A New Hope: directed by George Lucas
The Empire Strikes Back: directed by Irvin Kershner
Return of the Jedi: directed by Richard Marquand
Reviewed by Adam, added on Jan 1 2005
Note: Like my last DVD review for the "Dawn of the Dead" DVD set, I won't actually be reviewing the films presented in this set; I'll only be reviewing the DVD features, such as audio commentaries, behind the scenes documentaries, and the few additions made to the films themselves.
A long time ago in a place not so far away, George Lucas gave birth to one of the greatest film sagas of all time: the Star Wars Trilogy. Legions of geeks have given up their social lives to these films; hell, some people have Star Wars themed weddings. If that doesn't show how deeply Star Wars has become imbedded in American culture, I don't know what would. For ages, Star Wars fans have had to watch their beloved trilogy on crappy VHS; no longer! Now, we have been blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the Holy Trilogy on DVD. Was it worth the wait? Well, let's find out, shall we?
Disc 1: "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope"
"A New Hope" has largely been left untouched, save for the 1997 Special Edition changes. You can all let out a sigh of relief now. The only real change I noticed was a slightly better-looking Jabba in Chapter 24. That's got to be a good thing, right? Remember the goofy-looking bastard that was supposed to be Jabba from the '97 Special Edition of "A New Hope"? Well, I certainly do... Egh, I still have nightmare about that lump of crap. Thank goodness they fixed Jabba.
I've heard that the left and right rear channel sound mixes are mixed up in "A New Hope," but I didn't really notice. That's probably because I only have a so-so surround system. Nonetheless, the film sounded better than ever. Naturally, this and the other two discs in this set are THX-enhanced. Me likey THX...
The only extra on this disc is the audio commentary, featuring George Lucas, Ben Burtt (sound), Dennis Muren (visual effects), and actress Carrie Fisher. Strangely, no one really mentions any of the various changes made to the film over time. Oh well, its still an entertaining and informative commentary - and that's all that really matters, right? Good, I'm glad you're following me on this... There are a few lags here and there, which is excusable; these people have to talk about these movies for ages - what more could they really say that we haven't heard yet?
Disc 2: "Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"
The first change to "The Empire Strikes Back" is the replacement of Clive Revell as Emperor Palpatine with Ian McDiarmid, who portrays Palpatine in Episode VI and in the prequel trilogy. I for one am very happy with this change. This part of the trilogy used to stick out like a sore thumb to me, probably because McDiarmid left such a lasting impression with me as the Emperor. Having him as Palpatine throughout the trilogy also helps to further unify the entire series. The other change is the replacement of the original voice of Boba Fett with Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett from "Attack of the Clones"), for continuity's sake. Makes sense to me...
Once again, there is but one extra, and that is the audio commentary, featuring the same participants from Disc 1, with the addition of director Irvin Kershner. This commentary is much like the first - entertaining here and there, informative for the most part, but nothing special. Oh well, that's what the behind the scenes docs are for... Kershner is a very lively commentator, though; it's a very good thing that this man directed this film, instead of Lucas. Just trust me on this.
Disc 3: "Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi"
There are two new additions to "Return of the Jedi." First, during the victory celebration scenes, a scene of Naboo celebrating the defeat of the Empire has been added. Next, the most intrusive of all the changes: instead of Sebastian Shaw as the spirit of Anakin Skywalker, we have Hayden Christensen (Anakin in Episodes II and III). This wouldn't be such a big deal, except that they did nothing to age him beyond his appearance in "Revenge of the Sith." WTF? Now, I am convinced that George Lucas has fallen off his rocker...
It's the same old story with the audio commentary, only director Richard Marquand doesn't appear to spill the beans on what is often considered the most uneven of the original trilogy. Perhaps he wants to distance himself from Star Wars. I can't imagine why - it isn't like he has a career anymore... Once more, the commentators give us enough to sink our teeth into, but not enough to truly enjoy. I'm not saying that these commentaries wouldn't be informative to a non-fan; but, chances are good non-fans wouldn't be listening to these commentaries anyway. For the rest of us, much of what is presented in each commentary has already been discussed at one point or another over the years. I wish they would have went for something a little more lively - like the completely uninformative, but always hilarious commentaries by Kevin Smith and his View Askew comrades.
Disc 4: Bonus Material
Now this is what I've been waiting for: "Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy," a 150-minute behemoth of a documentary. You can't get much more informative than this, kids. After watching this doc, you'll have such a greater respect for Lucas and his crew, you may never speak ill of Lucas ever again (but I kind of doubt that). The trials and tribulations discussed almost amounts to a film school lesson in independent filmmaking. That's what I want out of a making-of documentary; and, luckily, that is exactly what "Empire of Dreams" delivers throughout its robust running time.
Next up are three featurettes - "The Characters of Star Wars," "The Birth of the Lightsaber," and "The Force is With Them: The Legacy of Star Wars." There is a bit of overlapping footage between the three featurettes, but all are incredibly entertaining and informative. Also, they are much shorter than "Empire of Dreams." Rounding out the DVD is a line-up of the usual suspects - still galleries, teasers and trailers, and posters/print campaign material. There is also a demo for "Star Wars: Battlefront," but let me clue you into a little secret: this game sucks. Don't waste your time with this demo.
Forget about the prequel trilogy; this is the Holy Trilogy, finally available on DVD, and you must own it. Despite slightly underwhelming commentaries, and at least one irritating film addition, the Star Wars Trilogy DVD collection is one any self-respecting nerd would be proud to own. The films have never looked or sounded better; and if you're one of those lucky bastards with a high-definition TV and über-cool surround system, you'll be in geek heaven. Take from your uncle Adam - this is the shiznittlebamsnipsnamsnap. Buy it now!
Disc 1: 9.5/10
Disc 2: 9.5/10
Disc 3: 9/10
Disc 4: 10/10