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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' 3D Blu-ray Review: Disney delivers the definitive Episode VII experience

December 7, 2016Ben MK

With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story about to hit theaters, Star Wars hype has once again hit a fever pitch, just as it did a year ago with the highly-anticipated release of Star Wars: A Force Awakens. As such, what better time to revisit The Force Awakens, which is now available in a brand-new 3D Collector's Edition.

Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens reunites Star Wars fans with their favorite original trilogy characters, including Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels). At the same time, it also introduces audiences to a new group of galactic heroes — X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) — who find themselves facing a common enemy in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a villain following in the footsteps of none other than Darth Vader.

The movie begins with the familiar crawl of yellow text — informing us that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and that Leia, the leader of the Resistance, has dispatched Poe to the desert planet Jakku to retrieve valuable information that could lead to her brother's whereabouts. From there, the film dives straight into the action, which sees Poe captured by Kylo Ren, but not before entrusting the top-secret data to his steadfast droid, BB-8. Luckily, Poe ends up on the same ship as Finn, whose self-doubt about his own allegiances leads him to rescue the Resistance pilot. And soon, the pair are back on Jakku, where Finn encounters Rey and BB-8.

Together, they must not only evade Kylo Ren and his army of Stormtroopers, they must also mount an offensive against Starkiller Base, a fearsome new super-weapon capable of ending the Resistance once and for all. Suffice to say, The Force Awakens resoundingly succeeds in achieving what the prequel trilogy could not, which is to capture the feeling of the first three Star Wars films. And it does so not only by harkening back to beats from the originals, but by drawing a strong emotional through line in the sand, one that links both the old characters and the new.

No surprises here — from the sun-scorched exteriors on Jakku to the gunmetal gray interiors of First Order vehicles and facilities, Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks every bit like the sci-fi blockbuster that it is. And now, with the addition of 3D — which brings nice dimensionality to such scenes as a pulse-pounding chase involving the Millennium Falcon — the visuals are even more spectacular. Whether it's the bright orange markings on BB-8, the intricate technological details, or the stark contrast between the pitch black darkness of Kylo Ren's cloak and the bright white sheen of the Stormtrooper armor, the 1080p picture quality here won't leave viewers wanting. Likewise, the movie's rousing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is sheer perfection as well, expertly balancing the dialogue, composer John Williams' iconic score and action elements like the familiar hum of the lightsabers, bursts of blaster fire and the screams of attacking TIE Fighters as they fly from one side of the screen to the other.

Disney's four-disc 3D Blu-ray release comes housed in a sturdy, attractive and collector-friendly slipcase, and includes standard Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film, an iTunes digital copy and a wealth of extras, most of which have been carried over from the film's Blu-ray debut from earlier in 2016. There are a few noteworthy additions and updates to the bonus features, however, as denoted below:

  • Audio Commentary By Director J.J. Abrams * NEW - The mastermind behind the recent Mission: Impossible and Star Trek films — and now, Star Wars — sits down for an extremely informative and engaging commentary track, in which he talks about the classic Star Wars iconography, the technology and artistry behind BB-8, the characters and the actors who portray them, the cameos and minor roles, the in-camera and visual effects, the costume and production design, shooting on film and shooting select sequences in IMAX, the callbacks to the original trilogy, the rhythms of the story, the characters and the action, the sound design and the score, the stunt work, the editing and more.
  • Secrets Of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14) - A four-part making-of documentary that charts the filmmaking process, covering such topics as the franchise's acquisition by Disney, the practical and digital effects, the new and returning characters, the iconic visuals and set pieces, the filming locations and more.
  • The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01) - The filmmakers and the cast talk about the first cast read through of the script.
  • Crafting Creatures (9:34) - Creature & Droid FX Creative Supervisor Neal Scanlan discusses the various alien creatures created for the movie, from legacy characters like Chewbacca and Nien Numb to the new creatures brought to life through puppetry, animatronics, prosthetics and CG effects.
  • Building BB-8 (6:03) - A piece about the design and construction of BB-8, as well as BB-8's different iterations and the puppetry work that helped bring the character to life.
  • Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02) - A behind-the-scenes look at the movie's climactic fight between Rey and Kylo Ren, from the set design to the actors' fight training and their performances.
  • ILM: The Visual Magic Of The Force (7:55) - A featurette focusing on the work of the artists at ILM, from the creation of alien characters like Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke to the design of the new Millennium Falcon.
  • John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51) - A look at iconic composer John Williams' score for the film, including his newly-created themes for Rey and Kylo Ren.
  • Deleted Scenes * UPDATED (6:39) - Nine scenes ("Finn And The Villager," "Jakku Message," "X-Wings Prepare For Lightspeed," "Kylo Searches The Falcon," "Snow Speeder Chase," "Finn Will Be Fine," "Leia & The Resistance," "Unkar Plutt At Maz's Castle" and "Tunnel Standoff").
  • Force For Change (3:22) - A brief look at the Star Wars themed charitable initiative and the effect it has had globally.
  • Foley: A Sonic Tale * NEW (4:02) - Foley Artists Denise Thorpe, Jana Vance, Ronni Brown, Kim Patrick and Andrea Gard talk about their work creating some of the sounds for the film.
  • Sounds Of The Resistance * NEW (7:15) - Supervising Sound Editors Matthew Wood and David Acord and Re-Recording Mixer Christopher Scarabosio talk about their work creating the film's sound design, from BB-8, to the alien creatures, to Kylo Ren's lightsaber, to the incorporation of Composer John Williams' score.
  • Dressing The Galaxy * NEW (6:27) - Costume Designer Michael Kaplan talks about his work creating the costumes for Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, Han Solo and Princess Leia.
  • The Scavenger & The Stormtrooper: A Coversation With Daisy Ridley And John Boyega * NEW (11:45) - The two actors talk to each other about their first screen test together, their chemistry, their experiences on-set, their favorite moments, lightsaber training, and their last day of filming.
  • Inside The Armory * NEW (8:17) - Property Master Jamie Wilkinson talks about his work creating the film's weapons, from the Stormtrooper E-11 rifle and the Taser-Blade, to the lightsabers, to Rey's staff, to the Rebel troopers' guns, to the Wookiee Bowcaster, to the 3D printing technologies used to create some of them.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of November 15th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 16 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this 3D Blu-ray review were adapted from my original Blu-ray review, published on April 5th, 2016.

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