“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is available now! The set comes with three discs — the film on Blu-ray, the film on DVD, and nestled between them, one disc of bonus features.
Fans are probably divided between those who return first to the film itself and those who dive right into the bonus features, but neither set will be disappointed. Unnerving though it is to see “The Force Awakens” on home televisions less than four months after its fanfared theatrical release, the film translates beautifully to the small screen. There is nothing like hearing your theater explode into applause when Han Solo steps onto the Millennium Falcon, but having the ability to pause and rewind Rey’s perplexing Force vision is, in its own way, equally rewarding.
The bonus features on The Force Awakens Blu-ray also offer a new perspective on what may have been the most anticipated film of this decade. The pièce de résistance is the four-part documentary “Secrets of ‘The Force Awakens:’ A Cinematic Journey,” which begins with George Lucas’ sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, and the appointment of Kathleen Kennedy as president of the legendary company.
Stages of production are skimmed through at varying depths. Early concept work on the film is covered nicely, and it’s a real joy to watch Daisy Ridley and John Boyega perform the auditions that won them the coveted roles of Rey and Finn. The documentary scrolls through filming with a rosy eye (Harrison Ford’s first scenes on the Millennium Falcon set are covered in-depth; the set accident that broke his leg is omitted from the narrative) but overall offers a nice highlight real of the production process. When the documentary ends, covering the filming of Mark Hamill’s only appearance in the film on Skelig Michael Island, it’s all but impossible not to experience the rush of heady possibility that “The Force Awakens” represents.
Other featurettes also provide that sense of connection between fans and film, while other focus on the technical aspects of the story. A piece on the first table read for “The Force Awakens” manages to evoke both the thrill and the risk of the cinematic adventure. Ridley and Boyega both insist, adorably, that they were awful in the read-through, and Mark Hamill’s script narration is the stuff of Star Wars dreams.
However, the highly-anticipated deleted scenes don’t ultimately offer much by way of story or impact. Of the six (very short) scenes offered on “The Force Awakens” Blu-ray, only Kylo Ren’s silent examination of the Falcon adds any extra depth — though Rey and Finn’s unfinished speeder chase on Starkiller Base is fun to watch.
Surprisingly, the best bonus content may be a featurette called “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight.” The piece details the work and behind-the-scenes process of Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren’s now-legendary battle on Starkiller Base. From the creation of an enormously complicated set, to Ridley, Boyega, and Adam Drivers’ discussion of the intense physical and mental requirements of the scene, the “Blueprint” offers the kind of truly intimate look at a pivotal Star Wars moment that many fans crave. (The fact that the small documentary is filled in withstunning behind-the-scenes camera work of the epic fight doesn’t hurt either.)
Most of the other Blu-ray extras fill in subjects touched on briefly in “Secrets of ‘The Force Awakens.’” The interesting-but-brief segments include pieces on crafting BB-8 and the film’s numerous creatures, a small documentary on John Williams and his incredible score, and a look at the transformative CGI work done at Industrial Light and Magic. Rounding out the set is a charming piece on the charity work done by JJ Abrams and the “Force for Change” project.
It must be said that, though the extras on “The Force Awakens” Blu-ray offer an interesting and entertaining look at the high points of production, a certain amount of depth and breadth remains unexplored. Michael Kaplan’s incredible costume work receives relatively little attention, there are no audio commentaries offered on the film, and no one element of design or process is given more than a few minutes in the spotlight. Compared to, for example, the molecular documentaries in “The Lord of the Rings” extended editions, the material in “The Force Awakens” can seem like potential unfulfilled.
None of this, however, reduces the value of what is actually provided on “The Force Awakens” Blu-ray. The features are, if nothing else, a peak into an elaborate and monumental feat of filmmaking. Ultimately, the bonus features serve to echo the joy and exhilaration of the film itself, and reinforce the final words of the script: “The promise of a new adventure just beginning.”
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