By this point, most of us (all of us?!?) have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens at least once, if not a few times. I saw it three times in theaters and still feel like that was a failing on my part. I could have seen it so many more times! Every time I was watching it, I was already looking forward the next time I’d get to watch it. It truly made me feel like a kid again, in a way that even all the other great stuff I get to write about for this website doesn’t really elicit. And, now that the movie’s out on Blu-ray, it’s a feeling we can all relive time and time again.
Nowadays, most physical media feels like a relic of a bygone age, and special features on major releases consist mainly of featurettes you probably could have seen on the internet before the movie came out Disney family releases, however, still seem to get things right in a way that’s usually reserved for more specialty outfits like Criterion or Shout! Factory. If you’ve gotten any of the Pixar or Marvel movies, or any of the classic Disney animated features releases, then you know they still put a good many features on that still feel worthy of the term “special.” Thankfully, The Force Awakens is no exception.
The Blu-ray transfer of the movie itself looks and sounds immaculate, with superior video and audio, but I feel like most people who will buy the release are most interested in the bonus disc. I know I was. The big main feature on the bonus disc is a 65-minute documentary entitled “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey,” which takes us through every aspect of making the movie, starting from the inception of the idea through writing, casting, visual effects, model building, scoring, all leading up to the release. This documentary is a wonderful look at the behind-the-scenes story, with interviews from all the major parties including J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, Harrison Ford, as well as the entire cast and much of the crew. There’s even a few brief words from George Lucas. It’s comprehensive and reminded me a lot of those documentaries that were in the original trilogy’s first DVD release back in the day.
A lot of these docs were produced by and for the film — meaning the studio wants them to show the movie in the best light — and while this certainly isn’t an expose, it isn’t a straight-up promo piece either. Ford talks about how he never thought in a million years he’d want to do another Star Wars movie, for example, and Carrie Fisher talks about how worried she was about returning to acting, and even copped to being horrible during the filming of her first scene. Early on in the doc, we hear the interviewer tell the cast members they’re allowed to talk about spoilers since this is for the Blu-ray and a lot of them are still apprehensive. We also get a breakdown of the nerves involved in filming THAT SCENE between Han Solo and Kylo Ren. Tears.
We also get — and it’s indicated as such on screen — the very first interviews with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega after they’d been cast, and we can see how excited and sort of nervous they are for the massive undertaking that’s to come. They also included audition reels for both of them as well (watch Daisy’s here). They’re kind of great, the pair of them. It’s a really great documentary, but I do wish it were longer.
Luckily, there are more featurettes to help elongate the making-of experience. All of these range between 4 and 9 minutes. These include “The Table Read,” which talks about that famous first read-thru with everybody, where Mark Hamill ended up reading all the stage directions; “Building BB-8” is about the construction and movement of the puppet used in the film (which is an actual rod puppet; a surprise to me); and “Crafting Creatures” talks about making all the guys we see at Maz Kanata’s castle, as well as returning characters like Nein Nunb and Admiral Ackbar.
“Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight” dissects the creation of the set and the fight choreography of that final lightsaber showdown in forest outside Starkiller Base between Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. There’s another featurette called “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony,” which discusses his composing of the Oscar-nominated score and the difficulty in Rey’s theme specifically. Last but not least, it all finishes up with “ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force,” which talks about blending the visual effects with the live action puppetry and sets. You’ll be surprised how much is actually really there.
That also brings us to the only real disappointment on the bonus features, and it’s the thing most people are probably super excited about: the deleted scenes. Disney and Lucasfilm made sure to hype these up something fierce, which is why I was surprised when I saw that all six deleted scenes amount to just over 4 minutes in total. All put together. Just 4 minutes of deleted material. Most of these are little asides or sequences that kind of make sense why they were deleted.
One scene is from early in the movie where Finn, with blood on his stormtrooper helmet, spares a villager. Another shows Leia and the Resistance getting word of Poe’s capture and BB-8 being stuck on Jakku, which totally would have spoiled that great reveal of Leia in the dropship later on. The one most people will be excited about is Kylo Ren searching the Millennium Falcon after it crash-lands on Starkiller Base. This is literally just him walking around and looking at the ship before saying, “Han Solo.” Another is of a deleted action sequence after Solo’s long fall with Finn and Rey trying to get back to the Falcon in a snowspeeder, while being chased by First Order troopers. It’s fine but it was unnecessary. The last scene is a few seconds of the X-Wing pilots scrambling to get to their ships.
While these are anemic at best, it made me realize that we are totally seeing the best stuff in the movie itself. It’s not like huge sections of the narrative were stricken from the film; this isn’t a half hour being put back into a director’s cut. These scenes were deleted for a reason and they were pretty minor. You know how they say you aren’t supposed to get a huge tax refund because that means the government took too many taxes out in the first place? This is like the movie equivalent of that.
Surprisingly, the film’s awesome trailers are not present on the discs, but that’s a minor quibble. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not only one of the best movies in the past few years and a return to form for the saga set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but it’s also a Blu-ray that’s absolutely worth your time and money. These are features you’ll actually want to watch again right along with the movie, and for supplemental material you can’t ask for higher praise.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo package is available to purchase everywhere beginning April 5.
The cast shares their earliest Star Wars memories:
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!