The time is here. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available to purchase for digital download and will be as well for Blu Ray (of both the standard and 4K variety) on March 27. This is when we get to bring it home, scour through bonus features, and watch the film on repeat until we have every cut and cue memorized. This is when we get to really decide where it stacks up in the franchise.
I’m not going to get too in depth as to my thoughts on the film itself. I reviewed the film back in December here, and I still stand by my assessment. At the time I had seen the film twice, and it has only improved for me with each successive viewing. I love this movie unabashedly. But I understand why there are those who don’t.
This is a divisive film within the Star Wars fan base. That much is clear. You won’t find many people ranking this movie in the middle of their list of Star Wars films. It either winds up near the top or near the bottom. And, it seems to depend greatly on what you are looking for in these films, what you are looking for out of films in general, and what you expect a Star Wars movie to be.
The Last Jedi is a movie with a unique and singular vision. A trait that has been historically uncommon in this franchise. It is a movie that isn’t afraid to sacrifice its sacred cows in the interest of a new story. It is a movie that looks to show us how these heroes are formed, with real and often disappointing exposure into the flaws and insecurities that can lead to heroic and villainous actions.
And while that unique vision is what makes many love this movie so much, it is also what makes it so divisive. When you take risks you will ultimately disappoint some, while rewarding others. A safe film like The Force Awakens is more likely to please all, but it is unlikely to be loved with the same intensity by those for whom it really lands well.
While the film’s content and plot have left fans divided, I think one of the things most can agree on is that it looks fantastic. And this 4K release can be enjoyed by any fan on that level.
The 4K Ultra HD Blu Ray
For the first time in Star Wars history, a film in the franchise is being released in the new 4K Ultra HD format. And boy oh boy is it ever a treat. Coming with a stunning Dolby Vision encode with Dolby Atmos sound, if you have the setup for this, in many cases you may find it a better viewing experience than actually seeing it in a theater.
In a movie that is filled with iconic and beautiful shots, the 4k transfer shines. If you were tasked with trying to convince a nonbeliever that upgrading to 4k was a worthy endeavor, you could probably do no better than to choose any scene from the second half of this film at random and let it play out.
4K with HDR has many benefits over HD, but some of what it does best is how it adds to reds and blacks. And it just so happens those are the two most prominent colors in this film. Whether it’s the explosions of red mineral dust on Crait, the contrast between the bursts of light and black of space during the Holdo maneuver, or the stunning Praetorian guard battle in Snoke’s red draped throne room, the film looks bold. In the few days I’ve had this movie, I find myself leaving it repeating on my TV just so I can look at the visuals. It’s addicting to see these shots in all their glory.
4K also brings an upgrade for the sound aficionados out there. The Last Jedi has some truly unique sound design moments for the Star Wars franchise. And they play out great here. Whether it’s the moments following the silence after Holdo blasts through the First Order fleet, or the simple and pleasing background texture on Ahch-To, the sound is enveloping and engrossing.
This disk is a treat to watch from a purely aesthetic stand point. It’s a case of format being a perfect match for the film, and it is sure to stay in rotation as reference material for many fans for some time to come.
The additional features on this disk are a step in the right direction over the past two releases in the Disney era. While they were not quite at the level of the prequel era releases for volume of content, the features that are here are phenomenal. I’d just like to see more of them.
The real prize here is obviously The Director and the Jedi. The feature length documentary follows Rian Johnson through the entire production of the film, and while the feature covers all aspects of the production, the clear focus is on the choices that were made for the character of Luke Skywalker.
The documentary pulls no punches and is very candid with both Johnson’s and Hamill’s perspectives. It’s doubtful that this feature will change anyone’s mind on the decisions made, but it does give fair representation to both perspectives. Whether you buy into the director’s idea for why this story makes sense for Luke, and more importantly for Rey as the central character, or if you believe that Hamill is right in saying that Luke would not act this way, the articulation of both points of view is clear and fair.
It’s rare that you get this sort of access to the constant debates and decisions made in creating this type of art. It is a pervasive part of the film making process that is often glossed over in favor of portraying a more sanitized view of the creation process. But it is interesting and revealing in all the ways content like this should be.
The rest of the features are good as well. They give you some nice scene breakdowns that concentrate on the technical aspects of creating the many difficult scenes in the movie. There’s a great little feature that allows us to see Andy Serkis’s portrayal of Snoke before the effects were added. And, of course the deleted scenes. Most of these are easy and understandable cuts, but some are more significant removals. One specific omission that I found regretful was a seemingly silly scene involving Luke tricking Rey into crashing a caretaker party brandishing a lightsaber. What starts as a lark ends with Luke giving probably the most lucid explanation of his thought process in not leaving Ahch-To. An explanation that may have aided in selling that decision more.
Finally, there is also the director’s commentary. A lot of this track is your standard praise for actors (completely warranted for all the great performances) and technical explanations of how scenes were achieved. But there are some key moments as well such as an in depth discussion of Kylo Ren’s thought process during that pivotal throne room scene, and Johnson’s reasoning behind the path the former Ben Solo takes in the movie. It is definitely worth a listen if you have any interest in the decision making that went on for this film.
All in all, this entire set is filled with great content. Regardless of your thoughts on the qualities of the movie itself, it’s a disk worth owning. The movie looks and sounds brilliant and the additional features that are there are top notch. I hope that Disney sees all the praise for the release, and specifically The Director and the Jedi and continues to add more content like this for future movies.