Revenge of the Sith appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As with Clones, Sith came from a digital transfer that never saw a frame of film. That meant another terrific visual presentation.
Sharpness seemed very strong, with only a few minor exceptions. Some wider shots of live-action elements betrayed a smidgen of softness. Those were infrequent, though, and all the computer-generated pieces displayed amazing detail. Since so much of the movie consisted of artificial components, that meant the majority of the film looked terrifically crisp and distinctive. I saw no jagged edges or edge enhancement, and only a couple small shots with shimmering occurred. No source defects appeared either, a fact that made sense since the transfer came straight from the computer.
Since Sith took place in many different settings, it offered a great deal of visual variety. That meant a broad palette that encompassed lots of vivid hues. From the searing rears of Mustafar to the lush jungle of Kashyyyk to all points in between, Sith boasted dynamic hues that popped off the screen. The colors consistently looked great, as did blacks. Dark shots demonstrated excellent depth, while shadows were clear. Low-light shots depicted solid delineation of the elements and never came across as too thick or dense. So much of Sith looked stunning that I almost went with an “A+” for the image. The occasional soft shot meant I couldn’t do that, but I nonetheless thought this was an excellent presentation.
I awarded “A+” grades to the audio of both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I hate giving “A+” grades but couldn’t see anyway around it in regard to those excellent mixes. Did the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack of Revenge of the Sith match up with its predecessors? In a word – yup.
Sith featured the same audio production team as its predecessors, and that consistency showed with its smooth and seamless soundfield. From start to finish, the movie demonstrated a broad affair that utilized all the available channels. That didn’t mean it was stupidly active, though; it backed off appropriately during the film’s quieter dialogue sequences.
When it needed to kick into higher gear, though, the soundtrack was more than up to it requirements. The mix contributed a strong sense of place at all times and made the various settings come to life. Occasional examples of directional dialogue occurred, and the score offered a dynamic presence with good stereo imaging as well as support from the surrounds.
Of course, the effects created the best parts of the track, and they worked exceptionally well. All the many action sequences offered great definition and scope. They also blended smoothly and came together quite nicely. If forced to pick my favorite sequence, I think I’d go with Obi-Wan’s battle against General Grievous. Both their saber fight and their chase opened up the spectrum very well and turned into a demo-worthy scene.
No problems with audio occurred. Speech was crisp and natural, and I noticed no intelligibility problems or edginess. Music was bright and bold throughout the movie, as the track replicated John Williams’ score well. Effects depicted the expected levels of detail and aggression. They were lively and accurate as they presented strong definition. Highs sounded concise and tight, while lows were rich and firm. There was virtually nothing about which I could complain, as Sith ended the Star Wars saga with yet another standout soundtrack.
Folks who watched the other DVDs will feel at home with the supplements of Sith, as it follows the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.
Most of these elements appear on DVD Two, but the first platter includes a few bits, starting with an audio commentary. This track features director/writer George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and John Knoll.
Although the commentary remains fairly screen-specific - the speakers clearly watched the movie as they spoke - most of the participants appear to have been recorded separately. I get the impression McCallum and Guyett sat together but the rest remain on their own, though I could be mistaken.
Two subjects dominate: story/characters and visuals. That breakdown makes sense given the work done by the participants as well as the nature of the film itself. Lucas provides quite a lot of good notes about the plot, the roles, and connected elements. He gets into a nice discussion of how the whole six-part saga fits together as well as character concerns, story points, homages, allusions to other flicks, and general production notes. He even offers a humorous explanation of why it took so long to build the first Death Star. Lucas provides the strongest material in this track.
Not that the others were chopped liver. They offered good notes about technical challenges and the movie’s design choices. Some good trivia appears along with the nuts and bolts of creating the effects and issues connected to the visual decisions. Another very good commentary, this one ends the series well.
Although there was no text version of the commentary, the track offered subtitles to identify the onscreen speakers. This was a nice touch. It worked better than spoken introductions, because it didn’t interfere with the flow of the program, and the text popped up whenever the speaker changed.
Also on DVD One was the THX Optimizer program. It purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.
Some Easter Eggs appeared on DVD One. You can choose to vary the main menu screen and select any of the three choices via selections made during the FBI warning screen when the DVD starts. For Coruscant, hit “1” on your remote, while you should punch “2” for Utapau and “3” for Mustafar.
More interesting is DVD One’s other egg, a goofy Yoda animation. This 64-second piece shows the Jedi master as he raps and dances. It’s silly but mildly entertaining. DVD credits follow it. To get this, go to the “Options” screen and hit “10+” and “1” to make “11”, then punch “3” and “8” and you’ll go to this feature.
As we move to DVD Two, we find the bulk of the supplements, and these appear within different domains. I started with the six Deleted Scenes. Presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, these last a total of nine minutes, 36 seconds via the “Play All” option. While the cut sequences from Clones were fun but insubstantial, these offer greater depth. In addition to a good action sequence and the much-anticipated shot of Yoda’s exile on Dagobah, we find a lot of exposition that shows the stirrings of the Rebel Alliance. I like these because they help flesh out that side of things, and they also add to Padme’s character. She’s much more of an active participant with these scenes restored. I don’t know how well they would have flowed if they’d stayed in the movie, but they add a lot.
The deleted scenes can be viewed with or without introductions. Those include comments from George Lucas and Rick McCallum. We get some notes about the scenes and find out why they didn’t make the final cut. These intros offer nice remarks that help flesh out our understanding of the shots.
The “Documentary and Featurettes” section includes three different programs. The main piece offers an intriguing focus. Instead of looking at the broad scope of the flick, Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III concentrates on what it takes to create one minute of the film. It looks at the Mustafar duel. The one-hour, 18-minute and 26-second show offers shots from the production, movie snippets, and comments. We get notes from Lucas, McCallum, Knoll, Guyett, Coleman, concept design supervisors Ryan Church and Erik Tiemens, concept artist Iain McGaig, pre-visualization/effects supervisor Daniel D. Gregoire, editor Roger Barton, editor/sound designer Ben Burtt, previsualization/effects artist Chris Edwards, production coordinator Virginia Murray, assistant Kevin Plummer, first assistant accountant Patrick Plummer, catering manager Kerry Fetzer, production designer Gavin Bocquet, construction manager Greg Hajdu, property master Ty Teiger, light saber technician Thomas Van Koeverden, makeup artist Shane Thomas, costume administrator Gillian Libbert, costume designer Trisha Biggar, actors Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor, swordmaster/stunt coordinator Nick Gillard, first assistant director Colin Fletcher, third AD Samantha Smith, script supervisor Jayne-Ann Tenggren, director of photography David Tattersall, “B” camera operator Simon Harding, “A” camera operator Calum McFarlane, high definition supervisor Fred Meyers, video split operator Michael Taylor, boom operator Rod Conder, sound recordist Paul “Salty” Brincat, location assistant editor Jason Ballantine, location apprentice editor John Briggs, assistant editor Jett Sally, technical supervisor Michael Blanchard, visual effects executive producer Denise Ream, production coordinator Nina Fallon, visual effects producer Janet Lewin, production assistant Brian Barlettani, layout artist Brian Cantwell, matchmove supervisor Jason Snell, animator Charles Alleneck, digital matte supervisor Jonathan Harb, digital matte artist Brett Northcutt, digital effects artist Philippe Rebours, CG supervisor John Helms, sequence supervisor Willi Geiger, digital model artist Kelvin Lau, practical model supervisor Brian Gernand, model maker Lorne Peterson, effects director of photography Patrick Sweeney, rotoscope supervisor Beth D’Amato, compositor Conny Fauser, supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, foley artist Jana Vance, sound editor/re-recording mixer Tom Myers, and composer John Williams.
“Minute” discusses what the producer does, the script, concept art, Steven Spielberg’s involvement, and pre-visualization. From there it gets into the work of the Sydney production office, catering, production design and construction of sets and props, hair, makeup and wardrobe, performances, stunts, levels of directing and script supervision, cinematography, audio, editing and reshoots. The show concludes with a look at all sides of visual effects, practical models and motion-control photography, rotoscoping, compositing and music. We also check out the final screening and some valedictory notes.
“Minute” truly gives us a look at every facet of the production. With information about elements such as catering and production offices, it’s hard to imagine any topic upon which the documentary doesn’t alight. To be certain, I’d bet this program’s list of onscreen interview subjects is longer than any other DVD documentary’s.
The depth of the information becomes a different matter, though. At its best, “Minute” can really dig into the subjects with nice detail and depth. These allow us to gain a real appreciation for the enormous scope of the production and just how many folks it takes to create a movie as complex as Sith.
However, this diversity can be a negative at times. Occasionally “Minute” feels more like an annotated credit reel than an actual documentary. Parts of it offer little more than names of participants and images of them.
Take that as a minor criticism, though. I like the concept of “Minute”, and I think it offers more than enough detail to make it worthwhile. It’s definitely a nice variation on the standard “making of” documentary, and it provides an unusual and informative look at the production.
Two featurettes follow. It’s All For Real: The Stunts of Episode III runs 11 minutes and four seconds and presents comments from Gillard, McGregor, Burtt, Lucas, McCallum, Christensen, and actor Ian McDiarmid. We learn about choreography and test shooting, fighting styles, doubles and use of the principal performers, and shooting the segments. Lightsaber material dominates the show, as we get a nice look at considerations in place for those segments. “Real” offers a solid examination of the issues involved with the physical action. I especially like the parts that look at how plans for the fight between Mace Windu and Palpatine was changed to more actively involve the real actors.
Lastly, The Chosen One fills 14 minutes and 37 seconds as it offers information from Lucas, Christensen, and creatures supervisor Dave Elsey. “One” covers the Anakin/Vader story as Lucas intended it, Christensen’s take on the role and what he attempted to do, facets of the part, Vader’s fighting style, and the physical transformation into Vader. Some of this presents basic character notes we already know, but there’s more depth than usual to the interpretation of Vader. It’s also great fun to see the physical elements and hear Christensen’s thoughts on being put in the iconic suit.
In the Web Documentaries domain, we got an additional 15 featurettes. These originally appeared on the official website. Each of these runs between four minutes, 54 seconds and eight minutes, 43 seconds for a total of 95 minutes and 58 seconds of footage. That’s significantly longer than the collections of web materials on the prior two releases.
The programs don’t connect as a coherent documentary, but they add good insight into many aspects of the production. Through them we get remarks from Lucas, Bocquet, Tiemens, Teiger, McCallum, Gillard, McCaig, Van Koeverden, Coleman, Tenggren, Taylor, Tattersall, Biggar, Barton, McDiarmid, McGregor, D’Amato, Knoll, Elsey, Harding, Blanchard, Sally, Burtt, Williams, set decorator Richard Roberts, key hairdresser Annette Miles, makeup supervisor Nikki Gooley, costume props supervisor Ivo Coveney, assistant Jacqui Louez, special effects supervisor Dave Young, concept artist Warren Fu, model shop supervisor Peter Wyborn, actors Christopher Lee, Rena Owen, Anthony Daniels, Genevieve O’Reilly, Silas Carson, Bruce Spence, Peter Mayhew, Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits, droid supervisor Dave Bies, dialogue coach Chris Neil, video operator Demitri Jagger, director of pick-up photography Giles Nuttgens, creature shop supervisor Rebecca Hunt, fabrication supervisor Lou Elsey, and logger John Briggs.
The featurettes cover running the production simultaneously from California and Australia in the early days, linking Sith to Star Wars and prep work, “old-fashioned” special effects, creating General Grievous, weapon design and construction, “Video Village” and the benefits of digital photography on the set, costumes, C-3PO’s role in Sith and related subjects, pick-ups and re-shoots, McGregor’s take on Obi-Wan, the use of Wookiees in Sith, how a digital tape gets from the camera to the screen, the film’s creatures, the score, and McDiarmid’s performance.
Since these featurettes originally appeared on the official web site, one might expect them to offer bland promotional material. Such an interpretation would be badly incorrect. The pieces inform and educate but don’t patronize or waste our time. They dig into their topics well and provide plenty of nice notes.
My favorite parts show attempts to make McGregor more closely resemble the older Alec Guinness, brainstorming the appearance of General Grievous, a comparison of original and re-shot sequences, and the Wookiee costumes. Some of the material and snippets repeat from the other elements on this disc, but not too much of that occurs. Instead, these clips supplement the prior documentaries and add plenty of terrific material in their own right. You get a little of the usual praise and happy talk, but not enough to detract from all the fine information.
Next we encounter a domain called “Video Games and Still Galleries”. For Star Wars; Battlefront II, we get a trailer for this game as well as an XBox Demo. Since I don’t own an XBox, I can’t check out that feature. We also find a trailer for the Star Wars: Empire at War game.
Next we go to some “Exclusive Production Photos”. These provide 105 stills from the set. They’re all candid images with none of the usual bland promotional shots, and they all feature helpful and informative captions. One nice touch stems from the viewer’s ability to zoom in on the photos and eliminate the captions if desired; this helps allow us to maximize the onscreen real estate. One-Sheet Posters offers 21 frames, though almost all of those showed the same image; the collection displayed the main poster with the title and credits translated into 20 different languages. The Outdoor Print Campaign includes seven pieces used to promote the movie.
“Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots” presents the clever ”Nostalgia” Teaser - an ad that highlights shots from prior movies to lead into Sith - plus the full ”Epic” Trailer. Both work well, but the teaser is particularly strong. In addition, a music video for “A Hero Falls” appears. It is pretty unspectacular, as it combines musical themes, movie clips and behind the scenes shots for a lackluster presentation. Possibly most annoying is the fact that lots of dialogue and other intrusive auditory elements detract from the music. The TV Spots area adds 15 more promos.
How history will view the Star Wars “prequel trilogy” remains to be seen. However, it seems likely that Revenge of the Sith will go down as the strongest of the three. While it suffers from some of the same flaws that marred its two predecessors, it packs much more of an emotional wallop and ends the series well. The DVD provides the usual excellent picture and quality as well as many fine supplements. This release falls into the “must buy” category and definitely gets my recommendation.