Release Date(s)2017 (March 31, 2020)
Studio(s)Lucasfilm (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A+
[Editor’s Note: This is a review of the 3-disc version of The Last Jedi 4K included in the Skywalker Saga box set. Disney provided the cover artwork shown and informed me that it’s also going to be available separately in stores—I’m waiting to hear back from them as to when. The new cover art version isn’t available for pre-order yet, meaning it might follow later as existing retail stocks of the original versions sell out. Solo 4K is also being repackaged in matching cover art, and I suspect that Rise of Skywalker will be eventually as well. I’ll post an update here when we’ve confirmed the date this will be available separately.]
“The FIRST ORDER reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless minions to seize military control of the galaxy…”
Having destroyed Starkiller Base, but lost Han Solo in the process, our heroes have no time to regroup, as the First Order launches an immediate counterattack. General Leia (Carrie Fisher), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and their Resistance forces barely have time to flee before General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) destroys their base. But their escape could be short-lived; the Resistance fleet is low on fuel and the First Order has new technology that can track them through hyperspace. So with the help of a mechanic named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), Finn (John Boyega) hatches a plan to find a hacker who can help them defeat this capability. Meanwhile, on the mysterious planet of Ahch-To, Rey (Daisy Ridley) discovers that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and even the Force itself are not what she expected them to be.
Following J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens would have been a daunting challenge for even a veteran filmmaker, which made Lucasfilm’s choice of indie director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, The Brothers Bloom) a surprising one. But not only did Johnson deliver the highest-grossing film of 2017 (and the second-highest grossing entry of this franchise), he delivered something completely unexpected—the most surprising and interesting Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. While many fans obsess over the trappings this universe, Johnson has gone much deeper, grounding his every choice in cues from the original trilogy and George Lucas’ inspirations for it.
The Last Jedi finds Luke Skywalker closed off from the Force, having correctly realized that the legacy of the Jedi is one of failure—something we’ve seen in literally every film in this series. The revelation of his own failure, shown from three different perspectives, is an idea drawn from Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon as well Obi-Wan’s comment in Return of the Jedi: “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” What’s more, it springs directly from his tendency to rashness that Yoda points out in Empire. But Luke’s actions in The Last Jedi, far from being out of character, reveal a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. He’s simply overcorrected, not realizing that Rey might represent a new kind of balance in the Force and that sometimes the symbolism of a hero, realistic or not, is exactly what the galaxy needs.
Each of the characters here are logical extensions of what we’ve seen before. Leia’s strength has been a constant, but having suffered one too many losses finally breaks her… until Luke restores her hope. Poe has no shortage of courage but tends to act rashly; Leia knows that if he’s to become a leader he needs to think first. Finn must learn not only what’s worth fighting for and how best to fight for it. And though Rey can feel the Force within her, Luke must bring her understanding of it into focus. Rey will also have to face her greatest fear (mirroring Luke’s challenge in Empire), the idea that the family she’s always wanted is not the one she needs—she’s going to have to stand on her own to forge her destiny. Every one of these choices is deeply grounded in the traditions of Star Wars.
That’s not to say that The Last Jedi is perfect. There’s a bit too much comedy up front, starting with Poe’s conversation with Hux and continuing with Luke casually tossing away his lightsaber. The biggest misfire is Finn and Rose’s trip to Canto Bight. It’s well intentioned, but the plotting feels awkward; we leave the ticking clock situation of the Resistance fleet for a side trip to find a guy who can come back and help solve the ticking clock situation (which he doesn’t anyway). Still, there’s so much that feels refreshing and unexpected in The Last Jedi that I find it easy to forgive its missteps. Yoda’s scene with Luke alone is worth the price of admission, ranking highly among this franchise’s best moments. Luke’s redemption arc is brought to life by a deeply human performance by Mark Hamill, quite possibly the finest of his career. Without intending to, the film also gifts us with a beautiful final performance by the late Carrie Fisher, one that honors both the actor and her character’s legacy perfectly. And once again, John Williams outdoes himself with another magnificent score.
Per cinematographer Steve Yedlin, roughly half of The Last Jedi was photographed on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses, with a bit of 65 mm footage shot using IMAX cameras. The other half was captured digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 2.8, 3.4 and 6.5K) using Arri Alexa cameras. It was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate, graded for high dynamic range, and is presented on Ultra HD in the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Yedlin’s cinematography (and the production design, inspired in part by Kurosawa’s Ran) is bold and striking, and this presentation certainly does it justice. Detail and fine texturing is exquisite. As the opening pin-prick starfield pans down to reveal a gorgeously detailed planet, light but lovely film grain is in evidence. When Poe attacks the First Order Star Destroyer, note the texturing in his flight suit, the dust and reflections on his X-Wing’s canopy, even the subtle wear and tear on his helmet. This is a dark film, but the HDR enhances the image with truly deep shadows and highlights that are right on the edge of eye-reactive (peak brightness is set at 1000 nits, per the disc’s metadata). And the color! One glimpse of C-3PO’s gleaming gold plating will reveal the benefits of HDR in broadening and deepening the color palette of a film like this. It’s important to note, however, that this 4K disc features new encoding and authoring. Whereas the original 4K disc included both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the new disc has only HDR10 (which matches all of the other newly-released Star Wars films in 4K). Dolby Vision is still available on the Digital version. (The other way you can tell that this is a newly-authored disc: The ‘Porg’ loading icon is gone—the new icon matches those on the other Star Wars UHDs.) It’s also worth mentioning that the 4K disc’s average datarate is in region of 50-60 Mbps, so it bests the Disney+ presentation (of 15-25 Mbps) by a significant margin with more vibrant colors and noticeably improved dimensionality. This is a great looking film-sourced 4K image.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is a reference-quality English Dolby Atmos mix that delivers all the muscular acoustics you’ve come to expect from a Star Wars film, with exceptional clarity and spaciousness, natural and immersive staging, and an incredibly strong foundation of bass. But it’s the effortless precision of this mix that’s perhaps most impressive, not to mention its wonderful sense of atmospherics. In Chapter 7, as Rey picks up her lightsaber in the island environment of Ahch-To, listen as the sound of sea, waves, wind, and Porg calls filter in from all around, with an impressively open and airy quality. Moments later, as the scene shifts into Luke’s stone hut, the sound environment closes in a bit while still reflecting the space depicted on screen. When the scene shifts again to Snoke’s audience chamber, the stage becomes cavernous and cathedral-like. Snoke’s every sneer and whisper lingers in the air briefly before decaying. The height channels not only complete the soundfield overhead, they engage often not only in set pieces but in unexpected moments too. Simply put, this mix is impressive as hell. Additional audio options on the 4K disc include English and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, with optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish. Note that the included movie Blu-ray offers 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Disney’s Ultra HD package is a 3-disc set that includes the film in both 4K on UHD and 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the latter is mastered from the same 4K DI as the actual 4K disc and the previous Blu-ray edition, though it is a newly-authored disc with new menus). The package also includes a separate Blu-ray Disc of bonus material, but there’s nothing new here—all of it is curated from previously-available content. (Both Blu-rays are coded for Regions A, B & C.) Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
DISC ONE – 4K MOVIE
There are no extras on the 4K disc.
DISC TWO – BLU-RAY MOVIE
- Audio Commentary with director Rian Johnson
- Score-Only Version of the Movie – previously a Digital exclusive
DISC THREE – BLU-RAY EXTRAS
- The Director and The Jedi (HD – 95:23)
- Balance of the Force (HD – 10:17)
- Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only) (HD – 5:49)
- Scene Breakdown: Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle (HD – 14:23)
- Scene Breakdown: Snoke and Mirrors (HD – 5:40)
- Scene Breakdown: Showdown on Crait (HD – 12:56)
- Meet the Porgs (HD – 6:01)
- Deleted Scenes: Introduction from Rian Johnson (HD – :49 – all scenes include optional commentary)
- Deleted Scene: Alternate Opening (HD – 1:32)
- Deleted Scene: Paige’s Gun Jams (HD – :33)
- Deleted Scene: Luke Has a Moment (HD – 1:02)
- Deleted Scene: Poe: Not Much of a Sewer (HD – :41)
- Deleted Scene: It’s Kind of Weird That You Recorded That (HD – :54)
- Deleted Scene: The Caretaker Sizes Up Rey (HD – :37)
- Deleted Scene: Caretaker Village Sequence (HD – 2:52)
- Deleted Scene: Extended Fathier Chase (HD – 5:45)
- Deleted Scene: Mega Destroyer Incursion – Extended Version (HD – 3:49)
- Deleted Scene: Rose Bites the Hand That Taunts Her (HD – 1:05)
- Deleted Scene: Phasma Squealed Like a Whoop Hog (HD – 1:30)
- Deleted Scene: Rose & Finn Go to Where They Belong (HD – :27)
- Deleted Scene: Rey & Chewie in the Falcon (HD – :11)
- Deleted Scene: The Costumes and Creatures of Canto Bight (HD – 1:29)
These extras are essentially identical to those available on the previous Blu-ray edition with two exceptions: You now get the Score-Only Version of the Movie that was previously a Digital exclusive (it’s on the actual movie Blu-ray) and also the Meet the Porgs featurette that was a Target exclusive. Both are quite good, but it’s especially nice to finally be able to enjoy that score version on disc. Seeing more directly the way Williams’ score enhances the on-screen imagery is a powerful experience—I can’t recommend it more highly. The rest of this material remains the one finest special editions of the last few years. Every bit of it was created for fans, not just EPK purposes. To start with, The Director and The Jedi is one of the best, most honest and refreshing Blu-ray features in recent memory. Your view is fly-on-the-wall, there to see a number of key moments in the production. Two in particular are moving, including Mark Hamill seeing Frank Oz performing Yoda for the first time in years, and also Mark and Carrie shooting their critical scene together late in the film. The next best feature is Balance of the Force, which should deepen your appreciation of what Johnson’s done with this film thematically. The other featurettes are worth your time too. Johnson’s audio commentary includes more production anecdotes as well as additional story and character insights. The scene breakdowns are straight-up featurettes and there are some genuinely great deleted scenes too. Finally, the Andy Serkis piece lets you see his climactic performance as Snoke sans digital enhancement. Note that the Bonus Disc also has optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, French (Québécois), Castilian Spanish, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, and Japanese. Of course, you also get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert. Technically, the only thing you’re missing is the all-region Blu-ray 3D version of the film that was available in the UK only—but you can still get that here on Amazon separately.
Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi honors everything that makes Star Wars and its foundational characters so compelling, while understanding that this franchise must evolve beyond the Skywalker family, and simple tales of Jedi and Sith, to go in new directions. I’m confident the film will grow in appreciation with time, even if some fans have struggled with it thus far. In any case, Disney and Lucasfilm’s refreshed 4K Ultra HD release is straight-up reference quality and its extras are a Force to be reckoned with. It’s highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt