I’ve spent the past few days devouring the digital release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’ve all seen the film – probably several times at this point – so I won’t talk much about the film to say that the HD transfer is superb. I noticed visual and audio details in the film that I hadn’t caught on previous viewings, which was a pleasant surprise.
But let’s get to what everyone’s curious about: The extras. I got my digital copy through Google Play and to my understanding it has all of the same extras as the physical Blu-Ray.
The thing most fans have been curious about is the deleted scenes. Seven deleted scenes are provided, each clocking in at around a minute or less. For the most part, I can see why they were cut – but some of them were nice to watch. In spite of trailers and hype, they don’t add anything to the film and I can see why they were cut. They seem like they would slow down the pace of the story. The gem among them is a scene where Han and Finn try to bluff their way past a group of stormtroopers while escaping Maz’s Castle. Even this was twinged with a bit of disappointment, though. I was hoping we’d see the much referenced scene of Maz using the Force to bring the ceiling down on them, but sadly we do not. What we get instead is Han being Han, and that’s quite charming in and of itself. Another much discussed deleted scene was Kylo Ren boarding and exploring the Falcon. The scene feels like it was intended to show Ren touching a specter from his past, but the odd camera angles in which it was shot pulled me out of the scene. It was probably originally intended to add tension to his confrontation with Solo, but ultimately fails in that. Ford and Driver give great performances in that harrowing scene, which makes it obvious why Ren’s investigation was deleted. The other deleted scenes add a nice touch here and there, but the viewer doesn’t lose anything for having not seen them.
At the heart of the extras is an hour-long documentary called Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey. This feels like a condensed version of the exhaustive making-of featurettes found on the extended edition Lord of the Rings films, which isn’t a bad thing. It gives good insight into the creative process that brought The Force Awakens to life – especially the documentary’s extensive use of beautiful concept art. It’s got a lot of heart packed into that hour, but in typical Disney fashion it felt a tad too polished at times which sometimes created moments which could be seen as disingenuous. Over all though, it did give off that warm glow and really spoke to the power of Star Wars through the decades.
The remaining featurettes were standard far for Blu-Ray and digital releases. Five to ten minute mini-documentaries discussing the cast table-read, the final lightsaber duel, and the creation of BB-8. These kinds of features are ones I don’t find particularly interesting and in this case they felt like standard fare. They weren’t bad, but they didn’t get me particularly hyped or excited.
Woefully absent was some form of film commentary. I would have loved to hear cast and crew discuss the film as it was running. Abrams and company could certainly entertain a rabid Star Wars fan for two hours with their stories and anecdotes. Unfortunately, no such extra is made available on this release – much to my disappointment.
All in all, the Blu-Ray/DVD release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is absolutely worth the price of admission simply for the high-quality transfer of the film itself. The extras are only slightly better than what is commonly found on similar products these days and left me with a sense of wanting. Given that the franchise has had extraordinary success with convincing us to buy these films over and over again, I expect that we’ll be treated to a version with more extras sometime in the future. I suspect this will be some time after 2019, when all three films in the sequel trilogy have been released. I think I’ll be patient and wait until then to make my physical purchase, though I’m quite pleased with my digital copy and have no regrets in its purchase.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently available for Digital HD purchase at Amazon, Google Play and other online services. The Blu-Ray and DVD releases will be available April 5th.