So this is it, then. The last ever Star Wars DVD. Yeah. We don’t buy it, either. With Lucas’ well-known love of tinkering, as well as Rick McCallum’s hints overleaf, Lounge knows there’ll be an ‘Even More Special Complete Ultimate Collector’s Box Set’ of all three prequels rolling into a DVD shop soon. And then the entire six-film set... After all, as George says on many of the extras, he sees the Star Wars saga as one big, seamless story...
That said, after this, it’s difficult to see how much more special-edition the Lucasfilm backroom boys could make Episode III. Like the releases for Episodes I and II, this two-disc package not only boasts the DVD holy trinity (Making Of doc, commentary and deleted scenes), it also boasts a couple of subsidiary mini-docs, over a dozen featurettes (previously available online), a music video, trailers (including the goose-pimply Alec Guinness teaser) and posters and pics galore, as well as promos for assorted videogames and links to websites. Quantity and quality.
Like us, you’ll probably fire up the Lucas commentary first. It’s an uneven, but thrilling, experience. Half the time, you’ll want to cuff him round the ear as he lapses into that most irritating yak-track trait: a straight explanation of what’s happening on-screen. But mostly his boyish enthusiasm for what he proudly calls “the tragedy of Darth Vader” fills you with the urge to ruffle his hair affectionately, the passionate fan that he so clearly is.
Still, judging from this disc, Lucas may be the only person in the galaxy who believes that Episodes I through VI make a flawless whole. C’mon, George... They’re all fantastic fun and you’ve made the plots match up neatly enough, but tonally they jigsaw together about as well as Hamlet and Harry Potter. Thing is, he genuinely believes it. And, whatever the level of your Star Wars fanboyism, that kind of conviction is both admirable and infectious.
With producer Rick McCallum and an assortment of key crew on hand to flesh things out, the commentary is lively and crammed with behind-the-scenes colour. Then comes the hour-plus doc Within A Minute, which takes a gallop through the three-year production cycle, focusing on each section of the team from digi-tinkering compugeeks to modelmakers and beyond. It even features a section on catering!
It’s hugely detailed and – if we’re completely honest – occasionally a little overwhelming. Especially when you consider that it dovetails into the dozen-plus mini-docs that have already appeared online. It’s an exhaustive – and exhausting – amount of info.
Anyone with a desire for additional shots of Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and assorted stuntmen working out and rehearsing lightsaber bust-ups will have their wishes met (and then some) by the It’s All For Real doc. Stunt-maestro Nick Gillard – looking more knackered with each passing film – works miracles turning weedy thesps into killing machines. Watch, and you’ll realise how it’s impossible to underestimate Gillard’s contribution to the saga.
Don’t expect a huge amount from the deleted scenes, though. There are a few flickers of action: Grievous taking on a Jedi, for instance, but for the most part it’s talky stuff and ditched linking material.
Essential, though, is George in directing mode in The Chosen One doc. Ignore the stuff where he explains how Star Wars is the story of Darth Vader. Focus instead on the astonishing footage of him directing Hayden Christensen. Lucas tries to map out every pause, every pace and hand gesture, walking and talking Christensen through entire scenes. If that’s the kind of directorial puppeteering he used on the rest of the cast, it’s a wonder McGregor and Samuel L Jackson didn’t tip him down a ventilation shaft like the Emperor.
Still, it’s this attention to detail and knowing his audience that has served Lucas so well over the years. He also has a clear fix on how to make DVD work for him, and this is a package that serves as a perfect wrap-up to an iconic series. Well, for now...