Over the past 24 months, you couldn’t go a day without hearing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not only did it mark the beginning of a brand new trilogy (with original cast), but it promised to “right the wrongs” perpetrated by the prequels.
With a new director and an unknown cast, it had incredible expectations to fulfill. Did it deliver? You bet it did. Not only did it go on to generate over $2 billion dollars worldwide, but it brought back what fans loved about the originals.
Now, the digital and home releases are available, giving fans the opportunity to re-live the new adventure. It goes without saying that die-hard Star Wars fans don’t need to think twice before picking it up, but even casual moviegoers will find joy in repeat viewings. (I’ve already breezed through the film a few times since getting it last week.)
I’m not going to rehash our review from December. Instead, I wanted to discuss briefly the extras on the home releases, which includes a documentary about how the movie was made.
Broken into four chapters, Secrets of The Force Awakens provides a complete history of the seventh chapter in the Star Wars cinematic universe. It also reveals more insight into character motivations, as well as what some of the familiar faces have been up to over the past 30 years—i.e. we find out why J.J. Abrams decided to give C-3PO a red arm.
Below are a few bullet points I wrote down while watching the documentary.
- J.J. Abrams didn’t want to make Star Wars until he found out it focused on a young woman as the lead. He also liked the mystery behind Luke Skywalker being in hiding.
- It was important to make Star Wars feel authentic again by using practical and VFX.
- Mark Hamill read the script during the first table read; usually, the director does that. J.J. Abrams wanted to observe while the read was going on.
- Daisy Ridley’s first actual scene was on Jakku scrubbing parts she had found while scavenging; the first character she did scenes with was BB-8.
- Poe Dameron was supposed to die early in the film, but Oscar Isaac protested, so they wrote him in more scenes.
- Kylo Ren’s suit was meant to be less manicured and immaculate to reflect his personality and mental state.
- When Finn turns on the Chess set in the Millennium Falcon it picks up right where it left off when C-3PO and R2-D2 were playing in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977.
- Maz’s Castle was meant to evoke the Cantina scene from A New Hope.
- Maz takes inspiration from a teacher J.J. Abrams had named Rose Gilbert.
- Initially, Maz was going to be a puppet, then powered by animatronics, but they eventually settled on motion capture. 149 dots were put on Lupita Nyong’o’s face to capture her expressions; she was the only one not in costume on set.
- Andy Serkis, who played Supreme Leader Snoke, was on a 25-foot platform during his scenes to make him appear larger.
- Giving a red arm to C-3PO was meant to invoke a history of the character over the past 30 years—fans can find out exactly what happened to him in a comic tie-in.
- Ben was born with equal parts good and evil; he’s someone who is “broken.” He tended toward the dark side because both of his parents were absent during his youth; he didn’t know how to deal with his powers and felt abandoned by the people closest to him. Snoke purposely targeted him because he was vulnerable.
- The Force Awakens was never supposed to be a story about Han or Leia or Luke. J.J. wanted it to be about Rey and Finn—it was more about a generational handoff. J.J. felt it would be most impactful with a significant loss, thus the death of Han Solo. “A necessary component,” according to Abrams.
- Harrison always saw Han as someone who would sacrifice himself.
- Luke Skywalker’s reaction to seeing Rey was meant to be ambiguous. While Episode VII wasn’t intended to be about Luke, he’s still critical to the franchise’s future.
On that note, Episode VIII, which doesn’t come out until the end of 2017, is going to pick up right where Episode VII left off, so we’ll find out pretty quick how Luke will respond.
There are some other extras on the home releases, too, some of which are exclusive to particular digital versions depending on which retailer you choose. We watched the Disney Store version; the Target version comes with a look at how the actors trained for the film, along with some interactions between the new and veteran cast members.
Below are the extras available on the version we watched:
- Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey
- The Story Awakens: The Table Read
- Building BB-8
- Crafting Creatures
- Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight
- John Williams: The Seventh Symphony
- ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force
- Force for Change
- Plus Deleted Scenes
What struck me about the extras—and, yeah, this should be obvious—was how much work goes into such a big project. When you reboot a popular and beloved franchise such as Star Wars, obviously the stakes are high. But after seeing the documentary, it’s still astounding to see how much pressure there is, from directing to purposely keeping people away from the set to ensure plot twists didn’t leak onto the internet—all of it coming together to create an experience. That’s what Star Wars is about: experience the franchise. It makes you appreciate the efforts and care that goes into such a production.
Side note, bravo to the new actors for handling the pressure. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver were relative unknowns before their bow in The Force Awakens, but they already feel like a big part of the franchise. It’s cool to hear what it was like from their perspective and how they managed their emotions throughout filming.
Unfortunately, the home releases don’t provide much insight as to what Disney has planned heading into the future, nor are they overly comprehensive. Viewers might also find the blatant cheerfulness to the extras to be a little overwhelming. Still, if ever there was a comprehensive guide to The Force Awakens and the process that was involved, you won’t want to miss the home releases.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is available now on Digital HD and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD combo pack on April 5.