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Science fantasy set in the Galaxy, in which the Empire is a ruthless ruler and rebels try to restore freedom to the Galaxy. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977); Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980); Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi (1983). Bonus Disc 4 with extensive features.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Star Wars mythology "reverberates with the recognisable human notions of honour, courage, the love of freedom - and faith. The heroes have a cause to fight for that is greater than their own personal ambitions; their motives are deeply felt, and worth our attentions. Those - among others - are the reasons why Star Wars was and is so popular - and stands the test of time," I wrote back in 1997 about George Lucas' creation.

Those who are fans don't need me to tell them about this collection; they will have already placed their orders well before release date, such is the power, the force if I can use that term, of the Star Wars world on screen. Any screen.

But there are those who are new to the franchise, and those not totally convinced of its merits. This is the place to start. Episode IV was the first Lucas made, having put aside Eps I to III for a later date. So what this Trilogy represents is the original creative vision of the 9-part series, of which three are still to be made. (Starting in 2005 in Sydney.)

With the restored versions of the trilogy transferred with all the care Lucas takes with his technicals, the DVD is pristine - if a little too high on the reds - and the sound is superb.

The commentary tracks provide a window to the films, and inevitably, the material is both familiar and sometimes surprising.

On disc 4, you will find over four hours of docos and extras, ranging from stuff about the characters to the birth of the lightsabre and a great little piece about the legacy of star wars, in which James Cameron explains how he was energised by Star Wars and quite his job as a truck driver so he could make the films he wanted to make. "If I'm going to do this I better get going..." And it was a wake up call for Ridley Scott, too, and the most exciting life experience at that time for Peter Jackson. Them's big calls.

And the biggest of the features is the genuinely engaging two and a half hour Empire of Dreams, the full and multi-layered story of the Star Wars Trilogy. True, you have to get through quite a bit of back patting (for George Lucas in particular) but that's to be expected. Besides, he is a force in film. For me the best part of this doco is its ability to place the start of the Star Wars films in socio-political context. This doco is for those who care to think about film as more than escape, without denying its escapist value.

This is crucial to any intelligent appraisal of Star Wars and why it touched a major nerve in our psyche. It was perfectly timed - not on the direction of a memo from the marketing department. Indeed, Lucas was not working in the corporate environment of the studio system and had no marketing department. And that's another reason to pay attention to this doco.

Lucas himself acknowledges that he managed to tune in to psychological underpinnings that have been around for thousands of years. In a way, then, he was the right antenna for a 70s world (Western, of course) which had just lost its 60s power of love and had found its heroes falling and failing, its institutions corrupt and its love thwarted. It revelled in anti-heroes, films that reflected the reality, if not the fantasies of a disturbed society.

Along comes this fable that elevates the nobility of the human condition. It's irresistibly positive: A New Hope. What timing.

September 23, 2004

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CAST: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guiness, David Prowse (IV + V)James Earl Jones (VI)

DIRECTOR: George Lucas (IV) Irvin Kershner (V) Richard Marquand (VI)

SCRIPT: George Lucas

PRESENTATION: 16:9 (restored); THX

SPECIAL FEATURES: New commentary for each film by George Lucas plus cast and crew; Disc 4: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy; Darth Vader; Birth of the Lightsaber; Characters of Star Wars; Legacy of Star Wars; Star Wars Battlefront trailer and playable demo; Ep III Making the Game preview; original trailers, tv spots; archival production gallery; posters; DVD TOM content.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 22, 2004

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