Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 13-Apr-2016

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Featurette-Making Of-Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey
Featurette-The Story Awakens: The Table Read
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Crafting Creatures
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Building BB-8
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight
Featurette-ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force
Featurette-John Williams: The Seventh Symphony
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Force for Change
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 138:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By J.J. Abrams

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring John Boyega
Daisy Ridley
Harrison Ford
Oscar Isaac
Adam Driver
Peter Mayhew
Gwendoline Christie
Domhnall Gleeson
Lupita Nyong’o
Andy Serkis
Max Von Sydow
Mark Hamill
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music John Williams

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    From the moment that the iconic opening title crawl begins - accompanied by John Williams’ exhilarating, iconic Star Wars theme - it’s clear that 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is in safe hands. With George Lucas stepping aside, Star Wars is finally being handled by filmmakers who actually care about the beloved franchise and know how to create genuine big-screen excitement. Ignoring all the prequel trilogy nonsense, The Force Awakens is more interested in recapturing the magic of the original trilogy, picking up thirty years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi left off and bringing back familiar faces to kick-start a new slate of sequels and spinoffs. Under the watchful eye of director/co-writer J.J. Abrams, who also enlisted the help of The Empire Strikes Back scribe Lawrence Kasdan, it’s a phenomenal nostalgia trip as well as an efficacious world-building exercise, and it genuinely feels like Star Wars in all the right ways.

    Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished, and in his absence the tyrannical First Order have risen from the ashes of the Empire, led by the shadowy Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). A critical piece of information pertaining to Luke’s location is discovered, but Resistance pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) is compelled to hide the map in his droid, BB-8, when stormtroopers destroy his ship and capture him. Finn (John Boyega) is a stormtrooper who feels disillusioned after his first taste of combat, breaking Poe out of his cell in the hope of escaping the clutches of the First Order. After crash landing on the desert planet of Jakku, Finn meets scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), who’s in possession of BB-8 and feels determined to deliver the droid to the Resistance. Reluctantly teaming up, the pair soon encounter Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who have tried to avoid getting involved in the fight against the First Order. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leads a frantic search for BB-8, assisted by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).

    Undertaking a project like The Force Awakens would be intimidating for any writer. On top of the obvious cultural significance surrounding the production, Abrams and Kasdan were tasked with bringing back old characters, introducing new characters, and establishing a fresh direction for this new trilogy. Hence, the script has ample baggage to deal with, so The Force Awakens does contain a fair amount of set-up that will likely pay off further down the track. Added to this, there is a certain degree of familiarity permeating the material; this is more or less A New Hope 2.0, borrowing elements of the 1977 hit which started it all, as well as aspects of the original trilogy in general. The film does threaten to come apart at the seams due to this, but The Force Awakens overcomes its noticeable shortcomings by concentrating on what matters most: compelling characters, focused storytelling, rousing action, and a sense of humour. There is more humanity here than ever before, with some worthwhile comedy to break up the drama that miraculously comes across as organic rather than cheap.

    Abrams is renowned for his “Mystery Box” approach to moviemaking, determined to keep a lid on practically everything in an attempt to restore some of the sense of surprise that movies used to afford before internet spoilers and online gossip. What’s particularly remarkable about The Force Awakens is that the returning characters have a bearing on the narrative at large, and they serve a purpose beyond the obvious passing of the torch. This is especially true of Han and his ever-dependable walking carpet, with Abrams ensuring the pair are vital participants in this story - and they also have a part to play in the overarching narrative leading into Episode VIII. Even more critically, Han feels like a three-dimensional character, as does General Leia (Carrie Fisher, who has aged surprisingly well), and their relationship does strike an emotional chord. Ford is an absolute joy to watch, with the aging thespian showing a surprising amount of enthusiasm throughout; he’s effortlessly charismatic, and he’s a believable man of action. The Force Awakens also finds time for effective fan service, with the characters here perceiving Han, Leia and Luke as legends due to the events of the original trilogy. (Heh, that’s subtle.)

    The new characters unquestionably work, which is a huge deal in the Star Wars universe, and I already look forward to spending more time with them in future instalments. And despite the strong sense of homage, there is far more nuance and depth to all of the fresh faces, who bely simple labels like “The New Luke” or “The New Han.” What’s interesting about Kylo Ren is that he’s not Darth Vader; he’s a disgruntled Jedi student who aspires to live up to the legacy of his personal deity, but lacks the skill and refinement to reach that level. Ren is more fallible than expected, and his character development is intriguing. Also remarkable is new droid BB-8 (an astonishing practical effect), who actually gives a better performance that most of the actors in the prequel trilogy. Through well-timed bleeps and bloops, and some expressive movements, the droid is able to convey humour, frustration, exasperation, excitement, and other emotions. In short, he’s an absolute scene stealer.

    Free of the acting vacuum that is George Lucas, the actors here are allowed to emote and express passion, carving out characters we can instantly latch onto. Choosing little-known thespians for Finn and Rey may seem like a calculated attempt to recapture the magic of the original trilogy, but both Ridley and Boyega convincingly knock it out of the park. Ridley is a thrilling screen presence, radiating welcome spirit and emotion, while Boyega can actually act. However, it’s Isaac who ultimately steals the show as the pilot Poe Dameron, arguably the best new character. Almost effortlessly, Isaac makes one of those rarely-seen instantaneous turns from “good actor you’ve seen in a few movies” to “bona fide movie star.” Driver is just as promising, essaying a wonderfully nuanced villain, while British actor Domhnall Gleeson makes a great impression as General Nux. A handful of recognisable names do pop up who will presumably return in the future, but the film unfortunately wastes three cast members from The Raid, who aren’t even given the opportunity to show off their insane fighting abilities. What was the point?

    A large chunk of Disney’s marketing campaign has revolved around addressing fan complaints towards the prequels, most notably in regards to the visuals. Indeed, Lucas lathered the prequels in an unholy amount of CGI, but Episode VII harkens back to the old-school approach, with a heavy reliance on practical effects and vast sets. Computer-generated imagery has undeniably reached breaking point due to overuse; blockbusters look too digital, with visual effects shots frequently coming across as workmanlike and phoney. But with a heavy element of practicality and tangibility to the action scenes, there’s a level of excitement here that’s seldom glimpsed in contemporary blockbusters. We have never seen spaceships look so vivid and utterly real, and it’s often impossible to discern what’s digital and what’s practical. Above all, The Force Awakens is comparatively modest, with realistic physics, and at no point looks like a cartoon. Admittedly, there are a few motion-capture characters who do not look as impressive, including Snoke and Maz (Lupita Nyong’o), but this isn’t not a deal-breaker - it’s just that the puppetry and make-up is far more appealing. Furthermore, Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel elected to shoot on 35mm film stock to emulate the look of the original trilogy, affording a fine grain structure. Better, the picture has not been colour-corrected to death. And by mixing old-fashioned special effects techniques with the new, Abrams and his crew have not only created a film that’s aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy - they have also constructed the most convincing, visually distinctive sci-fi blockbuster in recent memory.

    Compared to the other entries in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens does not have a great deal of lightsaber action, and any fans expecting plenty of heavily-choreographed fights will be disappointed. Ren only crosses blades at the climax, and with the budding Sith and his opponents lacking in training, the resulting battles are rawer than ever, on top of being full of humanity, and it’s an utter joy to behold. Furthermore, there is no irritating shaky-cam to speak of. The Force Awakens also sees the return of composer John Williams, which is an exceptional touch. Williams’ music is reliably grandiose, though it’s perhaps not as impactful as it was in the original trilogy.

    The Force Awakens was never going to please everybody. Star Wars fans across the world have already mapped out their dream Episode VII in their heads, and it is simply not feasible for one two-hour motion picture to fulfil millions of different mental checklists. No matter what, there was always going to be a contingency of disgruntled cry-babies. At the end of the day, The Force Awakens is not perfect, and falls short of delivering the same gooseflesh-provoking high that Star Wars provided in 1977, but it is a promising new beginning, an almost “safe” way to launch this new franchise on the right note to win back erstwhile fans and bring in a whole new generation of young viewers. It’s accessible without being pandering, deep without being pretentious, and reverent to the original trilogy whilst still feeling fresh. Ultimately, we are now left hoping that Episode VIII will be the Empire Strikes Back of this new trilogy.

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Transfer Quality


    To allow for maximum breathing room, The Force Awakens gets an entire BD-50 to itself, with all of the set’s special features appearing on a separate disc. Framed at 2.40:1, this 1080p high definition presentation is very good, but falls just short of demo material. The Force Awakens was lensed on 65mm and 35mm film stock, and was completed at 4K. Some scenes were even shot on IMAX 70mm, though these scenes are not opened up on the disc; they retain the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

    What sticks out most about the movie from a visual perspective is the tight, nicely-refined grain structure which generates a marvellous, old-fashioned cinematic texture reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy. Grain is never blocky, and always serves to augment the detail. Speaking of detail, it’s remarkable, revealing all the grizzled features on Solo’s face and every hair on Chewie’s body. However, some shots do look a bit smooth on the whole, lacking a certain amount of refinement, which is likely attributable to compression and would be hard to rectify until the inevitable Ultra HD Blu-ray release. Speaking of compression, I did notice a bit of banding here and there, and the edges on the opening crawl do suffer from the tiniest bit of aliasing.

    The transfer is a tad too dark on the whole, with a few instances of black crush. Daytime scenes are never an issue, but Kylo Ren’s outfit at the beginning looks like a black blob, without much in the way of fine detail. Indeed, the transfer looked a tad brighter in the cinema. However, when the transfer is at its best, blacks look agreeably inky, and colour remains stable throughout, with deep skin tones and rich-looking lightsabers, looking faithful to its theatrical presentation. Aside from the darker moments, clarity is never an issue, with the encode handling everything satisfactorily.

    Even with its flaws, The Force Awakens looks spectacular on Blu-ray. This is the best-looking Star Wars movie on home video at the moment; more refined that the original trilogy, and more agreeable than the distractingly digital prequels. And thankfully, no visible alterations have been made between its cinema run and this disc’s release, which is a first!

    A number of subtitle options are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Some commentators online have bemoaned the lack of a Dolby Atmos track on this disc, and there are reports from some that the audio lacks oomph, much like the Avengers: Age of Ultron debacle. But I am not Atmos-compatible, so I cannot complain about being given a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and I did not notice any issues with the levels or the mixing of this track. Luckily, The Force Awakens is reference material on Blu-ray, boasting a tremendous audio mix that leaves very little to be desired.

    The first thing which sticks out about this track is John Williams’ majestic score, which comes through with superb clarity during the opening titles. The music makes terrific use of surround channels, and as the movie progresses, it never overpowers the dialogue. Every line is easy to hear and comprehend, while Kylo Ren’s dialogue is deep and impactful. The subwoofer is put to great use for every action scene, with lightsaber noises, laser blasts and explosions all packing plenty of impact. It all sounds simply marvellous, as to be expected from a new release title of this calibre.

    The dynamicity of the track is astounding. Ships seem to cruise from one side of the room to the other thanks to expert panning and spacing, and effective ambient noise is used throughout to enhance each scene. No issues crop up throughout, with the track always remaining on-point, and with nothing in the way of dropouts or crackling.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A fair selection of supplemental material, all of which is available on Disc 2 of this set. Unfortunately, it does feel like Disney is holding out on us, and a special edition release seems almost inevitable. Particularly heartbreaking is the lack of any audio commentary. Indeed, a couple of audio commentaries could have topped off this package marvellously.

Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey (HD; 69:14)

    Feature-length making-of documentaries are becoming rarer, and never appear on new release Disney titles anymore. Thankfully, Disc 2 on this set starts off with a tremendous, in-depth look at the making of The Force Awakens, created by special features veteran Laurent Bouzereau. It’s split into four chapters plus an introduction, tracing the genesis of the project, Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, the writing process and casting, before covering several major chunks of filming. Interviews with countless members of the cast and crew are interspersed throughout, including Hamill, while tonnes of on-set B-roll footage is available. Many important aspects of the movie are covered, including the construction of the Millennium Falcon, the making of the cantina scene, the reunion of the lead actors, Han Solo’s place in the story, and so on. It’s seriously enthralling stuff, but I still wish that it was twice as long. Indeed, the documentary does avoid covering any production issues (Ford’s injury should have been discussed), and I would have liked an extra chapter dedicated to post-production. Nevertheless, considering the usual standard for Disney movies, this is an excellent extra that you must watch.

The Story Awakens: The Table Read (HD; 4:01)

    Rather than a video of the full table read, this is a brief featurette on the first table read with the actors all meeting for the first time. The newcomers talk about how intimidating it was, while the veterans talk about how nice it was to see old friends. Hamill was also present to read the prose in the script.

Crafting Creatures (HD; 9:34)

    As the title implies, this brief but highly enjoyable and informative featurette concentrates on the creatures seen in the movie. Naturally, the focus is more on the practical effects and puppets as opposed to the mo-cap characters, and it’s wonderful to see such dedication to old-fashioned cinematic techniques. The creation of Chewbacca’s suit is particularly fascinating.

Building BB-8 (HD; 6:03)

    Droid BB-8 is the focus of this particular segment, which examines the techniques used to bring the little guy to life on-screen. Of course, using practical effects was important to the filmmakers, so a team of skilled puppeteers and electricians were recruited.

Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (HD; 7:02)

    This excellent featurette examines the creation of the climactic lightsaber battles in the snow. Ample behind-the-scenes footage reveals the construction of the set, the extensive rehearsals, and the shooting process. Well worth watching!

ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force (HD; 7:55)

    As implied by the title, this is a brief look at how ILM tackled the movie’s special effects. This is an interesting featurette, especially with the technicians talking about seeing the original Star Wars movies as kids, but it’s far too short, leaving too many stones unturned. I would have liked to have seen the use of practical effects and models, a topic that this featurette refuses to touch on.

John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (HD; 6:51)

    The final meaty featurette on this disc is dedicated to composer John Williams. Several of the filmmakers talk about Williams’ legacy and work ethic, while Williams reflects on past Star Wars movies and discusses his approach to this particular project.

Deleted Scenes (HD; 4:15)

    A scant four minutes of deleted scenes. It’s easy to see why these were trimmed, but they are still worth watching. Nevertheless, one gets the sense that there’s far more excised material that isn’t included here, and Disney is most likely holding out on us for a future double dip. It’s worth noting that one additional scene is available as an iTunes exclusive. If your set comes with an iTunes code, you can watch the extra scene, but if not, you will need to buy it on iTunes to access it. The seventh deleted scene, “Tunnel Standoff,” is the best of the bunch and it’s peculiar that it was not put on the disc.

Force for Change (HD; 3:22)

    And finally, we have a brief look at the charity work behind the production. There is some cool stuff here, including some great B-roll and footage of the actors getting involved in charities.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All standard editions worldwide are identical. However, a Target-exclusive Region A release boasts an additional twenty minutes of video extras, though they are only available as downloadable content rather than being included on a disc. The Target exclusive has a slight edge, but it seems hardly worth importing - I will leave consumers to decide for themselves.


    In spite of the vocal minority who hated it, I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's a rousing science fiction fantasy adventure, and a worthy continuation of the Star Wars franchise. It does fall short in a few areas, but it does so many things right that it's hard to hold too much against it.

    Disney's Blu-ray release is very good. Video and audio are exceptional, while special features are pretty good, with two hours of video extras. However, the lack of audio commentary tracks is disappointing, and one cannot help but feel that Disney is prepared to milk this one for all it's worth. Expect a special edition, an extended cut, a 3D release, an Ultra HD Blu-ray release, and a super duper bells & whistles edition. Still, all things considered, this set comes highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

Other Reviews NONE
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