November 1st is a day that is marked on every Star Wars fan's calender. It's a day that "The Saga" will be complete, at least as far as viewing in your own home theater is concerned. Since we've all seen the film already - or at least I hope we all have - I'm going to skip doing this review on the movie itself, and instead focus on the actual DVD - the technical aspects, the transfer and sound quality, and of course, the special features. So be warned, I will be giving away some "spoilers" of sorts, by showing some screen shots of the deleted scenes along with some explanation of said scenes and other features, so if you'd rather wait till Tuesday to pick up your own copy, click away now. If you just can't wait, read on...
THE PACKAGING: After the fantastic job that was done on last year's Original Trilogy box set, I was a little let down to see that Episode 3 would be released in a regular, every day keepcase instead of going the extra mile and giving us a nicer digipak style package. But then again, I guess this allows collectors (such as myself) to put this on the shelf next to Episodes 1 and 2, and fit in with the same design style. Plus, if George gave us all the bells and whistles with the release, we wouldn't have any reason to buy it again next time he puts it out, would we?
One interesting thing about this release is that it is ONLY available on DVD. It is the first time that a "Major Motion Picture" release has skipped the VHS format completely. I guess that's just George Lucas paving the way for the future of movies once again. It does make a certain amount of sense if you think about it - why create a motion picture in a completely digital format only to have it downgraded to an analog format (VHS) and degrade the quality for the consumer? I'm sure that there are still people out there living in caves somewhere that don't own a single DVD player (counting my PC's and game systems, I've got a total of 9 in my house) but I would have to imaging that 99.9% of the people out there who consider themselves fans of a series like Star Wars own at least one DVD player. If not more.
THE TRANSFER: The transfer on this film is amazing. Completely amazing. It is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1), which has pretty much become the standard in today's day and age. And I think this film will become somewhat of a standard in itself, the one film that every other transfer will be compared to. Because the film was originally shot in a digital format, it was transfered directly to DVD without converting from an analog source, and it makes a huge difference. In my opinion, this transfer is even better than the Episode 1 and 2 transfers, which were incredible in their own right. But this one blows them away. It is, as far as I can tell, flawless.
THE AUDIO: Again, the audio portion of this disc blows away any previous Star Wars transfer that has been released, either VHS, LaserDisc or DVD. The lows are booming, even with my subwoofer on a regular setting I could feel the floor and my coffee table rumbling. The dialog is crisp and clear, and you really can hear everything that's said. Of course, this is just the way it should be, but sometimes the mix can get muddy, or there are flaws of one sort or another. But not here.
Sound options here include a Dolby 5.1 Surround EX track and a Dolby Surround 2.0 track. There are also French and Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks included, along with English subtitles for the hearing impaired.
THE AUDIO COMMENTARY: Similar to the other films in the Prequel Trilogy, the Maker himself, George Lucas, sits in to give his thoughts on the commentary track. The amount of knowledge that he has - I mean, he did create all of this, after all - is just astounding. He has the answers to everything, right on the tip of his tounge. But, of course, he isn't giving everything away. Certain questions remain unanswered, or are given very vague answers. But overall, the commentary is very entertaining.
Of course, George Lucas is not the only commentary included on this disc. There are also commentary tracks from producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES: This is pretty much the "meat and potatoes" of this DVD release. Obviously, anyone out there can get a copy of this movie on DVD already (pretty much the day after it premiered it was available on the 'net). Aside from the obvious improvement in video and audio quality that is gained by purchasing the "legit" release of this film, are the special features included with this disc.
Deleted Scenes: There are a total of six (6) deleted scenes that are shown here on Disc 2 for the first time. Each scene can be viewed with or without an introduction by George Lucas and/or Rick McCallum, explaining the reasoning behind why the scene was cut from the film. The scenes are:
"Grevious Slaughters A Jedi: Escape From the General" is not actually 100% complete. This scene shows the death of Shaak Ti, and Anakin and Obi-Wan escaping from General Grevious. The effects are not 100% complete on this scene. You can see some Green Screen in the background from time to time, and it just looks unfinished.
"A Stirring in the Senate (Bail's Office)", "Seeds of Rebellion (Padme's Apartment)", and "Confronting the Chancellor (Palpatine's Office)" are three scenes that were cut dealing with Padme, Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, along with some various Senators basically forming the beginning of the Rebellion.
"A Plot to Destroy the Jedi" finds Obi-Wan meeting with Mace Windu and Yoda, and Master Windu confides in them that he feels someone is out to destroy the Jedi Order.
"Exiled to Dagobah" shows us Master Yoda arriving for the first time on that slimy mudhole planet that he will call a home for the next few years. While the scene itself is short and sweet (about 30 seconds), Rick McCallum's introduction was hysterical. At least to me it was.
"Within A Minute" Documentary Film: This full length documentary shows an up close and personal behind the scenes look at what went in to creating that fateful battle at Mustafar, and how many people it actually took to make one minute of footage for the film. After watching this feature, I can now understand why it took so long to complete each of these Prequel fims. It's unbelievable how many hours were spent to make 60 seconds of film look the way they did. Definitely a "must-watch" in my book.
"The Chosen One" Featurette: An in-depth look at "The Chosen One" from his childhood to his fall to the Dark Side. Lots of behind the scenes footage with George Lucas and Hayden Christensen talking about the rise and fall (and redemption) of Anakin Skywalker, including some gruesome makeup tests of the Anakin costume after the Duel at Mustafar.
"It's All For Real: The Stunts of Episode III" Featurette: More behind the scenes action, this time with stunt coordinator Nick Gillard, training Ewan and Hayden in lightsaber techniques among others.
Web Documentaries: The 15 part web documentary series that debuted on StarWars.com is presented in it's entirety here, some nice stuff, but nothing we haven't already seen. Unless of course you've still got dial-up.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 Trailer and Demo: Watch the trailer and play the first two levels of the upcoming Battlefront 2 Video Game from LucasArts.
Star Wars Empire at War Trailer: The trailer for the next PC based game from LucasArts.
"A Hero Falls" Music Video: The incredible music of John Williams set to scenes from the movie.
Poster and Print Campaign: Posters and print advertising showcased from around the world.
Trailers and TV Spots: Theatrical and teaser trailers, as well as 15 different TV spots.
Never-Before-Seen Production Photo Gallery: A nice collection of just over 100 behind the scenes production photos showing the cast and crew during the production of the film. One of my favorites:
EASTER EGGS: Just like the other DVD's, there is at least one Easter Egg that I have found so far. I won't give it away (or how to find it), but I will say that it is a must see.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, I'm happy with this version of the DVD, but I can't wait 'till the "Director's Cut" version comes out. Come on, you know it's coming. Sooner or later, it's coming.