The Star Wars Trilogy DVDs

1. These are the essentially the 1997 Special Edition versions of all three films. Sort of. Yes, this means that Greedo still fires first in the notoriously rethought Star Wars cantina scene and modern special effects are everywhere, but further modifications have been made, and not just visual tweaks: The Return Of The Jedi Emperor now appears in The Empire Strikes Back for example, bringing new dialogue with him, and young Anakin from Revenge Of The Sith also replaces old Anakin in the finale of Jedi.

2. These discs represent one of the most gorgeous video restorations ever. George Lucas personally supervised the new masters, which passed through the hands of his state-of-the-art special effects facility Industrial Light & Magic, were cleaned up Lowry Digital, and compressed for DVD by THX, a combined boon not only to the quality of the new computer graphics but to the beauty of the presentation overall, with punchier colors and all manner of blemishes removed. Skywalker Sound has also created a first-ever Dolby EX 5.1 mix as dynamic as any modern soundtrack.

3. Although popular bonuses like commentary tracks (from Lucas, actress Carrie Fisher, Empire director Irvin Kershner and others) and themed featurettes (on the characters, on lightsabers, and on the impact of the films) are here, a dedicated deleted scenes section is not, a shame because the certainly do exist and have appeared elsewhere. Fans have their wish lists of what the ultimate Star Wars DVD would contain, but much is no doubt being held back for the six-movie boxed set reportedly in development.

4. The cornerstone of the supplemental Disc Four is a two-plus-hour documentary that covers all three films, from the earliest roots of the story through to the present day. A shorter version will be appearing on TV, on A&E, but devotees will not want to miss a minute of the new interviews and vintage behind-the-scenes footage. A winner, not solely because of the scintillating subject but for the knowledge of the movies and the attention to detail.

For my full review of the set, check out the November issue of Home Theater, on sale in October.

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