Tommy’s Review: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. New Revelations from J.J. Abram’s Commentary and More
Chances are, you’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you were born between its release and now, then chances are you’re not reading this… but you’ve still probably seen it played on your home TV. It’s the highest domestic grossing film in the US and pushed Star Wars back to the forefront of the global lexicon once again. People saw it in the cinema over and over again but when it’s theatrical release eventually came to an end it was released on Blu Ray and DVD. Read on for our review of the 3D Collector’s Edition Blu-ray…
“For the first time—and just in time for the holidays—viewers can bring home Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 3D, encased in stunning, collectible packaging. The exclusive four – disc 3D Collector’s Edition contains the original theatrical release on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, Digital HD and DVD, along with originally released bonus features and brand-new bonus material, including additional deleted scenes, behind-the- scenes conversations with cast and crew and revealing, never-before released audio commentary by director J.J. Abrams.
The collectors edition includes a few cool little additions as well as one very, very cool addition, so lets start with that:
Audio Commentary with J.J. Abrams – Enter the mind of visionary director J.J. Abrams as he reveals the creative and complex choices made while developing the first film in the new Star Wars trilogy.
Personally, I can’t get enough of director’s commentaries so I would have been excited for this anyway but there is a lot more to be excited about here. Firstly, JJ doesn’t often do director’s commentaries so it is a rare treat in that of itself and incredibly insightful just to here his thoughts on filmmaking but the fact he was talking about making one of the most culturally important films of the decade made it all the more worthwhile and I highly recommend you check this out.
Unfortunately, JJ is alone. I usually prefer these things to be a discussion with a couple of people and I would have loved to have heard from Kathleen Kennedy (who is my idol and I absolutely adore) or Lawrence Kasdan (who is an downright genius). But that being said I was very impressed by how funny JJ was, it’s something I always fail to give him credit for but the man knows how to tell a joke. I won’t give away all his anecdotes here because I implore you all to hear it for yourselves but I will briefly discuss some of the revelations he made about the creation of such an important film.
First, he talked about the process and challenges of creating a villain who would have to come after Darth Vader, a tough act to follow particularly when the previous six films have him in a central role.
“The character of Kylo Ren was one of the most challenging characters because he sort of embodied what this movie was. It was a new story, a new personality created from the DNA of what had come before. But because he was the villain it meant that he was in the shadow of Darth Vader, one of the great villains in cinema history. So we embraced Vader. We made our bad guy aware of Vader, as he would be living in a post-Vader time and made him the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo. And in doing so, continued another Star Wars tradition of having really screwed up families. We actually used to have more dialogue in this scene where he referenced his father and his mother. But it ended up seeming too soon.”
He later goes on to talk about Adam Driver while he is interrogating Poe; it’s not the last time he talks about how much he likes Driver and it is clear throughout that JJ was impressed by his work.
“Adam Driver was the idea of Kathy Kennedy. Not that Adam Driver was the idea of Kathy Kennedy. For this movie, it was her idea. I mean, he existed prior. But she brought him up, and we immediately thought, “Oh my God, this guy would be amazing.”
JJ Abrams would regularly speak about his time on the various sets around the globe and you could just really tell that he was having the time of his life and that he is- and always will be, extremely grateful to Lucasfilm.
Much later in the commentary JJ talks about something that could be another clue to Rey’s past or it could simply be a slip of the tongue but he says when Rey and Ren meet in the forest of Takodana;
“One of the new relationships that we were focusing on was between Kylo Ren and Rey. They’ve never met but he’s heard of this girl. And so, now comes a moment when their meeting is inevitable. […] And now we’re back to our heroine. And this moment where she is about to, for the first time, be confronted by Kylo Ren, a character who she’s going to have a very interesting relationship with moving forward.”
So it would appear from these comments that this is the first time these characters have met. Does this debunk any rumours about Rey Skywalker? Or Rey training with Kylo at Luke’s Jedi Academy? Well maybe, or maybe JJ is telling the truth… but only from a certain point of view. Perhaps he is saying that this is the first time Rey has met Kylo Ren but it might not be the first time Rey has met Ben Solo. Or maybe that’s a stretch, who knows?
Now, I know I said I didn’t want to spoil the commentary for you because I want you to watch and listen for yourself but this next quote I’m about to share is just too damn interesting for me to ignore. It’s from the infamous death of Han Solo. I thought about sharing only part of the quote or perhaps several parts but during the course of my editing I couldn’t think of a single sentence I wanted to leave out, so here it is in all it’s glory:
“I will say that shooting this scene was a very tricky thing. I think that both Harrison and Adam brought quite a lot to it. I think, their own personal baggage came to this. I think, the idea of killing Han Solo was a crazy, painful idea. And the truth is, because Harrison had been injured early in the shoot, despite his full recovery, I hated the idea of seeing him vulnerable at all. So, this was hard, I think, for everyone to do, even though we knew it was essential and necessary. People have asked me if I think that Kylo Ren was just playing with him the whole time, if he meant to kill him from the beginning. And the truth is, I think that Kylo Ren in this moment is actually being convinced to walk away from this. Snoke is, as Han says, using him. And I think that somewhere Ben knows this. But I think that he can’t accept it deep down. He has gone too far. We were working on this scene quite a bit, trying to find the right rhythm. And it was actually Jon Kasdan, Larry’s son, who helped us with this. And I think really helped us get to a place where there was a lot of emotion, but also this raw uncertainty of what was going to happen. But I don’t think that in this moment this is a put on. I think that Ben is legitimately going to give up. But then, the idea was that in this moment, where he’s taking the lightsaber and offering it to him as a gesture, the sun finally is drained from the sky. And you see the light go away. And now they’re in this darkness. And darkness takes over. And as if this moment isn’t disturbing enough, he pushes the saber further in and says these terrifying two words. “Thank You.” In Kylo’s mind, what he has just done seals the deal. It’s the ultimate proof to Snoke that he is to be trusted, that he will not be seduced by the light. And I think, the instant that he’s done it, he regrets it.”
Lets break down what is so fascinating here, or fascinating to me anyway. JJ talks about Harrison Ford’s injury and immediately talks about how hard it was to see him vulnerable again, this level of responsibility that he’s taken on really paints JJ in a positive light and honestly it just makes me respect him even more than I already did. The next thing of interest here is the fact that Han was actually succeeding in his attempts to turn Kylo back to the light. It was only when the sun is drained that Kylo is both literally and figuratively consumed by darkness. This had clearly been a point of interest for a lot of people since JJ mentions that it’s a question he gets a lot. Kylo then utters two words that make him almost irredeemable, “thank you” and he does what he needed to in order to prove his dedication to Snoke. The most important thing to take away from this for me was the fact that Jon Kasdan had some input along with his father. If you wasn’t already aware, the still untitled Star Wars Story starring Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover as a young Han Solo and young Lando Calrissian respectively, will be written by both Lawrence and his son Jon Kasdan, and Lawrence has said in the past that this will be the last film he writes and will serve as a passing of the torch. So the fact that Jon has already had his fingerprint marked on the beloved character and in one of his most important moments, his death, is very encouraging to me. Plus a big criticism of George Lucas in the past has been his reluctance to take advice or apply other people’s ideas so to hear that JJ was quite the opposite made a lot of sense. Especially when you hear about some of the talent he had offering advice.
“I also showed this film, an early cut to my friend Ava DuVernay, and she had a bunch of great suggestions. One of them was that she really wanted to see Daisy, in her attack on Ren coming up, to have one really cool moment. I’ll show you the shot that we ended up getting, per her suggestion. But we always had this moment, from when we shot it originally.[”I could show you the ways of the Force.”] And this used to be where she called him a monster and then pushed back. But, instead we reshot this and had her take this moment of hearing the Force and thinking about what Maz had told her about closing her eyes and letting it in. And so she has this incredibly internal moment that is sort of extended in, kind of, movie time, where she basically feels it, accepts it, and is now ready to kick his ass.”
And the trees falling as they were being cut during the Rey/Ren fight? That was Spielberg’s idea.
Foley: A Sonic Tale – Foley artists, consisting of old pros and new talent, unite to bring the world of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” alive through the matching of sound to action.
Foley has always been something that interests me. It just seems like a job like no other. Essentially a foley artist will create the various sound effects for a film, so this can be anything from armour clanking to footsteps in the snow. This neat little featurette does a great job of showing us how the foley artists created some of the sounds of The Force Awakens. It’s truly inspiring to see how handmade and rag-tag everything feels. To me, it harkens back to the old fashioned methods of doing what you can with what you have and it feels like real movie magic. We also see that continued theme of generations which has been great with Force Awakens.
Sounds of the Resistance – Hear how the epic sound design of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” moves the Star Wars legacy forward.
For this little feature we got a little glimpse into Skywalker Sound and had the chance to see how some of the mixing of iconic sounds happens. The sounds of Star Wars have always been instantly recognisable, often replicated and chances are, you probably have a favourite sound from Star Wars (mine is the sound of Obi-Wan deactivating the Death Star’s Tractor Beam) so to see the talented guys at Skywalker Sound talking about their experiences with trying to replicate the original genius of the previous Star Wars films was fantastic. You even get to see the man responsible for the strange Rathtar choking sound when it latches itself onto the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
Deleted Scenes – View never-before- shared scenes that didn’t make the film’s final cut.
While most of the Deleted Scenes included on the Bonus Disc were available previously on the last Blu Ray release, the new ones were absolute gems. First we had a scene called Leia & The Resistance where the former princess sends a familiar face to the New Republic on her behalf to try and grow The Resistance’s numbers. That familiar face is later killed when The First Order unleash the devastating power of Starkiller Base. The second, and my personal favourite deleted scene, is called Unkar Plutt At Maz’s Castle. This scene is something that The Force Awakens Novelisation readers (such as myself) will know all too well. Yes, that’s right, it’s the scene where Unkar Plutt finds Rey on Takodana and in an attempt to bring her back to Jakku finds himself in an altercation with everyone’s favourite Wookie, Chewbacca who finally rips an arm out of a socket, just like we have been promised since 1977. The worst thing about this scene is that it didn’t make the final cut. Finally we have a scene called Tunnel Standoff which is set between Rey leaving Maz’s castle and The First Order arriving. It features Han, Chewie, Maz and Finn in the tunnel beneath the castle as Stormtroopers arrive. We get some classic Han solo quips and the scene is over although I expected to see Maz rescue them all using the force as described elsewhere but apparently this scene is still missing and perhaps now it will never see the light of day.
Dressing the Galaxy – Costume Designer Michael Kaplan reveals how the costumes of the original Star Wars movies were re-envisioned for a new generation.
In a film that did so much to promote its use of practical effects and costumes, this featurette gives a great insight into that world. Harrison Ford even gives us his time to talk about how much he admires the work that goes into costume design and how much he respected the energy that Michael Kaplan gave to his job. It really goes to show how important every individual role on the film was to capturing the wonder of the original trilogy. Everyone wants to make their mark and it’s great to see how significant that mark was from the costume designer.
The Scavenger and the Stormtrooper: A Conversation with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega – The two new stars share the thrill of working together on the adventure of a lifetime and becoming part of the Star Wars legacy.
The first thing that is abundantly clear from this featurette is the chemistry between the two new stars. It feels so real and so natural which is what you could expect since they have similar experiences coming out the other side of one of the most monumental parts of their lives. They talk about the first time they met, their last day on set and some of their favourite moments with other cast members new and old and it does a great job of demonstrating their relationship which they liken to that of a brother and sister.
Inside the Armory – Take a fascinating tour through the design and creation of the weaponry in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Just like the costumes, this featurette shows us another level of the practicality of The Force Awakens and shows us again how real everything is. It’s fairly common knowledge that not a single piece Clone Trooper armour was ever made and they were all digital so to see the level of detail and thought into the progression of weaponry in this film is inspiring. We once again get a glimpse of the generations of Star Wars behind the scenes and we also see how the new generation of prop makers sought out the same random objects used for the original props. Despite the high-tech, advanced 3d printing they had at their fingertips, the prop designers still opted for a more handmade approach, just as an homage and tribute to the original trilogy.
There you have it, the bonus disc for the 3D Collectors Edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The visuals of the film itself were crisp and clear as ever and the 3D holds up very well in the living room. Unfortunately the IMAX shots aren’t available in the same way and the standard aspect ratio of 2:40:1 is featured throughout but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality and if you missed it’s first IMAX run at the cinema then I’m sure it’ll be brought back to theatres for other special runs, probably for marathons before every other Saga film from now until the end of time. Because one of the biggest take-aways from this release is that Disney love money and Bad Robot love to release multiple Blu Rays (and sometimes in multiple locations with different features in different stores – a trend I hope to see the back of very, very soon). If you have been desperate for the 3D Star Wars experience in your living room then I would definitely suggest that you pick this up; if you don’t already have this film on any form of home release then I would definitely suggest that you pick this up; if you are interested in the JJ commentary (which I cannot recommend enough) then I would definitely suggest that you pick this up! If you don’t have a 3D TV, don’t care about directors commentaries and already have the Blu Ray with the other special features… then you can probably give this a miss.
Special thanks to mummiesandlightsabers.tumblr.com for some of the Abrams quotes that we used.