Blu-Ray Review: ‘Star Wars The Complete Saga’

"Despite all the hubbub leading up to the release, I don’t have huge problems with the Star Wars Blu-Rays." 

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Despite all the hubbub leading up to the release, I don’t have huge problems with the Star Wars Blu-Rays. Frankly, I’m surprised we even got the original trilogy. They could have made us start with Phantom Menace and work our way up. I’m still going to start with Episodes IV-VI and there’s nothing George Lucas can do to stop me.

The Blu-Rays look great. The picture is crisp and clear. All the helmets of storm troopers and Darth Vader are shiny, as are the droids. You see all the detail in the practical models, and all the scuffs and scratches on R2D2 and C-3PO. The puppets and animatronic work are glorious too.

The CGI additions don’t hold up. They look downright blurry. Jabba doesn’t, he’s clear but then you can totally make out how he’s an added element who doesn’t quite match the scene. Compare to the practical Jabba in Return of the Jedi which is full of texture, detail and exists in the same scene as the rest of the frame. That’s fitting as an illustration of inferior new technology.

The real world settings like Tunisia are full of craggy rock and sand grain. The inside of the huts on Tatooine are full of texture. Likewise the snowy plains of Hoth and the ice caverns, and Yoda’s hut on Dagobah. The colors are pretty stunning, like the orange of Cloud City. Surprisingly, Endor is blurry and largely out of focus.

You can sometimes see the digital noise of the picture, holding it together. It still looks crisp and clear, and not like film at all. It’s great to see the old school films look like a living breathing world, even if there are some digital seams of the process to bring a 30+ year old movie up to technical specs of HD. There is one really bad bar at the top of the screen when Vader boards the new Death Star at the beginning of Jedi, if you’re really looking for technical glitches.

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I don’t remember every version that well, but now the Greedo scene looks like it’s cut so quickly you can’t see what happens at all. I remember the first special edition looking like it had a glitch when Han Solo moves out of the way. Now it’s shaved down so quick I can’t even make it out.

I also noticed that Han telling Greedo “even I get boarded sometimes” is all off camera ADR. If they insisted on adding the Jabba scene back in, which covers the same info, all they had to do was take those voiceover lines out of the Greedo scene. A simple low tech alteration like that would have given the added scene more relevance, but nobody thought of that.

I think Darth Vader screaming “Nooo” when the Emperor is attacking his son makes a lot more sense than in Revenge of the Sith. That was supposed to be the moment where he lost all of his humanity. He should have been a cold bastard when he heard he’d killed his wife. When told Amidala was dead, he should have said, “So be it.” At least when he screams in Jedi, it’s when his character is actually deciding enough is enough and he’s had it with this motherf***in’ emperor.

So, the prequels. Episodes I,II and III look really pretty on Blu-ray. The picture is totally clear and smooth, even on Phantom Menace which was still shot on film. This seems like the format the prequels were designed for, to look like a window into Naboo, not simply a snapshot of it. The colors are bright and all the CGI environments look like oil paintings. At least it gives you some sort of pleasant visual experience watching the prequels.

Actually, Revenge of the Sith has some hints of digital haze in a few spots. The opening battles are particularly bad. Also, Obi Wan’s battle with General Grievous and Mace Windu’s confrontation with The Emperor. So even the precious all digital prequels can have flaws exposed.

The making of Star Wars has been so well covered over the decades that the only bonus features I still really care about are the deleted scenes. I find these to be a true sense of the Star Wars universe that exists outside the films, particularly around the time of the original trilogy. These are ideas the fill out the world, practical touches from ’77, not digital additions. I think the dirty work print footage looks awesome too, although the menu system is cumbersome so you have to play them one at a time.

The spoof collection is pretty impressive though. They got lots of SNL, the scene from Clerks and the gangsta rap. There’s a lot of Fox properties like Family Guy and That ‘70s Show too but hey, use the synergy. If you like Troops here, there’s more in the complete short film.

One last Star Wars Blu-ray item, Fox also released a Wal-Mart exclusive of Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. It’s definitely for kids but it’s got a few good meta jokes, and the computer animation looks sleek and shiny, with some texture to the Lego figures and backgrounds too.