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TFN’s Classic Trilogy DVD Review

TFN’s Review:
These things are freakin’ awesome. They will blow you away. This is a better copy of Star Wars than what played at the premiere in ‘77. This is a must have, blow you out of the water, stay up until midnight, marathon-beckoning DVD boxed set.

OK, now that I’ve said that – let me get a few of these minor quibbles out of the way right from the start.

Number 1: Where have these DVDs been for so long? I know the story about finding a “window to work on these” but holy man this has been a long time. DVD has not only matured, but there’s already a new format on the horizon. I’m so pumped this is out and that it delivers, but there was certainly a market for it long before now. Maybe I should be thanking you since the last word I heard was that it would be 2006? Lucasfilm has always been about the “worth the wait” – and they are – but man, I sure wish the release timetable had been set up more effectively and far in advance.

Number 2: Why not give us the original films, too? We saw the bar set with E.T. so we know this is possible. Give us the best copy you can of those original award-winning films from 30 years ago. Bitrate issues aside, there was a way to get these on the disc. Or maybe even a “choose your own adventure” type of seamless branching to make your own definitive vision. This is a pipe dream, I know all about “artistic vision” and his “right” to do what he wants with the film. Still, I would love to see this happen – and I’ve got a thousand emails here at TFN that agree with me. Not to mention 62,629 signatures in the official Original Trilogy online petition.

Number 3: Do you really have to mess with perfection? For the love of all things good, please just leave the Greedo scene alone! It still looks terrible, maybe even worse than the Special Edition from 1997. Let Han just blast the sucker and get rid of the bounty hunter once and for all. Jabba is an improvement but still that scene just pains me from the get go. Of course, some of the changes were positive to be sure, at least for continuity’s sake. Jango Fett being the voice for Boba Fett is cool connection to the prequels – but that familiar voice I once loved is gone. Again, some of these are good, but man, where does it end? I’d bet in 2011 or so - or maybe George will just start messing with the new TV series.

Whew, I’m glad that’s over… on to the positive side of things. This DVD set is spectacular! We’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for these disks – would they deliver?

The Movies
You don’t need me to review these, right? The greatest blockbuster films of the 20th century arrive on DVD. They’ve got some changes from the 1997 Special Editions, but for the most part are passable. The timeless movies stay even more that way with the full-featured overhaul on DVD.

Image Quality
I was watching some old clips of these movies and was taken aback by the poor picture quality from back in a day and immediately felt the budren of what Lowry Digital had to carry. This is truly a triumph in digital transformation of film, a work of art to say the least. From the first images on board the Tantive IV you’ll be transported to the galaxy far, far away all over again. It is kind of ironic that this is how I remember the film – but this isn’t the way they’ve ever looked until now. In my mind’s eye Threepio always reflected like that and the lightsabers were always believable. Jabba scared me as a child and I swear I felt the wind as speeder bikes ripped past me and into the forest at 100mph. The AT-ATs always shook the floor and the X-wings looked real. But just watch the trailers and TV spot section of the bonus disc to get a feel for the extreme makeover these films have undergone. They’ve never looked better – never.

Sound
We live in an apartment in California, so I had to keep it down a bit more than I used to. But don’t worry, we tested them out in a THX-certified plasma screen perfect environment, too, and the delivery is powerful with any setup. Whether you’ve got a bells and whistles system or a basic stereo hooked up you’ll be pleased. The sound, while still not as full of a feel as a modern recording, is dynamic and sparks to life. Maybe a bit heavy on the front channels, the score pounds and the sounds of Star Wars finally arrive in true Dolby Digital. The subwoofer rocks liberally and when the rear channels are put to good use. You’re now literally in the swamps of Dagobah or in the middle of a serious dogfight above the Death Stars. Invite some friends over and turn it up – this is the new check disc for system performance tests.

Bonus Content
The documentary is excellent, though maybe I’m just too immersed in the Star Wars subculture to really have moments stand out. There isn’t too much about Star Wars I haven’t seen before, and while this was “new” some of the best footage was familiar, and the story yielded few surprises for me. However, most fans will love this and it is the centerpiece of the value-added content. There are tons of new interviews that rounded out all of the featurettes and documentary. All in all it is excellent addition though probably just the tip of the iceberg to what Lucasfilm has in their archives. I was hoping there would be more, but pleased with these at what I hope are “initial offerings.”

Episode III Content
The content pointing toward the final movie is a nice include and will probably be one of the first things you might choose to watch. There isn’t enough, however, to warrant buying these discs with that at the front of the decision-making process. It is a nice bonus and includes our first glimpse of Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith. It’s cool, edited much like it will become an upcoming feature from Lucasfilm’s website. It better not though, since this is one of the hot “exclusives” of the DVD. Of course, “exclusive” is such a relative term – expect to see it online sometime in the future. I was hoping for a shot of spoilers Palpatine in his cloaked Senate outfit with a lit red lightsaber or the revelation of the ROTS Tri Fighters but there’s little new to hard core fans.

Navigation
The menus totally rock – thankfully these build on and don’t just copy the previous prequel DVDs. These far surpass and you will dig the new animations and creativity throughout. One minor quibble, the TV spot menu page is absolutely horrific to navigate. But other than that, you'll dig the look and feel and how it fits into the entire DVD series thus far.

DVD-ROM Link
Lucasfilm touts this as something the fans really like and I simply find that hard to believe. There’s a little bit of content there as I write this and undoubtedly more the initial week of release, but these are the places that corporations highlight then quickly forget. Case in point – do you put in your Phantom Menace or Clones DVDs and check the website? Nobody does, except Kip Dynamite in between chats with online babes all day. Expect little from this and maybe we’ll get a surprise - Episode III pics, maybe?

Overall
It’s about stinkin’ time. There is a reason the films are the most wanted DVDs in history, and that appetite will be quenched Tuesday. I've done my best to be hard on these DVDs, and this is the best I could do. Fans will be satisfied, historians will agonize, but we all can celebrate the release of Star Wars on DVD. The Force is with us - Tuesday, September 21st.

((waves hand))
You will buy this DVD…

Joshua Griffin
TheForce.net
September 19th, 2004

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