It's rather pointless to write a review of the "Star Wars" films or begin a debate regarding some of the decisions that George Lucas has made regarding the films in the last several years. One, everyone knows about the films and hardcore fans have likely seen them to the point of memorization (watching the films again reminded me of the outstanding "Star Wars" arcade game in the 80's - a game that I unloaded tons of quarters into). Two, Lucas has enough power to do whatever he wants to his films, whether he's presented with fan petitions or not.
The film that gave a kick to special effects filmmaking and boosted the profile of sci-fi in the mainstream, "Star Wars" was a Summer movie in 1977 that turned George Lucas and the remainder of the cast into film legends, as the adventure still retains a timeless quality that's superbly entertaining. The picture is a superb, heartfelt throwback to the old space/adventure serials, yet it includes such memorable characters and one-liners that the film feels original and fresh.
The film focuses on Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has become tired of his life on a farm, dreaming of being able to join battles in space. When he finds out about a princess (Carrie Fisher) being imprisoned, he quickly finds that his wish comes true, as Luke joins a band of rebels - Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2D2 (Kenny Baker) in order to try and overthrow the Empire, lead by Darth Vader (David Prowse acting with vocals by James Earl Jones). With the Empire building a giant space station with the capability to destroy planets, it's up to Luke and the others to try and find the structural flaw to target that will destroy the Death Star before it's too late.
The film's performances are classic, with Hamill playing the naive, energetic Skywalker, who finds himself forced to mature through battle, loss and triumph. Ford, in the performance that made him a star, has exceptional delivery and it's too bad that the actor's comedic timing seems to have slowed over the years. Fisher is also excellent, while Guiness turns in a marvelous performance as Kenobi. Production design, cinematography and effects are all remarkable for a film that's now nearly thirty.
These are, as most likely already know, not the original editions of the film. Additional changes (both major and minor) have taken place throughout each of the three pictures. The films - at least at this point - are only available in this box set - not separately.
VIDEO: "Star Wars" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Fox. The image quality is excellent, certainly the best these films have looked in the home. Sharpness and detail are stellar, as the films remain crisp and well-defined throughout. A few moments seem intentionally soft, but other than that, the picture sported nicely detailed images.
The image does show some light grain, as one might expect. However, no specks, marks or other print wear were noticed. Pixelation remained absent, while edge enhancement was also not visible. Colors looked terrific, appearing fresh, vivid and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level looked strong throughout, while flesh tones appeared accurate.
SOUND: "Star Wars" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX. The bad news is that there appears to be an issue with this new presentation of the sound. While it is not always apparent (and even when apparent, it's not hugely noticable), the score seems to be flipped in the surround channels in relation to how it is presented in the front channels.
That issue aside, the sound presentation otherwise enjoyable. Surrounds kick in throughout the proceedings to offer an enjoyable level of ambience and many instances of sound effects use - blaster fire and other electronic effects are smoothly implimented and sound terrific, although sometimes the effects seemed to overwhelm the score. Audio quality overall is very good, if a little inconsistent - louder dialogue can occasionally come across as a little shrill, but otherwise, sounds very good. Effects are generally crisp and clean, while the score sounds dynamic and rich. Aside from the odd score issue (which is unfortunate and will hopefully be fixed), this presentation was pleasing. Dolby 2.0 presentations are available in English, French and Spanish.
EXTRAS: The supplement on this disc is a commentary from director George Lucas, effects supervisor Dennis Muren, sound designer/editor Ben Burtt and actress Carrie Fisher. The commentary provides an informative and enjoyable look at the different aspects of production, despite the fact I was surprised that there are some minor gaps of silence scattered throughout the track. Lucas provides insights into the production history, while Muren and Burtt offer technical information. Fisher offers a series of fun stories about how she became involved in the film, as well as her experiences during shooting.
The Film ****