Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the third film in the franchise under Disney ownership, and, like most Star Wars movies these days, caused a decisive split among fans. Regardless, this latest installment was a box office juggernaut, earning over $1.3 billion worldwide, and becomes the first in the franchise to be released on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
The Production: 4.5/5
At the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Rebellion, under Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) leadership and assistance from hot-shot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), managed to destroy yet another planet-destroying device developed by the First Order (who have taken the place of the Empire). Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) have located a reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), while Finn (John Boyega) remained in a coma after he and Rey encountered Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), aka Ben Solo and Leia’s son, in a light saber battle.
As Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens, the Rebellion is evacuating their base after it has been discovered by the First Order. They escape to safety, but at an enormous cost after Poe leads an all-out assault on a Dreadnought, a battleship capable of destroying bases on land with pinpoint accuracy. Although the Dreadnought is destroyed, the battle eventually wipes out the Rebellion’s fleet of bombers in the process, causing Leia to demote Poe’s rank. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is not happy with the First Order’s loss of the Dreadnought, first dismissing Kylo Ren as a disappointment and calling him a child hiding behind a mask, but is elated to hear from General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) that the Rebellion’s lead vessel has a tracker and can be tracked even though hyperspace.
Rey meets Luke Skywalker, who refuses to train her after his failure in training Ben Solo, and knowing that the Jedi have been doomed to failure in restoring peace for any length of time. Finn has awakened from his coma, and after learning that the Rebel fleet is running low on fuel and that the First Order has managed to stay just out of bombing range of the fleet, meets up with mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and the two escape to find a master codebreaker at a casino on the planet of Canto Bight so they can break free from Snoke’s ship.
There is a lot going on in this eighth chapter of the space saga started by George Lucas back in 1977, and there was a lot riding on this installment. The Force Awakens was nostalgic and a chance to catch up, somewhat, with old friends and meet some new ones. With The Last Jedi, it was time to really get to know these new characters. At first glance, Rian Johnson may have seemed like an odd choice to direct this next installment. His previous films Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper are very far removed from anything remotely resembling Star Wars, and Lucasfilm was even allowing him to write the screenplay and have his long-time producing partner Ram Bergman on board. But Johnson is likely more of a fan than J.J Abrams, in that he understands the characters and some of the pitfalls of the saga (especially the cyclical Jedi allowing the Dark Side to gain power and control, only to be defeated then given the chance to rise to power once again). Granted, Johnson’s decisions divided some fans (but what Star Wars movie since the original trilogy hasn’t). The real highlight of the film, though, is the motion capture performance of Andy Serkis as Snoke, a major technological breakthrough for ILM (finally catching up to industry-leader WETA, whom ILM farmed out to for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell NoTales), but also Serkis as a performer (there is a featurette on this that shows how his performance shined through the CG character). Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not a perfect film by any means, and does have its flaws (most notably the search for the Master Codebreaker at the casino), but it is a highly enjoyable “middle” film of a trilogy.
3D Rating: NA
For the most part, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was photographed on 35mm film stock and then completed as a true 4K digital intermediate with Dolby Vision high dynamic range. Disney’s 2160p transfer retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and includes both Dolby Vision (the studio’s first disc to do so) and HDR10 high dynamic range. Unfortunately, those who only have HDR10 capability (such as myself) will still see the disclaimer stating “For optimal viewing quality, please view your Disney Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and Ultra HD TV that support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision technology.” This is the first time I’ve seen such a disclaimer on a disc with Dolby Vision, and I hope that Disney will discontinue showing this disclaimer on setups that can only support HDR10, like all other studios using Dolby Vision (such as Paramount and Lionsgate), as this can cause confusion with the average viewer.
Having said that, the video on this disc, even when viewing on HDR10 capable equipment, is definitely reference-level and demo-worthy. Colors are often bold and vivid where intended. Snope’s throne room, which is bathed in red, never suffers from bleeding or banding, and the red Royal Guards stand out without blending in to the background thanks to the wider color gamut. The green landscapes on Ahch-To are much more lush and really pop when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray (which is a reference-level disc itself). Contrast is greatly improved, with deep blacks, particularly in the star fields which also contain various shades of white stars. Kylo Ren’s all-black costume also benefits, with varying shades of black as well as defined texturing and stitching. Although completed as a digital intermediate, film grain is left intact for the most part, allowing a more organic look to the film (the main exception, however, is the opening crawl, which appeared very video-like compared to the rest of the film).
Star Wars: The Last Jedi contains a reference-quality Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 track (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), in addition to a (lossy) Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track encoded ay 1.0 Mbps. I listened to the film on a 5.1.2 Atmos setup, and it was a pure delight. While overhead placement of sounds are minimal, where the track really outperforms is in the fluid movement and more exact placement of sounds within the listening environment. John Williams’ next-to-last Star Wars score envelops you, with various instruments placed around the room. TIE fighters and X-Wings zoom around you in 360 degrees, as well as subtle sounds of birds and other creatures during quieter passages on Ahch-To. LFE is stronger and more pronounced, but never overbearing and boomy. Dialogue is well-prioritized and placed around the listener in relation to the character’s presence on or off screen.
This may sound strange coming from me, but while the Atmos track soars on Atmos-enabled equipment, I did find that the DD+ 7.1 track fared slightly better with dialogue prioritization on non-Atmos equipment, whether played back in 7.1, 5.1, or even stereo. So the inclusion of what may seem like a redundant track actually makes sense in this instance (although I stand firm that Warner and Disney’s decisions on including separate non-Atmos 5.1/7.1 tracks on most titles to still be redundant).
Special Features: 4.5/5
All of the Special Features can be found on the two Blu-ray discs that are included in the set (except where noted), as well as on most Movies Anywhere providers. There are no special features whatsoever on the UHD disc.
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Rian Johnson: This informative and engaging track can be found in the Blu-ray feature film disc. Johnson discusses at great length various aspects of the production, as well as pointing out cameos by crew members and other actors.
The Director and the Jedi (1080p; 95:23): This is a fascinating and detailed feature-length documentary as we follow director Rian Johnson from the announcement of his hiring through to the completion of the film.
Balance of the Force (1080p; 10:17): Much of this is discussed at great length in the audio commentary, but Johnson discusses the Force, how it relates to the Jedi, etc.
Scene Breakdowns (1080p; 33:01): A detailed look at the making of three important sequences from the film, playable as one feature or each scene individually; Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle, Snoke and Mirrors, and Showdown on Crait.
Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only) (1080p; 5:49): Johnson introduces this segment, as the throne room scenes between Snoke, Rey, and Kylo Ren are presented with Andy Serkis in his capture rig before the CG Snoke was completed. This is fascinating.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 23:51): Johnson introduces 14 deleted, extended, or alternate scenes from the film, playable as on long feature or each scene individually and with optional commentary; Alternate Opening, Paige’s Gun Jams, Luke Has a Moment, Poe: Not Much of a Sewer, It’s Kind of Weird That You Recorded That, The Caretaker Sizes Up Rey, Care taker Village Sequence, Extended Fathier Chase, Mega Destroyer – Extended Version, Rose Bites the Hand That Taunts Her, Phasma Squealed Like a Whoop Hog, Rose & Fin Go To Where They Belong, Rey & Chewie in the Falcon, and The Costumes and Creatures of Canto Bight.
Music-Only Track: The movie with only John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score, in 5.1 audio. This extra is only available after redeeming the digital copy code and can be accessed on the Movies Anywhere app, Vudu, FandangoNow, and iTunes.
Rebel Rose (1080p; 2:00): A look at the casting of Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. Available only on the Movies Anywhere app.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (featurette) (1080p; 2:06): This un-named featurette feels more like a trailer for The Director and the Jedi. Available exclusively on Vudu.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere, providing access to the movie in 4K UHD on Vudu, FandangoNow, and iTunes, but only HD on Amazon Video and Google Play Movies, plus the above listed special features (except where noted).
Star Wars makes its 4K debut with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with reference-level video and audio, and several hours of special features aimed directly at the fans. Recommended.