THE FORCE IS STILL WITH THIS BOX SET, BUT SHOULDN’T IT BE STAR WARS: THE INCOMPLETE SAGA NOW?

Star Wars:  The Complete Saga

Star Wars Blu ray Cover Art

Pros: DigiBook packaging, best audio and video quality yet

Cons: Quibbles about the extra features

Reviewer’s Note: This review of Star Wars: The Complete Saga focuses exclusively on the box set and its specific features, not on the films it contains. Reviews of the six Episodes are forthcoming.

When Lucasfilm Limited and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced in March 2011 that the entire Star Wars saga was going to be released on Blu-ray that fall, I was excited beyond belief.

Sure, I already owned both the Classic Trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) and the Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) in the earlier DVD format. However, since I’ve been a fan of George Lucas’s space-fantasy franchise since 1977, I just couldn’t resist pre-ordering the Star Wars: The Complete Saga 9-Blu-ray disk (BD) set at Amazon.

Granted, one of the reasons that influenced my somewhat redundant purchase was the pre-order price of $79.99. Pricey, yes, but it was $50 off the $129.99 price set by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for the Complete Saga box set.

(Knowing that many Star Wars fans can’t afford such an expensive box set, Fox and Lucasfilm also released the Prequel and Classic Star Wars Trilogies in separate sets. The 2011 three-BD Trilogy sets were replaced in 2013 with six-disc BD/DVD combo box sets with new artwork. The 2013 sets are available on Amazon for $39.96)

What’s in the DigiBook Box?

 Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of the coolest box sets I have in my video library. The original pressing DigiBook’s sturdy slipcover features a beautiful illustration of a Tatooine homestead with nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker from The Phantom Menace in the center foreground and a ghost-like rear view of his future son Luke as seen in A New Hope. The artist is not credited, but the style is reminiscent of poster artist Drew Struzan’s Star Wars illustrations.

The hardcover DigiBook package reprises the slipcover art, and the nine BDs are stored in pockets within the book’s pages. Each movie is represented by a photorealistic painting based on a particular scene. For instance, The Phantom Menace features Sith Lord Darth Maul as he begins tracking Queen Amidala and her Jedi protectors on Tatooine, while A New Hope’s page depicts Luke, Princess Leia, and Han Solo during their escape from the Death Star.

The BDs themselves have elegantly simple labels with the Star Wars logo, the film or bonus features disc title, and (where applicable) the Episode number in Roman numeral form. Inside the back cover there’s a pocket for the Guide to the Galaxy contents booklet, and a nifty bit of artwork which features all of the saga’s major characters, including the three incarnations of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Movie Content in Star Wars: The Complete Saga

 Disc One: Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace

 \Disc Two: Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones

 Disc Three: Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

 Disc Four: Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope

 Disc Five: Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

 Disc Six: Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

 Special Features in Star Wars: The Complete Saga:

Audio Commentary for Each Film with George Lucas and Selected Cast and Crew

Never-Before-Released Audio Commentary for Each Movie from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew

Bonus Discs 1 & 2

 New Star Wars Archives Content Includes:

45 Deleted/Extended Scenes

Cast & Crew Interviews

Props, Maquette and Costume Turnarounds

Matte Paintings and Concept Art

Bonus Disc 3

 In-Depth Documentaries and Featurettes:

The Making of Star Wars – 1977

The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX – 1980

Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi – 1983

Anatomy of a Dewback – 1997

Star Warriors – 2007

Star Wars Tech – 2007

A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later – 2010

Star Wars Spoofs (Including Weird Al Yankovich’s The Saga Begins)

 

My Take:  When this set’s release was announced in March of 2011, there was some fan-created controversy when Lucasfilm and Fox said that:

  • The nine-disc set would not include high-definition versions of the original theatrical editions of the 1977-1983 Classic Trilogy, and
  • The 2004 edits made to the 1997 Special Edition would be further upgraded by more digital tweaks to each of the six Episodes, including the three Prequels

These statements from Lucasfilm and Fox did not sit well with those fans who were not happy with the changes made to the Classic Trilogy, beginning with the 1997 Special Edition and the much more controversial 2004 tweaks done for the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set.

On Amazon, for instance, angry preemptive reviews were posted on Star Wars: The Complete Saga’s product page, telling prospective buyers to boycott the set until Lucasfilm/Fox gave in and added the unaltered versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

The angry fans also threw barbed comments at George Lucas, claiming that he had “raped their childhood” by changing the films without taking fans’ feelings into consideration.

This preemptive boycott, of course, was nonsensical, and when the set was released on September 16, 2011 it became, for a time, the bestselling box set since the Blu-ray format’s introduction.

Even though it’s far from perfect, Star Wars: The Complete Saga is the best currently-available home video release of the seminal space fantasy series set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

All six Episodes have been digitally remastered in high definition, which gives them sharper images and crisper audio quality.  To borrow an oft-used reviewing cliché when it comes to home video releases of feature films, the Star Wars saga has never looked or sounded better. Most of the visual flaws that marred previous versions (matte lines, inconsistent lightsabers, and reversed plates) are now fixed, and the DTS-HD master audio gives the soundtrack superb audio quality even on HD TVs that are not connected to a home theater sound system.

The extra features, for the most part, are good. The original audio commentaries from the earlier DVD releases have been ported over to the Blu-ray edition, and an all-new set of commentaries have been added from archival interviews. Some portions of the archival audio I recognized from the 2004 Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy included in the first Star Wars Trilogy DVD box set and other featurettes. Others were new to me.

With the exception of the audio commentaries, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox did not port over Empire of Dreams or any of the other extra features from the 2004, 2006, and 2008 DVD releases.  Maybe they figure that owners of the DVD sets won’t discard them just because they bought the Blu-ray versions of the Star Wars saga and that offering them fresh content is a better option.

For the most part, Star Wars: The Complete Saga’s new extras are interesting. The Lucasfilm Archives’ materials in Bonus Discs 1 and 2 focus their attention on the making of the Prequel and the Classic Trilogies, while Bonus Disc 3 features several made-for-TV documentaries that were broadcast on over-the-air and cable networks between 1977 (The Making of Star Wars) and 2010 (A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later).

The documentaries are well-done and interesting, but I would have preferred if Lucasfilm and Fox had chosen 2007’s Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed instead of Star Wars Tech.  Both of these aired on cable’s History channel and were produced by Kevin Burns, but Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed offers more insights into how real historical figures and events helped shape the Star Wars saga.

Disc 3 also features an extensive selection of Star Wars spoofs, ranging from Weird Al  Yankovich’s “The Saga Begins” (a funny summation of the plot of Episode I sung to the tune of Don McLean’s American Pie) to various Star Wars-themed TV commercials and “Saturday Night Live” skits.

Considering the current state of the franchise, the box set might as well be titled Star Wars: The Incomplete Saga.  The 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm Limited by the Walt Disney Company and the subsequent announcement that the long-rumored Sequel Trilogy and several stand-alone Star Wars movies will be released starting in December of 2015 makes this Blu-ray set a collector’s edition.

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Complete Saga: BD Specs

 

Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (30.41 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French: DTS 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps)
Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps)

Subtitles

English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Discs
50GB Blu-ray Disc

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