The day has finally arrived, Star Wars the complete saga has finally arrived on blu-ray. With much fanfare and much fan complaining about the inevitable changes, improvements and other tweaks.
While I am far from a hardcore audio and visual phile, I am a hardcore Star Wars fan and I have been anxiously awaiting this boxset. Also, there are better reviews out there and tons of information on this set, so I probably wont be digging too deeply into this, just giving my overview.
The boxset itself is 9 discs, 1 disc for each of the 6 films, 1 disc with Original Trilogy specific bonus features, 1 disc with Prequel Trilogy specific bonus features and 1 last disc with documentaries.
The two most talked about parts of this set are the Original Trilogy deleted scenes and bonus features and the changes to the films.
First, we have the Original Trilogy (and Prequel Trilogy) related bonus features. This was the selling point for me, I’ve waited years to see these things and was incredibly pleased with what was there. The Original Trilogy deleted scenes are by far more interesting than the Prequel deleted scenes. The Prequel scenes are a lot of animatics with some green screen footage interspersed. These are interesting to see from a film making stand point, but they don’t hold a candle to the Original Trilogy deleted scenes.
Also on the Trilogy specific discs are 360 degree and hi-res detail views of many costumes, props, matte paintings, maquettes, etc. For someone like me who is really into the costuming and props this was an amazing inclusion and will greatly help people working on recreating these.
Next, we have the films themselves. Like every variation of these films that have been released over the years, there are changes and 90% of the changes are improvements and wont be noticed by most people. Greedo still shoots first, Jabba still looks lousy in A New Hope, etc. New to the films now are changes such as Wicket now has improved eyes and blinks, Vader says “Noooo!” in Return of the Jedi, Obi-wan has a new Krayt Dragon call, and others. These were the most discussed changes though.
With the films, the Prequel Trilogy being newer and better prepared for the HD formats, they have never looked better, especially The Phantom Menace which had the most dated and problematic transfer to DVD.
The Original Trilogy is a bit more of a mixed bag. We have scenes of incredible detail and richness that it’s hard to believe these are 30 year old movies, but a lot of the effects simply do not stand up to the added detail and enhancement of HD. There are A LOT of garbage mattes, blue/green screen lines and some uneven quality. In the same scene you will have certain angles of great quality and clarity, but the next cut will show grain and uneven coloring, possibly even lower than standard DVD definition. A lot of this is to be expected of a 30 year old movie and I think most people will not notice, but hardcore people like me will notice.
On a positive note, a lot of the artifacting and poor transfer on the previous DVD have been corrected, although some coloration issues exist.
Regarding the changes, I’m fine with most of them. The most controversial is the Darth Vader dialogue added in Return of the Jedi. I actually don’t mind the added dialogue, it’s very noticeable though because the audio is a very strange mix. The added dialogue seems much louder than all the other dialogue in the scene. So, that really helps it to stand out and not feel like it was part of the scene. It’s 5 seconds of audio and not enough for me to run around crying foul and claiming my childhood was raped. The positives far outweigh the negatives here.
In the end, this is a quality set. It’s obvious that a lot of time and care was put into assembling it. For all fans of Star Wars, this is a must buy with more than any fan could have asked for.