Han Solo doesn’t shoot first in the blu-ray release of Star Wars The Complete Saga(Rated PG, 20thCentury Fox and Lucasfilm, $89.99 at various places online and in brick-and-mortar stores, my rating three of five stars).
For some this little fanboy factoid means nothing, but for the legions of Star Wars fans and purists, that says it all.
It means that Star Wars maker George Lucas elected to release the special editions of his creations (meaning the original trilogy) as opposed to their original theatrical versions. Sacrilege. Shame. And it’s probably a straight-up money grab.
There will be plenty of folks who rush out to grab this nine-disc set. Obviously, I’m guilty of being one of them. Had I a choice, I probably would have waited because eventually, the outcry will be so significant that Lucas will go to the well once again and pull out those original three flicks, dust them off, spiffy them up and the fanboys will respond.
Is the essence of Star Wars in those touched-up versions that find themselves part of The Complete Saga? Certainly. But that’s not the problem. What’s annoying is these extra moments that Lucas added to all three films are little more than eye candy. They’re the product of some guy with nothing better to do than attempt to make his baby better. Apparently “classic” status isn’t good enough.
In the case of Star Wars Episodes IV-VI, that didn’t work. Instead those minute changes interfere with viewing these films because to those of us who remember and appreciate the theatrical versions, they’re nothing but distractions. If you can ignore that fact, then by all means go shell out the hard-earned cash for them. It puts the Star Wars saga where it belongs in the best possible presentation available currently – blu-ray disc. And in that respect, the folks at Lucasfilm have painstakingly ensured that they will have one of the best releases of the year as the video is jaw dropping and the audio pristine to the point that Darth Vader’s trademark heavy breathing makes filmdom’s vilest villain sound as if he’s sipping a Coke right next to you.
The first trilogy remains the one most near and dear to me. The Star Wars films inspired me in singificant ways, including helping to nurture my love of film. The second trilogy? Not so much.
While the first is often pure nirvana (I even forgive the inclusion of the Ewoks), the second (I will never forgive the addition of Jar Jar Binks) just annoys me to no end. Lucas had plenty of technology with which to toy with in creating the second set of films and they feel just about that warm. The dialogue is stilted, the performances – hello Christian Hayden and Jake Lloyd – stiffer than a corpse. Other than than that, they’re just fine.
But this isn’t necessarily about the quality of the movies. After 34 years, fans know what they’re getting in all of them.
What Lucas has done – maybe because there’s always a hint of doubt – is put together a video-based encyclopedia of his masterwork. The nine-disc set includes three packed with bonus materials where you can see some of the earliest documentaries back from 1977, the stuff that I used to watch on a black-and-white TV in my bedroom.
The Making of Star Wars (1977) – This one says it all. Lucas had no idea what he had when the movie was released and neither did 20th Century Fox. This documentary just provided some insight to what Lucas had wrought.
Star Warriors (2007) – A documentary made to explore and honor the 501st Legion, Star Warscostume enthusiasts who have turned their love of Lucas’ films into a charitable enterprise.
Star Wars Spoofs (2011) – New for this release, it looks at the myriad of spoofs of Star Wars since its inception, including ones from The Simpsons and Family Guy, two FOX network shows.
For those who aren’t purists, this is as complete as it gets. But I strongly suspect that Lucas will eventually release the theatrical versions on blu-ray, Funny that a 35th anniversary is arriving next year. This, ultimately, is an incomplete complete saga. Just sayin’…
Hammer of the Gods
Yes, Thor (Rated PG-13, Paramount Pictures, $29.99 on 3-D blu-ray, $22.99 on blu-ray with digital copy, $15.99 on DVD, 3.5 out of five stars) did arrive this week. Yes, as it turns out, it was one of the best two comic book-based films of the summer.
And, yes, the blu-ray is stunning. I wasn’t overly enamored with the film when it hit theaters. It’s better after repeat viewing.
Extras: It arrived packed with seven featurettes, director’s commentary from Kenneth Branagh, 11 deleted scenes and a feature dealing with how The Avengers film, which was filmed partially in Cleveland last month, was put together.
Blu-ray bargain bin: The first two Transformers films, Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, are down to $14.99 and $13.99 respectively…Gone With the Wind can be had for $12.99 on some spots online and Limitless is down to $13.49.