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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

All The Times I've Bought Star Wars: Episode X -- The Disney Era

Many years ago, I wrote a series of blog entries entitled All The Times I've Bought Star Wars, which details, well, all the times I've bought Star Wars on home media.  I figured it was finally time to add a couple new chapters, focusing on the Blu-Rays, and this new Disney era.  So here we go now with the Disney era.  

It was on a chilly autumn day in 2012.  I was just lounging at home, after work, watching some mindless daytime television, when my computer beeped with a Facebook message.  I took a look to see it was from a work contact.  The message read, “Disney just bought Star Wars.  Episode VII in 2015.”

I began googling in earnest, and soon learned the complete details.  Yup, George Lucas had decided to retire, and sold his company Lucasfilm to Disney for around $4 billion.  Legendary producer Kathleen Kennedy had just been hired on as the new president of Lucasfilm.  The crown jewel in the Lucasfilm empire is, of course, Star Wars, and Disney announced their first Lucasfilm production would be Episode VII in 2015.  

I whipped out my phone and texted the news to my best friend and huge Star Wars fan.  “Disney just bought Star Wars.  Episode VII in 2015.” 

And we are now in the midst of the new Disney era of Star Wars.  Of course, Disney made some controversial moves in the beginning.  Right away, they canceled the beloved animated series The Clone Wars to make way for their new animated TV productions.  But, they are starting to come around, as The Clone Wars will soon be coming back for a final, loose-end-tying-up season.  

But, of course, people were thrilled for the new movies.  George Lucas was long considered the prime factor for the disappointing prequels (even though I liked them), and it was felt some new blood and a new perspective on the saga would make Star Wars great again.  Well, looks like that’s not the case, as most of 2018 was filled with fan vitriol towards The Last Jedi and a series of hot takes as to why Solo under-performed.  As I blogged many years ago, it seems that the curse of the nerd is to love the things you hate and hate the things you love.
The Disney era began in December of 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theatres, and we were introduced to our new heroes Rey, Finn, BB-88, and new villain Kylo Ren.  Yes, as expected, it made all the money and people were thrilled to see Han Solo and Princess Leia back for one last hurrah.  And, I’m not too proud to admit that when Luke made his return at the end of the film, I cried nostalgic tears of joy.  Oh, I’m not talking about a single manly tear.  I’m talking full-on ugly crying.  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray

So when it came time to snatch up The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray, I went the same route I did the box set of the six film saga:  I pre-ordered it on Amazon as soon as I was able to.  This time, though, I sprung for the same-day shipping.  The fun thing is, when you do that, there’s always a good chance you’ll get it early.  It happened to me!  Amazon delivered it to me the Thursday before the Tuesday it officially came out.  

And its initial release was a pretty good set.  You get the usual assortment of deleted scenes and featurettes all delving into the making of the film.  You also get Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.  What’s become a highlight of the Disney Blu-Rays is how they produce feature-length documentaries chronicling the making of the film.  They even go so far as to premiere them at film festivals.  

However, you do not get a running commentary with director JJ Abrams.  For that, you’ll need to buy the 3D edition, which came out in the fall of 2016.  Disney got a lot of crap for doing a double-dip so soon after the initial home media release.  And it must have stung, because they haven’t attempted it again.  I didn’t spring for the 3D edition, despite the Abrams running commentary, and a few more deleted scenes and featurettes.

The Disney trilogy continued in 2017 with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Hoo, boy, did The Last Jedi polarize fans.  Not since the prequels has then been such a large outpouring of bitterness towards a Star Wars film.  I don’t think Disney’s hurting, though.  The Last Jedi still set records at the box office, the critics loved it, and it’s the number two best-selling Blu-Ray of 2018.  It was number one for the longest time, but I see that Black Panther just surpassed it.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Blu-Ray

I wasn’t able to pre-order this one Amazon.  As has been reported on several of my home theatre forums, Disney and Amazon are having some kind of spat.  The end result is you can’t pre-order Disney films on Amazon anymore, and when you try to order it on the day of release, there’s a good chance it’ll end up back-ordered.  

Luckily, at work, I’m on the morning shift now, and St. Albert is just a 45-minute drive away.  So, if there is a Blu-Ray that I’m dying to get my hands on, I’ll make a quick trip into town after work.  That’s not what I did with The Last Jedi, though.  When the day came, we were hit with a spring snowstorm.  As much as I love Star Wars, I wasn’t going to brave a blizzard.  So I just ran across the street to Shoppers Drug Mart.  The clerk was still unpacking the cases and setting up the standee when I came in to buy it.  Used my Shoppers points to get it half-price, too.
It comes with the standard assortment of bonus features.  Deleted scenes, featurettes, a running commentary with director Rian Johnson, and our feature-length documentary The Director and the Jedi.  

When Disney first announced their plans for Star Wars, they decided to do a lot more than just a sequel trilogy.  As Kennedy described it, they were starting to think about the Star Wars universe as “a setting, rather than a saga.”  And thus, the Star Wars Stories, which would be single, standalone films highlighting some of the ancillary tales that have grown out of the saga. 
The first was Rogue One, all about the Rebellion’s operation to steal the plans to the Death Star.  It came out in the holiday season of 2016, and was another huge hit.  We followed Jyn Erso, the daughter of the creator of the Death Star’s weapons systems, and how she’s drafted into the Rebellion to assist with the cause.  

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Blu-Ray

It hit Blu-Ray in the spring of 2017, and that’s a situation where I ran into the city straight after work to pick it up.  You get the featurettes and the deleted scenes.  For some reason, the Star Wars Stories aren’t worthy of feature-length documentaries.  I would have also liked it if we got the trailers, which got some flak for being 90% footage that didn’t make it into the film.  

And the latest Star Wars Story is the latest addition to my collection.  Solo, which tells us the secret origins of Han Solo.  I just finished writing up my Fishing in the Discount Bin entry on Solo, and as I said there, I think its much-documented under-performance had to do with the fact that the secret origin of Han Solo was pretty low on the list of Star Wars Stories that people wanted.  Anyway, I still enjoyed it, and found it good, but not great. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story on Blu-Ray

That was another quick-trip-into-the-city-after-work acquisition, and it was worth it.  Again, just some featurettes and deleted scenes.  No feature-length documentary.  No running commentary, either.  Something tells me the Star Wars Stories didn’t get their running commentaries due to their much-documented production woes and director swap-outs.

And while this is the end of the list for now, we know this isn’t the end of the Disney era for Star Wars.  Episode IX is now in production, to bring that trilogy to a close.  When this era began, I read a leaked copy of Disney’s initial Star Wars plan, and it calls for at least a third Star Wars Story.  I know people have longed for a Boba Fett film for as long as I’ve known Star Wars fans, and a Star Wars Story about Obi-Wan Kenobi and his lost years between Episodes III and IV is also high in demand.  On top of that, Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is developing a new Star Wars trilogy, and the creators of Game of Thrones have also been tapped to develop a new cinematic Star Wars Saga.  

The Disney era of Star Wars has only just begun, so I’ll have many more chapters to write in the future. 

Many years ago, I wrote a series of blog entries called All The Times I’ve Bought Star Wars, of which this is a continuation.  The previous chapters:

Episode I: The Saga Begins – Why I’m writing this

Episode III: Greedo Shoots First – Special Editions on VHS

Episode V:  Cutting Edge in 1993 – The Original Theatrical Editions on DVD

Episode VI: Episode I Twice – Buying the prequels

Episode VII: Expanded Universe – Various Star Wars-related titles I’d accumulated

Episode VIII: Train Him I Cannot.  He Is Too Old – Anticipating buying it again in the future

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