On March 31, Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) and Lucasfilm Ltd. released Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, a 27-disc “Collector’s Edition” box set of the nine Star Wars Episodes centered on the triumphs and tragedies of the Skywalker family “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” presented on 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) and 1080p high-definition (HD) Blu-rays. Offered exclusively through Best Buy, Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga presents the complete nine-part story of the beloved franchise created in the 1970s by George Lucas in one set for the first time.
ONE COMPLETE SET FOR THE FIRST TIME
From young Anakin Skywalker’s descent to the dark side, to the rise of the Resistance and the struggle to restore peace to the galaxy, the story of a generation comes to a riveting conclusion. The saga will end. The story lives forever. – from the promotional insert, Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set
Released on the same “drop” date for the physical disc of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (the digital edition was released two weeks earlier), Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a descendant of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s nine-Blu-ray disc (BD) box set, Star Wars: The Complete Saga. That 2011 offering (which Fox later reissued in 2015 with different packaging) presented what Star Wars’ creator Lucas then considered to be the complete six-film Tragedy of Darth Vader on six individual BDs and three bonus features discs in a beautifully designed DigiBook package with a matching slipcover.
BVHE and Lucasfilm, which are now (along with 20th Century Fox) wholly owned subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company, apparently took their cues from the 2011 Star Wars: The Complete Saga box set when they designed this deluxe collector’s edition set. They took the basic DigiBook/slipcover idea and, as Han Solo might say, added some special modifications to make The Skywalker Saga a must-have addition to a Star Wars movie library.
When Fox and Lucasfilm released Star Wars: The Complete Saga almost nine years ago, they packed all nine BDs (six feature films, plus three bonus features discs) in a Tatooine-themed DigiBook package that resembles a small hardcover book with a matching slipcover. (The artwork, by poster art legend Drew Struzan, shows the dome of the Lars homestead (where a young Luke Skywalker grew up with his aunt and uncle), the twin suns, and a beautiful double portrait of the first six films’ protagonists. Nine-year-old Anakin is in the foreground, his gaze turned slightly down to the ground, while a more “ghostly” Luke, his back toward us, seems to walk toward the twin setting suns.)
Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga also consists of a DigiBook case for its discs and an outer case to protect the contents. However, the large number of discs (nine 4K UHD Blu-rays and 18 HD BDs) calls for a larger package with a different look. Let’s take a look at The Skywalker Saga set then.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’s outer case resembles 2001: A Space Odyssey’s mysterious black monolith laid on its side and given a simple yet elegant Death Star motif. You’ll see a depiction of a hemisphere of the Galactic Empire’s fearsome battle station, half in light, half in shadow, with Joe Johnston’s “final version” of the classic Star Wars logo embossed with silver foil on the lower “western” half of the outer case, and The Skywalker Saga on the lower eastern half. Very simple, but striking, nonetheless.
The second thing you’ll notice is that at the center of the case, there is a seam that runs from the top to the bottom. To open the box, you must gently slide the two halves of the box apart to reveal a tray that holds the DigiBook and its collection of Blu-rays.
Unlike Star Wars: The Complete Saga, the DigiBook does not repeat the outer case’s Death Star theme. Instead, the heavy book-like package has a metallic-looking cover featuring a large embossed Star Wars logo in the center and the subtitle The Skywalker Saga in smaller letters underneath. If you examine the logo closely, you’ll see a rendition of the famous Millennium Falcon in flight within the iconic logo.
Between the covers, which include a two-page frontispiece split between the “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” card and the yellow-against-black Star Wars logo as seen in all nine movies, are 14 lavishly illustrated “pages that hold the 27 discs in this massive collection.
The pages for the feature films feature double-trucks of production paintings from Lucasfilm’s art department and are arranged in chronological order. They are:
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – Naboo Starfighter (Doug Chiang)
- Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: – Clone Army Attacks (Ryan Church)
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – Duel of the Jedi (Erik Tiemens)
- Star Wars: A New Hope – The Millennium Falcon (Ralph McQuarrie)
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – The Cloud City of Bespin (Ralph McQuarrie)
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Arrival of Darth Vader (Ralph McQuarrie)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Falcon Revealed (Andrée Wallin)
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Luke Skywalker’s Sunset (Seth Angstrom)
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Final Confrontation ((Andrée Wallin and Stephen Tappin)
The feature films’ discs are distributed in pairs (one 4K Blu-ray, one 1080p Blu-ray) in pockets on the top edge of the right-hand pages in each of the spreads listed above.
The remaining nine Blu-rays are the Bonus Features discs, one for each Episode. The illustrations on the Bonus Features discs are behind the scenes black-and-white photos shot during the making of each film by Lucasfilm staff photographers. Once again, they are arranged in the saga’s in-universe chronological order. And as in the feature film section, the bonus features discs are stored in pairs except for the ninth (for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which gets one “page” to itself.
Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga also includes:
- A two-page insert with the Movies Anywhere codes for the digital copies of the 4K editions
- A collectible letter written by Mark Hamill, exclusive to the Best Buy set
Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga focuses exclusively on the nine numbered Episodes released between 1977 and 2019. They do not include the two Anthology standalone films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), even though they, like the various Lucasfilm TV projects starting with Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and the live-action The Mandalorian, are part of the overall Star Wars universe.
Though it might seem redundant, I’ll list the films in The Skywalker Saga set:
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) Written and directed by George Lucas
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) Written by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales. Directed by George Lucas
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Written and directed by George Lucas
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) Written and directed by George Lucas
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, from a story by George Lucas. Directed by Irvin Kershner
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) Written by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan. Directed by Richard Marquand
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt. Directed by J.J. Abrams
- Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) Written and directed by Rian Johnson
- Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Written by Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams, based on a story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow, and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams. Directed by J.J. Abrams
Needless to say, Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga does not include discs with the original “unaltered” versions of the Original Trilogy as they were shown in theaters in 1977, 1980, and 1983. Even though The Walt Disney Company (as a result of its purchase of both Lucasfilm and Fox’s parent company 21st Century Fox) now owns the intellectual property rights to Star Wars in toto, the Powers that Be are respecting George Lucas’s express wishes regarding the non-release of the pre-1997 editions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
For the most part, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has not made any radical changes to the six high-definition Blu-rays that were previously released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment between 2011 and 2015. I am sure that the reviewers at Blu-ray.com and other home video review sites can tell you more than I ever could if BVHE and Lucasfilm have tinkered with the digital noise reduction or made any other arcane technical refinements to the six Lucas Era Episodes.
The first six films were given new menus that are more in line with the three “Disney-era” Lucasfilm Sequel Trilogy Episodes. The artwork on the menus follows the same “painting” motif as those in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. The two sets of audio commentaries – the 2004 DVD commentary and the “Archival Interviews” from 2011 – are back.
Both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi have some new features. The Force Awakens now includes J.J. Abrams’ commentary, an extra found only in BVHE’s 3D Collector’s Edition from late 2016. The Last Jedi, which was completely remastered and had its bonus features boosted by the inclusion of the exclusive-to-a-retailer featurette Meet the Porgs. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the only Sequel Trilogy film Blu-ray with no audio commentary track, The Last Jedi Blu-ray, which retained its commentary track by Rian Johnson, now includes an isolated musical score track has been added to the feature film’s extras.
BVHE and Lucasfilm also decided to not port over most of the behind-the-scenes (BTS) documentaries and other bonus features that are on either the various DVD or Blu-ray sets released between 2004 and 2015 by Fox. A few selections from Star Wars: The Complete Saga’s Lucasfilm Archives did make it to the Bonus Features discs for each of the six Prequel and Original Trilogy films, but most of the in-depth stuff was left out. To be fair to BVHE, 2011’s Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set did not port over anything on the 2004 Star Wars Trilogy DVD set’s fourth disc.
So, aside from several deleted scenes featurettes and other minor extras from previous home media releases, most of the good BTS stuff re the Lucas Era Star Wars films in the 2004-2015 home releases won’t be found in The Skywalker Saga’s Bonus Discs.
I can’t comment on the 4K UHD versions of the Skywalker Saga just yet. My 4K TV, the Samsung soundbar I bought for it, and a UHD Blu-ray player are still in their boxes while we remodel the room where they will be set up eventually. All I can say for now is that by luck of the draw rather than by design, my first 4K Blu-rays are the ones in this set. When I watch them, I’ll be sure to review them here in my blog. I’ll even add links to those reviews onto this one.
Overall, Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was a worthwhile purchase, even if it is the most expensive Blu-ray set I’ve ever bought. Including state and local sales taxes, I ended up paying $271.49 for my set, even though I already had all of the individual Multi-Screen Editions released by BVHE, including those of the Lucas Era Prequels and the Original Trilogy. An overindulgence on my part, some people might say, but I did get the 4K UHD discs as well in this set.
I like the packaging, especially that snazzy Death Star-themed outer case, although I have to take the discs out from their DigiBook pages with extra care, That’s so the playing surfaces don’t get scratched or too smudged by my fingerprints. It requires patience and delicate handling, especially the first time you try to extract a disc from its tight storage niche, but it can be done.
So, yeah. The overall design is well thought out and executed, and the package looks impressive as a collector’s item.
As someone who loves both Star Wars and the Blu-ray format, I can say with all honesty that this is a box set worth adding to anyone’s home media collection. Truly, the Force is with Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.