Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray review

It may be the UK's fastest-selling Blu-ray, but how does the new Star Wars sequel measure up as an AV experience?

Thirty years have passed since the fall of the Empire and the galaxy is in turmoil once again. Luke Skywalker has disappeared and a new threat calling itself the First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire, bringing with it a new world-destroying super-weapon. Meanwhile, on the desolate desert planet of Jakku, a spirited young scavenger called Rey (Daisy Ridley) befriends a cute little droid and ends up on the run with former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega).

To say that there was a lot riding on …The Force Awakens is a giant understatement. As the first instalment in the Star Wars saga to be released by Disney, it had to justify the £2.5bn the studio spent buying Lucasfilm from George Lucas, and assuage the fears of fans still smarting from the prequel trilogy. And it succeeds.

The hiring of J.J. Abrams to helm the film was a smart move. Lacking any strong visual style of his own (outside of a love of lens flare, which is thankfully dialled back here), but with a proven track record in blockbuster cinema, he's the ultimate safe pair of hands for a project such as this.

But what about complaints that …The Force Awakens is little more than a 'greatest hits' package, re-staging fondly remembered parts of the original trilogy? Well, it would be great to see the franchise journeying into new areas (which is what we're expecting from Rian Johnson's Episode VIII), but this flick is rightly concerned with re-introducing audiences to the Star Wars universe and reminding them why they fell in love with it in the first place.

It also succeeds in passing the baton from one generation of characters to another. The returning cast do their party pieces and generate a welcome wave of nostalgia, while the film's new heroes (the aforementioned Ridley and Boyega, plus Oscar Isaac) prove worthy counterparts to Han, Luke and Leia.

And then there's Adam Driver, whose ominous yet vulnerable reading of Darth Vader-wannabe Kylo Ren is pitched precisely where Anakin Skywalker should have been by the midway point in the prequels.

The Force Awakens feels like it exists inside the same universe as the original trilogy. And for that, we should be very happy indeed.

Picture: The phrase 'reference status' was made for transfers like the one that graces this Blu-ray. Shot primarily on 35mm film (with selected sequences captured with IMAX 70mm cameras), it results in a Blu-ray with a gob-smacking AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode that positively relishes the chance to showcase vibrant primaries whenever a lightsaber is ignited or exacting details in the movie's well-worn and seemingly lived-in locations. 2D-only, though – a 3D release is due later this year.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: With Disney still refusing to jump aboard the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X train, a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix is the best we could expect from this disc. Thankfully, the track we've got is an absolute stunner; a superbly balanced mix that fills the soundstage with positional effects and brooding bass, keeps dialogue crystal clear, and brings terrific range and depth to John Williams' score. Play it loud.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The headline bonus feature in this two-disc set is Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey. Clocking in at just shy of 70 minutes, it's one of the more satisfying Making of… documentaries we've come across in quite a while.

Supporting this are six shorter featurettes looking at various aspects of the production. These range from the first time the entire cast came together for a script read-through, to designing BB-8 (left), creating practical  creature effects, and composing the score.

Also included are six unfinished deleted scenes (four mins) and a promo for Lucasfilm's Force for Change charity programme (three mins). Fans also get to choose between the regular sleeve or limited edition 'Dark Side' and 'Light Side' slipcases.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: The Star Wars saga gets a joyous resurrection on a Blu-ray disc that delivers AV perfection

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Walt Disney, All-region BD, £25