Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens DVD and Blu-Ray Round Up / Reveiw

We've been searching the various websites all day for news on the newly released Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens DVD and Blu-Ray. It seems that while many sites were eager to announce the release, showcase the upcoming exclusives, and then eagerly count down the days with fans - None of them seem to be all that interested in a follow up report now that the physical movie is available. So, we'll take the helm, and jump right in.

For those of you that know us personally here at The Toy Box, you know that while we have a great passion for toys, our heart truly lies with Star Wars home video releases. If it was released in the USA, we have it (okay, our collection isn't really limited to just the USA). From 1977's first Super 8 from Ken Films, all the way through the most recent release we're about to talk about - We have it. So let's dive in, shall we?

Don't care about ultimate picture quality? Couldn't tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray anyway? Don't have an interest in any special features? Simply want to watch / own the movie for as cheaply as possible? You want the single DVD disc version.

No bells and whistles. Just the movie presented in widescreen (2.40:1) format with the option of English, French, Spanish, Dolby Digital English 2.0 and Descriptive Audio (for the hearing impaired). Also features English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles.

No frills. No fuss, no mess, just the film. It's available at most retail outlets, and is priced at $19.99. For now, most places have it on sale for between $16.99 and $17.99. We suspect as a little time goes on that this version will be even cheaper online.

Now go to the opposite side of that coin. Want the special features? Like the quality of Blu-Ray vs. DVD? Doesn't matter. With this next version you get not only the Blu-Ray, but also the DVD and a Digital HD copy you can download.

Special features include Secrets Of The Force Awakens: A Cinimatic Journey, The Story Awakens: The Table Read, Building BB-8, Crafting Creatures, Blueprint Of A Battle, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony, ILM: The Visual Magic Of The Force and Deleted Scenes. As a self proclaimed connoisseur of  Star Wars on home video, these special features are honestly not as good as they sound. Most of them prattle on ad nauseum with things that most of us who tuned in to everything Episode VII we could find while it was in production already heard a hundred times over by now. Furthermore, where's the commentary track with the cast, and the trailers / TV spots?

It was interesting to see that the actual plastic of the case for the movies is black, unlike the customary blue colored Blu-Ray packaging. Granted we haven't bought a new Blu-Ray since the last Star Wars release (which was blue), so maybe that standard has changed at this point in time. Unlike the slipcase sleeve, the plastic case itself features the same artwork as the DVD cover.

The combo pack retails for $24.99, but is on sale at most retail locations for $19.99 currently.

Then there are the numerous exclusive versions. Or rather, to correctly state that, the numerous exclusive covers. None of the retailers actually offer anything unique to the set beyond the case. Sure, Target boasts that you get exclusive bonus content, but the fact of the matter is that this content is not on the disc. Much like the HD version, it has to be downloaded, and can only be viewed online. So with that said, let's start with the Target exclusive.

If you pre-ordered the movie from The Disney Store, you also received a free set of exclusive lithographs which came packed in a separate "envelope".

Probably our least favorite.

We admittedly do like the cover a lot. In fact, it's probably our favorite out of the bunch. The combination of all the movie theater posters into one really comes together well. Which is why the rest of our opinion on this version is so unfortunate.

What we hate about it is that it's a cardboard sleeve. Unlike the other versions which give you a nice sturdy plastic (or steel) case, this one is flimsy, and definitely destined for damage with repeated "use". Definitely wouldn't hand this version to a kid, and expect to get it back in once piece.

Furthermore, for the privilege of getting that bonus content, it's going to cost you $24.99! While Target currently sells the combo pack above for the sale price of $19.99, they want you to pay $5.00 more for a single bonus feature....One you can only view online!

The price combined with the flimsy packaging leaves this exclusive version one we only recommend for the most die hard Star Wars fan that either collects all versions, or simply wants the most content for their money. We're not even bothering opening ours as it contains the same DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD version as can be found in the combo pack. We're sure the bonus content will pop up online somewhere without the need to open the package.

Next up we have the BB-8 fan's dream come true. A slipcase featuring the droid front and center, which also folds open to reveal more of the cast - Finn, Poe, Rey and Han.

Beyond the slipcase, there is nothing additional to see here. It features the same combo pack that is available via most retail stores - Right down to the artwork. It literally is just a different slipcase slipped over the plastic one.

Unlike Target, Walmart is selling their exclusive for the same price that you can buy the retail edition at - Currently on sale for $19.99, will retail later at $24.99.

The last exclusive we have is for the SteelBook Kylo Ren / First Order fans. Best Buy offers a case that is not only sturdy, but pretty nice in terms of the artwork. If we had one complaint about it, it would be that we wished the style of the case mimicked that of the recently re-released Saga so that it would fit in with them. A perfect opportunity not capitalized on. Of course, those were released by 20th Century Fox, while this is of course Disney's first outing.

Beyond the SteelBook packaging, you won't find any extras here. Much like the above, this is no more than a repackaging of the current retail combo pack. It currently is on sale for about $27.99, but will spring back up to $29.99 after the sale.

An honorable mention goes out to the Digital HD Pre-Order version of the film, which was actually made available for purchase while the movie was still in theaters. Most stores sold it for $29.99, and have since reduced that price to about $24.99. Personally, we think that this price is going to drop even further before most stores sell out of them.

The real benefit to purchasing this version over the others was that it was available on April 1st, as opposed to the physical editions, which did not come out until today, April 5th. Believe us, getting it that much sooner means a lot to a ravenous Star Wars fan.

It does include the special features that you get with the retail combo pack, but what's disappointing about this one is that they're all at the end of the film. For those who bought the Digital HD Saga which came out a bit ago, you know that the special features were their own "icon" that you could click to view. This is what we were hoping for / expecting with this one - Obviously, that didn't happen.

The "set" also includes three collectible mini posters.

So what does this all come down to? Which version is the one you want? Well, it all comes down to your preference of package with this release. Sure, you can shell out the additional money for the Target exclusive to get that one lone bonus feature. But, at the end of the day, what you're essentially buying is your "flavor" of package. As we said, we bought them all - Which one(s) are you buying?

To see more of our personal Star Wars video collection check out the Star Wars Super Collector's Wishbook by Geoffrey T. Carlton. We are credited as a Super Contributor for all but building that section of the book for him from Volume 3 through current.

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