All six entries in the Complete Saga come to Blu-ray presented with 1080p High Definition video renditions in the movies’ original theatrical aspect ratios of 2.35:1 widescreen.
The Phantom Menace (7/10)
If any of the video presentations were going to be controversial, it surely had to be that of the first movie. As many fans will already know, The Phantom Menace was the last of the Star Wars movies to be shot on standard 35mm film, the resulting anamorphic print unfortunately not really standing up when compared to the digitally-shot later movies. On SD-DVD it looked awful, plagued by noise and edge enhancement, as well as heavy grain, a strangely muted colour palette, and a shamefully cropped image (although the same aspect ratio, all the edges were trimmed to avoid the damage that is most prevalent there). Clearly this was the movie that was going to need the most work.
Well, first the good news: The Phantom Menace has had a brand new 2K transfer struck, the resulting much-needed remastered image looking considerably better than the film ever did on SD-DVD. The colours are much brighter, much more vibrant, and more vivid too, bringing it more in-line with the other prequels. Sure, skin tones often border on the over-saturated, veering in a distinctly orange direction, but that’s still certainly an improvement over the pale, muted look from before. The detail is also greatly improved; the CG-based segments – particularly the more panoramic landscape shots or battle sequences – look simply perfect. There are several jaw-dropping moments; the CG also appears to be better integrated into the proceedings; and the heavy layer of overbearing grain has also been swept away. It’s a marked improvement, and one which should impress fans considerably.
That said, there is some bad news: in polishing up the image to make it cleaner and more digital-looking, it appears that a fair amount of DNR has been implemented. Whilst I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say that it has had as bad an effect as we have seen on, say, the Predator Blu-ray, it is certainly going in that direction: we’re talking about waxy faces and a perpetually polished look for many of the cast. Liam Neeson appears to have suffered the worst, and there are one or two freeze-frame moments where the entire image takes on the look of a painted comic book (pause towards the end of the scene where Qui-Gon is trying to persuade the Council to allow him to take Anakin as an apprentice). This overbearing application of DNR is far from fatal, however; the resulting edge enhancement is surprisingly negligible, and, as stated above, the more effects-driven moments actually clearly shine through with stunning clarity. The CG characters – even that idiot Binks – look better than ever before, lovingly polished up and yet blending into the backgrounds like you would not believe, with scant few instances where they stand out in a strikingly obvious way and interfere with your enjoyment of the movie.
Furthermore the image benefits greatly from the wider original scope, the image returned to its original ‘fuller’ size, with more information now around the edges. At the end of the day, whilst you may baulk at what they’ve done with many of the faces, for the most part you will likely be really quite impressed by the surprising improvement over SD-DVD. The Phantom Menace has never looked better. Yes, it’s nowhere near demo quality. Yes, it’s got its problems, but, by far this is much more enjoyable viewing experience.
Attack of the Clones (8/10)
Attack of the Clones was the first Star Wars film to be shot digitally. As such, on SD-DVD, it looked, at the time, gorgeous – particularly when compared to the presentation of its lacklustre predecessor. Unfortunately, whilst certainly not having as many disadvantages as The Phantom Menace, there were still some issues with the way in which ‘Clones was shot, and the result is still shy of demo quality. Basically, because it was one of the first movies to be realised using Digital technology, it was also one of the early few which were still suffering from the ‘testing’ of the process – Lucas himself felt that the preview footage shot was simply too sharp and clear and thus it was processed to take the edge off and look a little softer. This has the result of marginally restraining the final film presentation, preventing it from having that glorious 3D pop, depth of image and stunning clarity that you may have hoped for (and which the next film would have).
That said, ‘Clones is not only a significant improvement over ‘Menace, but it is also resoundingly good almost throughout. Certainly softness becoming an issue is the exception, not the rule, and for the most part the detail is excellent – the movie once again benefitting a great deal from all the CG effects – basically the more CG there is on screen, the better the image generally looks (and, once again, the CG characters are generally extremely well-integrated, smoothly blended into the proceedings for the most part). The colour scheme is also well rendered, taking on a slightly bluer hue than before, but possibly even improving as a result.
Revenge of the Sith (10/10)
Well we come to the cream of the crop. Again, technology had moved on by the time ‘Revenge was filmed, with better HD cameras, and better processing, that this time required no horrendous digital filtering and subsequent softness. As a result Revenge of the Sith looks absolutely stunning, true reference quality material, and up there with the best of the best on Blu-ray.
For starters detail is astounding on all the shots now, not just the CG-dominated ones, faces and live action elements standing up to even the closest examination. This time there’s no sign of wanton DNR application, or aberrant digital defects: there’s no edge enhancement, no banding, pretty-much nothing to complain about whatsoever. The colour scheme has been lavishly reproduced with no obvious alteration, the palette rendered vividly and realistically – and yet with all the vibrance you would expect from a Star Wars adventure. Black levels are truly astounding as well, offering up a brilliant backdrop to the proceedings, which are often bathed in deep shadows. With some significant 3D pop too, this remains an outstanding, demo quality presentation, and the highlight of both the package and the trilogy.
“I have a bad feeling about this ...”
By now there can't be anybody reading this who hasn't either studied other reports about these transfers or seen them for themselves.
Yes, they are indeed the same Lowry restoration prints made for the 2004 DVD releases and, as such, they are a total hodgepodge of inconsistencies that Blu-ray only makes more apparent. And whilst many of the issues that plagued those earlier editions have been rewardingly addressed, others haven't. But, overall, do they look good when increased to 1080p?
Hell, yes. Though not as good as they could have looked with a proper restoration and the 4K scan that they deserved. Harrumph!
“Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.”
All three films come with AVC encodes and are presented 2.35:1. All three have grain, which can be smooth and even, but can also be slightly coarser and frozen at other times, but I only rarely found this to be intrusive. All three also have some minor edge enhancement that still remains, but this is absolutely inconsequential compared to how they have looked on DVD. DNR? Yep, there could still be some going on … but, as with the EE, it is slight and appears moulded to maintain a consistency of texture throughout the trilogy. Once again, I wasn't too perturbed by it.
The garbage mattes that really dated the films haven't been altogether banished, but they have been improved. I certainly wasn't as bothered by them as I used to be, although you will surely still catch a few of them. I know people who really loathe this sort of thing and had been praying that they'd be gone for good. Alas, that is not to be.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (7/10)
I thought that this one looked the worst out of the three, despite having the most obvious improvements made to it. Appearing as though it has been culled from a variety of different sources – oh, wait, it has – the image fluctuates throughout. By far the most afflicted elements are found during the Tatooine sections of the movie. The rocks, the sand, the sky, the skin-tones all fluctuate continually. Now I was looking for it, I know, but I found this to be really distracting. A full restoration would have evened this out, I'm certain.
We are also afflicted by softness and lens flares and the sort of boosted colours and contrast that make you squint. It's a desert, of course, so this is all probably very appropriate, but it doesn't look very nice to me. Some shots look unbelievably old and shabby, usually the exterior and more sandy scenes – Luke looking out at the binary sunset, for instance. As iconic an image as this is – and, as I write this, NASA has just confirmed the discovery of a real-life twin-star system with a revolving planet - it still looks rough to me. There is even a shot of Threepio doing his Mr. Bean walk across the sand after leaving Artoo that has a faint smudgy glow around him, almost as though the previous EE had been digitally erased by a three-year-old. Improvements are made with attention to precise detail. I would hesitate to call the image spotless, however, as the picture now yields up more of that lived-in quality that Lucas was always aiming for. But we can see lots of fabric detail, finite toolings on vehicles and weapons, patterns and colouring on droids, grime and smears on walls and the texture of plenty of surfaces that aren't Death Star related. And look at the skin texture on the old Rebel at the start, and on Ben. Selectively, this looks great. Though, generally, it is merely adequate.
Once we move away from Tatooine, things become much, much better, in my opinion.
Black levels are terrific despite some small elements of crushing that do detract from the dimensionality of the image. Interiors look terrific with good contrast for the most part. The cockpits of the X-Wings reveal more detail and the whole trench sequence offers up a much improved sense of depth and scale.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (7.5/10)
Overall, I was very happy with how Empire looked. There were no great revelations to be found with the increased resolution, but detail seemed sharper without the image having been egregiously manipulated, and the finished result is much more consistent. This is a softer-looking film than ANH, but I don't think this has anything to do with DNR. It was originally photographed that way, as was ROTJ, and a few sideline details are blurred with the anamorphic lenses. Colours are bright and exciting and don't suffer too much from the fluctuations that ANH does. Contrast is also excellent – the orange flight suits of the Rebel pilots. The dazzling whites and blues of Hoth blend in smoothly with only one or two glitches or warped white-outs. Oh, and the snowspeeders don't seem anywhere near as transparent as they used to, making their attack runs and flybys a lot more substantial and visually impressive. The blood in the Wampa's cave is bright and bold.
Details in the asteroids and across the surface of the Star Destroyers are more pronounced, although there are still plenty of occasions when such things also appear softer and much less defined. Facial texture is all right. Nothing more, although Luke's wounds from the Wampa look a little more clinically precise. Yoda yields up lots of detail, from the weave of his little robe to the spidery hair on his head.
Once again, the black levels were amazing, even given the element of crush that follows on from ANH. Superb shadow depth and delineation aids the star-fields, the shadow thrown out by the Executor as it sweeps over the rest of the fleet, the eeriness of Dagobah and the events in the Tree, the moody down-time in the Falcon as they reside unwittingly in the slug's gut, and the atmospheric sequences in Bespin's hidden chambers. And, once more, it is Darth Vader who scoops the best-dressed-in-black award for a truly resplendent aspect of shiny Stygian. I've seen comments that he becomes little more than a bur at times. Sorry, but I don't see that as being the case. His chest console, the plates of his armour, the swish of his cape, the occasional moments when we can see through his mask – nothing looks blurred to me. In ANH there were times when his actual bodily profile was swept up in the darkness of his cape, but it never struck me as looking either lost or blurred.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (7/10)
Although, once again, the Tatooine sections of the film look rough and quite grubby in spite of the greater clarity and detail, Jedi benefits from the vibrant boost that Endor grants it. After a very shaky introduction to the forest moon, in which the image is much softer and less well defined (right up to the speeder-bike chase, in fact), the transfer suddenly remembers what it is supposed to be delivering. This lapse in quality is actually apparent on the DVDs too, so I can only assume it is inherent to the master. I did notice it here more starkly though. But having said this, once things are sorted out, we have lush green foliage and pleasing shadow delineation, lots of visual depth and closely defined clarity on the leaves and trees. Colours are frequently sublime, with the various hues and patterns of the Ewoks' fur and the Denison-style shading of the Rebels' camouflage smocks scrubbing up nicely. Admiral (It's a trap!) Ackbar has plenty of crustacean colouring that looks fine, and the various ne'er-do-wells in Jabba's entourage, including the awesome Gamorrean Guards and the likes of Salacious Crumb and the Max Rebo Band reveal lots of new hues and shades. Do we still see a flashed boob in Jabba's Palace? I'll let you look for it.
Detail in all three films is rarely astonishing, but things like Chewie's straggly hair, the clarity of eyes shining through masks, the blinking lights and energy pulses from starship thrusters, and the ever-present blaster-bolts have a keener degree of separation and definition to them that make the picture immediately more satisfying. Integration of the visual FX shots and, more pertinently, the CG additions that came in with the Special Editions, is much better than ever before. They are never going to compare to more modern techniques, obviously, but things like Luke running behind the Rancor, the Cloud City dew-drop vehicles doing flybys and the extra activities in Mos Eisely all look better composited into the frame, their edges far less glaring and intrusive. Even Jabba's infamous scene in the hangar when he confronts Han in ANH looks better than it did last time around. Contrary to many other people, I actually like this scene quite a bit. The prints are clean and there are no spots, specks or debris on show. Artefacts aren't troubling, and there's no smearing or banding with any of the transfers for the Original Trilogy. Fast action is blissfully free of aliasing. I think some people will find the blacks perhaps too overpowering at times, although I love them, but it is hard to think that anyone other than AV enthusiasts and die-hards are going to complain.
“Search your feelings, you know it to be true.”
With Lucas busy preparing full 3D versions of the saga, you must realise that we are going to get the films foisted upon us all over again in a few years time. And since his crew are going back to do proper restorative work on them for this new unveiling, that means that the pristine 2D versions will also be available as a direct consequence. And you can bet that he will release the Original Trilogy in gorgeously restored hi-definition from at least the 4K scans they should have received this time around, only in a boxset with their 3D companions, thereby Forcing fans to pick them up all over again.
Overall Picture Score for Original Trilogy 7/10
There really is no point in splitting up the reviews of the audio side to things as all three chapters in the Prequel Trilogy sound undeniably amazing in High Def. Perfect 10s across the board.
Given brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 tracks, I can’t see anybody finding fault with them, as every single element has been balanced and presented well on the array. Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, making it through even the most lively sequence intact, and generally emanating from the frontal array. The effects are myriad, and really light up the sound-stage, creating a palpable Star Wars atmosphere that goes a long way towards fully immersing you in these faraway worlds: the dominant sounds of laser blasts echoing around your room; the low thrum of the lightsabers making them truly come to life, the fizzle as they clash further raising those hairs on your neck; and bigger battles consequently come with far more LFE use, although it’s almost ever-presence, giving the soundtrack a lovely rumbling low edge to it, which makes it feel far more potent. John Williams’s score is presented well too, no matter how much they jumbled it around for the middle chapter, his haunting melodies, thematic moments and playful jibes all coming across as you have simply never heard them before. If Revenge of the Sith is an example of how you, ideally, would have wanted all of the Prequel Trilogy films to look, then you should rest assured that all three sound equally fantastic, and I can’t imagine anybody expecting any more from them. This is how you do it.
“I don't know where you get your delusions, laser-brain.”
“Laugh it up, fuzzball.”
I see all three films have constructed a new lossless sound-mix. Impressive. Equipped now with DTS-HD MA 6.1 tracks, the Original Trilogy rocks the house with often astonishing bass levels and some wonderfully steered, all-channel, totally immersive wraparound FX that you can't help but delight in. Since the audio design for these films was so innovative, inspired and influential, we had every right to expect nothing but the best. But whilst this is, without doubt, a mind-blowing sensory experience, there are still some niggles. Though just how much of these can be attributed to the source, messed with on previous occasions and now remixed again, is up for question.
The very first thing you want to check out is obviously the fly-over of the Rebel Blockade Runner and the Imperial Star Destroyer. Well, I will say that it doesn't sound exactly like it has in the past – it seems to pack more of a frontal punch than I expected – but, man, it sounds good. And this sets the tone for over six hours of the very reason why we all love surround sound. The width and spatiality afforded by the mix is sumptuous. Movement is seamless and transparent. Numerous impacts happen in front of you, but their echo is scintillatingly borne past and behind you. Even the sound of a Jawa-blasted Artoo hitting the deck carries that same jokey weight that it always did, but with an added background reverb.
The ignition and subsequent thrumming of lightsabers is very nice indeed, and that's before they even clash together. There is a terrific moment before the walls start to close in on our heroes in the trash compactor when we can hear the machinery clunking and clonging into action. This stuff echoes and reverberates brilliantly from way out to the side and around us with a definite sense of being located somewhere just beyond the viewing environment.
The fantastic and iconic sounds for the hand-held blasters and the ship-board canons are also crisp, clean and incredibly vibrant. They cut across the soundscape in every direction, expertly steered around us. The bleeping and blurting and whistling from Artoo has never sounded this clear and shrill and detailed, and it really showcases the transfers' ability to handle subtlety, range and high ends with absolutely strategic and pin-sharp results. This sort of thing is highly consistent across all three films. Also of note is the totally natural and detailed rendering of the rain that falls all around Yoda's hut in Empire. I'm a sucker for good rainfall effects, and this is mint. And the high-pitched shriek of the Mynock rips past us, side to side with alarming speed and clarity.
Of the three I would say that ANH suffers the worst from the overall mix, or rather, I should say doesn't gain as much. Whilst bass and surround and FX are brilliantly handled, dialogue and score can sometimes, only sometimes, but still noticeably, be dialled lower in the mix. Is this a fault of Lucas' and Burtt's original sound-design? For sure it is. But I reckon this could have and should have been smoothed and evened-out by now. I've not heard anyone else complain too much about this, so maybe this could be something that just ticks me off, but the FX are very certainly given precedence over the other ingredients. Scenes in Ben's hut, the Falcon and when Tarkin issues his threat to Leia regarding the location of the rebel base, and in the trash compactor, for a few examples, lack the finesse of the dialogue heard elsewhere. I didn't notice anything like this happening with the other two transfers.
But, across the board, the good stuff is very, very good.
All the big things – the Star Destroyer fly-overs, the explosions of Aldaraan, the Death Star, parts of the Rebel defence on Hoth, Jabba's Sail-barge, the Imperial bunker and the new Death Star, the trundling of the Sandcrawler, the crackling saber duels, the whip-around engines of fighters roaring all over the place – pack an enormous punch that makes you grin from ear to ear. The .LFE makes the floor rumble and tightens your gut. The power feels directed and realistic, genuinely pushed out from a source. Even if the images of these transfers are less than cinematic, the audio very definitely is.
People are commenting on lip-synch issues. Well, I've been able to see and hear both the US (this review set) and the UK discs for the Original Trilogy and I can say that there may be some very slight issues for a moment or two as Vader confronts Leia in the Blockade Runner and then converses with one of his officers after she is led away, but it was brief and not something to get worked up about. In fact, I'm pretty sure this was apparent on previous editions too. And, finally, I didn't notice any audio drop-outs at all.
The Star Wars Original Trilogy sounds fantastic, folks. A couple of issues here and there, but the sheer joy of hearing so much well-steered and completely engrossing activity, coupled with such purely theatrical .LFE means that I am definitely awarding it a full 10.
Here is where we come to the major differences to the separate sets, all but the audio commentaries are only available on this complete set, and I’m sure you all have your own opinion on this marketing strategy ...
- Audio Commentaries Episode I, II & III- The original Commentaries were all already available, and have been ported straight over from the previous releases. Recorded separately, they are Lucas-dominated, and offer up a fair amount of background into the more technical side of the productions. Lucas talks about his original script ideas, the crew discuss some of the intricacies of the sets and detail the technological side of things – the animation, motion capture, CG developments and CG integration with live-action elements. They also acknowledge the use of the same shots repeated across all three films – i.e. the same effects sweeps and force moves are on display across the prequels, perhaps to save money on having to redo the same effects time and again. All in all, those who have not listened to these earlier Commentaries have a great deal to pick up here. Participants are Audio Commentary by George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Roger Guyett and Scott Squires.
The new Commentaries are done in much the same way as the original Commentaries, i.e. a whole bunch of contributors, recorded separately, and integrated together across the films. You would think that, with so many damn voices to accompany the film it would just get chaotic, but the reality is that it is an extremely well-designed Commentary. As with the original tracks, these ones have been cleverly edited to remain remarkably scene-specific. If you’re watching the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan/Darth Maul fight at the end of The Phantom Menace, then, for the duration, you’ll hear background from a dozen different people into various aspects of the fight. And, when the action jumps to the Amidala conflict going on upstairs, similarly the Commentary contributions will change to offer background into that. Although it is not the same as having a roundtable group of narrators taking you through each film, arguably it is more precise, as the interview snippets have been merged together in such a way as to remain on-topic throughout. Participants are from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew, with Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Ray Park, Natalie Portman, Samuel L Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Ahmed Best, Gavin Bocquet, Ben Burtt, Doug Chiang, Rob Coleman, Nick Gillard, Jake Lloyd, George Lucas, John Knoll, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Temuera Morrison, Jimmy Smits, Pablo Helman, Rick McCallum, George Lucas, John Williams, Ben Snow and Scott Squires.
- Audio Commentary Episode IV, V & VI - As you will already know, you can have your Star Wars cake and eat it too with the big full Saga set, which contains not only all of the six movies, but a Bantha-load of supplemental material. Sadly, if you opt for the individual trilogies, you get just the commentary tracks and none of the other stuff that adheres the particular three films you have gone for. Which does seem a little measly, to be honest. What was wrong with supplying the relevant extras for each set?
Anyway … now I'm a big fan of commentary tracks, but I enjoy piecemeal edited-together efforts like these much less than the more considered and specially produced and recorded tracks that give the participants space to breathe and to bounce ideas off of one another. The first track, with Lucas and cast and crew, is familiar from the last DVDs, and is certainly decent enough. The second track, which seems to have a lot more participants involved is culled from archive interviews and has been edited into a reasonably scene-specific account. However, I haven't sat through it all yet. The choppy nature of such and wide-ranging ensemble sort of left me cold.
The rest of the extras are on three separate Blu-ray discs, with pretty much everything upscaled to or natively in 1080 which does put to shame the Lord of the Rings release. The way the discs are structured is this – The first disc contains everything related to the first three episodes, the second disc everything relating to the last three episodes and the third disc a number of feature 'making-of' documentaries, both archive and new. The first and second discs are separated into segments, further detailed below, and each has a ‘play all’ function which, itself is also broken down, meaning you can just watch everything in one go, or bits of everything in one go, or sift through everything to find that one bit that does it for you. Each section is further titled, to make navigation easier, into Interviews, Deleted/Extended Scenes, The Collection and Concept Art Gallery, all of which are detailed below.
Interviews– Mostly newly recorded talking heads with major cast and crew reciting memories, anecdotes, technical information and stories about their time and place within the specific area being discussed.
Deleted/Extended Scenes– the first three films comprises of mainly animatics and unfinished effect shots removed to speed up the pace; the original three films, which, I’d wager, is where the real value of this set comes in, comprises of material culled and never before seen, some of which is Star Wars Gold.
The Collection– Scans of the uncountable amount of models made for the films, even the original unused designs that were built are shown; this section is reserved for those dedicated fans.
Concept Art Gallery– looking at ideas that were ultimately never used.
There are literally hours of material here and pretty much everything you could want, so hold on, there is plenty to get through.
Bonus Disc One – Episode I, II and III
- Play all Function All Archive Features (5.01.38, HD)– Plays everything on the disc, in order from the beginning
- Play All Function Interviews (1.08.16, HD) – Plays all of the interview sections, in order
- Play All Function Deleted/Extended Scenes (49.33, HD)– Plays all the deleted and extended scenes, in order
- Play All Function The Collection (2.29.27, HD)– Look at all the models and related content, in order
- Play All Function Concept Art Gallery (30.41)– Takes you through all the various unused designs, in order
- Naboo Overview – Discussions about rendering the look and style of Naboo using a combination of real sets, locations and CG, both enhancements and characters.
- Liam Neeson – Looks like promotional fluff, when ideas and hopes were high for this project.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Three scenes here entitled Trash-Talking Droids, The Battle is Over and Anakin's Return.
- The Collection – Sections included here are for Jar Jar Maquette, Trade Federation Battleship Model, Republic Cruiser Model, Queen Amidala Throne Room Costume, Full-Sized Battle Droid, Naboo Starfighter Model, Sando Aqua Monster Maquette, Darth Maul Costume and Palpatine's Shuttle Model, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Tatooine Overview – Brief look at returning to ‘Tatooine’ re-creating the style and look of the planet and returning to Tunisia for filming.
- Rick McCallum Interview – Talking about the Podracers' design and the time taken to build the engines.
- Rick McCallum Interview – This time a brief discussion about filming back in Tunisia with no accurate records being kept from the original shoot.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Just the two entitled Battle on the Boarding Ramp and Extended Podrace Wager
- The Collection – this outing looks at Queen's Royal Starship Model, Eopie with Anakin Maquette, Watto Maquette, Sebulba Maquette, Dud Bolt Puppet, Anakin's Podracer Model and the Sith Speeder Model, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas (including C-3PO) with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Coruscant Overview – A brief look at the city planet and home of the Republic as envisaged by John Knoll amongst others.
- George Lucas on Preparing to Write Episode 1 – 1994 – The Emperor prepares the destruction of everything we hold dear.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Entitled Bail Organa of Alderaan, early introduction of Leia’s surrogate father as he seconds the ‘no confidence’ vote.
- The Collection – Here you can look through sections for the Coruscant Air Taxi Model, Queen Amidala Senate Costume, Pre-Senate Address Costume and Senate Guard Costum, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery - Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, mostly Amidala’s costumes, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Coruscant Overview – This time we look at air traffic and get down to the streets of the 'city planet', its design and look.
- Ewan McGregor Interview – More promotional fluff as McGregor regales us of how his uncle was an original rebel pilot and how Star Wars was the first film he saw at the cinema.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – just the two entitled Extended Speeder Chase and The Lost Twenty, the second of which actually has some value with regard its back-story to Count Dooku.
- The Collection - Sections here are for Dexter Jettster Maquette, Zam Wesell Speeder Model, Youngling Outfit and Zam Wesell Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, most being Wesell's costuming and Dex’s design, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Naboo Overview – We now look at how Naboo has developed since we saw it in the last film.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Two scenes this time entitled Anakin's Nightmares (about his mother’s fate) and Anakin and Ruwee (Ruwee being Padme’s father).
- The Collection – Sections included this time are for Shaak Maquette, Anakin Peasant Costume (with and without cloak) and Padme Peasant Costume (with and without cloak), which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, concentrating on Anakin and Padme's costumes and the Shaaks, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Tatooine Overview – Looking back at Tatooine and how it has ‘aged’ in the intervening years between this and the last film.
- The Collection – We can look through sections for the C-3PO Costume, Tusken Raider Woman Costume and Tusken Raider Child Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, mainly looking at Tuscan Raider costumes, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Geonosis Overview – Fair amount discussed in this one, from termite hive inspiration to robot automobile factory line assemblage, with some behind the scenes which comprises of mostly blue-screen work (unsurprisingly).
- Hayden Christensen Interview – This man is even wooden in interviews.
- Blue Screen Acting - Christopher Lee, Christensen, McGregor, Portman and Neeson talk about acting to nothing.
- Deleted/Extended Scene – Two scenes entitled Raid on the Droid Control Ship and Extended Arena Fight, basically some more jedi action, which is always good.
- The Collection – here we can select sections for Geonosian Maquette, Acklay Maquette, Nexu Maquette, Reek Maquette, Padme Trip to Geonosis Costume, Jango Fett Costume, Super Battle Droid Maquette, Geonosis Arena, Republic Gunship Model and Clone Trooper Model, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas for characters, and hairstyles, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Coruscant Overview – A discussion of the high altitude battle raging over the planet that opens the film, also discussed in the cameos by Lucas and various producers and supervisors by Palpatine's opera box.
- Samuel L. Jackson Interview – The BMF himself tells how he managed to get the only purple lightsabre in the galaxy.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Three scenes entitled Elevator Antics, Escape Through the Hangar and Changes to the Constitution.
- The Collection – This time looks at sections for the Separatist Cruiser Model, ARC-170 Model, Jedi Starfighter Model, Count Dooku Lightsaber, Palpatine Trade Federation Costume and Anakin’s Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, this time specialising on spacecraft, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Utapau Overview - Effects Supervisor John Knoll talks through the challenges of creating Utapau, a place that had virtually no real sets built just model work and CGI backgrounds.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Just the one, but it’s a very interesting one, entitled Utapau Chase Animatics, it was directed by Steven Spielberg as an excuse for him to get to know the process more fully.
- The Collection – Included in this section for your perusal is Boga with Obi-Wan Maquette, Utapau Sinkhole Maquette, Landing Platform Maquette, General Grievous Maquette and Tion Medon Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, looking mostly at variations of Grievous, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Mustafar Overview – How do you design a planet made of lava? Well Ryan Church reveals all.
- Natalie Portman Interview – Portman discusses her character and how it has developed.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Two scenes this time entitled Mustafar Duel Animatics and Mustafar Duel/Lava River Animatics.
- The Collection – Four sections included for Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber, Anakin’s Lightsaber, Mustafar Landscape Maquette and Burnt Anakin Head, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas with some short text on what you are seeing.
Kashyyyk and Order 66
- Kashyyyk and Order 66 Overview – Ryan Church joins us again to tell how he, and his team, designed the various worlds needed for the war and where their inspiration came from; one of them is a doozy!
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – A total of five scenes are included and are entitled Kashyyyk Attack and Order 66 Animatic, Anakin Kills Shaak Ti, Jedi Imposters at the Temple, Senate Duel Animatic and Yoda Communes with Qui-Gon.
- The Collection – This time we can inspect the Wookie Tree Maquette, Felucia Maquettes, Chewbacca Costume, Darth Vader Costume and Imperial Officer Costume (with and without Coat), which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, mainly focussing on wookies and clone trooper designs, with some short text on what you are seeing.
Bonus Disc Two – Episode IV, V and VI
- Play all Function All Archive Features (4.32.34, HD)– Plays everything on the disc, in order from the beginning
- Play All Function Interviews (1.00.15, HD)– Plays all of the interview sections, in order
- Play All Function Deleted/Extended Scenes (50.56, HD)– Plays all the deleted and extended scenes, in order
- Play All Function The Collection (2.0739, HD)– Look at all the models and related content, in order
- Play All Function Concept Art Gallery (30.01)– Takes you through all the various unused designs, in order
- Tatooine Overview – Illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, cameraman Dennis Muren and sound effect artist Ben Burtt discuss the original and initial paintings and drawings for the desert planet, the Tunisian shoot and the Jawa language respectively.
- Mark Hamill Interview – Filming, meeting idols and fun on the set are all discussed by Hamill.
- Anthony Daniels Interview – Describing the ‘odd couple’ of R2-D2 and C3PO.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – At last! The good stuff. Ever since I owned the picture story book of this film back in 1977, which contained pictures of scenes that were never in the film (those of Luke and Biggs on Tatooine), I've wanted to see the missing scenes - now I finally can! All in terrible quality, but so what, this is why the Complete Saga will outsell the stand alone sets. There are six scenes here entitled Tosche Station (where Biggs and Luke meet and discuss their future plans), Old Woman on Tatooine, Aunt Beru's Blue Milk, The Search for R2-D2, Catina Rough Cut and Stormtrooper Search.
- The Collection – In the sections for our viewing pleasure are Landspeeder Prototype Model, Millennium Falcon Prototype Model, R2-D2, Tatooine From Orbit Matte Painting, Jawa Costume, Tusken Raider Mask and Ketwol Mask, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, looking at Han, Jawas and weapon designs, with some short text on what you are seeing.
Aboard the Death Star
- Aboard the Death Star Overview - Sound effects designer Ben Burtt talks about myriad of sounds needed to bring the incredible space station to life.
- Carrie Fisher Interview – Fisher describes her audition, Leia’s theme and how Lucas practically ignored her during filming.
- Deleted/Extended Scene – Just the one entitled Darth Vader Widens the Search, walking basically.
- The Collection – Included are sections for the Death Star Prototype Model, Holo-Chess Set, Bridge Power Trench Matte Painting and Luke's Stormtrooper Torso, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts (the emphasis on drafts) of unused ideas, looking at ship designs/blue prints and set designs, with some short text on what you are seeing.
The Battle of Yavin
- The Battle of Yavin Overview - Dennis Muren talks about the model work used in the film, the X-wing battle taking its inspiration from WWII dogfights, as well as the trench run sequence.
- Deleted/Extended Scene – Just the one entitled Alternate Biggs and Luke Reunion, very similar in fact to the one used in the Special edition.
- The Collection – Plenty to get your teeth into here with sections detailing X-Wing Fighter Prototype and Final Models, Y-Wing Prototype and Final Models, TIE Fighter Prototype and Final Models, Darth Vader's TIE Fighter Model, X-Wing Pilot Costume, Death Star Laser Tower Model and Yavin 4 Matte Painting, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, looking at ship designs/blue prints, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Hoth Overview – Effects DOP Dennis Muren discusses how getting as many effects shot ‘in camera’ saves time, money and looks better than any effects processing later. The stop motion work is also looked at.
- George Lucas on Editing – We all know Lucas constructs his films in the editing room and how powerfully he views the art, well, here is the genesis of his madness.
- Irvin Kershner Interview – The best director of the franchise discusses working with the main cast.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – More awesome deleted goodies from the best film in the franchise, not much that is actually missed and some rather superfluous fluff, but anything like this is well worth looking at, the first one is a doozy! Five scenes entitled Han and Leia: Extended Echo Base Argument, Luke's Recovery, Luke and Leia: Medical Center (nearly more incestuous shenanigans), Deleted Wampa Scenes (ok the effects are a bit naff, but how cool is this scene) and The Fate of General Veers.
- The Collection – More goodies to tempt you with in sections entitled AT-AT Walker Fallen Model, Snowspeeder Model, Tauntaun Maquette, Rebel Transport Model, Hoth Landscape Matte Painting, Leia Hoth Costume and Han Solo Interior Hoth Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Dagobah Overview – We take a look at the Dagobah set with Dennis Muren popping up to discuss its various problems as well as Frank Oz chatting about Yoda’s unusual speech.
- George Lucas - On the Force – 2010 – So where did this one come from and why is it here? Lucas discusses the philosophies of the Force during a ‘Clone Wars’ writers meeting.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Only the one here entitled Yoda's Test, is also unfinished.
- The Collection – this time the sections include the Yoda Model, Luke's Severed Head, Dagobah Bog Matte Painting, Dagobah Matte Painting and Luke's Tan Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, more than a few of Yoda’s evolving form, with some short text on what you are seeing.
Pursued by the Imperial Fleet
- Pursued by the Imperial Fleet Overview - Dennis Muren pops up again this time discussing the asteroid escape sequence.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Only two scenes are included in this section and neither are much cop, entitled Alternate Han and Leia Kiss (just slightly longer than the one used) and Hiding in the Asteroid (or reacting to ‘explosions’)
- The Collection – Here we can look at sections for the Star Destroyer Model, Millennium Falcon Model, Space Slug, Darth Vader's Star Destroyer Model, Star Destroyer Hull Model, Executor Bridge Matte Painting, Boba Fett Prototype Costume, Imperial Officer Costume and Rebel Cruiser Model, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Cloud City Overview – The design and inspiration (actually the Bauhaus school of architecture) for the Cloud City is discussed with designer Norman Reynolds utilising miniatures and pictures to illustrate the point.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Another two scenes that really aren’t all that exciting, at least to me, entitled Lobot's Capture (Lando’s aid is captured, well dur) and Leia Tends to Luke (he has a bad arm you know, with a bit of chat about Han’s capture by Boba Fett).
- The Collection – all things ‘Cloud’ can be viewed in the sections for Twin-Pod Cloud Car Model, Cloud City Models, Cloud City Matte Painting, Cloud City Landing Platform Matte Painting, Cloud City Core Vane Matte Painting, Core Vane Platform Matte Painting, Lando Bespin Costume and Slave I Matte Painting, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, all about the city, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Tatooine Overview – This time we take a look at Jabba’s palace, the changing landscape and the Sarlacc pit.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Although it’s by far my least liked film of the original trilogy there are some exciting little scenes in this section, for me Vader's Arrival and Reaching Out to Luke is easily the best and sees Vader using the Force to contacting Luke as he builds his new lightsaber, while Tatooine Sandstorm is equally as impressive but for different reasons and sees an impressive sandstorm sequence that is far better than the one cut from TPM twenty years later.
- The Collection – this time we can discover more about the Rancor Maquette, EV-9D9, Salacious B. Crumb, C-3PO's Head, Jabba's Palace Matte Painting, Sarlacc Pit Matte Painting, Leia's Boushh Costume, Leia's Slave Costume, Lando Skiff Guard Costume and Jabba's Radio Controlled Eyes, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, all about the slave girl outfit that has sooooo many fans, with some short text on what you are seeing.
- Endor Overview – How filming in the Redwood forest of Northern California simulated as the forest moon, how the speeder bike chase was planned and executed and how did they manage to detonate explosives here?
- Harrison Ford Interview – Ford’s interpretation for Lucas’ vision.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – Only the one and it’s just an extension that adds little, entitled Rebel Raid on the Bunker, it’s pretty self explanatory.
- The Collection – This time sections included are for the AT-ST Walker Model, Speeder Bike, Imperial Shuttle Model, Ewok Hang Glider Maquette, Imperial Shuttle Landing Matte Painting, Endor Landing Platform Matte Painting, Ewok Costume and Biker Scout Costume, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, with a focus on the evolving design of the ewoks, with some short text on what you are seeing.
Death Star II Battle
- Death Star Battle II Overview – Model maker Bill George talks about trying to keep the same look, but make everything different and exciting in what is essentially the same ending as that of the first film; the destruction of the Death Star.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes – The final two scenes are presented here and involve minor character extensions, the second of which is fantastic to see, as so many pilots nearly made it, shame some of these weren’t introduced back in the special editions, ah well, as it is they are entitled Jerjerrod's Conflict and Battle of Endor: The Lost Rebels.
- The Collection – This final collection includes sections for the B-Wing Fighter Model, TIE Interceptor Fighter Model, Death Star Under Construction Model, Imperial Shuttle Bay Matte Painting, Admiral Ackbar Costume, Death Star Docking Bay Matte Painting and Millennium Falcon in Hangar Matte Painting, which you can either choose to take a 360 degree look at, a more detailed look about specific areas or watch video commentaries that explain, via behind the scenes filming, the work that went into creating them.
- Concept Art Gallery – Sketches and drafts of unused ideas, including the unmasking of Vader, with some short text on what you are seeing.
Bonus Disc Three: The Star Wars Documentaries
- The Making of Star Wars (49.01, SD) – First produced and shown in 1977, I actually remember seeing this when it was broadcast on TV! Opening with R2-D2 and C-3PO having their footprints embedded in concrete in the ‘walk of fame’ and then hosted by the same this is a making of the first film which contains plenty of behind the scenes filming, and interviews with the cast and crew. They simply don’t make them like this anymore.
- The Empire Strikes Back (48.05, SD)– In a similar vein to the above feature, this is a behind the scenes look at the many pioneering effects created by ILM for the second film; hosted by Mark Hamill and with plenty of behind the scenes material, this is another terrific little feature.
- Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (48.07, SD) – I don’t remember seeing this one upon its original release, maybe because by 1983 my Star Wars fever had waned slightly, or, even then, my distaste for the ewoks had highlighted the beginning of the end, but whatever the reason this is another reto making of feature that delves into the many different creatures created for the films, this time hosted by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.
- Anatomy of a Dewback (26.17, SD)– Coming slightly more up to date now, this feature, from 1997, which could also be dubbed, the beginning of the end, looks at the CG created dewbacks (stormtrooper rides in Tatooine) in Lucas’ first (of many) alteration of the beloved first movie. Yes it's very clever, and the results speak for themselves, but my god it’s unnecessary.
- Star Warriors (1.24.00, SD)– This is a first for an official Star Wars release, a fan project about an international group of fans that call themselves 501st Legion; basically a global fanbase of enthusiasts who (it could be argued) take Star Wars a little too seriously – however throughout the program, their dedication and enjoyment grows on you and you start to respect their life choices, even if you might not agree with them. Definitely one for the fans though.
- Star Wars Tech (45.36, HD)– This is a ‘discovery channel’ type special where a bunch of respected scientists speculate on how a real lightsbare might work, how artificial gravity works, how the Death Star moves in space and other elements of the Star Wars universe might actually work. It’s a first for an official release, and I’m sure I’ve seen something like it on TV, if not this actual program – it is interesting in a geeky kind of way, I was mainly interested in the possibility of a lightsbare, we are still some years away it seems ...
- A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later (25.11, HD) – And now newly recorded material, filmed in 2010 just before the great Irvin Kershner passed to the Force, sees him, Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams discuss the best film in the franchise. There’s not much here that we don’t already know, but it’s great to have some ‘fresh’ perspective, not sure I believe a word Lucas says about Vader being Luke’s dad though ... man is still a hack and he can’t hide it.
- Star Wars Spoofs (1.37.32, HD)– Star Wars has been lampooned ever since it first came out, both lovingly and with spite, here is a collection of a whole bunch of them ranging from big hitters like The Simpsons, Family Guy and Robot Chicken (by far the best) to lesser known, or seldom seen at least, Saturday Night Live, That 70s Show, Fanboys, Chad Vader, How I Met Your Mother, Buffy, The Daily Show and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s goofing around while filming on the set of Paul. It runs a bit like one of those internet compilation TV shows, but the spirit is there and it does raise a smile; I guess you can say the Lucas, at least, has a sense of humour about his creation.
So there you have it, everything that the complete saga contains. Is that everything? Well no, there are still features that are on the previous release DVDs, but I still think this an exhaustive selection of nearly never before seen extra material and it contains some real gold in amongst the hours of dross. Does this extra material make this set the one to own, over and above the individual releases? Well if you want the extras this is your only choice. Personally I was always going to get the Complete set. No matter how much Lucas messes up with prequels and tinkering with the originals, my love of episodes IV and V is such that I will always go for the best available and this set is the best available.
All six films. Over a day’s worth of extra material including all new extras and deleted scenes gold.
In what is perhaps the most eagerly awaited release ever on a new format, Star Wars finally comes to Blu-ray in a premier release, eclipsing all that have come before it. Even these (simple) restored versions reveal hitherto unseen glory in their pictures that rival their cinematic releases and sound tracks that can blow the roof off as well as regale you with their subtlety; all six films have never looked or sounded better. Yes you
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