New to Blu-ray/DVD: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


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Editor’s Notes: Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on its respective home video formats on April 5th.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios), the most eagerly anticipated and most hyped motion picture of 2015, has taken in over two billion dollars in worldwide sales. Directed by J.J. Abrams from a script by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two of the original films, the new episode is set thirty years after the events in 1983’s Return of the Jedi and offers three new major characters as well as the return of characters from the original trilogy.

After the traditional opening crawl, identifying the film as Episode VII, we learn that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished and the First Order, an offshoot of the evil Empire before it, is determined to find Skywalker and destroy him. We are introduced to Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on desert planet Jakku, and stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), who crash-lands on Jakku in search of his lost friend, ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Rey and Finn meet, take turns saving each other, and discover they’re both on the same side — against the First Order.

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There’s another new character: BB-8, a roly-poly robot that comes with cool gadgetry and a well-placed sense of humor. A significant plot point involves the reuniting of Poe with BB-8.

Other new characters are the First Order’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who is first seen in a get-up strikingly similar to that of Darth Vader in the original trilogy (actually Episodes IV through VI), and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina), a strategist whose leadership style conflicts with that of the more passionate Kylo Ren. Rounding out the trio of bad guys is Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), one of the film’s most inventive CGI characters. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) provides the voice of Maz Kanata, an old acquaintance of Han Solo and an entirely believable computer-generated character.

Yes, Solo (Harrison Ford) is back, along with Princess and now General Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2D2 (Kenny Baker). These actors connect the new film to the previous six, as it honors their characters’ history in the saga and makes them integral to this episode.

With its perfect blend of story, characters, action, special effects, and music, the film shows extreme care at every level of production, from its seamless blend of live action sequences and CGI for enhanced dramatic effect to its honoring the history of the franchise. The score is by John Williams (Who else could create such musical excitement?), who combines his iconic themes for the first installments with new music. The lush orchestral score makes what is already an excellent picture even better.

The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film in ten years. When the words “In a galaxy far, far away…” appear on the screen, we are transported back to our first experience with the series. It may have been when we were kids, or teenagers, or older folks. It doesn’t matter. The magic in those words sets us up for a rousing adventure with heroes and villains, great characters old and new.

An element that works in the film’s favor is its ability to fit into an existing context as well as to succeed as a stand-alone picture. That crawl at the beginning has always been a way of plunking us in medias res, making extensive exposition unnecessary. We have to go with the flow, and we willingly comply, very soon absorbed in the action.

People often wonder whether a film is worth seeing on the big screen. This one certainly should be seen on the largest screen possible. In IMAX 3D, it looks and sounds incredible. With spaceships zipping through the cosmos and the depth of perception that 3D provides, the effect is more dramatic as well as more fun. Because too many films are unnecessarily in 3D these days, we may have become indifferent to or dismissive of the technique. But Star Wars: The Force Awakens will give you your money’s worth with these enhancements that are impossible to experience at home.

The Star Wars franchise is nearly 40 years old and has maintained its loyal fan base, adding new and younger fans through the years. The Force Awakens, rated PG-13, equals the original trilogy in drama, action, performances, and visual effects, and adds a number of surprises. More than a cool science fiction fantasy adventure, it’s one of the best pictures of 2015.

Bonus extras on the 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include 6 deleted scenes; Secrets of “The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey”, a making-of documentary; cast members reflecting on the first table read of the script; “Building BB-8,” chronicling the genesis of the rolly-polly robot; “Crafting Creatures,” a look at the movie’s sci-fi critters; “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight,” an in-depth look at the climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren; a profile of composer John Williams and his association with the Star Wars films; a feature on the digital artistry of the film’s visual effects; and a look at how the Force for Change Initiative has united fans all over the world to help others.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.