What May the 4th told (and withheld) about STAR WARS on Blu-ray

Instead of the revelation about STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA on Blu-ray hitting the web like Darth Vader’s reveal about Luke Skywalker’s father, fans who awoke early on May the 4th to check out the same-named website for details found the Fox servers exploding like the Death Star (both of them)!  High net traffic overwhelmed the server droids and Lucasfilm’s highly promoted May the 4th “All Will Be Revealed” site was mostly non-function for the first hour of its online mission. Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!

Slowly users gained access to the site only to learn the reveal campaign was based on social networking of site-sharing progress via linking to fans’ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts: the more fans (repeatedly) shared updates and a Jawa-short promo clip from the site, the more details of the STAR WARS Saga on Blu-ray would be revealed to all. While a nifty technical concept (when it worked), this sharing method for the reveal left one feeling like Luke dangling upside down in the Wampa’s ice cave, wondering how long we’d be hanging around for answers. Five hours into the reveal campaign and the site is 74% of the way to completion.

As we wrote early this morning, a few sites who somehow gained early access to the Blu-ray set disc details (despite Lucasfilm’s assurance to FilmEdge just yesterday that such early spoilers were not possible) and listed the disc-by-disc breakdown of films and bonus features. You can view details on all nine Blu-ray discs in the Saga collection on FilmEdge.net per Lucasfilm’s official press release, which included info about LFL previewing STAR WARS on Blu-ray at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con International event. Accordingly, here’s our early analysis of the STAR WARS Blu-ray materials, what cool surprises are in store on each disc, and what appears to be missing from this list:

  • THE SPECIAL ORIGINAL TRILOGY– Sure, we’re beating a dead Bantha on this topic, but it’s only fair to lifelong STAR WARS fans (this author included) to note the ultimate missed opportunity to finally bring the Original Trilogy films in their unaltered theatrical versions to high-definition home video. Devout fans have waited years for Lucas to free these theatrical-cut treasures from their low-def, full-screen DVD bondage and many figured the Blu-ray format with its branching technology was the perfect platform to finally offer original theatrical and special editions together at last.Our bad feeling about this was only confirmed when Lucasfilm announced in January that the upcoming Blu-ray release of the Original Trilogy films would once again only offer the CG-enhanced Special Editions of Episodes IV-VI, and that apparently Mr. Lucas has no intentions of ever restoring their theatrical editions for high-def releases in the future. Fans like myself who have bought multiple editions of the STAR WARS films on formats dating back to VHS — not to mention the Death Star-filling quantity of soundtrack vinyl and CD editions we’ve purchased over the decades — still find it tough to believe that restoring the non-restored moments from the OT theatrical cuts is too expensive for LFL to afford completing. Despite the millions spent keeping the STAR WARS franchise alive over the decades, George still won’t give fans the one and most “special feature” they crave above all the extras we never asked for all these years. Fans may have accepted they’ll never see the Original Trilogy in their theatrical editions again, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel that irksome twinge in the Force every time another non-theatrical version is sold to us.
  • COMMENTARY TRACKS REPROGRAMMED – I guess we can’t be too surprised that the STAR WARS Blu-ray discs will repurpose the DVD audio commentary tracks from a few years ago, since the content of the films themselves won’t change to require re-recording them with the filmmakers. While scant on details so far, the additional commentary “from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew” might prove illuminating if they really dig into new materials fans haven’t heard before — since clearly such commentaries won’t be directly related to real-time viewing of the films by the participants.
  • ‘SOME WILL BE REVEALED’ ABOUT DISCS SEVEN & EIGHT – For a day touted by Lucasfilm and Fox Home Entertainment as “all will be revealed,” fans learned very little in detail about Blu-ray discs 7 and 8 offering new bonus features about the Prequel and Original Trilogies respectively. What LFL didn’t reveal are specifics on which deleted, extended and alternate scenes will be included on these discs. Surely this information must be known by now, at least in-part enough to list specific scenes by name.  Perhaps more “all” will be revealed soon? Given Blu-ray discs’ high storage capacity, there should be a big quantity of bonus features to fill discs 7 & 8 that we still don’t know about even after all the May the 4th reveal hoopla.
  • MASTERS OF THE EMPIRE – As one of the most daring and original sequels in film history, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK retains a special place in the hearts and memories of many STAR WARS fans, particularly those who were there from the Saga’s beginning in 1977. So it is a great pleasure to see that George Lucas gathered director Irvin Kershner, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and composer John Williams to revisit their EMPIRE in 2010, on the film’s 30th anniversary. This is an especially touching and timely interview since Kershner in late November 2010. While the running time is only 25 minutes for this documentary meeting, it’s high FilmEdge’s list of most anticipated extras in the STAR WARS Blu-ray set.
  • RETURN OF THE TV SPECIALS – While these three documentaries are not new, The Making of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX and Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi will prove welcome additions to this Blu-ray box set. These vintage looks back at the analog-era of STAR WARS publicity via television specials illustrate how innovative and ingenious the Original Trilogy films were in their time, and give fans a peek behind the scenes to uncover some of the magic which made STAR WARS the moviegoing phenomenon it was then and remains today.
  • WHAT, NO LIFE DAY? – Lucasfilm noticeably — and quite wisely — chose not to include the infamous 1978 STAR WARS Holiday Special in this Blu-ray box set. It’s quite possible that the inherent high quality of a Blu-ray disc would simply refuse to encode this televised turkey on its own merits, or lack thereof. FilmEdge won’t lament its exclusion from the Saga Blu-ray set, it’s just good to note that some things are better left un-upgraded even in the STAR WARS universe.
We now know most but not all about STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA on Blu-ray, and that some mysteries still remain is a tad surprising since May the 4th was supposed to “reveal all” to us today. We expect to learn allt he details before the STAR WARS sets go on sale September 16th. It looks good so far with a mix of sought-after classic materials and new extras. Stay tuned to FilmEdge.net and our blog for continuing STAR WARS Blu-ray coverage all summer long, and may the Force be with you always.

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