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"Star Wars" on Blu-Ray: Final Thoughts on the Set – The force will be with you, always…
I’ve spent the last ten days reviewing the Star Wars: Complete Saga Blu-Ray set in extreme, disc-by-disc detail. Now that we’ve reached the end of this (excessively?) long road, what are my final, overall impressions of the set? Was it worth the wait? Is this the definitive presentation of the saga? Have the movies ever looked this good? Did the bonus features live up to expectations, and what features are missing from this set? Which DVDs will you have to keep around to have a complete Star Wars archive?
Answers to all these questions and more after the jump….
I have no qualms in saying that the Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-Ray Set is the finest presentation these films have ever received on home video. The films have never looked or sounded anywhere near this good before, and that alone makes this set worth a purchase for fans with hi-def TVs. Particularly where the Original Trilogy is concerned, watching the Blu-Ray version is like experiencing the films again for the very first time, and I’m very impressed that Lucasfilm fixed many of the visual and auditory errors from the 2004 release, restoring these films to how they should optimally look and sound. Yet this set would not be the best Star Wars box to date if it weren’t for the Bonus Features, which are as exhaustive as they are entertaining.
I won’t rehash all my thoughts on the A/V presentation or the extras – you can read the last nine articles to learn all about that – but I will say this: Lucasfilm clearly put a great deal of effort into this set, treating the films and the bonus features with the love and care they deserve. That’s worth a good ol’ fashioned Ewok celebration in my book, and that’s what makes this set such a rousing success.
All that being said, The Complete Saga is still not the definitive Star Wars box-set. It’s a very, very good one, but it’s not the be-all, end-all set. A definitive Star Wars set should include the Original Theatrical versions of Episodes IV, V, and VI, while this set only includes the newest Special Editions. As I’ve said before, I’m more than happy to suffer through the moments of annoyance George has added in as long as I’m watching the movies in HD, but I completely sympathize with fans who find this set unacceptable because of alterations to the films. The original versions should be available here in hi-definition. That is the right of every Star Wars fan; the people who made Lucas rich and the films successful in the first place deserve to watch the original films in the best quality possible. Ridley Scott knew this when he altered Blade Runner, so the Blu-Ray set for that film includes the Theatrical Cut; last year’s Alien Anthology Blu-Ray included both Theatrical and Extended editions in equally strong quality, and Steven Spielberg included the Original version of “E.T.” on the DVD release when he created a “Special Edition” of the film. There’s absolutely no reason why the Theatrical cuts shouldn’t be here.
But there’s also bonus content missing, and this goes beyond simple nitpicking. The features from prior DVD releases should be here; that’s just a logical component of home video compilations. The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Blu-Ray set from earlier this year, for instance, included all of the DVD Bonus Features, making it a clean, simple upgrade. I love all the new material on this Star Wars set, but we’re missing a lot from prior releases, and that’s just ridiculous.
Here’s what you’ll have to keep if you want all the great Star Wars extras: Disc 4 of the 2004 Original Trilogy box set, containing the “Empire of Dreams” Documentary, all the Trailers and TV Spots (which belong on the Archives in this set, but are nowhere to be found), and more; the second disc for each of the Prequel DVD releases, three in total, containing documentaries like “The Beginning,” “Within a Minute,” trailers and TV Spots, and all the Deleted Scenes, cut footage not included here. Going back even further, there are features on the original trilogy laserdisc releases that still have yet to see the light of day on digital formats, and if you like the Theatrical Editions, you’ll want to hold on to the 2006 DVD releases.
All of this material belongs on this set. If Lucasfilm kept it in Standard Definition, it could all fit on one extra Blu-Ray Disc, and the documentaries could easily fit on Disc 9 of the existing set. Had Lucasfilm included all previously released extras, one could throw away all their old DVDs and consolidate their Star Wars collection into this set, especially helpful for home video collectors like myself. Instead, a complete Star Wars collection must include this Blu-Ray set, the 2004 DVD Bonus Feature disc, all three Prequel DVDs, and the 2006 DVD release of the Theatrical cuts. That’s just way, way, way too many releases to have no overlap; it should all be contained in this one box set, but it’s not, and that’s a huge disappointment.
In fact, if Lucasfilm had included all the archival material, I would have no qualms calling this the Definitive Star Wars release. Sure, there are other features that would be nice to have, such as the complete Holiday Special, the “From Star Wars to Jedi” TV documentary, or even some Bloopers, but given that there are 40 hours of new, quality content contained in this set, I don’t need that extra material to be satisfied. A compendium of new material plus everything released up to now would be enough for me to stamp the “definitive” label on this set.
As it stands, this is still a phenomenal release. The packaging is gorgeous and economic, the A/V presentation is consistently breathtaking, and despite some shortcomings, this is my favorite single extras package ever assembled for a Star Wars release. This is without a doubt one of the better box sets released in the last few years, and though it isn’t definitive, I do believe that this is the best treatment Star Wars has ever had on home video. If you have to own one Star Wars set and only one, this is the one I would recommend. It isn’t quite as ‘complete’ as the title suggests, but it’s more than comprehensive enough to justify the price tag.
OVERALL RATING for “Star Wars: The Complete Saga:”