in a nine-episode saga.

Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) hide from unfriendly types aboard the Millennium Falcon in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Then, out of seemingly nowhere, in the fall of 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm and all that came with it for $4 billion. Having reaped the benefits of Bob Iger's brand-driven philosophy and a blockbuster-or-bust strategy,
Disney already had the highly regarded and highly lucrative Marvel and Pixar universes in their stable. Star Wars, though, somehow felt bigger than either of those companies, even considering the tarnish of those prequels and Lucas' curious refusal to stop tinkering with the past. Disney's first move upon landing Lucasfilm was to greenlight a seventh episode taking place some thirty years after 1983's threequel Return of the Jedi.

Enlisted on this revival was J.J. Abrams, who had successfully transitioned from passion-generating ABC television ("Lost") to big budget cinema. Uniquely qualifying him for the job was Abrams' crowd-pleasing 2009 reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, which drew many comparisons to Star Wars, to the dismay of some of those who had always sided with Trek in the uneven battle of sci-fi institutions. Employing a faster timetable than Lucas' three-year approach, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released a week before Christmas 2015, barely three years after Disney acquired sequel rights in the Lucasfilm transaction.

With the faults of the prequels forgiven if not forgotten, the public, seemingly aware that the series was no longer in the hands of the aging flannel and jeans wearing creator whose methods were increasingly questioned and criticized, embraced The Force Awakens wholeheartedly. The film easily eclipsed Avatar's domestic box office record set six years earlier. Force's $935 million North American gross to date, nearly $200 M more than Avatar (and nearly $300 M more than 2015's second biggest hit, Jurassic World), seems unlikely to be bested anytime soon. And though the sequel still trails Avatar and previous James Cameron box office king Titanic worldwide, there is no denying its cultural impact around the globe.

What's important is that The Force Awakens was able to achieve its success while winning over critics and most of the moviegoing public. Its giant numbers inevitably inspire some backlash, contrarianism, and elevated scrutiny, as did hits like Avatar, Titanic, and The Avengers. But the negativity that hung over the name Star Wars for many adults and most cynics for a number of years seems to have largely cleared up. Disney's game plan to release a new sequel every two years and a spin-off film in the off year between them (starting with this coming December's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) will no doubt reopen the door for complaints and concerns of Shrek-like oversaturation. But for now, with promising and talented filmmakers lined up to advance or complement the mythos, the franchise seems to be in a very good place artistically, not to mention commercially.

"Chewie, we're home!" Chewbacca and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) are glad to return to their old ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Written by Abrams, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan, and the esteemed Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine), The Force Awakens models itself closely after the original 1977 Star Wars, later subtitled Episode IV - A New Hope. The parallels between the two are strong enough for claims that this was as much a remake as a sequel to emerge as one of the biggest of the few criticisms leveled against the film. We open, per tradition, with the iconic John Williams theme and an angular scroll of text. Luke Skywalker, the last living Jedi, has disappeared. Finding him is a priority for both the First Order, a powerful group that rose from the ashes of the Empire and their opponents, our good guys, the Resistance.

On the desert planet Jakku, an old man (screen legend Max von Sydow) gives BB-8, a droid (comparable to but more adorable than R2-D2) holding directions to Luke, to the pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The First Order's young commander, masked Darth Vader worshipper Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), pursues this lead and sends forces to locate BB-8, but the droid rolls into the company of strong-willed scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). She crosses paths with Finn (John Boyega), the repentant stormtrooper formerly known as FN-2187, who claims to be part of the Resistance and is genuinely committed to eluding his former colleagues.

While making their escape, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 take the old ship Millennium Falcon for a narrow getaway. That ship leads them to encounter none other than that the Falcon's owners, lovable rogue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his shaggy co-pilot, the Wookie Chewbacca. They and others plot to attack the First Order's giant planet-turned-superweapon Starkiller Base, while Han hopes to bring out the light that is buried within Kylo Ren, also known as his son.

It wouldn't be "Star Wars" without a lightsaber fight. "The Force Awakens" at least distinguishes its climactic one by setting it in the woods on a snowy night.

Though his comments registered as the sour grapes of a suddenly powerless old genius who may have regretted his sale and certainly had his creative input refused, George Lucas wasn't wrong in stating that he always tried to invent new worlds and characters. The prequels were full of those, but many of them weren't well-received.
All sequels have to perform that balancing act of giving viewers more of the same without just giving them more of the same. The Force Awakens is a lot like A New Hope, but being similar to one of the most popular and successful films ever made is not a bad thing. It's not a lazy or unimaginative sequel. It just knows how to put new spins on compelling old themes and ideas, as well as how to make use of characters, plots, and places so many have fallen in love with over the past forty years.

The new cast members all seem to be better suited for Star Wars duties than the actors cast in Lucas' prequels were. From the entirely unknown (Ridley) to the lightly seasoned (accent-hiding fellow UKer Boyega, of Attack the Block) to the reasonably familiar (Driver and Isaac), the newcomers are talented, appealing, and up to the film's dramatic, action, and effects challenges. (The one exception is Domnhall Gleeson, who does nothing with a one-dimensional minor role.) These fine principals are complemented by the old guard, specifically Ford, who is as charming as ever as Han Solo, a character it's so much fun to catch up with. Though his top billing is more the result of stature than screentime, Ford almost qualifies as a lead once he shows up around 40 minutes in. We also get to reconnect with other sacred staples of the saga, including Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, a laughably second-billed Mark Hamill very briefly as Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Admiral Ackbar, and Nien Nunb.

Getting to revisit these characters a little over thirty years since their last big screen outing produces incomparable thrills. Getting to do so in a state-of-the-art film that consistently entertains and excites is even better. Abrams clearly knows and loves this universe, something that both fans and detractors of his Star Trek could tell you. He also knows how to craft a big, jaunty action movie with intelligence, craft, and care. Star Wars is so different from other franchises, with a unique DNA all its own. Abrams and his accomplished fellow screenwriters know that and play it up. Those who know and love the saga will appreciate this more than the uninitiated, but very few who enter with an open mind will come away disappointed. The problems you might have with it (for instance, the film's biggest surprise still doesn't sit well with me) are very minor, compared to the ones that plagued the prequels. While every year brings big blockbusters full of ambitious effects and exciting sequences, few are as well-made and satisfying as this one, which excels so much more than 2015's other big draws (Jurassic World, The Martian, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mockingjay, Part 2) did.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) removes his helmet for an up close and hostile interrogation of Rey (Daisy Ridley).

Though exceptional films with mainstream commercial appeal like The Dark Knight and WALL•E seemed to be what the Academy had in mind when it switched to a ten nominee Best Picture category, switching back to between 5 and 10 has kept the field mostly devoid of marquee attractions (although the underwhelming but well-attended Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road both made it in this year). But like every Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens had to settle for technical recognition, earning Oscar nominations for Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Original Score (which it surprisingly qualified for despite Williams recycling several themes. It lost all of them, most surprisingly Visual Effects to a smaller 2015 sci-fi film with two cast members in common, Ex Machina. As those at Disney using $100 bills as napkins will tell you, this isn't a move that was made for Oscars. Although the Oscars would be better if a movie like this was in competition for major honors.

Three and a half months after beginning its record-setting run with a record-setting opening, The Force Awakens hits stores on Tuesday in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here and a DVD sold separately that is curiously hard to find online.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Extras only: Portuguese
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Black Keepcase in Embossed Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Star Wars is forever associated with technical excellence and you can be sure that even sans certification of the Lucas-founded THX, The Force Awakens boasts outstanding picture and sound on Blu-ray. All big new movies pretty much do, but this one's 2.40:1 picture and 7.1 DTS-HD master audio are especially potent and flawless.

J.J. Abrams directs his cast on an elevated set in front of greenscreen in "The Secrets of 'The Force Awakens': A Cinematic Journey." The cast is comfortably seated for a "table" read.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

With the first Blu-ray dedicated entirely to the feature presentation, all bonus features are relegated to the second Blu-ray.

First up and most highly touted is "The Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey" (1:09:14), a great documentary from seasoned Steven Spielberg home video documentarian Laurent Bouzereau.
Loaded with so much good footage (including behind-the-scenes clips from the original trilogy), this four-chapter companion arrests in a thorough and comprehensive fashion, starting with George Lucas' 2012 sale to Disney and proceeding to the shrouded-in-secrecy production. From the script's development via Michael Arndt (who needed more time), Lawrence Kasdan, and concept-supplying J.J. Abrams to the table read, returning cast, characters and crew members, the newcomers' audition process (with clips), BB-8, shooting on film in the desert, and performance capture, there isn't a topic neglected in this standout supplement, even the kind that would be deemed spoilers.

Shorter features follow, starting with "The Story Awakens: The Table Read" (4:01), which provides more clips and reflection of the cast's comfy couch read-through that had Mark Hamill narrating.

Simon Pegg's hefty junkboss Unkar Plutt is one of 105 colorful characters crafted for the film. "Building BB-8" shows two of the droids being brought to life with the use of an ordinary laptop.

"Crafting Creatures" (9:34) looks at the mix of practical and CGI effects used to bring some 105 exotic sci-fi characters to life.

"Building BB-8" (6:03) explores the cute droid's presence on set via puppets to be enhanced by CGI.

"Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight" (7:02) touches on the lightsaber training endured by the three young cast members who featured in this climactic scene.

He's back! John Williams returns for "The Seventh Symphony" and his composing moves look like he's using the Force to throw stormtroopers across the room. Finn and Rey escape on a snow speeder in one of the Blu-ray's six short deleted scenes.

"ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force" (7:55), of course, deals with visual effects, including their application to characters and sets.

"John Williams: The Seventh Symphony" (6:51) considers the decorated composer's return to this universe
with themes new and old. Naturally, it's a feel-good piece.

Next up come six short time-coded deleted scenes (4:15), which include Kylo Ren exploring the Millennium Falcon, a look at Star Wars emergency rooms, and Finn and Rey's snow speeder chase.

"Force for Change" (3:22) pays notice to the charitable deeds born out of the film for UNICEF and charities hand-picked by the cast.

DVD viewers evidently get no bonus features either here or elsewhere, since the film is only given a barebones disc in standard definition.

With no bonus features accompanying the movie disc on either DVD or Blu-ray, the menu looks barren but neat. Extras get their own disc on Blu-ray only.

The menus plays clips in a hangar while excerpting the iconic score, with the bonus features disc making use of behind-the-scenes footage from the extras.

It wouldn't seem right for a movie this big to get ordinary packaging and it does not. The embossed holographic slipcover takes the unusual step of making the title the big attraction, placing artwork within the letters. Underneath the more conventional Drew Struzan-style poster fills the cover of the keepcase, which is black rather than the standard blue. Inside, a Disney Movie Club insert and your Digital HD code accompany the three discs, which each sport a unique full-color label.

Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) find themselves surrounded and outnumbered by Finn's former colleagues, the First Order's stormtroopers.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

An appealing and worthwhile blend of new and old, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just about everything you'd like it to be, laying the foundation for a promising new age for the franchise while remembering everything that made the original trilogy so special. The best film to hold the all-time domestic box office crown since the original Star Wars did thirty-nine years ago, this is a blockbuster that most should be able to get on board with.

Disney's Blu-ray combo pack completely satisfies with its first-rate feature presentation and sturdy assembly of extras highlighted by a thorough, top-notch making-of documentary. The year is still young, but this is sure to end up one of its most easily recommended home video releases.

Buy Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

http://www.entertainmentearth.com/cjdoorway.asp?url=starwars7.asp

Related Reviews:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack)
New to Disc: The Hunger Games: Complete Collection • The Hateful Eight • Brooklyn • The Good Dinosaur • Sisters • The Big Short
Directed by J.J. Abrams: Star Trek Into Darkness | Written by J.J. Abrams: Armageddon
Harrison Ford: Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures • 42 • Paranoia
Oscar Isaac: Ex Machina • Inside Llewyn Davis • Drive • 10 Years
Lucasfilm: Star Wars: The Clone Wars • Strange Magic | 2015 Blockbusters: Jurassic World • Avengers: Age of Ultron

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed April 5, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot, and 2016 Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.