Review: There's Just One Thing Wrong with 'The Force Awakens' Blu-ray

The Blu-ray release is so good I can't help wishing there was more of it

Daisy Ridley as Rey in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Daisy Ridley as Rey in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'. Lucasfilm Ltd.

You've seen the movie, probably more than once. You've celebrated the return of the original trilogy cast. You've fallen in love with the new, young characters. You've pondered the tantalizing new mysteries. You've awarded your respect to Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and the crew that put together this glorious return to the galaxy George Lucas built. You may have even read the novels and comic books that tie in with the movie and fill in some blanks.

So what does the home video version of the movie have to offer that brings something new to the experience? In other words, aside from the fan prerequisite of owning the film to watch over and over, why should you buy the Blu-ray or DVD of Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

The movie itself still holds up as a beautiful, heartfelt love letter to the original trilogy that marries modern filmmaking sensibilities with the feel of the original trilogy. A few of the story beats and punchlines lose a little value after the first time you experience them, but everything you enjoyed about The Force Awakens at the theater is still there to savor at home -- with the added benefit of being able to watch your favorite scenes at will.

But you knew all that. You want to hear about the extras.

Deleted Scenes

If you're hoping to see all the stuff that was in the trailers but missing from the movie, you're out of luck.

Most of the voiceovers from the trailers and TV commercials were recorded specifically for those spots, so only J.J. Abrams knows if there's actual footage to go with any of them.

One scene I hoped to see was Maz Kanata offering General Leia Organa her brother's lightsaber at the Resistance headquarters on D'Qar.

A tiny piece of it was in an early teaser, and while cut from the film, most fans assumed it would be included on the Blu-ray disc. Nope. Maybe animating Maz was too costly to do for a scene that's not in the movie. The sequence would have shown Maz escape Takodana with Han and Finn all the way back to the Resistance base on D'Qar.

Another sequence was filmed featuring Unkar Plutt arriving at Maz's Castle to confront Rey about stealing the Falcon, which ended with Chewbacca intervening and ripping one of Unkar's arms off. That's not included in the deleted scenes,either.

The one I was most excited for was a scene at the end of the film where Rey is persuaded to take the pilot's seat on the Falcon by Chewbacca. Rey boards the ship assuming she'll take the co-pilot's seat as usual, but Chewie is already there and he insists that she take the pilot's chair. It's a lovely passing-the-torch moment that I really wanted to see. And we don't get to.

Why, Mr. Abrams?

The Biggie

The biggest extra is a triumphant one-hour feature on the making of the movie called Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey. It starts all the way back with George Lucas selling Lucasfilm to Disney and offering the company reigns to Kathleen Kennedy.

We then get a glimpse of the historic moment when Kennedy announced to her Lucasfilm executives that "we have a director and it's J.J. Abrams!"

The feature checks in with every key member of the production (I spied and Rebels mastermind Dave Filoni in shots of art department meetings), and it's emphasized again and again what a highly collaborative effort The Force Awakens was. One anecdote highlights a member of the art team whose father worked on the original trilogy, and the son got to use his dad's original drawings -- the actual paper documents, not copies -- as reference for The Force Awakens. Very cool.

Every member of the cast gets a spotlight moment, such as the cute stories of how Daisy Ridley and John Boyega learned that they'd gotten their roles. Or the geeked-out laugh Lupita Nyong'o let out the first time she watched Maz Kanata follow her motions in real time on a big screen at Andy Serkis' studio.

For his role as Snoke, Serkis stood on a platform 25 feet above Domnhall Gleeson and Adam Driver while delivering his lines, which were magnified via loud speakers that filled the room.

Elsewhere, Adam Driver offers some fascinating psychological insights into Ben Solo. An entire chapter is devoted to Han Solo's death scene, and Harrison Ford once and for all clarifies his much-discussed belief that Han should have died in Return of the Jedi. Likewise, the filmmakers go to great lengths to explain why Han had to die for the film to carry emotional significance, and to elevate Kylo Ren as a villain.

At one point, J.J. Abrams reveals that the film's title does indeed refer to Rey -- but not only her. The Force's dark side "awakens" in Kylo Ren as well; the moment he kills his father, he is wholly committed to the dark side. Later, Mark Hamill talks about his one scene in the film and Luke's reaction to Rey, which he saw as "really conflicted" with "great reservations" about her arriving there, with his old lightsaber, seeking his help.

One of the best parts is watching the cast and crew gather around for filming the scene were Han Solo and Chewbacca first board the Millennium Falcon. Abrams is so excited and moved that he fights back tears the entire time -- and we're right there with him.

Other Stuff

The "Extras" disc is filled out by a number of smaller features. Even though they average about five short minutes in length, they're all brilliant. In particular, I think my favorite is "Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight," which breaks down the climactic lightsaber duel on Starkiller Base's surface.

This is my favorite scene in the movie, because it's the most crucial moment in the story for Rey.

It's the moment that it's revealed to us that Rey is The One, and that this thing we've been watching for two hours is her journey above all else. Even better, she's not a passive observer in that moment. Rey seizes her destiny when Luke's lightsaber bypasses Kylo Ren and flies straight into her hand, and that instant changes everything. It's perhaps the most potent beat in the whole movie.

I also loved watching the puppeteers bring BB-8 to life in "Building BB-8," observing the reverence given to maestro John Williams in "The Seventh Symphony," and the endless trivia of "Crafting Creatures." A few bits from that last one:

  • Over 100 different creatures were created as practical effects and/or makeup
  • After a character had been created and approved by Abrams, a backstory was written for them
  • Nien Nunb is played by the same actor that played him in Return of the Jedi, Mike Quinn, but the actor had two wildly different experiences. In Jedi, Quinn performed Nunb as a hand puppet; in Awakens, Quinn plays him as a full-suited actor wearing an animatronic head.
  • Unkar Plutt's face in close-ups was not CGI or animatronic. Simon Pegg performed all of the face's articulation under a silicon mask, though some digital wizardry was used to enhance it.
  • Remember the gigantic pig-like creature that Finn shares some water with on Jakku? It's called a Happabore, and my mind was blown to learn that it was a physical effect on set. I thought it was CGI.

    Even More (If You're Lucky)

    It's unfortunate that not everyone will get 100% of the content, since the Target release includes several mini-docs and a few deleted scenes that you can't get anywhere else -- and they're some of the best of the lot.

    A feature on the weapons of The Force Awakens provides a surprising bit of trivia about the origins of Rey's quarterstaff. It was originally built from component parts and turned out a good foot or so longer and thicker than what's in the movie. So the crew scanned it, shrunk it in the computer, and made a 3D printing of it at the size Abrams wanted. Then it was cast and molded and painted to perfectly match the look of the original.

    The best deleted scene is only available with the Target release as well. It finds Han, Finn, Chewie, and Maz fleeing her castle as the First Order invades, when they find themselves in a face-off against Stormtroopers. Han pokes fun at Snoke's name and a quick beat resolves how Han knew the truth about Finn.

    The best part of the Target edition is a sit-down conversation between Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who talk to each other without an interviewer present. They remember all the fun they had on set, bonding like a brother and sister; they recount their final day of production, where Abrams offered a short speech about them both. It's a joy watching them interact.

    What's Missing

    For all that's included, it's impossible to ignore the pieces of the puzzle that are conspicuously absent. The heavily publicized injury suffered on set by Harrison Ford is never so much as mentioned. The stars of The Raid, who cameo-ed in the flick as Kanjiklub, are never spoken of, either. There are endless stories and anecdotes like these that made the production of Force Awakens truly remarkable, so their absence from these features makes it feel woefully incomplete.

    What's there is very welcome and I enjoyed every minute. But for the life of me, I can't imagine why there's not more of it. It's obvious from every clip you see that cameras were rolling throughout the entire production, from before even pre-production all the way through to the movie's premiere. If this were any other movie, abbreviating all that stuff would be understandable. But this is the Star Wars movie fans waited thirty years to see. We want to watch hours and hours of it being made.

    Perfect example: Remember that very early, black-and-white photo of the entire cast sitting in a big circle? It was the first time the cast was ever pictured together. "The Story Awakens" brings that moment to life, showing real footage from the "table read," as it's called. (A table read is when a movie's cast reads through an entire script, speaking their lines to one another for the first time.)

    Watching it is breathtaking. Most of the younger, newer cast members seem awestruck by the older cast, while the original trilogy stars later claim that they realized the story was going to work during the table read. Abrams sported the kind of goofy, disbelieving grin that any Star Wars fan would have been unable to suppress while listening to Harrison Ford speak as Han Solo for the first time in thirty years. We also learn that Abrams asked Mark Hamill to read the stage direction and narrative lines (since he had none in the film), and we get to hear a small taste of it.

    And that's exactly the problem. While a few clips from the event are shown, we barely get to hear any of it because it's edited with voiceovers from the cast and crew, who reminisce on what it was like. That's well and good, but the table read is hardcore goosebumps stuff, and I want it all. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I could sit and watch the entire two-hour-plus event and be completely enthralled. Instead I got a tiny, four minute tease during which you barely get a morsel of what happened. It's like watching a trailer for a movie that's never coming. This juicy piece of cake is dangled before your eyes only to be yanked away.

    The challenge of making these kinds of behind-the-scenes features is keeping it both entertaining and educational. Hollywood seems to think that there's no audience for more in-depth features, or that even the hardcore fans don't have the patience or interest to sit through longer fare.

    Not so.

    If ever there was an opportunity to put out lengthy, exhaustive, detail-rich features on the making of a movie -- something that would put the famous "Appendices" discs from the Lord of the Rings to shame -- that fans would clamor desperately for, it's The Force Awakens. We waited so long for this movie; we obsessed over every little detail that was released while it was being made. Of course we want to apply that same level of scrutiny to the home video release, and I believe that not going there is a missed opportunity for Lucasfilm.

    That is, unless they're saving all that stuff for an "ultimate edition" release at a later date. Until and if that day comes, the current release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray and DVD will have to suffice.

    Fortunately, it's a beautiful, flawless transfer with all of the technological bells and whistles that home theater enthusiasts could ever hope for. And I guarantee the extra features will keep you entertained -- and leave you wanting more.

    A lot more.

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    Your Citation
    Parrish, Robin. "Review: There's Just One Thing Wrong with 'The Force Awakens' Blu-ray." ThoughtCo, Apr. 12, 2016, Parrish, Robin. (2016, April 12). Review: There's Just One Thing Wrong with 'The Force Awakens' Blu-ray. Retrieved from Parrish, Robin. "Review: There's Just One Thing Wrong with 'The Force Awakens' Blu-ray." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).