Wars: The Force Awakens
(2015/Lucasfilm/Disney Blu-rays w/DVD)
B+ & C+ Sound: B & C+ Extras: B Film: B-
the original Star
(1977 - 1983, especially in its original versions before creator
George Lucas kept changing visuals and 'upgrading'/replacing original
visual effects with not always better digital ones), the franchise
moved into a sort of hibernation period, only slowly coming back and
becoming popular again starting with the trilogy's rerelease in the
late 1990s that would be followed by the mixed results of a prequel
trilogy. Original fans who might not have been happy with the
changes to the original films nor pleased with the new ones were left
sort of short changed, especially since you could not see 'Han shoots
first' among other things.
a remarkable series of events happened, staring with Disney's
purchase of Lucasfilm to go with their Marvel Comics purchase. Many
wondered if Lucas would stick to retirement, something many preferred
after all the changes, but then who would write and direct whatever
'Episode 7' turned out to be. After some reluctance due to his work
in the semi-rival Star
franchise, the somewhat shocking news J.J. Abrams would direct what
was finally entitled Star
Wars: The Force Awakens
(2015) caused fans to wonder if a new series of disasters were on the
way or might something good happen if they could get the original
good sign is that they got the original cast (most still with us,
luckily) together, then Abrams boldly showed off the fact that he
would shot the whole big budgeted production on film stock, upsetting
film haters worldwide and sticking with one of the biggest reasons
he's a success today... embrace high quality even when the 'haters'
want you to abandon it for no good reason. With Disney and Lucasfilm
subdivision ILM (which created Pixar and has always had rights to all
their secret technological innovations as part of the sales terms
Lucas established when he spun it off so long ago) having the best
digital visual effects around, the film was guaranteed to be a few
steps ahead of every other kind of blockbuster trying to be like it.
Yes, it was sounding like 1977 again in the best way.
what do we get? The box office shows some loved it bigtime, while
there were more than a few people who actually thought it was awful,
lame, unimaginative and everything we've seen before, reenforced by
Lucas' voicing that his ideas for the films had been tossed away (aka
stored secretly away for no reason), so Disney was taking a huge risk
that could have backfired like Howard
meets a stock market crash... but that did not happen.
they got people who loved the films deeply enough involved, with the
key win behind the scenes was getting Lawrence Kasdan back to revive
the wit that had been missing from the recent films, penning the
screenplay with Abrams and Michael Arndt. Thus the film weaves the
introduction of new characters with the return of the classic
originals in what might be the most commercially successful
achievement in wish fulfillment in commercial cinema history, but the
real success here is totally throwing out all the phoniness of 1980s
phony action cinema and stay in the world of the original films.
two parallel storylines meld together nicely enough built on the
schematic of remaking the 1977 film and the timing and shots usually
work. However, even I have to admit I could tell there was one thing
missing here that started to fade in Return
Of The Jedi
and barely turned up in the prequels enough: The George Lucas Touch.
The heart, soul and quirks that put the original film on the map and
forever cemented the franchise as the modern model of fun commercial
blockbusters is gone, a part of 'The Force' no one can duplicate and
that this film (resolving the original storylines for all the initial
characters) might be the conclusion of that discourse... sadly.
nice early touch is getting the legendary Max Von Sydow in the
opening sequence, able to take on everyone and everything (including
the visual effects) in the first moment that the makers are hardcore
serious about making this a winning film. It works, then we meet a
storm trooper (John Boyega in one of the great star-making
performances), a rebel pilot (the always watchable Oscar Isaac), a
young survivor who stands alone and does what she has to to survive
(the instantly amazing Daisy Ridley), an evil new warlord named Kylo
Ren (the underrated Adam Driver proving how great an actor he really
is) and many more pleasant surprises that I was not surprising
because the film takes on enough of a life of its own to deliver to
most of the cynical doubters.
Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew and Mark Hamill
are all back as well as can be expected not trying to be something
phony, but who the characters would be at this point and bravely not
afraid of age. I could hear a little shock at each turn when they
appeared in this respect, but unlike phony franchises since 1977
(they all want to be Star
the film's strength is not denying age or mortality in fake ways,
fakeness that seems especially dated post-9/11, but that makes the
film all the more winning for what does work.
its not perfect and it could not exist without the the first two
films in the franchise in particular, but here it is and for most
people, it pulls off what could have gone very, very badly otherwise.
Yes, some of it might seem contrived from a distance in some ways
and others could say what it does best took too long, but better late
than never. Star
Wars: The Force Awakens
may not always be original, but it has the energy to overcome its
limits like the best cinema of the time the 1977 film arrived; an
energy itself we used to see all the time, but one that has dimmed
into near darkness from a cinematic galaxy far, far, far, far away...
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is from the
full 35mm version of the film, so the aspect ratio does not expand
during the IMAX 70mm-shot footage is in reduction mode, yet the
exceptionally shot film (shot on Kodak's stunning Vision 3 65mm and
35mm color negative Vision 3 series T-grain stocks) is one of the
best-looking films of the year with ease. They could have tried to
make it look like bad HD, a flaw many using film for the first time
would make with mostly bad HD as a reference, but Director of
Photography Daniel Mindel (Enemy
Of The State,
the underrated Amazing
Abrams' two Star
films so far, Mission
also uses the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent and very
important as he has before, shot for a very big screen. Thus this
visually pays off nicely. Also released in good-looking 3D
theatrically, this 2D-only Blu-ray still shows the depth intended and
despite some small flaws, you can now experience the look and feel
intended pretty much throughout.
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image DVD also included is
passable at best, but not great, making the Blu-ray the way to see
this at home until Disney starts issuing titles in the amazing new 4K
Ultra HD Blu-ray format.
its best sonically in theaters, the film was issued in the Dolby
Atmos 11.1 and IMAX 12-track sound presentations, but Disney has
settled on a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is
usually an effective mixdown with some fine sonic moments for the
most part. Some theaters even had D-BOX
and we suspect that might be here too. However, unlike my theatrical
screening that was also a mixdown, I am a bit disappointed to report
that some sound effects and directionality fall a little flat, but
this is inherent to the discs's mix and something we hope to hear
more about in the near future. Otherwise, the sonics deliver well
enough. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is still so much less
warm and structured, it is still no match for the DTS lossless here.
in this nice slipcase packaging include Digital Copy, Deleted Scenes
and featurettes Secrets
of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey, The Story Awakens: The
Table Read, Building BB-8, Crafting Creatures, Blueprint of a Battle:
The Snow Fight, Force For Change, ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force
Williams: The Seventh Symphony.
That's all on its own Blu-ray disc and will be plenty for fans and
the curious alike.