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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // April 5, 2016
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted April 6, 2016 | E-mail the Author

Star Wars The Force Awakens Blu-ray Review

Star Wars - The Force Awakens
is the latest installment in the epic space saga started by
writer-director George Lucas with the 1977 original. In style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens
, the seventh
episode in the series, co-writer and director J.J. Abrams picks up the
story 30 years after the events of Return
of the Jedi
. It is the first film in a new style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars sequel trilogy. 

Star Wars - The Force Awakens is
produced by director J.J. Abrams (Super
), Bryan Burk (Lost),
and Kathleen Kennedy (Back to the
, Jurassic Park,
The Sixth Sense) and it is
executive produced by Tommy Harper (Mission
Impossible 3
) and Jason D. McGatlin (style="font-style: italic;">The Adventures of Tintin).

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) has gone missing. The resistance looks
for a missing piece of a map which will lead to the location of
Skywalker. Leia (Carrie Fisher) is leading the resistance in looking
for her brother, Luke, who is the last of the Jedi. Resistance x-wing
pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) looks for the missing piece of the map
on the planet Jakku and enlists the help of his adorable droid BB-8
(who becomes a scene-stealer almost as entertaining and lovable as
R2-D2) .

Finn (John Boyega), a former Stormtrooper, helps the resistance and
befriends the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) while on the planet Jakku.
The two set off together (and even take flight upon the legendary
Millennium Falcon) as they go on a galactic adventure filled with
returning heroes and surprising new foes: Captain Phasma (Gwendoline
Christie) and the ominous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

What a joy it is to see Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca
(Peter Mayhew) back together again. Han Solo has a prominent role in
the new film and Ford manages to remain perfect in the role. Han Solo
is still as awesome a character as ever and Ford delivers many of the
film's best one-liners and moments. There are also many fun character
returns including fan favorites like Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb. And
what Star Wars film would be
complete without R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony

Few films in the history of cinema have been as anticipated as style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars - The Force Awakens. Many
fans of the Star Wars saga
have been looking forward to seeing an
Episode 7 in the saga for decades. For many audience members it's the
most anticipated motion-picture experience of their lifetime.

The good news is that the film is a wonderful success and it should
please both new and longtime fans of the series.  It triumphs as a
wonder of filmmaking: as a great entry in the beloved series. While it
would have been impossible for any filmmaker stepping into the
director's chair for a new Star Wars
installment to please every
Star Wars
fan, co-writer and director J.J. Abrams brilliantly
succeeds at bringing to life the saga for generations of fans.

The film has a lightning fast pacing to it which never let's go
throughout the entire course of the film's journey. The editing of style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens by Maryann
Brandon and Mary Jo Markey (both of whom worked with J.J. Abrams on style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek and style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Into Darkness) is
delicate throughout while also precise. The pacing feels both
simultaneously organic and energetic. There is good energy throughout:
an energy so majestic that one might even say that "the force is
strong"  with this film.

The film was incredibly executed by everyone who worked on the
production. J.J. Abrams approach to this film was to rely more on
traditional filmmaking techniques (sets, make-up, animatronics) while
also utilizing CGI when it was deemed necessary. The idea pays off big
time. This film perfectly blends together both new and old moviemaking

The film has sweeping, epic set designs and remarkably well designed
CGI elements which compliment the more traditional filmmaking approach.
The production design by Rick Carter (Avatar,
Jurassic Park,style="font-style: italic;"> Forrest Gump) and Darren Gilford (style="font-style: italic;">Oblivion, style="font-style: italic;">Tron: Legacy) astounds. Both
artists give the film a grand scope in design perfectly suited for the
vast universe of Star Wars.

The senior art direction by Alastair Bullock (style="font-style: italic;">Batman Begins, style="font-style: italic;">Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,
Hugo) and Gary Tomkins (style="font-style: italic;">Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,
The Fifth Element) also helps
the film to look as beautiful and complex as fans would hope to find.
Set decorations by Lee Sandales (Maleficent,
War Horse) ensure the film
looks as beautifully detailed as any fan could ever dream for.

The effects are almost unparallel. Few films have as breathtaking
special effects as the films in the Star
saga. The original Star
the envelope in technical wizardry when it opened in the 1970's. style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens features
stunning special effects which are beautiful and remarkably effective.
Industrial Light and Magic are the best in the film business and the
effects on this film help to make this universe one which is even more
exciting and expansive. Their work is that of great artistry which
dramatically enhances the success of the filmmaking.

From a production standpoint alone, Star
Wars - The Force Awakens
is easily one of the best films of the
year. The level of detail put into make-up and prosthetics helped to
create a vast array of alien creatures never seen before. New designs
utilized in the film expand upon the already large canvas from which
the Star Wars galaxy resides
in. The costumes designed by Michael
Kaplan (Blade Runner, style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek) are terrific throughout
the journey
taken (both for human characters like Rey and Finn and otherworldly
characters like Chewbacca.)

The cinematography by Daniel Mindel (Star
, Star Trek Into Darkness)
is exquisite. This is easily one of the best looking films of the year
and it perfectly fits into the legacy of style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars alongside the aesthetic
look of the originals. Like the original trilogy, style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars - The Force Awakens was
shot on film and the aesthetic quality of this creative choice is
perfect for the filmmaking. Mindel's exquisite cinematography harkens
back to great cinematography of Hollywood classics from the 70's while
also feeling cutting-edge at the same time. Many moments (including
several on the planet Jakku) makes it feel as if no time has passed at
all between the production of Star
and Star Wars - The
Force Awakens

Legendary composer John Williams returns to score his seventh style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars film and delivers one of
his best scores in the saga.
The score is something of a departure in that the score is largely
focused on emphasizing the new characters and this is something which
led to several new themes from Williams. The best new theme in the film
is Rey's Theme, which is beautiful, melodic, and moving. The film
rarely uses classic themes from the Star
universe but when Williams does he utilizes them with

Based on the characters and universe created by George Lucas, the
screenplay for The Force Awakens
was written by Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders
of the Lost Ark
, Star Wars -
The Empire Strikes Back
) & J.J. Abrams (style="font-style: italic;">Super 8). The original draft was
written by Michael Arndt (Little Miss
, Toy Story 3)
but was dramatically changed when Abrams and Kasdan became involved
with the project.

The script manages to be exciting from start to finish and brings the
story to new territory while perfectly fitting into the established
world of Star Wars. style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens script manages to
feel both fresh (especially through its emphasis on new characters)
while remaining steeped in the lore of the style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars mythology. It's
exceptional storytelling which brings both new and exciting elements to
the Star Wars saga while
feeling very much at home within the universe that started the
cinematic journey.

Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams (Super
, Star Trek) was the
perfect choice to continue the Star
legacy. When Disney announced new films would be produced
in the saga (without George Lucas in the director's chair) the first
name that occurred to me as a possible director was J.J. Abrams. Within
seconds of the
announcement, I was hoping it would be him directing the new episode.
He is the perfect choice. He is one of only a few major Hollywood
filmmakers working today who has learned so much from the directorial
styles of Hollywood legends like Lucas and Spielberg.

Abrams has an impeccable gift as a filmmaker. He manages to make films
which are enormously entertaining and full of visual spectacle while
still focusing on characters and traditional Hollywood storytelling.
His style of filmmaking is always brimming with energy without
sacrificing good storytelling in the process. Abrams, who was so
inspired by Star Wars, stepped
up to a daunting task of making a new Star
film and succeeded.

The original Star Wars is
one of the most iconic and important motion-pictures ever made. To a
legion of fans worldwide, it is considered one of the best films of all
time. It pushed the envelope in terms of special effects and technical
wizardry in filmmaking and it did so while telling a story which
connected deeply and profoundly with audiences around the globe. It's a
heroes journey of epic proportions which has inspired generations of
filmgoers. The Star Wars saga
even explores important spiritual themes through its exploration
of The Force and the idea of Jedi.

The opening film in this new Star
trilogy manages to be a non-stop thrill ride which will
leave fans wanting more. In fact, one of the only disappointments from style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens (which is not so
much a criticism of the filmmaking itself) is that it is going to leave
fans wanting more. This feeling is perfect for this kind of journey,
though. As soon as Episode 7 concludes one can't help but want to
immediately start Episode 8. This might annoy audiences now but once
viewers can marathon all of the new Star
episodes it should be a delight.

Star Wars - The Force Awakens
is a love letter to the original films as well as a bold vision for
where to take the saga to next. J.J. Abrams wisely brings a strong
focus to the new characters carrying the journey of style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens while still
focusing on the story that resulted in this fantastic journey in the
first place. The Force Awakens
is one of the most entertaining films of the year and a must-see motion
picture event for anyone who has ever considered themselves astyle="font-style: italic;"> Star Wars fan.

The Blu-ray:

style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">


Star Wars - The Force Awakens
arrives on Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p High Definition presentation
in the original 2.40:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The film
looks stunning to behold. It has a quality encoding with a high 30
mbps bit-rate. The presentation is exquisite which excellent colors,
detail, and depth. The image is remarkable throughout the presentation.
There are no issues with banding and the image looks crisp and clean.
This is a stunning video presentation for a stunning film.


The Force Awakens features
a 24 bit lossless 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation which doesn't
disappoint. The lossless quality surround sound presentation is an
engaging and exciting sound presentation. The sound design is one of
the best of the entire year. This is a robust sound design which places
great emphasis upon the effects throughout the action sequences and it
perfectly presents the majestic score by John Williams. Fans will not
be disappointed by this energetic and crisp audio presentation.

Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of
hearing), Spanish, and French.

style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">



This is a Blu-ray Feature Film +
Blu-ray Bonus Disc + DVD Feature Film + Digital Copy Edition. The 3D
Blu-ray Edition will be released later this year (most likely around
the December release of Star Wars:
Rogue One

Star Wars - The Force Awakens
has an incredibly well produced set of extras. These are some of the
best and most engaging supplements I have seen on a recent release. The
behind the scenes making-of documentary is heartfelt and informative.
Audiences will get a rather nice glimpse into the making of the film
and the process behind its creation and development.

The extras included with this release are entertaining and cover a lot
of different aspects of the production: the script, the stage
designs, the special effects at ILM, the costumes, the score by
Williams, and
much more. Fans will certainly consider this a worthwhile


The extras included on this release (contained on a separate Blu-ray
Bonus Disc and presented in high-definition) are as follows:

Secrets of The Force Awakens: A
Cinematic Journey
(1 Hr. 9 Min.) is a style="font-weight: bold;">feature length making of
documentary in four segments. Each segment of the documentary
on a different element of production. The documentary explores the move
of Star Wars to Disney,
Kathleen Kennedy becoming president of
LucasFilm, the search for the director of style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars Episode 7, the
early days of filming, screenplay development, creature designs,
casting the film (and finding the leading actors for Rey and Finn),
bringing back Han Solo, art development, and more.

This is a remarkably well-made documentary which covers many aspects of
the production. This is easily this release's best supplemental feature
and it should be considered essential viewing for anyone who is
interesting in the making of The
Force Awakens

The Story Awakens: The Table Read
(4 min.) is a brief overview about the table read done for the style="font-style: italic;">Star
Wars - The Force Awakens screenplay.

Crafting Creatures (10 min.)
explores the development of the new creature designs produced for the
film and J.J. Abrams involvement in encouraging creativity and
selecting designs that would become a part of the final film.

Building BB-8 (6 min.) is
about the construction of the BB-8 character.

Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight
(7 min.) explores the construction and filming of this important
set-piece in the film.

ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force
(8 min.) is about the important special effects work done by Industrial
Light and Magic for the film's CGI special effects.  

John Williams: The Seventh Symphony
(7 min.) focuses on William's collaboration with director J.J. Abrams
and his approach to scoring the latest style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars film.

There are six short deleted scenes provided on this release (with a
less than five-minute total run-time for all of the scenes combined).
Each scene is a brief sequence cut from the final version of the film.
Scenes included have unfinished special effects.

Deleted Scenes:  

Finn and the Villagerstyle="font-style: italic;">
Jakku Messagestyle="font-style: italic;">
X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeedstyle="font-style: italic;">
Kylo Searches the Falconstyle="font-style: italic;">
Snow Speeder Chasestyle="font-style: italic;">
Finn Will Be Fine

Force For Change (3 min.) is
a brief piece on the important charity work being done around the world
by Star Wars fans.

Final Thoughts: style="font-weight: bold;">

It's been decades since the original Star
ushered in a new era of epic filmmaking and helped redefine
science-fiction genre filmmaking. George Lucas inspired so many
filmmakers and artists with his vision for style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars (including the filmmaker
at the helm of the latest film in the series, J.J. Abrams).  style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens is an exciting
adventure which takes the Star Wars
story forward while paying homage to the classic films in the series.
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are both terrific additions to the style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars cast and are sure to
become huge stars. Harrison Ford remains perfection as Han Solo.

It's heartening that Star Wars
fans continue to be so dedicated and passionate about these stories and
characters. It shows how much the stories and universe means to so many
around the world. Star Wars
has a significant and important cinematic legacy. With style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens, director J.J.
Abrams honors that legacy with a breathtaking new entry in the series.
This is a must-see motion picture event. 

The Blu-ray release has an impressive presentation of the film and an
absorbing collection of well-produced supplements on the making of style="font-style: italic;">The Force Awakens. It's an
incredible package which well deserves DVD Talk's highest
recommendation:  DVD Talk
Collector's Series.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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