Stars Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens is set three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, when a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance. (Gary Reber)
Special features include eight featurettes: Secrets Of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey, The Story Awakens: The Table Read, Building BB-8, Crafting Creatures, Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony, ILM: The Visual Magic Of The Force, and Force For Change; deleted scenes; and a digital copy.
The 2.40:1 1080p AVC picture was photographed digitally using the Arri Alexa camera system and Panavision's Panaflex film camera system, with some segments shot with the IMAX MKIII system. Theatrical releases consisted of a Kodak Vision3 35-mm and 65-mm Vision3 in anamorphic Panavision®, as well as 70-mm IMAX DMR blow-up. A D-Cinema 3D version also was released theatrically, but Disney has yet to announce a 3D Blu-ray Disc™ release. The opening roll is striking with the yellow lettering against a solidly deep starfield background. The color palette is naturally hued throughout, shifting from earthy terrains to steely gray warships in deep, dark space. Lightsabers intensify the highlights with brilliant reds and blues. BB-8’s orange accents are warmly hued and reveal the wear and tear stress on his exterior. Contrast is excellent, with deep blacks and revealing shadow delineation. Kylo Ren’s black attire is nicely nuanced. Resolution is excellent throughout, especially with respect to the various attire worn by the characters, which reveal fine, detailed nuances such as fabric, frays, well-worn imperfections, and textures. The Falcon interior exhibits decade-long wear and tear, which effectively contrasts with the First Order’s starship interiors. Fleshtones are naturally cast and neutral. A fine grain structure is evident but is never objectionable and contributes to the cinematic appearance. This is a wonderful picture that is sure to please fans of the saga. (Gary Reber)
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is quite dynamic and holosonic® sounding, with an effective enveloping and aggressive soundfield. The four surround channels are frequently engaged with directional atmospherics and sound effects. The discrete effects are especially effective in the various action scenes as TIE fighters and X-Wing fighters swoop in battle exchanges and chase and fight scenes on the ground. All sorts of sonics can be heard, both bold and nuanced, during battle mayhem. A Star Destroyer hanger deck is portrayed with bustling sonic activity, and the larger spaceships rumble through space with deep, powerful .1 LFE bass extension to sub-25 Hz frequencies. This is not always the case, with respect to laser blasts, which at times lack sonic power. In the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, all sorts of nuanced sounds are nicely rendered. Dialogue is nicely integrated spatially throughout. John Williams’ orchestral score is enveloping and precisely nuances as is to be expected, filling the soundstage and extending to the surrounds to develop the soundfield. This is a wonderful soundtrack that enlivens the storytelling and nicely supports the nuances and energized excitement. We’ll have to wait for a 3D version, which, hopefully, will include Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D Immersive Sound formats. (Gary Reber)