SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — I’m going to take a stab and say you’ve probably already seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
It’s kind of hard to miss a movie that’s brought in nearly $1 billion domestically and just over $2 billion worldwide, especially one that’s the seventh chapter of a beloved franchise spanning nearly 40 years.
That said, I’m going to throw out a word of caution—if this is your first time watching it, don’t start with the bonus features disc. I know that sounds like common sense and the sort of thing a normal person wouldn’t do, but since an earlier season of “The Venture Bros” dropped a spoiler about the end of its season on one of the first episodes’ commentary tracks that ticked off some people, I felt obliged to include that here.
Odds are, like my family and so many of my coworkers, this review will be more comfort food than something to help with a purchase decision—you’ve probably had this pre-ordered from the moment it showed up on Amazon.
But there are some people, like myself, who don’t find themselves buying DVDs or Blu-rays as much anymore. If I want to watch a movie, I’m not going to the DVD shelf, finding it and putting it in the player when I can just find something I might want to watch on Netflix.
I especially stay away from movies when they first appear on DVD where it’s likely a better edition will come out down the line. The Star Wars series is notorious for this—no high-definition release has Han shooting first, after all.
But I was pleasantly surprised with the bonus content on “The Force Awakens.” The highlight is a one-hour documentary, “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.” It does as good a job as it could going into what it took to get this new trilogy off the ground, and how they found the cast, including this part about the casting of Rey that’s been floating around online the last few days.
As you would expect with the first movie of a planned trilogy with one-off features spread around it, you’re not going to get a lot of dirt. Actually, one of the highlights was the nice way they praised a writer who was originally tasked with the script, but needed more time to allow his creative writing process to flow. At least that’s the way they phrased it.
I’m also a sucker for soundtrack information, so a featurette on John Williams, the composer for all seven Star Wars films, was something that would grab my attention. The time they spent with him discussing the thematic qualities he put into this soundtrack was far too short.
The deleted scenes aren’t anything to write home about, aside from the fact you can clearly see why they were excised. One scene on the Millennium Falcon stands out for giving an important character relationship a chance to breathe before things take a turn later, but in context, it’s clear why it was cut. That said, I do wish this had a feature I’ve seen elsewhere that splices the deleted scenes into the movie, even with something distinguishing why they were cut.
I love commentary tracks on movies, but I’m glad this one didn’t have one. The best ones come years later with time to ruminate and discuss how things came together and the perspective you only get with time. Even the “Masters of the Universe” commentary track has redeeming qualities to it, only for that sense of perspective. With this release coming just over three months after the movie first hit theaters, the commentary would have been recorded sometime in 2015 and barely been able to incorporate how audiences reacted, and things that developed behind the scenes. This also goes back to the whole “We have a trilogy and three one-off movies planned through 2020, so don’t say anything you’ll regret” thing I mentioned earlier.
But by far, the best special feature on this release is something called descriptive audio. I’d first heard of this last year when Marvel’s “Daredevil” hit Netflix. There was some irony a show about a blind hero couldn’t be appreciated by blind people, so the company added an audio track that describes the action on screen in between lines of dialogue. “The Force Awakens” offers a similar track that acts sort of as part space nature documentary and part geek trainer as it points out the land features and proper names for things like AT-ATs.
So you can go to the store on Tuesday to pick up your combo-pack knowing you’re going to get what you’re after, whether it’s with the pre-order bonuses you paid for the second you stepped out of the theater or just the movie itself. Or, if you just hate discs, the digital release is available four days earlier on April Fool’s Day.
By the way, Mark Hamill has a high box presence-to-screen time ratio, especially as someone whose appearance could be summed up as a cameo.
This story originally appeared on CBS Sacramento on March 31, 2016.