With the 2015 holiday season – and the premiere of Disney/Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – nearly upon us, 20th Century Fox has (yet again) re-released the six original “Star Wars” films that bear the studio’s iconic logo on home video. On November 10, Fox reissued its 2011 Blu-rays of “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” “Revenge of the Sith,” “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi” in limited edition steelbook packaging.
Like most of the major Hollywood studios, including Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. Fox depends on revenue from home video sales and legal digital downloads. And because the “Star Wars” franchise (including the Prequel Trilogy) is one of the studio’s crown jewels, Fox re-issues the films as often as it thinks that consumers will willingly tolerate. Finally, since a new “Star Wars” film series begins on December 18, Fox is eager to jump on the marketing bandwagon yet again.
The 2015 Steelbook Edition
“Stranded on the planet Tatooine after rescuing Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) of Naboo, Jedi apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) discover nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker, a young slave. Gifted with the power of the Force, Anakin wins his freedom and leaves home to be trained as a Jedi. Back on Naboo, Anakin and the Queen face a massive invasion while the two Jedi confront a lethal foe named Darth Maul. They soon realize the invasion is part of a sinister scheme by forces of darkness known as the Sith.” – “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace” Limited Edition Steelbook blurb
Love them or loath them, George Lucas’s “Star Wars” prequels are part of the franchise. Accordingly, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment gave this reissue of 1999’s “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace” the same treatment it lavished on the Blu-rays of “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi.”
Content-wise, the Limited Edition Steelbook reissue of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” doesn’t have anything new under Tatooine’s twin suns. Essentially, Fox and Lucasfilm Limited have made no further alterations to the Blu-ray edition of “The Phantom Menace.” The 50 GB Blu-ray disc (BD) that comes in the 2015 reissue is basically the same as the disc that Fox released in its 2011 and 2015 “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” box sets. (The BD’s onscreen menu is exactly the same, too.)
Fox also did not add any new extra material to the 2015 Limited Edition’s BD. The studio’s Home Entertainment division contents itself by offering two existing extras from its first Blu-ray edition:
- The 2004 DVD edition’s audio commentary track by writer-director George Lucas and various cast and crew member
- The 2011 BD edition’s audio commentary track culled from archival interviews with Lucas, various actors and production crew members
Naturally, “Star Wars” fans – especially those who already own Blu-rays of the two trilogies’ previous editions – may be asking why they should spend their money on this new reissue. There are no new bells and whistles to “The Phantom Menace,” and Jar Jar Binks has not been digitally deleted, so why bother?
And, of course, there will be many fans who will not buy this or any of the other five Episodes if they already own Fox’s 2011 or 2012 BD editions. However, Fox is counting on the “Star Wars” collectibles constituency to spring for these Blu-rays and their snazzy new metal packaging.
The front cover art features a right-leaning close up of Darth Maul’s tattooed and yellow-eyed face, the silver “Star Wars” logo on the bottom left hand corner, and the subtitle “The Phantom Menace” in red lettering under it. And in a nod to Disney/Lucasfilm’s marketing for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the “Episode I” element of the film’s subtitle has been left out.
In the inside cover, Fox has included a still image from Anakin Skywalker’s fateful first meeting with the Jedi Council on Coruscant. It features the nine-year old former slave from Tatooine and several Jedi Masters in one of the Jedi Temple’s audience chambers.
The back cover of the “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’s” Limited Edition steelbook features part of Drew Struzan’s “A” poster for the movie’s 1999 release. Struzan’s striking illustration artwork features Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, a lightsaber-wielding Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, and C-3PO. Darth Maul’s eyes and the top part of his head loom menacingly in the background in an echo of those Classic Trilogy posters that feature Darth Vader.
Although some fans – especially the vocal Prequel bashers who dislike many aspects of “The Phantom Menace” – will not purchase the Limited Edition Steelbook reissue, Fox’s marketing strategy seems to be paying off. Per the Blu-ray’s product page at Amazon.com, sales of the “Star Wars” BDs are brisk. As of this writing, even the hotly-debated Episode I is ranked in 10th place at the online store’s Movies & TV > Blu-ray > Science Fiction section, and 171st overall in Movies. It’s fair to say, then, that for all its perceived flaws, the Force is strong with the Limited Edition re-release of “The Phantom Menace” BD.