STAR WARS Digital Editions Review: New Extras Offer More Insight into the Saga

     April 29, 2015

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Star Wars has now come to digital, with all six films now available for purchase through Google Play. This means you can watch the films on your phone, tablet, laptop, or your television if you stream it. I have checked it on both my television, my computer and my phone, and it’s there. It’s Star Wars, looking much as it did when it hit Blu-ray a couple years back. But there are some slight modifications and new supplements to peruse.

The streaming experience is the streaming experience. It’s great to have the films and the supplements available on so many platforms, but there are caveats. We’re all waiting for the theatrical cuts of the original trilogy and they’re not here, while the films have been modified as only the original Star Wars carries the Fox logo, and it has the newer 20th Century Fox intro (though the original audio). I should note that I had problems getting the films to load properly on my PS3, and the films would often stop around the five minute mark and buffer endlessly. That could be because of my streaming capabilities, but I’ve never had these problems with Netflix. Who’s to say why it’s an issue, and it’s been easier to watch content on my computer or phone. Going through Youtube on the PS3 it’s hard to access the content cleanly, and you’re likely to start The Phantom Menace repeatedly trying to get to everything else, while on the laptop, it’s harder to read the names of the supplemental material.

The Films 

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Image via Lucasfilm

The Phantom Menace: It’s not as bad as its reputation suggests as George Lucas put a lot of himself into it, but it’s a lumpy and stately (read: mostly boring) movie. There is all evidence Lucas forgot how to make movies, as every complaint lobbed by Red Letter Media is right on the money.

Attack of the Clones: Easily the worst Star Wars movie. Lots of moving parts, but bad everything.

Revenge of the Sith: It has all the problems of the other prequels, but important stuff actually happens in it, so a lot of people give it a pass. Honestly, the prequels should be ignored.

Star Wars: There’s a reason why people are excited about Star Wars still, nearly forty years later, and if you don’t get it when watching this film, well, sorry.

The Empire Strikes Back: Is this the best Star Wars movie? I’d say yes. It takes everything from the original and gives it depth and scope.

Return of the Jedi: This gets a pass because it closes everything out nicely, but it’s just not as well constructed as its predecessors. Still, the last thirty minutes of this movie is aces.


The Extras

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Image via Lucasfilm

The Phantom Menace: There are eight deleted scenes. It kicks off (at least on the Google Play section) with “Trash Talking Droids” (1 min.), which tries to mimic the C3PO/R2D2 banter from the original trilogy, and it’s followed by “Anakin’s Scuffle with Greedo” (1 min.), where, yes, Greedo is introduced fighting with a Skywalker. “Bail Organa of Alderaan” (1 min.) also follows this line of introducing characters who will be important later on, but it’s interesting that this part was recast. Then there’s the “Complete Podrace Grid Sequence” (7 min.), which extends the opening sequence of the set piece, and spends a lot of time introducing the racers in what seems to be a bid to sell more toys. “Battle on the Boarding Ramp” (1 min.) shows a rough version of the scuffle between Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Qui-Gon Ginn (Liam Neeson), while there’s also an extended “Podrace Lap Two” (4 min.), and the theatrical cut of the podrace (12 min.), so there’s a lot of podracing material. “The Waterfall Sequence” (2 min.) has Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and the Jedi almost going over a waterfall when first arriving at Queen Amidala’s, while “Anakin’s Return” (1 min.) just offers an incomplete effects sequence from the final battle.

The feature length and very revealing documentary “The Beginning” (66 min.) is here and it shows (sometimes painfully) what went into the making of the film. There’s also new stuff: “Discoveries from Inside: Models and Miniatures” (4 min.) has J.W. Rinzler going to the model shop and looking at one of the pod racers, Leia’s blockade runner, the Millennium Falcon, and C3PO. There’s also “Conversations: Doug Chiang Looks Back” (5 min.), where Chiang talks about the design principles involved in his work.

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Image via Lucasfilm

Attack of the Clones: The deleted scenes kick off with “Anakin’s Nightmare” (1 min.) where our hero (Hayden Christensen) has bad visions of his mom, and it’s followed by “Dooku Interrogates Padme” (1 min.), which gives Christopher Lee and Natalie Portman more time to negotiate. “Jedi Imposter at the Temple” (1 min.) has Obi-Wan (Ewan McGreggor) investigating the Kamino dart, “Padme’s Parent’s House” (2 min.) offers Padme and Anakin walking through their vacation house, while “Obi-Wan and Mace – Jedi Landing Platform” (2 min.) have those two talking about more business. Man, are these deleted scenes boring, but the final one “Raid on the Droid Control Ship and Extended Arena Fight” (4 min.) offers some action, though it’s filled with unfinished effects.

“Films are not Released, They Escape” (26 min.) gets into the post-production process of the making of the film, with a look at the sound and dubbing stages, and it really does give you an appreciation for all the layers that go into sound design. “State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II” (23 min.) shows how the big set pieces, specially the chase sequence, were mapped out extensively before they were shot, and ends with some fun bloopers. “Episode II Visual Effects Breakdown Montage” (4 min.) shows how so much of the film was created in computers. While “From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II” (52 min.) gets even further into how much the film was plotted to be done with CGI. Then there’s the new stuff: “Conversations: Sounds in Space” (6 min.) is a conversation between Ben Burtt and Mathew Wood about their work together, and how some of the sounds were found. Also new: Discoveries From Inside: Costumes Revealed” (5 min.) has Rinzler looking at the costumes and points out that Han Solo’s Hoth costume was brown, not blue.

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Image via Lucasfilm


Revenge of the Sith: More deleted scenes! “A Plot to Destroy the Jedi” (1 min.) has Obi-Wan, Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) discussing that they know something is afoot with Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), but don’t have hard evidence, while “Anakin Kills Shaak Ti” (1 min.) lives up to its title. “Seeds of Rebellion” (1 min.) is another scene of people talking about what’s going on with Palpatine, “Yoda Communes with Qui-Gon” (1 min.) shows what could have been a cameo from Liam Neeson, and “Exiled to Dagobah” (1 min.) makes obvious what is evident. “Grievous Slaughters a Jedi / Escape from the General” (3 min.) is the best deleted scene, though it’s amazing how ham-handed Lucas became. There is so much over explanation in these deleted scenes, much as there is in the finished product.

“Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III” (78 min.) goes into the Mustafar duel sequence and all the layers that went into one minute of it. It’s a great idea for a featurette and it’s well executed as we see all of the work. “ILM Episode III: Siggraph Reel” (4 min.) shows all the layers that went into the effects work, while “The Journey” (13 min.) is broken into two parts and reflects on the journey from the first film to the end of shooting Sith and all the premieres of the film, and how much fans love it. Then there’s the new stuff: “Discoveries from Inside: Holograms & Bloopers” (3 min.) has Rinzler hosting a look into the Lucasfilm film archives, and you get a brief look at some goofs from the first film. “Conversations: The Star Wars that Almost Was” (5 min.) offers Rinzler and Pablo Hidalgo discussing changes that were made, including a sequence where Luke Skywalker hangs on a vine, and that Han Solo originally was a blue alien.

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Image via Lucasfilm

Star Wars: There are eight deleted scenes from this one. “The Search for R2-D2” (1 min.) shows how they tried to use rear screen projection and how it didn’t work, “Tosche Station” (5 min.) brings in Biggs earlier into the story and has them looking at the opening attack on Princess Leia’s ship, while “Old Woman on Tatooine” (1 min.), “Darth Vader Widens the Search” (1 min.) and “Aunt Beru’s Blue Milk” (1 min.) are small cuts made from the film. “Stormtrooper Search” (1 min.) shows some unused creature design, “Cantina Rough-Cut” (7 min.) shows that famous sequence in a rougher version while ”Alternate Biggs & Luke Reunion” (1 min.) offers a rebel leader talking about Luke’s father and how great a pilot Luke’s dad was.

“Anatomy of a Dewback” (26 min.) focuses on the changes made for the special edition as the Dewbacks became digital creatures, while “Star Wars Launch Trailer” (1 min.) is a period trailer. New is “Conversations: Creating a Universe” (8 min.) which brings together Joe Johnston and second unit director Roger Christian to talk about the making of the first film and how they came to work on the original trilogy. “Discoveries from Inside: Weapons & The First Lightsaber” (3 min.) has Rinzler and Roger Christian rummaging through the archives and looking at props from the original films

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Image via Lucasfilm


The Empire Strikes Back: There are six deleted scenes here: “Alternate Han and Leia Kiss” (2 min.) offers a different version of their first lip lock while “Yoda’s Test” (1 min.) has Luke practicing his lightsaber play while Yoda hangs on his back. “Hiding in the Asteroid” (1 min.) has Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reacting to fake explosions, “Lobot’s Capture” (1 min.) shows Lobot being taken by Stormtroopers, while “Wampa Attacks” (3 min.) shows that the Wampa was meant to have a larger role in the film but the creature didn’t work that well on film when seen in total. “Han and Leia: Extended Echo Base Argument” (2 min.) offers a couple extra lines at the end of their first great exchange in the movie.

There’s a number of 2010 featurettes here, including “A Conversation with the Masters” (25 min.), which gets director Irvin Kershner, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas to talk about the making of the film. And I have to say, every time I see the late Kershner talk, I feel as though Yoda was partly modeled on him. Lucas takes a lot of credit for how the film was structured and works, which may make some fans annoyed. Recycled from the laserdisc release is “Dennis Muren: How Walkers Walk” (2 min.) which shows behind the scenes footage of the stop motion work on the AT-AT’s. Also from (it looks like) the film’s release is “George Lucas on Editing The Empire Strikes Back” (3 min.) which looks to be an old TV interview with Lucas. “George Lucas on The Force” (5 min.) comes from 2010, and it’s fairly standard Lucas talk. New for this set are “Discoveries from Inside: Matte Paintings Unveiled” (5 min.) which looks at a number of the matte paintings done for the film and are still very impressive. Also new is “Conversations: The Lost Interviews” (10 min.) which offers audio interviews with Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, and John Williams from 1977.

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Image via Lucasfilm


Return of the Jedi: There are five deleted scenes: “Battle of Endor: The Lost Rebels” (10 min.) shows reaction shots from assorted rebels, and it’s great to see Nien Nunb speak with a British accent. “Vader’s Arrival and Reaching Out to Luke” (3 min.) shows Vader in his resting chamber from ESB calling out to Luke, and we see Luke preparing his new lightsaber as C3P0 and R2D2 head out to Jabba’s palace without him. Interesting cut. “Rebel Raid on the Bunker” (2 min.) has additional footage from the first raid on the bunker and you can hear the production audio, with the director calling out what he wants, and it’s followed by “Tatooine Sandstorm” (2 min.), which shows Luke and company going to their ships after breaking free of Jabba, while “JerJerrod’s Conflict” (2 min.) shows the character not quite sure to follow the emperor’s more aggressive battle plans. There’s also a Revenge of the Jedi teaser trailer, a Return of the Jedi trailer and two TV spots.

The coolest older featurette is “Classic Creatures” (48 min.) and it’s hosted by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams, and explores the third film’s use of monsters and puppets. There’s some great behind the scenes footage here, along with footage from films like Godzilla. It’s followed by new featurette “Conversations: The Effects” (10 min.), which brings together ILM creative director Dennis Muren, monster shop supervisor Phil Tippett, ILM chief creative officer and senior visual effects supervisor John Knoll, and visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett to talk about the franchise from start to where it is now, with stories about how supposedly prints of Empire went out with temp effects because of the time crunch, and the most challenging shots they worked on. Closing out the set is “Discoveries from Inside: The Sounds of Ben Burtt,” (5 min.) which offers Burtt walking J.W. Rinzler through some of his initial sound ideas from the original trilogy, including how some of the lightning-esque sounds came from the actual props from the 1931 film Frankenstein.

Also, every film has a newly cut trailer to promote this release. There are some new things, and those new things are actually thoughtful and interesting, but – as has been the case since these films hit DVD, you don’t get everything. There’s no Holiday Special, nor the animated Boba Fett sequence that was included on the Blu-ray. Perhaps when The Force Awakens hits Blu-ray we might get unaltered versions of the original films, and the exhaustive box set that fans would go nuts for, but until that happens, this is a great addition to the collection, at least for those who want digital copies.


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Image via Disney

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