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Special thanks to our friends at Disney, who sent us a review Blu Ray copy.

 

Disney took a risk in acquiring the Star Wars universe from its owner, George Lucas. The four billion dollar chance all started with rolling the dice with The Force Awakens, a brand new trilogy, in a familiar universe. Thankfully, the film’s strong critical reception (98%) and big box office success(2 billion worldwide) powered the film to lightspeed. Now, months later, the highly anticipated release of the film on Blu Ray is here. Does it hold up? Duh

 

Film

Director JJ Abrams had to do the nearly impossible. He had to not only break back a dying franchise, but keep it faithful to fans, as well as bring in new ones. Thankfully, as with most JJ Abrams work, the execution in The Force Awakens is nearly flawless, enough so to propel the film passed some story inconsistencies.

The Force Awakens rides on the promises of a bold future. The new cast, spearheaded by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, are absolutely phenomenal in their respective roles. Ridley’s Rey is the clear main protagonist, a junk salvager, who spends her lonely days anxiously awaiting the return of a mysterious figure (her family). She, along the way finds a new friend, Boyega’s Finn, an AWOL Stormtrooper who had seen too much and simply had enough. The universe, as it does in Star Wars, brings them to the central plot of finding titular hero, Luke Skywalker. Skywalker had created a new Jedi Order, one that tragically was destroyed by one of his students. Of course no Star Wars film would be complete without evil standing in the way of our heroes. Kylo Ren, leader of the Knights of Ren, is the dark disciple, an imposing figure in the force, who also happens to be a tragic, scared little boy desperate for some answers.

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The biggest knock on The Force Awakens is the clear ‘homage’ to A New Hope. The homage, at times, bends to straight cut and paste mentality. While I do understand Abrams inspiration, and clear intentions, one can clearly says that the lack of originality is a bit obnoxious. That being said, Abrams, like his Star Trek films, uses great scene transitions, and camera movement to keep dialogue exciting. His films are never boring, nobody will ever use that term with Abrams.

As with every Star Wars film, you can take the film lightly, or dig deeper. The Force Awakens gives fans plenty of answers, but leans more on the curiosity of its questions. Who is Rey? Why is Kylo Ren so evil? How did the New Order fund this massive army? I’m sure everything will be answered in the future, but thankfully, with the success of this film, that possibility is quite bright.

Video Quality

Star Trek (2009) was one of the best looking Blu Ray films out there. The video quality was top notch, using JJ Abrams incredible ability to clash colors with contrasts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks as strong in the visual department, ushering clear picture, with those vibrant colors we look forward to seeing in Abrams’ films. Textures, characters and settings really pop. Everything has a lived in feel, and this really brings home a worldly feel that this franchise deserves.

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Shockingly, JJ Abrams manages to be reserved in some of his usual, visual techniques. His pioneering ‘move’ is the obnoxious use of lens flare. The spotlight blinding technique is reserved to a minimum here, with maybe a handful of uses. Abrams also made sure to extensively use practical effects, like sets, props and actual make up built creatures. Not only does this look fantastic on Blu Ray, but greatly extended the films life span. Have you seen the prequels lately? They look incredibly dated, thanks in part to Lucas’ incredible laziness. Get out of the Director’s chair, Lucas!

Audio Quality

The iconic sound of Star Wars is resounding. If you get this wrong, in any Star Wars film, rest assured, you will hear about it. With much appreciation, everything blasts to life with the familiarity we all know. Blasters sound true to the universe, shuttering through the speakers with maximum screetch. The Millennium Falcon blasts to life, always bringing a smile to my face. Lightsabers burst to life, and cut through flesh with a sticky satisfaction. TIE fighters boom, blast and etch through the speakers. Star Wars springs to life effortlessly through surround sound.

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Everything is right. Everything feels where it should be. The biggest issue I thought I might have, was with the use of Kylo Ren. This not only comes in the form of the character, but the voice, and how it would be measured. JJ Abrams’ decision with the voice is perfect, and thankfully, the audio transition to Blu Ray is too. His voice is massive, intimidating, but yet has a place of its own. He (Abrams) could’ve easily ripped off Vader’s voice, instead, it stands on its own, as does the character.

That all being said, the strongest element in this Blu Ray packaging is the outstanding audio quality. You expect nothing less from a Star Wars home release. Here, you clearly get the best.

Extras

Disappointing. The Blu Ray is loaded with some deleted scenes, a documentary, some making of videos, and trailers. The deleted scenes lead the contest in ‘disappointing’. Why? They don’t feature a lot of new information, and really ARE deleted scenes. These are a no brainer as to why they were removed from the film. No quality material, or hidden gems, unfortunately.

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The making of videos were interesting. Seeing the final light saber battle, the forest, be hand built, was truly impressive. Little things like this are often ignored by viewers, or something we simply take for granted. Thankfully, the inclusion of this, leads me to further appreciate one of the better parts in the movie.

The making of documentary is over an hour of additional making of, that goes over writing, film, production and choosing of the actors. Anyone who is a fan of this film, needs to sit down and check this out.

VERDICT

Star Wars: The Force Awakens might be one of the most anticipated films in a long time. It had a laundry list of boxes to check off, to not only satisfy fans, but those new to the franchise. JJ Abrams and Disney put their heart and effort into the film, and it really shows. The film is far from perfect, but holds up under repeat viewings thanks in part to its stylized execution and chemistry from its stars. No Blu Ray collection is complete without The Force Awakens. Buy it!

Images were used from BluRay.com.

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