Quantcast

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the latest installment of the “Saga” series of Star Wars films, may have made loads and loads of money at the box office, but it is making home video history for the series when it arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray March 27th. Rian Johnson’s chapter finds itself being the first to be released on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. It joins 1977’s original Star Wars (Super 8, BetaMax, VHS, CED), The Phantom Menace (DVD) and The Clone Wars feature film (Blu-ray) as being the “first” Star Wars by itself on home video formats. Any new thing like that is a pretty big deal in the giant world of Star Wars fandom. Heck, if I could, I’d collect every possible physical home video format release of the original trilogy that I could (Sorry, streaming is a nice backup option, but doesn’t feel like “collecting” to me). You can own Star Wars: The Last Jedi by clicking the Amazon link following the review.

Luke Skywalker’s peaceful and solitary existence gets upended when he encounters Rey, a young woman who shows strong signs of the Force. Her desire to learn the ways of the Jedi forces Luke to make a decision that changes their lives forever. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and General Hux lead the First Order in an all-out assault against Leia and the Resistance for supremacy of the galaxy.

As per most of us, I’m a lifelong Star Wars lover. The original trilogy has influenced and shaped who I am as a film lover, fan, and writer. You’re going to find that most critics, film writers, directors, actors, prop handlers, producers and every aspect of making movies, television, books and more were touched and impacted in some way by George Lucas’ original vision. Looking at the box office for every Star Wars film to date, it’s apparent, everyone sees and probably enjoys these movies on various levels. I have no problem saying that Star Wars is the most popular original property of all time, and its only continued to grow in hoards in its 40 plus year existence.

With something that has touched the lives of an insane amount of people, its going to carry different meaning for everyone. Star Wars fans are going to want certain things that other Star Wars fans may not be looking for. Certain people have been more on board than others. Some have come and gone and of that some came back again. Every time something new comes around, the love of Star Wars immediately breaks into a new branch or branches of the particular love for it. This goes all the way back to the first film. There were people in 1977 that didn’t fall in love with it then, and some who still don’t see the big deal today. The Empire Strikes Back once again divided those who continued on, then there were people that didn’t accept Return of the Jedi. Fans turned to novels and comics books, while others just held onto the films. Said expanded universe enthusiasts would come and go the same way in the literary world as well, and many felt scorned when the slate was cleaned to make way for new cinematic adventures. We all know The Phantom Menace and subsequent Prequel films were met with the greatest division. Even recently, you’ll find wavering opinions on both The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Or in the case of one group of people, they just don’t support anything from the Disney-Lucasfilm collaboration.

My personal favorite film in the series has long been The Empire Strikes Back. A consensus opinion now, it had to grow to become the heralded favorite. Growing up, Star Wars and Return of the Jedi were looked upon much more favorably than the darker, middle chapter. Empire didn’t play by the conventual sequel rules of the time, it subverted expectations and didn’t deliver what audiences were expecting. Lucas’ second installment had the protagonists foiled at every turn. Luke was fully separated from the group. Leia wound up hooking up and saying “I love you” to scoundrel nerf herder Han Solo and not the golden boy hero Luke Skywalker. Our Jedi in training was beaten, losing a hand, finding out that Darth Vader was not the man who killed his father but actually was his father. A stunning revelation that had many fans in denial about its validity until 1983 when Return of the Jedi confirmed it. The film challenged audiences. It wasn’t easy to take. It ended without rescuing Han Solo back from Boba Fett. Not until I saw Kevin Smith’s film Clerks did I feel in a sort of pop culture affirming kind of way that someone viewed Empire as the best. And then it started really coming around in the later 1990s. This was probably that whole hive-mind thought process on the internet that swayed people. And perhaps the fact that people had a subconscious comfort in knowing the events of Return of the Jedi that followed made it okay to enjoy the events of a film that left on a cliffhanger and gave the villains a devastating victory.

For those reasons that it went so hard against the grain are why I fell for Empire. It’s a real standout, even to this day. The original Star Wars was the same way when it arrived. Even in 2018, the original film is still a breakthrough, still fresh and like nothing else out there. What I’d found in Empire as a child, teenager and adult is what I find I love about most of my favorite films and some of the greatest films to this day. I watch A LOT of movies. My life has spent an insane amount of hours watching, enjoying, studying and learning from the art of film. Its my passion, something I’ve been fond of in life since my earliest age I was able to enjoy it. I’ve made films, written films, been educated on them, stuck myself in the field with them. They are something I’ve held onto and will never let go of. No, I’m not the only person like this, not even close. Heck, there are many more that have more time to devote to it than myself. I’ve seen a lot. When I go into a film, I’m looking for something beyond the comfort food. I want something that is going to take left turn when I’m expecting it to turn right. Its not a surprise twist I need, but the revelation that something is more than it seems. Films that have plenty of depth, layers. They can be enjoyed on the first trip, but reward even further every time you revisit it. A challenge, a puzzle of the mind, a thing that may ask something of me or even ones that I may not understand the greater appreciation without some effort. Ones that truly understand the motivations and goals of their characters. In terms of a sequel, that a film really understands what came before it, why we have come to where we are, where we need to go from here. Not where you are expecting it to go, I find more joy in finding myself unknowing of where we are heading rather than being able to say “Called it!”. When that happens, that doesn’t mean I’m a much smarter film buff, it means the creator didn’t really put forth a challenge and took a route that’s been done before in other narratives. There’s really no joy in being smarter than the film you’re watching. Likewise, constantly watching going into movies with the mindset that you’re better than it is not a rewarding experience nor is it anything to be commended upon.

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi truly fit the bill for me regarding what I’m hoping for when I go to see not just a Star Wars film, but a great film in general. JJ Abrams had preceded Johnson with a terrific movie that gave us the “feel” or Star Wars back, but Johnson goes a step further by pondering and figuring out “What is Star Wars?” There were some open ending narrative pieces in The Force Awakens I worried would have silly illogical/hollow/fan service answers, but to my surprise rang very true and sound to what Abrams had set up. In turn, this made The Force Awakens an even stronger film because of knowing where The Last Jedi takes those strands. Beyond the depths, layers and character work displayed in the film, the surface level features one the most gorgeous, imaginative looking Star Wars films we’ve ever seen. And from the moment Rey boards Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship, Johnson has packed his story with such unforeseen twists and turns that had me witnessing some of the most edge of your seat, unpredictable Star Wars I’ve ever seen. And the final action beats, accompanied by a marvelous John Williams score that almost feels a “This is it!” effort, is some of the most thrilling Star Wars action ever.

The Last Jedi has stuck with me in the few months since its theatrical release. I was able to see it three times theatrically (70mm IMAX viewing was king!) and each time my heart grew fonder and there became more and more to unload from the film. Not only that, I’ve had so many discussions, read so many thoughts and dissections, tried to garner an understanding from around the spectrum and more that it’s almost become exhausting. There’s no denying it’s a film that’s proven to have thrust itself into the conversation and made an impact on people in a big way. Right now, it’s still in the heat of the moment, but I’ve seen in the past many films go through this ringer and they end up aging very well and become a point of study and appreciation.

As for my appreciation, I’ve had this one on the brain a lot. And there is a lot I have been eagerly waiting for months to unload and want to share my personal thoughts, findings, and passion for The Last Jedi. The film has really delivered in ways that I look for when I go to the movies and especially from Star Wars (I was most happy that Rey could just be Rey and Snoke was just Snoke), very much lining up with the very things that made The Empire Strikes Back the film that really made the biggest impression on me of all the adventures “a long time ago”. I decided to forego a straight review of the film and instead decided I’d share my analysis, research, and impression I’ve found on this film from my watching, studying and conversing. It seemed best to break it off in a figure by figure kind of way. While I’m not able to dedicate a segment to each person, I’ve pulled some of the more focal ones while giving others some shining reference within appropriate sections.

Rian Johnson and The Force

The Last Jedi is the fourth movie in Star Wars history to have a sole person serve as writer and director on the film (The others being the original, The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith). Rian Johnson is the first person not named George Lucas to take the full helm of a story from the galaxy far far away. With this aspect, we are given a very clear vision and track from its creator giving us a very guided and concise story.

One of the more exciting elements in the crafting of these new Star Wars film has been the pre-production art design for the movies. I highly recommend the coffee table style books “The Art Of,” as they give a nice introspective look at the inspirations and goals for every bit of costumes, environment or sequence in the film. These books let you dive into the mind of the director and the art department in the first steps of bringing the scripts to life. For The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams and company stuck hard to trying to recreate the production art from Ralph McQuarrie contributed to Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back. When met with something they had no reference, they did best to try and come up with what they thought McQuarrie might attempt.

Rian Johnson and company also use McQuarrie as a muse for The Last Jedi, but then went further with a key angle that would make all the difference in ringing this true to what Star Wars is/was. In addition to McQuarrie’s work, Johnson’s crew would go back to World War II footage and the Samurai films of the 1950s and 1960s to draw new inspirations (Heck, he even tosses back to Billy Wilder’s The Apartment for a First Order set). Both were huge parts of George Lucas’ inspirations for his full imagination when creating Star Wars throughout the 1970s. With this in place, many new pieces would begin to fall into place and feel right at home in the universe. The Resistance bombers, pilot outfits and the way in which we see them in action all feel right at home in Star Wars.

The most significant return was going back to the Samurai influence on the films. Its been present throughout the series, but if you look back, it was missing from The Force Awakens. That film just dipped into Star Wars for its aspects of the Force and its Jedi mythology whereas The Last Jedi would truly embrace and bring a refocus to the Jedi, Sith and ways of the Force that bring it back to that mythological wonder of the universe instead of being a superpower.

As well as the Force, the lightsaber action in the film also has its Samurai roots. The fantastic battle in the Snoke Throne Room teaming up Rey and Kylo Ren against the Praetorian guards is a Jedi rendition of the final battle in Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai. Having a screening for it before production, its stamp on one of Star Wars most beautiful lightsaber moments cannot be mistaken. They both come complete with two sword-wielding warriors against an onslaught of attackers using spears as our heroes gracefully weave and wander through while tossing weapons back and forth to assist. When Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren showdown on Crait at the climax of the film, it’s oozing with the style and grace of The Sword Of Doom and Samurai III: Duel At Ganryu Island. While the Prequel trilogy accustomed us to these incredibly athletic displays of supernatural sword fights, it has been refreshing to see JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson both scale it back to its Samurai roots in fights closer the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader battles of old.

Johnson’s The Last Jedi is very heavy on its themes, failure, and bold choices, but it doesn’t forget that Star Wars has always been meant to have a silly side. From crazy aliens to wonderfully fun zingers during action sequences, it adds to the thrills. Some very humorous moments landed quite well. Poe Dameron once again opens us up with a joke that sort of reminded me of Han Solo in the prisoner quarters on the Death Star from the original. Luke Skywalker, as grumpy as he’ll appear, also has a humorous approach that is not that far off from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Some of the funny stuff is very much in the tradition of the series while also not shying away from a modern touch to a bit of the joking.

JJ Abrams did a fantastic job of returning us to the world and characters of Star Wars we had left off with on Endor at the close of Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens was comfort food and very enjoyable, hitting expected plot beats and playing for fan recognition and nostalgia. With the second chapter of the trilogy comes with most trying and challenging story in a series. Johnson was able to both plug into what Abrams has set up, as well as taken a step back looking at Star Wars as a whole and honestly questioned, “What have we done and where are we going?” He lures the audience in with those same moments Abrams had rewarded with expected outcomes before, only this time with a fresh, new result. We’ll discuss it more through the characters, but Johnson has rightfully, respectfully and intellectually challenged a lot of the Star Wars lore in this film and in a way has returned it to the course it was set off on over 40 years ago.

Luke Skywalker

The Force Awakens only gave us a tease of our hero from the original trilogy in its closing moments. With not a word spoken from him as our new protagonist Rey reaches to hand him his father’s lightsaber, fans were left with one of the best cliffhangers in modern blockbuster filmgoing. Trailers for The Last Jedi headed warning from Luke “This is not going to go the way you think,” which is honestly the best possible overlying advice before seeing this film. And what were we to actually be thinking? While we were excited to see our hero of old, thirty years had passed. A long thirty years which had ultimately witnessed the rise of The First Order, Luke’s new Jedi Order desecrated by his nephew who had fallen to the dark side of the Force. We knew who Luke Skywalker WAS. But who IS he now?

When last we had an Episode of Star Wars, through Luke’s old pal Han Solo, we were told that his new Jedi Order had been demolished by Han and Leia’s son Kylo Ren. Luke had left everyone in search of the original Jedi Temple, not wanting to be found. Desperate for some sign of help and hope to ward off The First Order, Leia is trying to find him. But, even the map to see his location has been incomplete and inconclusive. While it initially comes to a shock to us that our great cliffhanger is resolved with Luke tossing the lightsaber aside and scowling off, it really shouldn’t as it’s the logical extension and further exploration of the character as set up in the previous installment.

What Skywalker has witnessed and reflected on is the historical repetition of how everything has come to be. What good were the efforts and victory of the Rebel Alliance over the Empire if it was only to return to a status quo in the form of The First Order. What use is a new Jedi Academy if another member of his family turned to the dark side and destroyed it all again? Whereas the original trilogy found him eerily taking some of the same steps as his father had, he now has isolated himself as recluse as his previous teachers Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda once did. Luke has had time to reflect on the history of the Jedi, realizing a lot of the hypocritical nature of their teachings versus their actions. His predecessors had been determined to keep the Jedi dream alive, only to see it consistently fail, so Luke has relegated to just letting things play out; giving the Force back to the universe. For better or for worse, making the sacrifice of letting things die out with him.

Luke isn’t wrong in any of that. We’ve seen his hope pushed to the limit. He was brought up and almost used to unknowingly kill his father to serve the purpose of the Jedi. Skywalker became so determined to keep the will of the Jedi so pure that when in a vision he sees the destiny of his nephew being a destructive turn onto the dark path he ponders sacrificing him to stop something before it even starts. This is only a brief moment of weakness, but in a split second, the damage was done. With Luke’s decision here, we are reminded of Return Of The Jedi when he stood, lightsaber in hand, over a defenseless Darth Vader on the second Death Star ready to kill. But, as he did with Ben Solo, he quickly made the correct decision. Only this time, instead of a conflicted older man, it was a young, not fully mature boy who took his own perspective on things. Akira Kurosawa was a significant influence on the narrative (Among many details) of the original Star Wars and The Phantom Menace. With Luke’s “decision” here, we are presented it by honoring the Japanese director’s masterpiece, Rashomon. Rey is given the story from a reserved Luke perspective, Kylo Ren’s and then ultimately Luke fessing up the reality of the situation.

Luke Skywalker’s ultimate and final play in this movie becomes the most powerful moment we’ve seen in a long, 40-year running history of the Jedi and the ultimate nod to a lesson he finally realized from his original mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Early in the film, Luke’s action is alluded to when Kylo Ren and Rey first connect as Ren is confused and says “You couldn’t be doing this, the effort alone would kill you.” After one last piece of wisdom from the Force ghost of master Yoda, Luke realizes what he must become and represent and returns to the Force, but this time he’s fully practiced what he’s preached to Rey through the course of her visit on Anch-To. In the past, the Jedi have spouted out to us about being “keepers of the peace” and how the Force is twisted and put to use in the wrong ways by the Sith. However, every time there is a conflict in any of the previous Star Wars films, a lightsaber is drawn and swung in attack and the Force used as supernatural assistance in battle. When you step back, its hard to tell the actions of a Sith and Jedi during battle aside from dress code and light saber color (Brilliantly, in Revenge Of The Sith, in this aspect, it’s VERY tough to see the difference).

When on their last legs at the former base of the Rebel Alliance on Crait, Luke Skywalker finally joins up with the band of Resistance fighters. They have nothing left to do; he was all they had left. Luke appears in the most idyllic form of himself as an old wise, powerful Jedi master. He stands tall among the cavalcade of First Order forces outside the gate. They try gunning him down, but Luke emerges unscathed from the red clouds. And when light sabers are drawn, he plays a passive role. As Obi-Wan had done for he and his friends on the first Death Star, Luke is now doing for the spark of the Resistance to keep alive and escape. While it could have been cool to see Luke come out and use the Force to throw down some Star Destroyers and knock down some AT-AT walkers, that’s not his mantra or the true nature of tapping into the Force. What he’s done is far more powerful. He’s used an astral projection of himself to showcase his power, to foil Kylo Ren and allow the Resistance to live on through their darkest hour. Using a lightsaber and destroying some things wasn’t going to keep the Resistance alive. Saving as many of them and getting away to regroup, rebuild and come back strong another day will. Luke has used his mentally charged Force powers to deliver a victory full of “Peace and Purpose” to show the First Order and the rest of the galaxy that hope will not be extinguished.

This is the true nature of the Force and its whole mantra displayed in a way we’ve never seen in a film before. Luke Skywalker has become the most authentic and most badass Jedi in the history of the Force that we’ve seen on celluloid with his action. Said action also takes every ounce of his being to complete. What Luke has accomplished is so powerful for the sake of the galaxy and the giving sacrifice. With his final moments, he’s able to see the moment of the two setting suns on Tatooine one last time, that one moment that defines Star Wars: where there is nothing but his hope, wonder, and innocence. As he faded away, one can’t help become a bit moved. It’s one of the best farewells to a legendary character in film history. He’s not viciously struck down by a villain; he’s not blown up in sacrifice. It quite unlike any sendoff we’ve seen. There is no violence in his actions nor is any caused to his physical form. Luke Skywalker leaves us in his most brilliant, most victorious and most hopeful moment. It’s tough to imagine a more fitting, more endearing and more peaceful acceptance of a character leaving us.

Luke’s sacrifice is one of three we see during the course of events in The Last Jedi. Each one building up to the true and more defined purpose of when its right. Rian Johnson discusses triangles being an important component of the narrative (Things happening in 3’s throughout), and this has to be one of them. Our first is Paige Tico, one of the bomber pilots in the film’s opening. Her sacrifice is nothing but one of destruction that ultimately does no help for the overall greater good. Its one that in the grand scheme of things didn’t progress anything but a simple high five right then. When the tale of the war is told, that Dreadnaught was just one ship that was taken out of many. We learn from it that there was just too much loss for thrill of sticking it to the First Order. The second sacrifice is a big one. In one of the most visually aw inspiring moments in the entirety of Star Wars, Admiral Holdo takes a transport to lightspeed through the First Order fleet. Her actions serve to help the Resistance escape to Crait. But ultimately is another one full of destruction and merely buys a small amount of time as the First Order is immediately on the tail of the Resistance as they land on Crait. Luke’s sacrifice is the final one we see and the one that delivers a legacy and may save the galaxy. In his bidding, no members of the First Order or their artillery are killed, damaged or harmed. Luke makes a peaceful play and one that is the most successful. His leads to stories of his amazing appearance after years of being gone, at the final moments of the Resistance when they needed him most. He showed up as powerful and deceived and defeated the first order in a battlefield move that involved no violence or destruction and was successful. Luke was the ultimate Jedi and the delivered the galaxy’s greatest “New Hope”.

Rey

Rey’s journey in The Last Jedi appears almost saddled almost as a conduit between Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. While many have thought she was a bit sidelined narratively in the film, her importance to the story may just be being overlooked. She’s found herself in a weird place following The Force Awakens. Her expected journey has become anything but predictable. The young Force-sensitive lightsaber wielder had grown up on Jakku relishing in the mythology of the events of the original trilogy, with starry eyes and wonder. In essence, Rey is the ultimate Star Wars character for our nostalgia. She’s the embodiment of the triad we clung to in the original trilogy. She has the feistiness and leadership in battle with the sheik hairstyles like Leia; she’s a scavenging mechanic and pilot who gets to co-captain the Millenium Falcon with Chewbacca like Han Solo, and she’s the unlikely hero who is strong in the Force and gets to use a lightsaber like Luke.  Luke Skywalker was a perfect, heroic Jedi that saved the galaxy, Han Solo was no general, he was the wise cracking smuggler that had a heart of gold. Now, she found herself wrapped up in a new series events that had a lot of familiarity with the ones she grew up learning. Until now, when things come to the forefront and she’s expecting a natural shift to her next chapter.

Luke, her hero, is unwilling to teach her the ways of the Force and refuses to ignite his lightsaber and just start swiping it at Stormtroopers. She baffled as this isn’t how things have played out in the past, and how she felt it should go for her. After an unexplained bond occurs through the Force with her and her nemesis Kylo Ren, she finds the opposite of her perceptions with Kylo Ren once she begins to learn from him. He’s much more attentive, more open and willing. But, like her preconceived notion with Luke didn’t pan out, so does the one with Kylo Ren in knowing her history of Darth Vader and thinking redemption is just a matter of getting through.

The most telling part of Rey’s mentality through the film is her line “I need someone to show me my place in all this”. She thinks her finding BB-8 on Jakku was no mistake. That everything was predetermined for her. Someone is going to come along, reveal something to her about her parentage that give her a set destiny and expectations to fulfill. Rey feels there will be a map of sorts that already has things set for her. In a telling bit of foreshadowing, there’s a beautifully neat sequence where she goes through a mirrored cavern which is only full of many reflections of her and her alone. And when she asks to reveal her parents, two shadows become one and only show her own reflection and immediately sets her outside the cavern alone. Alas, like with Luke and Kylo Ren, its not there. In a reverse turn of Darth Vader’s revelation in The Empire Strikes Back, Kylo Ren confirms to her that her parents weren’t anyone special. That she truly is just a kid from some place that has wound up a centerpiece in a great galactic conflict. Luke early on looks oddly at Rey and questions “Who are you?” as he knows there’s not link to anything that came before. To be the one person to find him on that planet, to be the one his sister sends to convince him to return to the battle, she would have be somebody, right? Even Luke still has a bit of the trap of the repetitive nature of Star Wars history still plaguing him.

Rian Johnson has genuinely tapped into the knowledge and importance of what made that moment in The Empire Strikes Back so powerful even after the surprise is gone. While no, it’s not a gasp-inducing twist, it’s the right beat for that character to have at the moment. Luke went in with a simple tasking and allegiance when he arrived at Cloud City. When he was told that the man who was the figurehead for everything he was against as his father, it changed his world completely. Nothing was simple for him anymore. Things grew gravely complex. His world was uprooted. It was not what he wanted to hear. With Rey, she’s expecting and waiting for the moment someone will tell her she’s a piece of Force-wielding royalty. She has no idea how this conflict will go or what she is even doing in her attempts to confront Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, but at some point, something is going to happen, and it’s all going to be spelled out for her. Unfortunately for her, its now not going to be that easy. There is no connection. She has to forge her own legacy. It’s going to be harder with no mentorship, with having the future of a collective Jedi Order on her shoulders when she is just some scavenger from a lowly planet. What happens here to Rey is just as hard and game-changing as it was to Luke.

What’s terrific about Rey is she becomes wholly broken following her side by side battle with Kylo Ren and utterly susceptible to his bidding, yet can resist. And his temptation to a darker path is one that is presented in a very understanding and compelling way. Ren’s argument, his observation on everything makes sense and it’s not unlike Luke’s but from a different perspective. Ultimately, this is her first step in carving her own path as she sticks to her guns and escapes him. Following her and Chewie’s thrilling assist on Crait via the Millenium Falcon (Maybe my favorite moment where the music, crowd pleaser, and thrills come together in a way that has had me almost jump out of my seat in excitement and thrills every time), she’s left to the task of “moving rocks”. But this time, she’s learned something and truly channels a graceful way out for her friends of the Resistance. And by the end, Rey is left uncertain of where to go, but now knows whatever way she is going to have to be done on her own with the comfort she has “everything we need” to do so.

Kylo Ren

The most fascinating new character in the Sequel trilogy is Kylo Ren. With The Force Awakens, we were given virtually everything George Lucas was intending for Anakin Skywalker to be in the Prequel trilogy but wasn’t quite able to execute. Part of that is how great Adam Driver is. But, Kylo Ren brings a lot of new elements to the Star Wars saga. While he taps into the dark side of the force, he’s no Sith Lord, and he has a battle of temptation with the light side of the Force. The son of Solo also found himself obsessed with copying his grandfather’s legacy and embracing that shadow. With The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren steps out from the shadow and into a light of his own.

The Last Jedi misdirects us into believing that Ben Solo still has good in him, that his redemption is the inevitable path the story will take because that’s where the path has always lead us before. Fortunately, Rian Johnson is smart enough not to give us that easy way out. Plus, it would be quite hard for us to endure when we take a step back. We were introduced to this guy via his invasion and absolutely slaughter of innocent villagers. He caps off the first movie by committing patricide and taking one of the most beloved characters in the franchise away from us forever. His redemption just couldn’t be easy to stomach with all that was shown to us beforehand. It’s much different than Darth Vader in Return on the Jedi. The Prequels didn’t exist yet. We hadn’t seen Anakin slaughter the younglings in the Jedi Temple. Our witnessing of him was going through the throes of war. His brutality was shown through committing acts of violence to his own men (Of the evil Empire) and having lightsaber battles (Where he took down Obi-Wan Kenobi, who then returned as a Force ghost). Vader’s redemption is a much easier sell than his grandson’s could ever be.

We don’t get this in The Last Jedi. One of the early misdirects with Kylo Ren’s intentions comes with his Tie Fighter attack on the Resistance. He has a chance at a kill shot and hesitates, linking with his mother through the Force. His finger leaves the trigger, and he doesn’t do it. At first glance, he’s softened and doesn’t have it in him to rid himself of another parent. However, upon another watch, there’s more to this moment than meets the eye. In the scene previous featuring Kylo Ren, he was being ridiculed by Snoke for his sense of guilt for killing his father. Snoke shreds him for being weak for those feelings, which causes Kylo aggressively destroy the mask he once was so comfortable to hide behind, pretending to be his grandfather who he must realize had weak feelings regarding his family. Now, let’s return to the Tie Fighter where he ponders as to whether he should blast the bridge of the cruiser transport or not. Does Kylo Ren move his thumb away from the trigger because he feels for his mother, or is it because he fears carrying more guilt on top of what he is holding onto with his father which is weakening his ascension to the dark side of the force? Where we go further with him is telling of this moment.

The Force is a tricky thing, but its honest. Kylo Ren, Rey and Supreme Leader Snoke all carry a vision of what happens in the Throne Room chapter of the film. And I’m positive it plays out exactly as they all sense it, but they all carry with them their own bias as the true motivations behind the event. Its quite clever how this triangle works itself through. Snoke believes the vision to be that in the moment Kylo Ren will take down his greatest obstacle, which he believes is Rey, and ascend to his place of power. Rey believes Kylo Ren will do the right thing and take down the ultimate power in the First Order to help fight alongside her against the enemy. But only Kylo knows and what truly reveals is that the biggest things standing in his way of power was Snoke and Rey will fight alongside him to clear the way in order for him to take the mantle to command the First Order. Its another thoughtful play on perception like we had with Luke and Kylos recounting of that fateful night where Kylo turned.

The decision to kill off Supreme Leader Snoke is a bold and stunning move. One would have assumed, again on what came before, that we would be stuck with Snoke until the very end of the closing chapter of the trilogy. Hacking him off here produces a complete shock, leaving everything you may have thought in disarray. Suddenly, we have no idea where even just this film is going. That we didn’t know where Snoke came from or that he wasn’t some familiar name under a new guise was never important. Snoke is more critical in what he represented to Kylo Ren. And Snoke is more valuable in being this wicked twist than he ever would have been being a boring Emperor rehash. Also, any sort of “Darth Plagueis” character he could have secretly been meant nothing to the characters within the film. Rey doesn’t know who that is and it would ring insanely hollow to her. She’s very new to this game, learning the Force, not memorizing all the presidents in history.

While his First Order may have the numbers, pushing the Resistance to the brink in this film and Kylo Ren has risen to the highest rank, he loses in a big way. “Let the past die” is his mantra which he tries to bring Rey on board with. Like Luke Skywalker, he sees everything repeating as it has before. He wants to take a further step, with no hesitation. The First Order currently has the upper hand, so let them do the work and destroy the Resistance, then take over and pave an entirely new path. However, his anger, immaturity, and demand for respect and power have completely blinded him and he has had some extreme oversight. The one thing he sought most to do in two films was to find Luke Skywalker and take him down to show he’s the most powerful Force wielder in the universe. Luke comes to him. In front of the First Order and the Resistance, Luke completely clowns him looking calm, collecting and all mighty. And in the end, Luke sticks it to him via wisdom and shows him his failings. And when Kylo tries to impale Luke and sees he is only a Force projection, he realizes his ultimate failure; he will never complete his self given destiny of killing Luke Skywalker. One of the themes actively preached in this film is learning through failure. And it will be interesting to see if Kylo Ren can handle this ultimate failure.

Finn

Finn recovers amid the Resistance escape from the First Order. This film takes place in very close proximity to the events of The Force Awakens. With years between movies and a change of hands, it could have been easy to overlook where Finn is regarding his character and just have him gung ho with the Resistance. In reality, that’s not who he is currently. When last we left him, his goal wasn’t to join or aid the Resistance. His loyalties lied with his friend Rey and trying to rescue her. He may have defected from the First Order in The Force Awakens, but never was it in his plans to join up with the Resistance. Finn just wanted to be a neutral person in the galaxy.

To no surprise, he’s of that same mentality when The Last Jedi begins, and he awakes from the medical wing of the ship. Finn has an essential journey of self throughout the movie and learning what it means to commit and not just picking aside, but understanding your devotion to a cause. When teaming up with Resistance mechanic Rose (Who lost her sister in the opening sequence, sacrificing herself to just bomb and destroy one ship) and Poe, his purpose is still primarily focused on Rey’s safety when she returns. Rose is a prominent figure who gives Finn a clear path toward fully understanding what is happening in the galaxy beyond what he thinks he knows and what it honestly is going to take to endure and prosper in the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order.

Canto Bight is one of the most intriguing and fresh planets we’ve come across in Star Wars lore. A place that lies beyond the Empire, the Republic, the Rebels, the First Order, the Resistance. Its everything that Tatooine is not. In fact, its Tatooine flipped. Whereas that planet is a dried, beaten, worn land, Canto Bight is rich, watery and fancy. Both places are outside a political allegiance, but underlying they both harvest a “wretched hive of scum and villainy”. These people are keeping slavery afloat, financing and profiting off of a war they’ve kept a distance from. Finn first only sees the surface level of things. Rich and proper, something he notes as “great”, but Rose shows him the ugliness it actually represents in the form of mistreating the Fathiers while also forcing children into slave labor.

After getting caught and then exiting jail with the assist of DJ, Rose and Finn make to release all of the Fathiers from captivity. Finn doesn’t quite stick to the lesson here. The escape causes a lot of damage and destruction to the casinos, ships, streets, and faculties endured by the affluent residents of Canto Bight. When the coast is clear in the fields, Finn seems to think the destruction and sticking it to the people was what it was all about. But that wasn’t it at all. For Rose, the destruction mattered not, all that she was going for was the freeing of the Fathiers. The damage was just a byproduct. Keeping the Fathiers healthy, safe and free was the only goal.

Finn glimpses his possible destiny, should he continue along the path he’s paving. With their safecracker DJ in tow, he meets someone who has been getting by in the galaxy as a neutral entity. He sees what a joyless and ugly endeavor DJ puts them through in his complete betrayal. However, DJ doesn’t see it that way. “They blow you up today; you blow them up tomorrow.” With this mentality, Finn realizes nothing is going to stop, and nobody is going to be helped with him in his stance. And he realizes he was feeling good and purposeful in assisting Rose on their secret mission. Finn embraces his calling when taking out Captain Phasma, the ultimate symbol for the past he wants to leave behind, and proclaiming himself to be “Rebel Scum.”

While obviously unknowing of the complete details regarding Holdo’s sacrifice, he still witnesses another one. Knowing that a ship had to piloted by someone. And to this, he still doesn’t quite understand what it was for. It was made to help the escape, not the destruction of the enemy. During the battle of Crait, Finn thinks he’s learned and has it all together, feeling that he was meant for this calling of a sacrifice. But with that canon, his sacrifice was likely going to be pointless and would have no benefit other than an added explosion. Who knows, Finn might have just been fried like nothing happened. Rose sabotages their ships to finally get the point across to him that all the work was being done to save things, not destroy them. And Finn was far more valuable to the Resistance alive and there for another day than to give himself up in a battle that was already lost.

In the end, Finn’s mission to go to Canto Bight, find the master codebreaker, infiltrate the First Order and deactivate the hyperdrive tracking was a failure. Granted time was not on their side with the mission; they still played things rather sloppily. They didn’t think through their posture in the casino, took a personal aside venture and then accepted a sketchy substitute instead of finding the real master codebreaker. Finn, with good intention, was consistently making choices that weren’t working out and luckily, in the end, was bailed out, finally learning the true meaning of being a meaningful member of the Resistance and winning the overall war in the manner of “saving what we love.”

Poe Dameron

Poe’s type is a character we frequently see in science fiction based fantasy films – the hotshot flyboy. He’s the best pilot in the galaxy and can muster a lot of damage on his own as we see displayed in the film’s thrilling opening. However, those thrills come with a significant cost. While they’ve destroyed a considerable ship in the First Order fleet, its come with the loss of many lives and resources. Their fleet is depleting and all Poe wants to do is just blow more stuff up. It’s not the answer, but he can’t see much regarding strategy beyond when he’s flying his X-Wing. If he’s not in the cockpit, he feels nothing is being done. Leia demotes him for his failures to see anything beyond it for the time being.

While Poe’s ties to failure in the film are linked to Rose and Finn’s mission, he also displays his brand of insubordination. When Leia is sidelined following an attack, it is Admiral Holdo who is put in charge, not he. Basing off his first impression of Holdo, he exhibits some underlying misogyny against her authority. Poe and the audience don’t realize it, but Poe is not a hero in this situation and only continues to showcase why Leia was correct in demoting him and keeping him away from further strategy. With the behavior he’d been displaying and his constant bloodlust to do battle there’s no point in letting him on the plan for escape. And when he finds out Holdo’s strategy, he immediately commits space mutiny and proves her right. It’s not that Holdo doesn’t admire Poe, she freely admits she likes him later on, but she knows what’s best for the Resistance and her plan may have gone a bit better had Poe accepted her authority and trusted her to lead the Resistance.

If anyone may take great strides and learn much from their experience in failure, it may be Poe Dameron. By the end of the film, he’s already coming around. Finding new respect for those in charge and finding a new strategy on the battlefield, Poe is the first to realize Luke’s act of distraction. In the next adventure, one can expect Poe to much more a collaborative and thought strategist in battle. Who knows, he could be in charge with his X-Wing days behind him and trying to keep a young, fresh hotshot Resistance pilot in check.

General Leia

Unfortunately, due to the sudden passing of Carrie Fisher, Leia’s final appearance (In Carrie Fisher form) is in The Last Jedi. While her performance in The Force Awakens may have shown a little bit of rust, Fisher has shaken it all in a tough, emotional and taxing performance. The weight of all this fighting and realization of all the loss, the constant pressure from the First Order, it’s all getting to her. If any character is genuinely pushed to their last legs, it’s her. And it’s humbling and heartbreaking to see the moments where you can see our once firecracker of a Rebel have the acceptance of defeat in her eyes. It’s a side we’ve never seen form her. In a sincere compliment to Fisher, a majority of it is told to us without words and merely in her eyes.

There’s a moment of contention with the general that seemed to some missed the beauty and grace of it for the sake of ridicule and cheap snark. During a battle, Leia is blown out of the bridge and into the vacuum of space. It resonates harder than it ever was intended to with the meta-knowledge of Fisher’s passing. We think this could be it, but suddenly her hand moves and she is able to channel into the Force and return herself to the Resistance ship. The moment is full of magic and a sweeping accompanied by John William’s usual brilliance as we finally are given a moment to see Leia use The Force as her brother later would, to keep her figurehead alive to keep the small spark of hope going on the fleeing band of fighters.  I find nothing goofy or weird about it. I imagine had the character in question been Luke or Kylo Ren, it probably would have been welcomed as a sign of power and courage.

Her final moments in the film see her spark reigniting with the return of her brother. They share a touching moment that is hard ignore your “feels” when they share the frame. It’s a short, important interaction that gives us everything we need and truly catches everything up with them. And in the end, on the Millenium Falcon with Rey questioning where everything goes from there, she assures here “We have everything we need.” It’s positive reinforcement and sign of strength as they escape through space in their smallest numbers, able to fit as a whole on the Millenium Falcon. But, as one can see, their spirits are flying high and are eager to where the next step of the adventure takes them.

The Last Jedi contains so many layers and depth, fans will be unpacking it for years to come. Rian Johnson channels energy that comes from the best intentions from George Lucas’ original trilogy as well as his ideology as a filmmaker and Star Wars fan. It’s a challenging film that is full of twists and turns, playing on the unexpected and having an understanding that things are much more complex than they may have appeared in The Force Awakens. Speaking of, The Last Jedi has also enhanced and improved its predecessor with its deeper philosophies and genuinely thoughtful answers to leftovers questions and real character directions. When I first saw the film, there was that opening night excitement, but I was pretty sure I loved it. After my second viewing, it was confirmed. And in the subsequent ones, my appreciation for the character work, the themes, the craft and all the mythology just continue to improve. The Last Jedi is everything I’ve loved in the original Star Wars films and what I’ve genuinely been wanting from one since while paving an exciting direction for its future. For the first time since the original film, the possibilities are truly open. We have no idea where Episode IX will take us and its an incredibly exciting feeling as someone who loves Star Wars.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Star Wars: The Last Jedi was shot on film and ready to come to a true 4K Ultra-HD transfer here in its home video debut. Right away, you can tell and pretty significant uptick from the standard Blu-ray release of the film. Every moment you home video junkies were sitting in a theater thinking about seeing on a UHD release do not disappoint. The image is a full, crisp one offering loads of texture and detail with a very natural presence of grain. With how this first Star Wars 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray came together, I’m excited to see how the rest of the series will turn out on the format.

Depth:  The spacing and grand camera moments give this a nice depth of field from foreground and background. Ships battling through space have a good loose and free feeling to them. Movements are smooth, cinematic and natural showcasing a step up from the standard Blu-ray counterpart.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and true here. Many of the sequences on Anch-To in the rain and Rey’s journey into that cavern especially hold on quite nicely, keeping loads of detail and definition. There is a richness to it that really flows well in more colorful sequences too.

Color Reproduction: As expected, the colors look lovely in this 4K Ultra-HD presentation. There’s a significant jump from standard Blu-ray to 4K as is evidenced by the wonderful saturation infused here. Reds and whites prove plenty impressive. Crait and Snoke’s throne room look plenty gorgeous and really lift off the screen. Digital displays, ship lights, lightsabers, the damage inflicted from the “Holdo Maneuver” and more put to use the HDR.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones carry a natural appearance and maintain a consistent look from the end of the opening crawl to the start of the end credits. Facial details like wrinkles, freckles, blemishes, stubble, make-up texture, lip texture, rain drops and more come through clear as day from any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Compatible), English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: As per typical Disney, this Atmos track is set lower than your typical default setting on the receiver. However, once you crank it up a few notches, it’s quite the experience and very full and powerful unlike something recent like Thor: Ragnarok. This is a well-calculated mix, with tons of wonderful intricacies and layers that bring everything from the quiet calm of Crait before battle to the frantic cockpit of Poe Dameron’s X-Wing fighter to a full, lived-in life. This track hits hard and is loaded with some fun surprise choices in placement and movement that keep you on your toes the whole time.

Height: Your ceiling speaker is truly put to the test here. You’ll have the obvious Tie Fighters and X-Wings zipping overhead, but you also get some of the computer displays as well as Rey and Kylo Ren’s “force voices” floating around and bumping overhead from time to time. There are also some good in-cockpit sounds as well as the rain of Anch-To.

Low-Frequency Extension: Explosions, light-speed crashes, saber collisions, engines rumbling and more bump and pound from the subwoofer with good force.

Surround Sound Presentation: The motion and placements through all the channels are a lot of fun in this mix. There are a lot of moments of action shooting straight from the from to back. At times, some of it almost feels as good as a really cool ride. No speaker is left unused or wasted, each get to help things travel or give their own unique specific sounds to the moment.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear crisp, really displaying every piece of diction it can from the characters’ dialogue.

Extras 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes with the standard 2-Disc Blu-ray set and a digital copy of the film. Aside from the commentary, the bonus materials are found on Blu-ray Disc 2. There are 2 Digital only exclusive features.

Blu-ray Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • By Writer/Director Rian Johnson

Blu-ray Disc 2

The Director And The Jedi (HD, 1:35:23) – A feature-length documentary starting at the wrap party then chronicling through the production following director Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman. Its very creator-focused and spends a lot of its time with the Jedi aspects of the film and features plenty of Johnson’s work with Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley.

Balance Of The Force (HD, 10:17) – Rian Johnson explores the use and exploration of the Force in The Last Jedi and zeroes in on how it relates to and affects Luke Skywalker, Rey, and Kylo Ren. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver also chime in to discuss their character motivations.

Scene Breakdowns

  • Lighting The Spark: Creating The Space Battle (HD, 14:23) – Poe Dameron is very much the focus of this featurette while also covering the dynamics of bringing the bomber attack and stakes to life. Kylo Ren’s attack, Snoke’s ship, and the Holdo sacrifice are the focus of the second portion.
  • Snoke And Mirrors (HD, 5:40) – Supreme Leader Snoke coming to life via digital and motion capture effects are shown through the early visual effects, raw footage. They also discuss wanting to evolve his look from The Force Awakens when presenting him in an in-person physical form.
  • Showdown On Crait (HD, 12:56) – All of the aspects of the battle on Crait, from the features of the planet to the walkers, the crystal critters and the showdown of Luke and Kylo Ren are covered in wonderful detail here.

Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only) (HD, 5:49) – Rian Johnson introduces scenes from the throne room sequences featuring Rey and Snoke with Andy Serkis in the motion capture suit and not animated because of how much he loved the strength and power of his raw performance.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary By Writer/Director Rian Johnson (HD, 23:02) – Includes a 49-second introduction from Rian Johnson where he describes how hard it was to have to see some of the scenes go, but always knew they’d be on the Blu-ray.

Digital Only

Score Only Version – An isolated score version of the film.

Rebel Rose (HD, 2:00) – We see a little of Kelly Marie Tran’s “chemistry audition” as well as get her and Rian Johnson’s thoughts about her working on a Star Wars film.

Summary 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi becomes the first of the Star Wars films to come to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format, and it makes the most of it. If you want to demo audio and visual to people, this one makes an excellent example. There is a significant jump from the Blu-ray to 4K on both components. Its looks gorgeous and the Atmos track is a hell of a lot of fun. This thing is loaded with extras to the point where, I’m sure there’s probably more somewhere you could add, but I’m scratching my head as to what. With this release, you’re getting every dollar’s worth of your money well spent.

 

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

8 Responses to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well, that was a thorough examination of a film that, whether one like it or not (most do), shows how much thought and care went into everything, including the characters especially. Lots of great insight to take in from one who thought about what Johnson was going for and examining “How” the film is doing what it actually does as opposed to what it “Should” be doing according to ones not making the film themselves.

    I know you’ve talked about how this makes The Force Awakens a better film. Do you think it makes the Prequels better in retrospect as far as the thematics on display?

  2. Brandon Peters

    I enjoy that this film isn’t afraid to acknowledge the existence of the prequels. It certainly makes them appear to have a little extra purpose as to the depth of this segment of Jedi history. Ultimately, The Clone Wars had already retroactively improved and strengthened them.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    That’s my same thought on this. I guess it’s better to say this series has a way of righting itself in general.

  4. Jacob Destree

    This may be the best thing you have ever written, Brandon, and I have been reading since Mendelson’s Memos.

    Anyone who thinks this is a bad sequel need only compare it to JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot sequels to see how things would have gone for Star Wars had Rian Johnson not broken out of the box!

  5. Brandon Peters

    Wow, Jacob! High praise. Thank you! A double Thank You for having been reading my drivel and sticking around for so long, too 😉

  6. Brian White

    Loved the Jedi doc and extras on this one. Anything Mark was in was fantastic. Was hoping for maybe a quick Leia tribute or something in the way of extras.

  7. Brian White

    I guess Brandon was right all along. All one needs is a second watch.
    After digesting Brandon’s book up above, spending three days to get through all the extras (sorry work comes first) it finally clicked and resonated with me in my second viewing here. And I loved it for all the reasons I used to hate it. I am now officially called Matt Goodman 🙁
    I do have a few issues with the transfer but minor. Disney’s audio was once again muffled and low end wasn’t extremely generous. That’s too bad. Also, noticed jaggies over Finn’s left shoulder against the computer screen when they are chatting with Maz.

  8. Aaron Neuwirth

    Wow. Well, that’s a fun thing to read. I can understand anticipation or presumed ideas getting in the way of initial enjoyment, so glad to actually hear about a complete turnaround. Welcome to the Resistance!