Earlier this month, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out on Blu-ray and, with the way Disney was pushing it, you’d think it was as big a deal as the movie’s release on Dec. 18, 2015. There was even a trailer for the deleted scenes and, as with most blockbuster home video releases, countless retailer exclusives.
In the five months since the film’s release, it has been easy to come to terms with the fact that The Force Awakens is nothing more than a new version of Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s so obvious that Han Solo (Harrison Ford) even recognizes that he is reliving scenes from over 30 years ago. But for whatever reason, this is acceptable. Yes, it is sad that Abrams didn’t quite have the guts to tell a very different story, but A New Hope wasn’t all that an original idea either. The archetypes George Lucas used was borrowed from myths mixed with Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.
What The Force Awakens gets right is the new crop of characters. Rey is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe, in part because Daisy Ridley is such an incredible find. Her performance is one of the best in the entire saga, one that has always been knocked for the weakness of its acting. John Boyega is having the time of his life as Finn, a deserting stormtrooper. Adam Driver brings the experience required for the heavy role as Kylo Ren. At first, I didn’t think much of Driver’s performance, but when you realize that Kylo is supposed to be a character who still has no idea how to really become as evil as he wants to be, it works.
Disney’s first* Blu-ray release of The Force Awakens features the film on the first disc without a commentary. The second disc houses all the bonus material, but that doesn’t mean the features are all that great. The deleted scenes on the disc run a combined five minutes and none of them are really substantial. (The most interesting one – Han Solo talking his way out a confrontation with stormtroopers at Maz’s place – is an online exclusive.)
Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey is even more disappointing than the deleted scenes. Although advertised as a feature-length documentary, the film runs just over an hour and includes no mention of Harrison Ford’s injury or the fact that other directors not named J.J. Abrams were considered for the job. It would have been interesting to hear more about what exactly Michael Arndt created before he was kicked off for taking too long. (It was still surprising that he was mentioned at all in the documentary.)
The shorter featurettes that focus on specific elements are much better. They all run under 10 minutes, but seeing how BB-8 was created and how the final snow lightsaber duel was done was fascinating. There’s also a four-minute featurette on the famous “table read” photo, but obviously, the entire table read is not included for some reason. The Target exclusive, which comes in a flimsy carboard package, includes two extra digital-only featurettes. Obviously, Disney couldn’t be bothered to create a Blu-ray disc only for Target. Got to save money somehow!
*I say “first” here because we all know that Disney will release another edition during the holiday season. Disney teased a 3D release later in the year, so you can bet that release will likely include even more extras.
Overall, The Force Awakens gets a decent Blu-ray release. It’s a typical release for blockbusters, but the decision to include all the features on a second disc is a bit of a tease. You might think that they are more substantial, but that’s not the case.