You know what’s funny? People I know don’t think I’m a nerd. I’m talking about casual acquaintances, co-workers, and other random people. I’m not particularly sure why. I don’t go out of my way to hide it. I own t-shirts like this and wear this sweatshirt regularly. My whole life has been an onslaught of comic books, movies, and video games. I think it’s the fact that I can function like a rational, charismatic human being in the real world that seems to throw people off the scent.
On top of being a nerd, I have the very specific distinction of being a Star Wars nerd. Instead of going on gushing about the first time I saw A New Hope or whatever, let me just tell a really quick story that I think can sum everything up.
I couldn’t have been more than five years old, and my dad helped me make a couple of lightsabers out of flashlights, paper towel tubes, and duct tape. I know it’s hard to fathom now, but there was a time when you couldn’t just go buy a $12 plastic lightsaber at K-Mart. We proceeded to have an imaginary saber duel, and being a good dad, he took the death blow – complete with absurd overacting. In fact, he played it up so well that he actually broke a closet door as he fell down. I remember us both staring at each other with that “oh shit” look. We were both terrified of what my mom was going to do if she found out. He told me to go outside and play, and he’d take care of it. He wound up taking the heat for the broken door. That night, he went to the video store (remember those?) and came home with Return of the Jedi and a can of Cheez Curls (REMEMBER THOSE?). It’s one of my favorite memories from my childhood. It’s a rare bonding moment with my dad, and it all happened because of Star Wars.
Even though the last decade hasn’t been especially kind to the franchise, nothing George Lucas will do can completely destroy the good will that the original trilogy earned with me. I’m not going to sit here and cry about how the prequels, or even the special edition versions of the originals, are “raping my childhood”. I love Star Wars. I respect George Lucas both for his innovations in visual effects and for his unflinching dedication to his vision. Believe it or not, I was eagerly awaiting the Blu Ray release.
It took two full days, from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, and two fifths of vodka to do it, but I finally got through all nine discs of Star Wars: The Complete Saga.
The first thing I noticed was the packaging. I’m normally not someone to geek out over something like this. I usually hate “clever” boxes. They’re either flimsy and prone to damage, or they’re an awkward shape and don’t fit nicely on my movie shelf. That being said, this presentation is so fucking cool. Once you slide the case open, you’re presented with a book. Each turned page is a new chapter in the Saga, accompanied with some outstanding artwork. As an appreciated bonus, the box is still standard Blu Ray size and sits comfortably between Star Trek (2009) and Sucker Punch on the shelf. Yes, my movies are alphabetized. Some people have made it a point to inform me how weird that is.
The first six discs are the six films in the series. Other sources have already reported on what’s been tweaked this time around. The changes to the prequels are negligible. They’re minor scene edits and reshufflings. The changes to Episodes IV-VI are a bit more confusing. Again, I’m not here to rip this apart. All I’m going to say is that, yet again, Return of the Jedi gets the worst of it. I’m almost positive George Lucas is trolling his fans. If that’s the case, it seriously makes me love him even more. There’s really no other reason to add another Darth Vader “NOOOOOO!!!” scene to the Saga other than to tell all the fanboys to go fuck themselves. I love Star Wars, but I think I love George Lucas purposely destroying Star Wars to enrage fanboys even more.
The movies themselves look absolutely amazing. I don’t think anyone should have expected anything less from Lucasfilm. These are, without question, the best looking HD transfers I’ve seen since the format took off. For the true film nerds out there, each movie also contains two separate commentary tracks. I sporadically flipped between them just to see what they were like. The main commentary tracks are the same as they were on the last DVD release, with Lucas and his producer cronies like Rick McCallum. They can be a bit dry, even for the staunchest of fans. The second commentary track is comprised of archival interviews with the cast. It’s disappointing that they weren’t able to record new commentary specifically for the release, but the audio clips can, at times, provide some interesting insight.
The seventh and eighth discs are truly the meat and potatoes of the set. The two discs contain all the special features for Episodes I-III and IV-VI respectively. I’m going to be completely honest. This is where my recollection is going to get a little spotty. I was at my drunkest trying to force my way through the Phantom Menace deleted scenes. I’ll have to rely on my notes for some of this. Unfortunately, my notes look like this:
HOLY FUCKING SHIT LMFAO INSPIRED BY SW CHRISTMAS SPECIAL FOR KASHYYYK
Amazingly, I can decipher my drunken ranting and translate that to mean I found it extremely humorous to learn that the design of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith borrowed heavily from the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special, which was previously the only time we had ever seen the home planet of the Wookiees on screen. Don’t nerd rage on me about Knights of the Old Republic. We’re talking about television/movie appearances of Kashyyyk. The point is, despite transitioning regularly from brownout to blackout drunk during most of these special features, my notes will carry us through the rest of the article.
Believe it or not, the Lucasfilm Archive materials for the prequels are actually pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong. There’s some real horrific shit in there. The less we talk about the Jake Lloyd deleted scenes, the better. In fact, most of the deleted scenes for these movies are just kind of…whatever. Because of the heavy usage of CGI, most of the scenes are just rough computer animatics and mock-ups.
I will admit, and Courtney can attest to this as I was drunkenly pestering him on AIM while watching this stuff, that I was totally getting into the design featurettes. However you may feel about the actual plot of the films, I don’t think anyone can deny that the prequels were visually striking motion pictures. I’m totally a dork for things like this. There’s something specifically fascinating to me to go through the art direction, set design, and props with the people who made them and can explain their significance. The movie might have sucked, but it’s cool to see the rationale as to why Naboo is full of space gondolas.
In case you didn’t realize it, disc eight is what everyone should have bought this set for. The only way to get all these special features is to buy the Complete Saga. This will get you the behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes for the original trilogy. Yes, you finally get to see Luke go to Toshi Station to get those motherfucking power converters. This was easily the most amazing part of this set. As jaded as you might be from years of editing and tweaks by George Lucas, there’s no way you can watch these special features and not sprout a giant nerdboner. I had a smile a mile wide watching Han Solo 1. spit mad game at some broad, 2. SHOOT GREEDO FIRST, and 3. flip some credits to the bartender to pay for the damages as he walked out. The whole disc is full of amazing little gems like this. There’s nothing I can say that will truly express how fulfilling this set of special features will be for fans of Star Wars. It’s honestly worth the price of the whole set on its own.
The last disc in the series is reserved for documentaries and spoofs. The documentaries are interesting enough. Some of them, like the original “making of” for Star Wars, aren’t anything more than promotional puff pieces. I know I’d seen most of the other documentaries over the years as well, but they’re still a fun look back. The spoof reel, however, is also a completely awesome way to kill 90 minutes. In case there was any question as to how culturally relevant Star Wars has been for the last 35 years, this feature clears that right up. The spoofs come from television shows and movies as diverse as Saturday Night Live (from several different generations), The Daily Show, The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, Fanboys, The Colbert Report, That 70’s Show, The MTV Movie Awards, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Candid Camera, Toy Story, and several clips from the dedicated episodes of Family Guy and Robot Chicken. They even throw in Chad Vader, an amazing rant from Eddie Izzard, the dopest Volkswagen commercial ever, Weird Al Yankovic, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “shot-for-shot” recreation of Star Wars. It may be the funniest Star Wars parody ever.
Mother. Fucking. Brilliant.
Looking at my notes, I know I’m leaving out a lot of things that I really wanted to touch base on. That’s the whole point of this. There is enough content in this set to keep you occupied for several days. Even if I wrote another 2000 words, I wouldn‘t be able to do this collection justice. There’s something in here for everyone and every type of fan. If you’re a cinephile, there’s no reason to not own the prettiest BDs on the market. If you’re a casual fan of Star Wars of sci-fi in general, this is a perfect opportunity to own all six films for a reasonable price. If you’re a hardcore Star Wars geek, disc eight is your holy grail. No matter who you are, there’s no excuse for you to not own this. It is the perfect example of what a box set should be, and it’s readily apparent that while George Lucas fucking hates fanboys, he absolutely loves his fans.