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The Incomplete Saga
, 9 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Star Wars: The Complete Saga [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Since you've seen the films, you know wether you should or want to buy these or not. Instead, this is a review of the discs, and not the films. Overall each film is presented flawlessly - though not at reference standard. The transfers for these BD's are taken from the 2004 transfers which are barely above the existing BR standard of 1080dpi.
PHANTOM MENACE / ATTACK OF THE CLONES / REVENGE OF THE SITH
"Menace" is a poor film presented well, with a new CGI Yoda and film-transfer presentation. "Clones" is probably the least impressive transfer of the films. "Sith" is absolutely flawless - shot on the highest resolution possible and state of the art.
A NEW HOPE / EMPIRE / RETURN OF THE JEDI
There have been tweaks to effects, some good, some bad (magical rocks, for The Force's sake!), but all, mostly pointless. On a technical level, "Empire" is the film that has been tampered with the least since release in 1980, and it has never looked so vibrant. Changes for "Jedi" are relatively major for the Blu Ray : an extra creature here, a larger door there, and perhaps most disturbing of all NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Of course, had they been made now, and made this way, nobody would complain. These films would be eagerly awaited. They would be hailed as visionary masterpieces. And, "Return Of The Jedi" would still be two summers away. But these films are modern myths. As big as any grand story, epic in scale, brazen in ambition and large in vision, the Star Wars films : taken as six, or three, are still, and always, tales of the type of shameless size that not enough film makers would dare to consider.
I-III BONUS MATERIAL
A frustrating ragbag of offcuts and leftovers excluded from the original 2001-2005 DVD releases, these extras discs are much akin to never seeing the full picture. The core narrative of making the prequels is only ever touched upon obliquely. There are deleted scenes, but these are unfinished and as sloppy as a bag of defrosted oven chips. The menu navigation is also frustratingly intricate and awkward. The option, for example, to "play all deleted scenes", is absent. You have to navigate to a film, then a 'world', then pick out each scene seperately : at least nine separate top menus to view all the deleted scenes, some of which take longer to load than they do to play. Thankfully there is a "Play All" option - if you have five hours spare.
IV-VI BONUS MATERIAL
As with the I-III bonus disc, this is a frustrating ragbag of unfocused bonus material : five hours in total, but missing the central overview.A veritable assortment of video junk that expands and complements the original DVD releases. About the only extra that is truly essential are the 40 or so deleted / unfinished scenes from the original trilogy presented here ; but they are in no way complete - many are not in full colour, temp-tracked, full of scratches and marks, and lacking music. Fascinating glimpses of what could have been, and, certainly some would've made useful, and unforgettable additions to the films as they are, they also represent less than the sum of the parts because despite the width and weight there is little in the way of any gravitas.
The ninth disc is mostly boring. There's 90 minutes of spoofs which are largely watch-once-and-never-again : though Kevin Spacey as Christopher Walken as Han Solo is genius. There's a 90 minute documentary on the guys who dress as Stormtroopers in their spare time. And you wonder why William Shatner ordered his fans to "Get A Life." 1997's "Anatomy Of A Dewback" is a pointless discussion of now obselete CGI technology in adding effects to the 1997 Special Editions : which are not on this set.
The final, half hour interview with Irwin Kershner as he discusses for the last time "Empire" is riveting viewing. It's worth every penny.
The real meat are standard def dupes of the the of-their-time respective 1977,1980, and 1983 documentaries. These were once available on the Executor VHS mega box set and are here represented in SD. They are curios, being basic puffpieces that are very much of their time.
There are some key omissions on this set. The 1983 overview - "From Star Wars To Jedi" - is missing. As is the 1983 video tour of the Lucasfilm archives. These two were also on the Executor, so their omission here is inexcusable.
Also missing? The short documentaries that preceded the 1997 VHS re-releases. 2004's superlative, definitive "Empire Of Dreams". Every extra on the DVD releases of the Prequels. The 1999 BBC Omnibus Documentary. 1999's "Mythology" interview. Warwick Davies "Return of The Ewok". 2005's largely essential History Channel "Star Wars : The Legacy Revealed" which engages the six films in historical echoes. That's at least 17 hours of geek cat nip.
The relatively low-res 2006 480dpi DVD transfers of the original theatrical cuts are also missing. Data is cheap and those three theatrical cuts could easily be released in Standard Def taking up barely half the capacity of one BR disc. In fact, you could easily capture the 17 hours of missing material - alongside the theatrical cuts - with three extra BD discs.
Anyone who thinks that this set allows you to 'own every moment' is clearly fibbing. It's neither complete, nor definitive. But then again, the extras are enormous in girth, with around 12 hours of new commentaries, and 15 hours of new video. However, see these are complements to the original DVD issues of the films, and, in order to keep everything, both the 2004 and 2006 issues of the original trilogy and the contemporary DVD releases of the prequels need to be kept to retain all the material. You have been warned.
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