Star Wars Blu-ray review
Star Wars: The Complete Saga

When Star Wars was released in 1977 across a small 32-cinema run, it became an instant hit. Yet while the driving force behind the movie was George Lucas’s obsession with visual effects, and in part Ralph McQuarrie’s iconic designs, the movie worked because it was a delicious melting pot of simple ideas.

A heady mix of 1940s Saturday morning serial, western, fantasy fairytale and sci-fi extravaganza, Star Wars picks at universal myths and pop cultures, from the Land of Oz to The Hidden Fortress. It’s a movie of many parts linked by characters drawn boldly but with enough depth to illicit emotion and carry the story, itself packaged in with the universal, easily understood narrative of ‘the journey’.

Although it could be argued that the final assault on the Death Star runs too long – with George wanting to show off every last dollar of his special effects budget – in terms of visuals the original movie and its two sequels still hold their own. On this Blu-ray collection they look even better than before, too. The Empire Strikes Back, the jewel in the series’ crown, looks like a new movie – the Hoth battle is crisp and fresh, the AT-ATs are immense and threatening like you remember from childhood. The often-maligned Endor from Return of the Jedi carries a new rush of colour – especially during the speeder-bike chase – while the space battle swirling around the rebuilt Death Star sparkles. The modellers’ work looks better than ever.

Feature the Force
Clicking to the collection’s bonus features enables you to dissect these famous images, pulling layers from a scene’s composition. You can remove actors, then scenery models and then finally the matte painting, to see how the magic was constructed.

Discs seven and eight of this nine-disc set bring together the many models, matte paintings and concept art from all six movies. There are over 100 items to explore, making this the disc to start on for avid fans. A unique new feature enables you to explore the famous Lucasfilm Archives: you can interact with models and artwork, and listen to commentaries from Lorne Peterson, Phil Tippett, Steve Gawley and more original crew members as you simultaneously watch a scene.

The big question remains, though: is this enough to save the prequels? Complex political and economic back stories muddle the story up no end. Across the three newer films we get multiple villains where once a single Sith Lord would suffice. Furthermore, George’s obsession with green screen and CGI tricks threatens to engulf the performances in an over-rendered vice-like grip, as if Vader himself were throttling the life from scenes. Where Star Wars used special effects deftly to open up our imaginations and hint at new, unseen worlds beyond the corners of the screen, the prequels explain too much in clean, sharp detail.

Defending Episode I

This doesn’t mean that the new movies are devoid of merit. Terryl Whitlatch’s pod racers are whimsical and unique, Darth Maul is a villain to rival Darth Vader and the sheer scope of the locations and battles are a match for any blockbuster. Episode III’s opening space battle above Coruscant looks astounding in high definition, as does the final duel on Mustafar. Yet, overall, Episodes I and II are less convincing in high definition, being too sterile to look believable. But who can decline the urge to see beyond the movies and admire the creativity that went into bringing the pod racer and proto AT-AT art and models to life?

If you really can’t face the prequels, then there are plans to release the Trilogies separately on Blu-ray later. Through a unique selection option you’ll be able to explore parts of the wider Star Wars universe by location. For example, for Episodes IV-VI you can drop in on Tatooine, Hoth and Endor, exploring scenes and effects, models and matte paintings from each planet or body with accompanying commentary and featurettes.

The Star Wars series opened up a universe of possibilities – of hinted-at romance and adventure in a galaxy far, far away – and this nine-disc set, in beautifully restored high definition coupled with superb features and visual effects insights, is the closest we’ve come yet to glimpsing how the magic was made. Star Wars: The Complete Saga is just that. See, George does love you after all.

Rating: 5/5
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Certificate: 12
Price: £90 (complete Blu-ray box set)
Available: 12 September

The discs explored

What you can expect to find in this nine-disc Blu-ray box set featuring the remastered films.

Discs 1-6
All the movies
The films in chronological order from Episode I to VI, plus new and archived audio commentary from George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Scott Squires and more, plus the cast and crew.

Disc 7
Archives for Episodes I-III
Deleted, extended and alternate scenes, prop, maquette and costume turnarounds, matte paintings and concept art, a ‘fly-through of the Lucasfilm Archives’, and more.

Disc 8
Archives for Episodes IV-VI
Deleted, extended and alternate scenes, prop, maquette and costume turnarounds, matte paintings and concept art, interviews with cast and crew, and more.

Disc 9
The Star Wars documentaries
• Star Warriors
Behind the scenes with the 501st Legion, a super-fan club with members who dress as Darth Vader’s elite guard and fund-raise at high-profile events.
• A Conversation with the Masters:
The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later
George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams discuss everyone’s favourite Star Wars movie.
• Star Wars Spoofs
From Family Guy to The Simpsons, this disc compiles the best Star Wars spoofs, also including Weird Al Yankovic’s musical tribute to The Phantom Menace.
Plus: the making of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; recreating Star Wars’ dewbacks for 1997’s Special Edition; and Star Wars Tech: leading scientists explore whether the tech can work.