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May the BLU-RAYs be with you,
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This review is from: Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy (Episode I: The Phantom Menace / Episode II: Attack of the Clones / Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]
I'm a first-generation Star Wars fan since 1977, having seen the original versions of the original three films in the theater one time each as a child, then falling in love with them all over again on VHS in 1987. And I've been a huge fan ever since. The Star Wars Saga is the ultimate epic space opera and film series.
This isn't actually a review of the movies most of you reading this will have seen one or more versions of dozens of times, although this review will discuss some of the changes made to the films.
I actually own the six-film Star Wars Saga blu-ray set linked above, and I reviewed that. The movie discs in this product are 3 of the same discs from the larger Saga set, so I thought I would edit that review down to only discuss the prequel trilogy discs themselves and post it here. This is meant to be an overview with personal observations and select commentary thrown in.
DISC PHYSICAL QUALITIES
The discs themselves are heavy-duty, yet smooth and well-coated with scratch resistance - the best available in retail products I've seen. The discs themselves do not have any images - they are light grey with blue trimmings. The discs have the previously used logos of STAR WARS with the episode subtitle underneath, both on top of the episode number in the form of a large Roman numeral.
THE FILM DISCS
This is as good a place as any to mention that there are two audio commentary tracks for each of the films of blu-ray. There are the same ones from the previous DVD versions of these films, and then new commentaries compiled from "archival interviews with cast and crew". I don't enjoy listening to commentaries while watching adventure films, but I will force myself to listen to the new tracks once (as I did for the original DVD commentaries).
As I have only had one frame of reference for viewing the blu-ray films, I thought I should first specify what that is, in case my experiences are in any way relative to my equipment and viewing conditions. This may mean more to you than it does to me. My blu-ray player is a Sony BDP-S350. My HD TV is a Sony Bravia KDL-40V4100, a flat-screen LCD with a diagonal of a little over a meter. My blu-ray player and TV are both almost 3 years old. My line of vision is exactly 90° to the plane of the TV screen, and my eyes and ears are at a height equal to about 1/3 up from the bottom edge of the screen. I'm sitting such that the distance of my head to the TV screen is a little more than the width of the Death Star's thermal exhaust port.
The Films on Blu-ray
All three films sound and look awesome in HD! Even Revenge of the Sith, which had the least room for improvement, is substantially better. All three films sound and look awesome in HD! I fully appreciate all the effort that had to go into improving the resolution of over 6 hours of high-quality sci-fi entertainment, frame-by-frame. Coruscant from space is breathtakingly gorgeous!
There is one significant exception in the HD upgrade. A very logical and fitting artistic choice was made in the rendering of the holograms of characters. Throughout the all six movies, it looks like the holograms were not upgraded to HD, now looking somewhat pixilated compared to the surrounding "reality" they are projected into. This of course is easily explained in-universe as they are just not high-resolution transmissions, and I feel this actually works to improve the illusion of the entire scene seeming real. The holograms are now an intentional vestige of the analogue age, left behind to honor the origin and evolution of the Star Wars films themselves which began as motion picture projections but have now become the ultra-realistic-looking digital media. A very nice touch. And the hologram effects also seems more unified between the two trilogies now.)
A significant improvement that the HD upgrade also provides is a solution to a common criticism I have ran into since 1999. Over the years I have heard many Star Wars fans express that the addition of GC characters and objects into the films seems unrealistic, in not only the updated versions of the classic trilogy but even the prequels. Ironically, these fans seem to have no trouble accepting the un-reality of rubber muppet characters, but CG is somehow unacceptable in their vision of the Star Wars universe. Well, now muppets, rubber masks, human actors and CG characters can all exist in visual harmony together, thanks to the wonders of HD. The increase in resolution seems to have unified the apparent realities of them all. Now the real-world elements of the scenes have been "raised" to the same level of visual reality of the CG elements, resulting in the CG elements seeming to much more naturally blend in with their surroundings. This adds in a whole new level of visual realism to the films, perhaps being the greatest achievement of these new blu-ray versions of the films.
Now I'll go into more detail about some of the blu-ray enhancements and changes specific to each film.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The effect for the Jedi Knights speeding away from the droidekas on the Trade Federation ship has been improved. The original effects error of the two-headed pod race announcer's hand passing through his vest was fixed.
The big change that even the die hard purists don't seem to mind so much is the complete and utter removal of that awful imitation Yoda muppet. The TPM muppet bore a vague resemblance to the original muppet from the sequels, but I thought that the TMP muppet could at most pass for Yoda's crazy spice-addicted brother. I know some fans that feel the CG Yoda model from AotC and RotS was not as good as the original muppet, but even they would agree that the prequel CG model looks a lot more like the original muppet than the TMP muppet did. And in blu-ray the CG Yoda in all 3 prequels looks more realistic now, so I'm very happy with this change.
Episodes II: Attack of the Clones & Episodes II: Revenge of the Sith
These mostly only had minute editorial tweaks like the exact transition between scenes, moving a couple reaction shots and dialogue lines to a slightly different part of a scene. The only really somewhat significant change is adding a line of dialogue in AotC where Anakin is having a nightmare about his mother while staying on Naboo. Shmi Skywalker's voice is now heard pleading for Anakin's help with the echo effect (signifying it is a thought or dream in Anakin's mind). It does accomplish the addition of a little more urgency to the drama of the film.
You may not agree with all the opinions I expressed here, but if you are reading this then you must be a Star Wars fan of some kind on some level. If so, then do yourself a favor and watch all six films on blu-ray at least once, even if you have no intention of ever owning them. You'll see much more than I could possibly ever hope to describe in words. And if you wish to criticize the blu-ray versions after viewing them, at least you'll then have an educated opinion for doing so.
In my first viewing of Star Wars: The Complete Saga, the rich Star Wars multiverse has deepened in a way I couldn't have even imagined before seeing the films on blu-ray. While still not perfect, my favorite films have just gotten an incredible amount better. As impossible as it previously seemed, I'm somehow now even more of a Star Wars fan than I was before. But this blu-ray release has also reminded me that EVERY version of any Star Wars film is awesome!
If you have any questions, please feel free the ask. If you have also seen the blu-rays and want to comment on them with respect to my review, please also feel free. May the Force be with you.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 7, 2011 3:06:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2011 3:08:53 PM PDT
Will Mindspin says:
I do have a question. I love ALL SIX Star Wars films (even AotC). I have a hard time believing that anyone would even buy this product. Being from the original generation of Star Wars fans, I know many fans that love the classic trilogy and despise the prequels. But I don't know anyone that likes the prequels who doesn't also like the classic movies? If everyone that likes the prequels also likes the classics, who is left to buy this product? Wouldn't they all just buy the Complete Saga blu-rays like I did? The price for the individual trilogies is half the price of the Complete Saga, but buying the complete saga also gives you the 3 bonus discs "free". If there are fans out that that like the prequels but don't like the classics, I don't know any of them. The only possibility I can even imagine is fans that don't care about special features, can't afford the Complete Saga right now, but don't want to wait until they can save up for it to get the complete set, so just spend half the money and get one trilogy now, with the intention of geting the other trilogy at a future date. Is that who is buying this prequel trilogy?
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 11:11:38 AM PDT
Will, to answer your question, there are people out there (such as myself) who really hate the changes made to the original trilogy and therefore have no interest in the latest "special" version. That sort of person might buy just the prequel set to have those in high quality. I've considered it myself - although I don't personally like the prequel films enough to justify the expense. You're right that someone who likes the prequels will almost certainly also like the originals, but some of them might want to avoid all the changes and just opt for the prequel set. Although I'd guess that someone who actually LIKES the prequels probably also likes the SE changes to the OT. :P
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2011 10:21:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2011 10:22:37 AM PDT
Will Mindspin says:
Thanks for your reply, Puggo. I guess I never considered the possibility that someone may like the prequels but not accept the changes to the classics, thus liking the classics but only the original version of the classics. I think that never occurred to me because in the vast multitude of other Star Wars fans I have encountered and otherwise communicated with, I have never met any of these. OK, now that I think about, maybe just 1 that falls into this category. I have unlearned what I had learned. Thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2011 1:09:23 PM PST
I bought IV V and VI in a previous trilogy edition years ago and the package was wonderful. I don't have the intention to replace it on bluray, therefore I simply bought these 3.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2012 2:01:21 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2012 2:50:13 PM PST
BRENDA R says:
I love the first three Star Wars movies. I have them in VHS and DVD. I have never seen the second three movies. I don't own a blue ray machine and probably never will. I am buying these because they are cheaper and compatible with my DVD player. I have heard that a lot of people didn't like these movies as well as the first three. I just want to see the movies without spending too much money doing it. I won't be any worse off if I watch them in DVD format as apposed to Blue Ray format. Actually I will be better off because I saved money. I've seen some blue ray and I don't see much if any difference between Blue Ray and DVD. I think someone is doing a great job of brain washing people to think one product is sooooo much better then the previous product on the market and they just have to have it. To me it is just like the late 70's/early 80's when Beta was the first tape format released then came VHS. VHS was cheaper so people preferred VHS over Beta. Personally, I hate technology. They keep changing things ever so slightly every few months just to keep people buying and buying when there isn't enough difference to rush out and buy the new product. It won't be long before Blue Ray is a thing of the past too. Then what are you going to do, rush out and buy the something new? I think it needs to stop or at least slow down a lot! Maybe it will now that times are getting harder for most people. When it gets bad enough, people will have to decide what is more important, to pay the house or rent payment, utility bills, grocery bills, putting clothes on themselves and their kids, buying medicine, gas for their cars and making sure the car stays in running condition, OR BUY THE NEWEST, BIGGEST AND BEST ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCT! When things get bad enough, maybe people will realize having the biggest and best of technology isn't such a big deal and that there are much more important things to worry about!
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2012 8:06:14 PM PST
L. Roberson says:
I will honestly say that there is a pretty vast difference between Blu Ray and DVD in terms of video and audio quality, but the greatest leap forward is in the ability to store so much more content on each disc individually, as well as upgraded interfaces - not always a good thing (BluRay Live, for example, is just fuggin annoying) but sometimes it's a GREAT thing. Stuff you would never have been able to do or see on DVD.
I rarely buy movies on disc anymore, but anything that can actually take advantage of an HD upgrade I'll get on Blu Ray. There are some older films that don't really benefit, but they tend to be pretty cheap (sub 5 dollar range) anyway.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2012 9:40:58 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2012 9:42:32 AM PST
BRENDA R says:
Thanks for the lesson on the difference between Blu Ray and DVD. I guess to some people it matters. I personally am very tired of buying some electronic device and before you get it home it is already obsolete. You can spend tons of money on this stuff if you have it, which I could do, but at my age it really doesn't seem as important anymore. I would much rather take long road trips and enjoy the scenery. That is getting hard to do these days with gas prices. I feel there are so many more important things to spend my money on than Blu Ray. Maybe I would feel differently if I owned a Blu Ray. I do appreciate the information on the differences between the two. Thanks!
Posted on Mar 28, 2012 9:40:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2012 9:42:13 PM PDT
Regarding the rubber muppet vs CGI issue:
1) Rubber muppets DO look better. :-)
2) Rubber muppets vs CGI isn't the real issue. The issue is that it is near impossible to insert CGI animations into live action and make it look good. A muppet is a real, physical 3D object and so it fits. When CGI is inserted it looks like a cartoon spliced into reality. Don't even try to argue that the Episode IV scene with Jabba in Bay 94 doesn't look ridiculous! CGI backgrounds and other stationary objects can work if done well, but CGI animations rarely look convincing. And a CGI Yoda would never have captured people's imaginations like the muppet did. As another example, compare the binary sun montage in Episode IV with the binary sun CGI at the end of Episode III. The Episode IV scene is beautiful and stirring, the Episode III scene looks like a cartoon. Objections to CGI have nothing to do with acceptance, but rather with how they appear when integrated with live action footage.
Posted on Apr 14, 2012 3:30:35 PM PDT
rawi fayad says:
Just a quick question, are the blu rays region coded, or playable on all region players? No need to test them, but what does it say on the box.. Jut region a, or a,b,c?
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 29, 2012 12:49:46 PM PDT
C. Fletcher says:
Great review Will. I was able to purchase Empire and Jedi on blu-ray at a local blockbuster that was going out of business for $5 apiece. I have a ps3 that we got for Christmas more or less for the blu-ray player. I was skeptical but together with our 50 inch sony flat screen t.v. the movies look incredible. I was not going to purchase episodes 1, 2 and 3 but this afternoon at Costco they were playing Revenge of the Sith on a 60 inch t.v. with a Sony subwoofer and some kind of speakers that fit below the t.v. and it absolutely looked and sounded perfect. For those people wondering about blu-ray vs. dvd there really is a big difference especially in sci-fi movies. Sith was beautiful and if episodes 1 and 2 look half as good is it then these movies are worth the upgrade from dvd for sure!