20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Galleries, Trailers and Teasers, and more
I remember a time when everyone was asking for "Star Wars "to come to DVD and here we are, finally, years later that not only the classic Star Wars movies have been released but also that Episode III, the last of the movies to be made, is here on DVD.
Last week, Lucasfilm invited us for another visit to Skywalker Ranch to get a first-hand look at the new DVD and to talk to some of the people involved with the production of the movie. Rick McCallum, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen as well as animator Rob Coleman were ready to answer questions about the movie and other future plans and projects. As usual, it was a great get-together that got us excited about the release, but the ultimate test is always putting it in your own, familiar system and seeing how the DVD actually turned out. Before going there however, I want to point out that a number of exciting tidbits were mentioned at the event. For example, Lucasfilm will definitely release high definition versions of the Star Wars movies when Blu-Ray makes it to market. Considering how reluctant they were to enter DVD, this is definitely great news for the future. Also interesting is that an animated Star Wars TV show is in the works as well as a live-action TV series based on the Star Wars franchise. Further, plans were revealed that a 22-disc DVD set of the "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" is in the works, which will hopefully be ready by next Christmas after over 3 years of work.
But now, in a galaxy far, far away… or a home theater really close by.
"Revenge Of The Sith" brings to a conclusion the arch of the saga and shows us as the core premise how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, of course. We see how he is being corrupted by the Dark Side and what makes him drop his previous believes and decides to become a Sith Lord – an evil he had fought for all his life.
From the first moments to the last, "Revenge Of The Sith" is a spectacle without a moment to breathe. Opening up with a furious space fight over Coruscant at the end of which Anakin faces Count Dooku yet again, we are soon introduced to the film's new villain, General Grievous – a cyborg with only a single goal – to destroy all Jedi.
As the Clone Wars rage on the Galactic Senate empowers Palpatine and gives him full control over the clone troops. It is power the Jedi are very uncomfortable with and they try to use Anakin – who is close to Palpatine – to find out his real motives and plans. Little do they know about the demons that possess the Chancellor and soon the Dark Side becomes more powerful than any Jedi could ever have imagined. History is taking a turn for the worse and Anakin is no longer the innocent little boy – he, in fact, becomes the most dangerous force in the Galaxy holding the balance of the worlds in his hands.
The film is a feast for the eyes and borders on overkill quite frankly. It takes numerous viewings to take in everything there is to see as not a single corner of the image is left inanimate or without performance at any time. George Lucas presents us with a world that is truly e and breathing. "Revenge Of The Sith" is a very dark film, however, that is entirely unsuited for children. While making sense form a story perspective, this, of course, puts parents into a difficult situations. How do you explain to your 5-year old Star Wars fan that he can't watch "Revenge Of The Sith?" Tough going there… especially because I cannot stress enough that this film is not suited for children. What is presented in the movie used to be material for horror films during the 80s, and since 90% of the film is really just about shooting, destroying and killing it hardly serves as a good role model.
For adults all of this is not of concern of course, and you can sit back and simply enjoy the rollercoaster ride that is presented on the screen. And what a ride it is.
Still, I found parts of the film unconvincing I have to admit. The film is simply trying to do too many things at the same time in too little time. As a result, Anakin's progression is simply not believable because it happens in one major leap, essentially. His inner torment is not exposed properly because the character development is taking the backseat to the action sequences. While we know what he may be going through, we cannot directly follow his anguish. Then comes the crucial moment. The moment he makes that one fateful decision and for viewers it is simply not possible to see how he would throw away everything he fought for in the past and walks over to the Dark Side. What makes matters even worse is that he doesn't even question his decision afterwards. Instead he immediately takes orders from the Emperor and without questioning goes on a killing spree that includes his best friends and a lot of children. No remorse. No hesitation. No questions. To me that made his character and the set-up impossible to accept, though it is made good – in some way – by the transformation sequence in which Anakin is turned into the mechanized Darth Vader. When the helmet is closed and he begins breathing through the iron lung. it is easily one of the most powerful moments of the entire saga, hands down.
Produced entirely in the digital domain, here we have a completely digital transfer of the movie to DVD. The image is absolutely breathtaking as a result. The clarity of the image is unparalleled revealing details that you have probably never seen before. Even the most subtle textures are reproduced in staggering detail and offering an overall sharpness that has not been seen on DVD to date. "Revenge Of The Sith" is easily the best DVD transfer I have ever had the chance to lay my eyes upon. Absolutely nothing detracts from the presentation. This is as picture-perfect as DVD can get!
The same goes for the audio presentation of the film. Featuring a bombastic surround track in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX – as well as downmixes to Dolby Surround in English, French and Spanish – the track is aggressive and dynamic throughout. Whether the explosions the droning sound of the star cruisers or the fighters whooshing in from the sides, the audio track is masterfully mixed and balanced, making it true candy for the ears.
The DVD contains a commentary track featuring George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Rob Coleman, John Knoll and Roger Guyett. The track is utterly engaging as everyone has great contributions to make to the track and revels in explanations how things have evolved into the final film. Given the fact how laborious and detailed the final result is, there is so much to tell and cover that even a full-length running commentary seems to fly by.
On the second disc you will then find the other bonus materials. The center piece is a 2-hour documentary entitled "Within A Minute." Lucasfilm is known for including some of the best documentaries on their Star Wars DVDs, always trying to get away from the standard approach of simply covering whatever there is. This time the approach is as novel as it is exciting, yet again. A short scene – the light saber scene between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar – running for less than a minute is taken and dissected in every detail. It is not getting bogged down in technical details to much but focuses on the concerted effort it took to create this scene – or any other in the film for that matter. The production team tried to show just how many people are involved in the making of such a shot and what their duties and responsibilities are. From the catering crew to the concept artists and pre-viz team, the costume designers, ILM, the production team, the stunt people and so forth. In a very unique and highly informative way here you get to see who is behind these countless names you usually see scrolling over the screen in the end credits. It is simply remarkable in its approach and execution, hosted by the film's producer Rick McCallum himself.
Also included are two featurettes. One covering the tragic progression of Anakin in to Darth Vader and the second one examining the stunt work and training that was necessary to bring these battles to love on the big screen.
Another treat are the six deleted scenes that are included. Featuring introductions by George Lucas and Rick McCallum, you get to see some exciting scenes here that sadly didn't make it into the film for various reasons. Depending on their state of finalization, you can sometimes even see how early or far into the production process these scenes had been eliminated.
Next up is the Episode III web documentary in 15 parts. Star Wars fans are familiar with these documentaries that have been created and published periodically on starwars.com while the films were in production. They were nice teasers and appetizers that truly made you want to see more.
The music video "A Hero Falls" with John Williams' music is also included on the release, as well as extensive galleries with poster art, production stills and other images. Of course ,the movies full set of trailers and teasers is also included.
As another bonus, owners of the Xbox will additionally find two fully playable levels of "Star Wars: Battlefront II" on this release. Just pop it in the console and rock on.
Again Lucasfilm has gone all the way out to create a remarkable DVD that fits the mold they created over the years for the Star Wars releases. Every time you think they can't make DVDs any more impressive, Lucasfilm comes around with another Star Wars disc, proving you wrong. It is impossible not to be impressed with this release as every little thing on it is of reference quality. The picture, the sound, the documentary, the extras. In a word, this is the simply best DVD we have ever seen!