Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith DVD Review
PictureRevenge of the Sith looks pretty-much as good as it gets, although it is helped out no end by having been shot using hi-definition digital cameras, with the transfer for the DVD created directly from the digital source. Detail is generally fabulous, softness only occasionally creeping in so as to obscure the otherwise more noticeable effects. There was no apparent edge enhancement and certainly no grain whatsoever. The colour scheme is broad and vivid, dictated largely by the different planets and climates that are captured within the movie - from the Thailand-styled Wookie homeworld to the Lava planet. Blacks are also solid and allow for decent shadowing. Overall, the whole movie looks simply tremendous, with epic space battles, fiery light sabre duels and all-out war on myriad planets all looking superb.
SoundSith is also presented with a fantastic audio track - a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix that sounds simply amazing throughout. Right from the rousing opening theme and epic space battle, the movie grabs you and throws you into a very different universe, bombarding your senses with explosions and lasers being blasted across your living room. The dialogue takes a distinct second place, but is never less than clear, mainly coming from the frontal array but occasionally given some directionality. The effects sound brilliant and I cannot think of many movies with more effects to hurl at the audience (except perhaps war movies). Every little sound is observed with clinical precision, not least the tremendous light sabre sequences. Overall it is a fabulous track (arguably one of the best Dolby 5.1 tracks that I have come across, easily rivalling many DTS alternatives) that will not disappoint fans of the movie.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary with Director George Lucas, Producer Rick McCallum, Animation Director Rob Coleman and Visual Effects Supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett. They talk about everything from the opening crawl to the climactic duels, giving a ludicrous amount of detail into both the origins and the production itself. They discuss the massive opening battle sequence, how it took over a year of tinkering to fully finish, introducing General Grievous (which they do terribly for those who have not seen the Clone Wars), how much the 82-year-old Christopher Lee could do during his fight sequence, why Greivous coughs (although without mentioning the Clone Wars incident), how dark the movie is and, of course, the visual effects used. They discuss the cultures that had to be created on the different planets, mentioning the various different segments that were cut (from more of Boga, the giant lizard, to alternate dialogue here and there) and scenes that were up to be cut but were kept in. Oddly, Lucas himself talks about Anakin's quick change over to Sith and how it was originally going to be done in just one scene (which would have been even worse!). It is quite a nice, interesting commentary, although heavily on the technical side - there are only so many times I want to hear how an effect shot was done in a movie where no shots were done without effects. Perhaps a cast commentary would have been nicer, or just having Lucas talk about his story ideas and concepts.
On the second disc we have the real bulk of the extras, with 'Within a Minute: the Making of Episode III' running at anything but a minute. Split into thirty-three segments, it is still a massive seventy-eight minutes long and spends this overlong period of time basically discussing what went into the big climax on the lava planet. In the Art section, Lucas discusses his original ideas, we get to see them go through plenty of concept art and hear how he changed the script as the artwork took shape. Pre-Visualization looks at the transition from storyboard to computer animatics, the Production Office and Catering segments are largely filler, Production Design looks at the set designs, explaining the transition from concept into real-world, Construction looks at the actual building of the sets and the Props, Hair & Makeup and Costumes segments speak for themselves. We get a couple of minutes devoted to the actors in the climax (which offers up some green-screen footage of the fight and interviews with both Ewan MacGregor and Hayden Christensen), then a couple of minutes on the stunt work and stunt doubles used for this sequence. We look at Lucas himself (in the Director segment), the Cinematography of the scene, the Sound Recording and the Editing. The ILM section is devoted to the visual effects (every single scene utilised effects in this movie), we meet the VFX supervisors, look at the 3D effects work, the Animation department, the Digital Environment Group and the Lighting department. There's information on the CG models, the real models, Motion Control, Rotoscoping and Compositing, although not really enough to fully explain any of the more complicated techniques. We look at all aspects of the soundtrack with Sound Design, Score and Sound Mixing segments and finally close with a Final Screening moment. You would expect that after all this you would have learned a great deal about the movie but the reality is that you probably haven't - it merely does a good job showcasing all of the many faces behind the scenes on this production. Still, fans will want to watch the whole thing and at least you have the option of picking and choosing areas of interest (especially since I've listed them all in order).
It's All For Real: The Stunts of Episode III is an eleven-minute look at the stunt work (which was almost all done in front of a green screen). We get comments from the stunt coordinators (and sword masters), who discuss the difficulties that they face with both the actors and the sets, along with plenty of footage of them rehearsing. Whilst there are plenty of stunt doubles to be seen here (particularly for the wire-work), to be honest you can tell little difference between their skills with a sword and those of Ewan or Hayden. Lucas himself pops up to talk about the merits of practicing and how he uses the test footage of the fight (again, we are largely looking at the final fight sequence, although there is a bit on the Mace Windu fight as well) to develop his own draft script. It is quite a nice little addition to the main documentary that some might find both easier to digest and more informative because, despite its relative brevity, it is far more focussed on one particular topic: the sabre-fights.
The Chosen One spends fourteen minutes dissecting Anakin's transition to the Dark Side. We get clips from all six movies, looking at the development of Anakin and the corresponding turning of Vader in the subsequent movies. Lucas discusses how he wanted to have everything fit into place and we even get to see him giving directions to Hayden on how to act (which obviously didn't work out too well). Unfortunately, no matter how much praise these two give one another, the end result still just does not sit right - there is absolutely no reason (in this movie) for Anakin to have gone from Jedi to Genocide in a matter of minutes. Still, this is a provocative featurette worth taking a look at, with plenty of b-roll and production footage, along with numerous interviews providing almost providing a running commentary for the visuals.
There are six deleted scenes, each with optional introductions by George Lucas (and his producer). They talk about how scenes are normally deleted because movies are too long - and how this film is no exception. First up we get 'Grievous Slaughters a Jedi: Escape from the General'. This is one of the best deleted scenes that I have come across on the Star Wars DVDs, with more of Grievous being evil, an explanation (one of two version that were filmed) as to what happens to one of the main characters from the Clone Wars series and even a bit of a chase through the General's ship. You can see why something had to go from the opening sequence (it is pretty long as is) but perhaps this one could have done with being re-inserted for the purposes of the special edition DVD. 'A Stirring in the Senate' introduces an unnecessary political subplot through a few scenes that would have been dotted across the main film. I can see why it was removed, but it is quite nice to see it here. 'Seeds of Rebellion' continues this political subplot and is, again interesting but slightly unnecessary. 'Confronting the Chancellor' concludes this particular storyline, bringing it to the boil with a confrontation between the Senate Committee and Palpatine, with Anakin hanging in the wings. 'A Plot to Destroy the Jedi ?' is a scene with Yoda, Obi-Wan and Mace Windu, discussing the looming disaster that they seek to avoid. Whilst it is always nice to have more of these three, Lucas explains - quite rightly - that it was largely unnecessary since much of the information was dealt with in other scenes. For the final scene, 'Exiled to Dagobah', Lucas and his producer explain why it was one of the most painful sequences to cut out (again, why not reinstate it for the DVD release? - at least optionally with seamless branching) and given the sheer volume of fade-through sequences at the end of the movie (something like half a dozen to tie up all the numerous loose ends) you wonder why they did not just leave it in there.
We get a nice teaser trailer (the one with Alec Guinness in it), an 'Epic Trailer' which runs a little bit longer and gives away all of the plot points (if you did not already know them) and the music video 'A Hero Falls', which sums up the entire movie (complete with sound bites) in little over three minutes, set to the main climax theme tune. There are also a whole bunch of TV spots: Jedi Action, Jedi Unite, Showdown, To Protect You, Seduction, Celebration, Brothers, Epic Tragedy, Teaser Cutdown, Trailer Cutdown, Dark Side Unleashed, Tragedy, Sith Happens, more Jedi Action and Review. Most of them paint the plot in the wrong light and have that ludicrous voiceover man working overtime on them (especially the horrible Review section which includes the dreaded 'two thumbs up' comment). The only one that has been really put together well is the Trailer Cutdown version with just brief flash images of key scenes and little giveaway dialogue.
There is also an Xbox demo for Star Wars Battlefront II, along with a trailer for that (which makes it look pretty amazing) and Star Wars Empire At War. Finally we get several photo galleries with myriad stills split into various categories, with 105 Exclusive Production Photos (which also cover the deleted scenes and have interesting little text explanations for each shot), an Outdoor Print Campaign (including some pretty cool shots of the central characters - and the option to press down on your control and see different versions of each) and 17 One-Sheet Posters (which are utterly worthless because they are all almost exactly the same, just with the Episode III bit written in different languages!).
VerdictIf you have seen the Clone Wars then you should add at least half a mark to the movie score because it significantly increases your understanding and enjoyment of this, the final chapter of a much anticipated (and often derided) trilogy of prequels. It is still not on par with the later events (other than in terms of far superior light sabre battles) mainly because it lacks that aforementioned 'Hans Solo' element of humour and fun that made the other films more of an adventure (something which was present in Joss Whedon's well-scripted Firefly feature-film, Serenity). But if you came here to see how things turned out for Obi, Anakin et al. then you will not be disappointed by the fights that ensue, which carry the movie through to its devastating conclusion. Presentation-wise, this DVD is pretty-much perfect. The video transfer is tremendous, the audio mix is exceptional and the extras are comprehensive (and, for once, include Deleted Scenes that are actually worth watching). Fans will already have this for their collection. Those who have followed the previous movies should consider investing in this, the strongest part of the trilogy and newcomers have a great deal of catching up to do before this truly makes any sense. If you're waiting for a special edition then you may not want to hold your breath (it is vaguely hinted at in the special features but sounds like it will be a long, long way off). For the time being, this is the best we get and it is good enough.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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