In its original theatrical release, George Lucas iconic Star Wars (1977) made a big impact that continues to reverberate. That movie was followed by the cliffhanger sequel The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and the third film in the series was Return of the Jedi (1983). After tinkering with the three movies a little, Lucas released new theatrical versions in 1997. Now, tweaked versions of the 1997 films have been released as a four-disc DVD set under the collective title Star Wars Trilogy, marking the first time any version of these three films has been available on DVD.
The 1977 movie commonly known originally as simply Star Wars has been retitled Star Wars IV: A New Hope, and Star Wars V and Star Wars VI have been incorporated into the titles of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, respectively. The retitling came about in connection with a trio of prequel films that began being released theatrically in 1999, and the numbering scheme indicates where each movie fits into the epic storys chronology.
Ive always found all three films in the Star Wars Trilogy to be lots of fun, and they form a unified whole. I wouldnt characterize them as science fictionI would describe them as pulpy space fantasy action-adventure movies. They are set in some distant galaxy during a civil war, and we side with freedom-fighter rebels who are battling the evil Galactic Empire. I would say the Trilogy is an elaborate coming-of-age tale where we follow the maturation of an idealistic farm boy named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
On his adventures, Luke teams up with daredevil smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and plucky young Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). But Lucas has packed the Trilogy with a host of quirky characters, including a pair of delightful androids called C-3PO and R2-D2. And I think the movies chief villain, Darth Vader (played by bodybuilder David Prowse, but voiced by James Earl Jones), is one of the most memorable in all of cinema.
Ive always found it intriguing that some inhabitants of the galaxy embrace the belief that there exists a mystical energy called the Force. There are certain beings called Jedi who seemingly derive special powers from the Force and use them to bring about good. To me, Alec Guinness gives an unforgettable performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wise old Jedi who mentors Luke. Young Skywalker also receives training from another Jedi, the diminutive Yoda (a puppet controlled and voiced by Frank Oz). But the Force is not automatically a source of good: it has a corrupting Dark Side that can result in evil.
Each movie in the Trilogy is contained on its own single-sided disc, and as far as I am concerned, the three feature films all look and sound terrific: the colors are vivid, the picture is sharp, and the sound is clean. The DVDs provide feature-length audio commentary tracks for all three movies. George Lucas, actress Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt, and visual effects expert Dennis Muren are heard on all three tracks, and these four commentators are joined by a fifth, director Irvin Kershner, on The Empire Strikes Back. I found all three commentary tracks worthwhile, and I particularly enjoyed listening to Lucas and Kershner. Burtt gives more details about the sound than I really want to know.
Continued on the Next Page: Bonus Materials and DVD Details