Star Wars-Episode IV/V/VI Extras Disc (2004)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Empire Of Dreams: The Story Of The Star Wars Trilogy
Featurette-The Characters Of Star Wars
Featurette-The Birth Of The Lightsaber
Featurette-The Force Is With Them: The Legacy Of Star Wars
Theatrical Trailer-Launch And Re-Release Trailers For All 3 Movies
Theatrical Trailer-1997 Trailer For "A New Hope".
Gallery-Photo-Exclusive Production Photos
Featurette-Episode III: Making The Game
Trailer-Star Wats Battlefront: X Box Game Demo
Trailer-Star Wars Battlefront Game
Featurette-Episode III Preview: The Return Of Darth Vader
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (71:59)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Various|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||Varies|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Varies||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
George Lucas' original Star Wars Trilogy remains one of cinema's most outstanding and astounding critical and commercial successes. These films left an indelible imprint on movie-going audiences world-wide, impacted heavily on western pop-culture, and changed the course of film-making. As I wrote in my bio, Star Wars is a universally appealing morality tale, and "one of the very few films that I can remember seeing as a child . . . it provides a powerful mythology for a secular 20th and 21st century". The Star Wars Trilogy are films that, when finally released on DVD, demanded a decent extras package, and I'm happy to say that Lucas has delivered!
The four-disc Star Wars Trilogy box set contains an Extras Disc, which is logically divided into various sections:
Documentary and Featurettes
Documentary: Empire Of Dreams: The Story Of The Star Wars Trilogy (150:44)
Written by Ed Singer, and produced/directed by Edith Becker and Kevin Burns, Empire Of Dreams runs for over two-and-a-half hours. This comprehensive documentary is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) surround-encoded audio. The clips from the films that are included as part of the documentary are 'letterboxed' to their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The documentary is divided into 12 chapters, and covers Episode IV through to VI.
There have been many, many documentaries about these films, the fans, and even related subjects, such as documentaries on ILM or Joseph Campbell. However, overall, this is the most comprehensive single documentary that I have seen on the Star Wars universe.
Empire Of Dreams includes recent interview segments with key cast, such as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, and Kenny Baker; as well as writer/director George Lucas, composer John Williams, editor Paul Hirsch, producer Gary Kurtz, director Lawrence Kasden, and director Irvin Kershner. We also hear from director Steven Spielberg, the then 20th Century Fox Studio Head Alan Ladd Jr, and many others who were involved in the filmmaking.
However, Empire Of Dreams is not just talking heads, it's packed with behind-the-scenes footage, file footage of the original premieres, and some out-takes from the three films. Despite being a die-hard Star Wars nut (of the almost a complete nerd variety), I actually learned some new things in watching this documentary. There are also many funny moments, such as the TV commercials for Kenner Toy's original Star Wars action figures. Lucas was originally unable to interest any company in the merchandising for Star Wars, except one small toy company that only agreed to make the action figures so that they could add a "space range" to their toy line. They were not ready or able to meet the subsequent demand, and in Xmas 1977, they sold empty boxes of the figures, which only contained a piece of paper with a promise that the figures would be shipped to the customer as soon as they were made. I also laughed at the Studio memos complaining that "the wookie has no pants".
I also didn't realise that as part of the marketing, and to get Sci-Fi fans on-side, in 1976 a novelised version of the script was published a year before the film was released, and sold well. In addition, a Stan Lee/Marvel Comics version of the Star Wars story was also published. Alan Ladd Jr, who at the time was 20th Century Fox Studio Head, also discusses the originally poor booking by exhibitors, and how they could only get the movie booked into 37 cinemas in the US on its initial release, as no one originally wanted it. This is despite 20th Century Fox's heavy-handed tactics to force cinemas to screen it! He adds that of those 37 cinemas, 36 broke their all-time box office records, and that within three weeks of release Fox's stock price doubled, as Star Wars went on to become the (then) all-time box-office champion.
One of the great treasures of this disc is that it includes a lot of the original shooting footage from the three movies (i.e. before post-production). To see the original scenes of Darth Vader, with David Prowse providing the dialogue in his high-pitched, Scottish accent (before James Earl Jones' voice was dubbed over it) is absolutely hilarious -- it's almost like watching a good Monty Python sketch.
Of course a fair proportion of the documentary looks at the truly groundbreaking SFX, including the use of models, blue-screen, matte painting, and stop-motion animation, before the world of CGI stepped in. Interestingly, while I knew Lucas founded ILM in 1975, I wasn't aware that he also founded Pixar Animation in the 1980s to develop 3D animation, before this division was spun off as a separate company. A number of stills of original sketches, design and costume art, story-boards, and conceptual and promotional art is also included.
For me, another highlight of this documentary are the original screen tests, shot on black and white video. Apart from the original auditions of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, we also get to see a number of other 'big name' screen tests, including Kurt Russell auditioning for the part of Han Solo, William Katt auditioning for the part of Luke Skywalker, and Cindy Williams auditioning for the part of Princess Leia.
While the overall feel of the documentary is fun and light, it does have its serious moments, such as looking at some of the obstacles in shooting, ranging from problems with the schedule, problems with the budget, problems with the studio, and problems with the post-production. Furthermore, Visual Effects supervisor John Dykstra and chief model maker Paul Huston also speak frankly about their falling out with Lucas during the production, and how they could never seem to satisfy him with their work. Editor Paul Hirsch also discusses some of the problems with editing Episode IV, based on the speedy shooting, and the resulting limited footage.
While the documentary focuses on the original films, in its dying moments there is a look at 1997, and why Lucas chose to "revisit" (okay change) them, when digital SFX "caught up with his original vision". Episodes I and II are touched on briefly at the end, but no mention is made of The Clone Wars animated television series or the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special which Lucas has since managed to deny and bury.
Cleverly, the title of the documentary comes from the great irony that Lucas, the world's most successful independent filmmaker, a writer/producer/director who as a young film student started Lucasfilm in order to rebel against the controlling Hollywood studio system (an important theme of the Star Wars Trilogy), ended up presiding over a global Empire of his own, albeit an "Empire of Dreams".
Unless stated otherwise, all featurettes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) surround-encoded audio, with the clips from the films that are included as part of the featurette 'letterboxed' to their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
Featurette-The Characters Of Star Wars (18:57)
Here we look at the story of good-versus-evil, and the characters that flesh that conflict out. Apart from key cast members, we also hear from director Peter Jackson, and there is also some screen-test footage included explaining the casting decisions.
Featurette-The Birth Of The Lightsaber (15:34)
Lucas discusses some of his inspirations such as Robin Hood and the mythology surrounding Medieval Knights. Lucas also discusses his original idea for a "laser sword", and addresses an issue that I've always found odd: As I note in my bio, "Compare, for example, the duel at the end of Episode 1 to the duel at the end of Episode 4, which while exciting in the 1970s, now resembles two old men poking their walking sticks at each other". Lucas explains that in Episodes 1 to 3, the Jedi were at their peak and well trained, hence their acrobatic and dexterous duelling skills. We also get a sneak peak behind-the-scenes of a duel being filmed between Vader and Obi-Wan in Episode III.
Featurette-The Force Is With Them: The Legacy Of Star Wars (13:23)
Here a number of producer/directors discuss the impact Star Wars had on them, such as James Cameron, who quit his job as a truck driver after seeing the film, and other notables, such as Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson, Dean Devlin, and John Singleton.
Video Games and Still Galleries
Gallery-Photo-Exclusive Production Photos
Photographic stills from Episode IV-VI, which can be viewed with or without informative text captions.
A collection of images of the various posters that were used in various countries to promote the film.
Featurette-Episode III: Making The Game (6:09)
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) surround-encoded audio, Lucas Arts Director Jon Knoles discusses the upcoming multi-format game.
X Box Game Demo-Star Wars Battlefront
I loaded this disc into my X-Box, and pleasantly discovered that a whole game level, set on Endor, is included. I assume they used X-Box to demonstrate the game as the X-Box is currently the most advanced gaming console on the market (until Playstation 3 is released in 2005/6). I must say that the game looks quite detailed, and seems very true to the Star Wars universe. As a third-person-shooter, players can select to play as characters from 'both sides of the fence'.
Game Trailer-Star Wars Battlefront Game (1:17)
A short trailer for the above game.
Trailers and TV Spots
Unless stated otherwise, all featurettes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with English Dolby Digital Stereo audio.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, there are 11 short TV spots, (four for Episode IV, four for Episode V, and 3 for Episode VI). They can be viewed separately, or played sequentially.
Featurette-Episode III Preview: The Return Of Darth Vader (9:08)
Okay, I have to admit that this was the only disappointing featurette. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) surround-encoded audio, we get some interview segments with actors Ewan McGregor, James Earl Jones, Hayden Christensen, and producer Rick McCallum, discussing the character and costume of Vader; And we do get to see Hayden donning the famous black suit, and some behind-the-scenes footage of Vader's duel with Obi-Wan, but I was hoping for a genuine preview of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which I understand is currently in post-production.
Obviously a variety of source material has been used in these documentaries and featurettes, ranging from 1970s file footage to recent interviews shot on DV tape. However, overall, the transfer quality is excellent.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with the clips from the films presented in their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. Some material, such as the TV Spots, are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame.
The sharpness, black level, shadow detail, and colour of the recent footage, such as the documentary interviews, is excellent. As expected, some of the DVD's contents are limited by the age and condition of the source material.
I did not notice any problems with MPEG artefacts, although some of the older footage, especially the original TV Spots, are very, very grainy.
Film-to-video artefacts appear in the form of aliasing throughout, such as the slight shimmer on the X-Wing diagrams at 8:43 during Empire Of Dreams. However, I never found it distracting.
As expected, there are various film artefacts appearing in some of the file footage, and some of the older footage. Again, it was not distracting.
English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles are present, and the English subtitles are very accurate.
This is a dual-layered disc, with the layer change placed at 71:59 during Empire Of Dreams. It is very smooth and as it is between scenes, it is not disruptive.
There is only one audio track offered: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). For the documentary and most of the featurettes, the audio is surround-encoded.
The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout.
The music featured is taken from the films' scores provided by the great John Williams, who of course is also responsible for the Harry Potter, Jaws, Superman, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones movies' musical scores.
As a documentary, I was not expected a great deal of surround presence or activity. As expected, the surround sound mix is quite front-heavy, but the rear speakers are used at times to help carry the score and provide some limited ambience. Obviously, as Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, there is no LFE track.
|Surround Channel Use|
Can a disc of Extras have Extras? Well, yes!
There is a Main Menu Introduction, and a series of animated sub-menus, with Dolby Digital stereo audio. If you own the DVDs for Episode I or II, you will already be familiar with their look and feel.
A link to starwars.com.
Easter Egg - Star Wars Trilogy Gag Reel (4:31)
To access go to the Video Game & Still Galleries menu page. Press "10+", "1" (or "11") on your remote and wait for the small box next to R2-D2 to change colour. Press "3", then "8".
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As far as I can tell, the R4 and R1 discs are identical, except for the region coding and the NTSC/PAL difference.
While many Star Wars fans might (legitimately) complain that the original films are not available in their unaltered state, or that there could have been more extras, let's consider what we have been offered -- a wonderful, genuine, and fairly comprehensive extras package.
As I wrote in my review for the Rambo Trilogy, I have always reserved space on my DVD shelves for some long-awaited box-sets: the Indiana Jones movies, the Back To The Future movies, the Rambo movies, and the original Star Wars movies. Now, in 2004, it's great to see that by the end of this year, all of these blank spaces will have been filled.
Arguably, the Star Wars Trilogy has been the most sought after and highly anticipated DVD release of all time, and I'm pleased to see that we got treated to a great Extras Package. Yes, there could have been more, but I'm happy with what we got -- finally!
The video quality depends on the source material, but is usually great.
The audio quality is very good, albeit quite front-heavy.
The extras are genuine.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using S-Video output|
|Display||Grundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-545|
|Speakers||Sony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer|