Quantcast

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker gave us the finale of the Skywalker saga of the Star Wars Universe. Though ultimately that’s primarily been the crux of the whole thing, we’ll likely be seeing spin-offs and new efforts finding themselves even more separate from it as time wages onward for the Disney Lucasfilm investment. Perhaps a lot of streaming television programming is the majority of it, with The Mandalorian going over very well as a Cassian Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi pair of series set to arrive in the future. As far as feature films, the allure of a Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, or Kylo Ren focused films are pretty much now in the rearview. And your collections will all find themselves complete one the ninth and “final” episode of the saga finds its way to your shelves on March 31st. It will be available in many different standalone versions and also as a part of the Skywalker Saga box set that includes all nine Star Wars episodes.

Film

When it’s discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order’s plans to form a new Empire, while Rey anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is a film designed to be watched at the height of an emotional expectation, jolt the audience right away and then hopefully they just ride that “feeling” and not think too hard about things afterward, and just watch it again to evoke that memory or rush. That sleight of hand worked wonders for The Force Awakens (A film I really do like a lot), as that film had nothing at stake but to establish a Star Wars closer in tone, look and feel to the original trilogy of films. But, The Rise Of Skywalker has further importance at hand, and that is not to just write the final chapter in the sequel trilogy, but to close the entire book on the entire nine-film adventures of Star Wars and Skywalkers. And you can’t just ride that wave of a “feeling,” you’ll need some meet, closure, and a big satisfying conclusion that is harmonious across three trilogies. Instead, JJ Abrams’ return brings about more questions done in by either cuts or a script need additional drafts as well as a very sloppy and disjointed effort. Overall, the film is fast and fun but leaves a lot to be desired when there isn’t any more to give.

JJ Abrams was likely offered and turned down more involvement in the sequel trilogy, but obviously passed on it. Looking at this new film, you can tell there were things he possibly had some thoughts on but wasn’t going to get to do and now wastes making up some time on a film that needs to be moving onward and building on the continuous story. Despite the divisiveness of The Last Jedi, it WAS the previous film, it DID happen. It’s the movie you need to follow and embrace its existence. Just like the prequel trilogy. Abrams’ aversion to the Star Wars universe as a whole has made his effort feel somewhat small and retracting with no room for growth, surprise or excitement. One of my biggest issues with Abrams through this whole thing is that he can see Star Wars as a completely limited and finite collective, only consisting of three films. Whereas I much more prefer the Rian Johnson and Dave Filoni philosophy of embracing the saga as a whole, improving things that may not have worked and understand that Star Wars ISN’T just Star Wars. Its samurai films, Akira Kurosawa, Joseph Campbell, World War II, The Searchers, Flash Gordon, and so much more. When trying to find “new” directions, characters, vehicles, planets, action, and adventures for Star Wars to take, that’s the well from which to return. Abrams seems to stop at “Does that look like it’s from The Empire Strikes Back but colored orange now? Okay, great!” And I have to say, I’ve always credited that he is a HELL of a talent at copying the look, costuming, sets and more of the exact thing you’re asking him to do. But when it comes to going outside of that, he falters.

The film winds up being one that is afraid to take any chances. The ones it thinks it is assumed are just ones that have been taken before. So much happens within this film that is instantly walked back, showcases no stakes, and, in the end, makes everything really have no level of intensity nor feel like the most giant and important battle in the galaxy ever is going on. We see Chewbacca get killed, but only to find out a few seconds later, he wasn’t. C-3PO has his entire memory wiped, but then just a few scenes later, R2-D2 has restored it. As a third film in the trilogy, it has too much in common with Scream 3, which feared adding any danger after getting fan backlash for killing favorite Randy in the previous installment. Here, nobody is in danger, and our casualties are a yawner or weren’t even clearly showcased to us in the movie itself (RIP Battle of Endor vet, Nien Numb).  This severely hampers our scavenger hunt plot, which is a pretty nice (and clever) idea to take this last adventure. Still, we never have a clear direction for it or feel like a clock is really ticking despite just lip serviced lines of dialogue here and there.

Much of his story points and the like here, the “surprises” mind you, offer nothing really new. Predictably, much of The Rise of Skywalker‘s reveals and ideas are just repurposed ones from the original trilogy. The Emperor? Whoop dee doo. There was an exciting direction taken at the end of The Last Jedi, with Kylo Ren ascending beyond his idle Darth Vader and becoming something so much more. Clumsily here, he’s told by Palpatine right in the open that he still has some steps to take? Which just seems silly. For no reason at all, he also gets his mask back to wear in a couple scenes as well. “Because its cool” is more like “Because it’s boring” to me. It added nothing at all. Also adding nothing at all were these Knights of Ren people wouldn’t shut up about. They are about as worthwhile as regular stormtroopers. Couldn’t we have all just assumed that they were a thing of the past, done before The Force Awakens happened? Now they are these stupid no-nothings that I’m told are sooooo awesome and don’t see at all why.

I will say, though, these little pointless details are my gripe, but I feel overall, the Ben Solo story is handled very well and will tip my hat to Abrams. Adam Driver really doesn’t start becoming a prominent force in the film until the end, but Driver is a fantastic presence and makes this all work. And hell, the scene with Han Solo interacting with him from his memory is pretty outstanding. Harrison Ford can elevate something so much, and this is even better than what we saw in his last appearance. It’s a nice call back to this trilogy and helping to put the essence of Leia into perspective and for her son to carry on her mission despite what he’s done to bring against it. The scene is instead a touching one, and it’s nailed.

One of the strengths of The Rise Of Skywalker‘s call back system (There are LOTS), is when it calls back to The Force Awakens (And in some little touches, The Last Jedi). It’s almost a direct sequel to The Force Awakens as he tries to both follow that and The Last Jedi at the same time. It results in some odd storytelling and character/plot beats from The Last Jedi ultimately being repeated in just a different scenario. When Abrams is making references to his own film, they feel much more natural and nuanced and not like you’re being beaten over the head with “HEY! ‘member?” The aforementioned scene with Han Solo is tops, but another, much more relaxed moment is when Rey is scaling and climbing aboard the interior of the Death Star II ruins. When we first met her, she was doing a similar task in the wreckage of a Star Destroyer. Yet this time with purpose. And another call back to our personal origins with Rey comes in the final moments when she sleds down the Lars homestead.

Much has been made about Rey’s lineage and connection to Palpatine in the film. Was it laughable? Right? An infuriating walk back? Whatever your feeling, its definitely right to you. I personally am a “Rey Nobody” fan, but I don’t think a connection to another character is a bad thing (And of course its a very Star War thing), but in this case, it’s handled so clumsily. There is terrific drama in wanting desperately to find your place in something and a connection, finding your nothing, accepting nothing, then finding out you ARE indeed connected and its everything you WOULDN’T have wanted it to be and rejecting choosing to be nobody (Like they want us to have to friggin hear about with her parents). There IS something in that, it’s just – this ain’t it. This is only for the sake of doing something that came before and the unwillingness to accept some new direction in Star Wars or that yeah…a stranger CAN be somebody. Tossing her on the Palpatine legacy creates some icky thoughts about who he got down with, then sounds even dumber when the Star Wars folk start walking it back on some cloning nonsense.

Here’s a prime example of this film having some good ideas and just not knowing how to do them or only fan wanking for no reason at all that fits original trilogy checkboxes but not fitting of the sequel trilogy. I’m referring to JJ Abrams’ dedication to the original trilogy lightsaber passed to Luke that was destroyed in the previous film and is just miraculously back here. When Luke lost it in Return of the Jedi, it came back here. At the end of the film, we see her with her own constructed yellow lightsaber out of her staff (Which she ignites for no reason other than “Hey fans! Look! A different color!”) she’s lugged around for the trilogy. It’s hers, it’s perfect, it’s her growth, her journey, that should have been present from the start of the film. Let that damn blue one die off. It would have been much more satisfying and THE POINT this story wants to make when Luke presents her Leia’s saber that she passes THAT ONE to Kylo Ren to wield in the final battle rather than the blue Luke saber. But alas, we stick with the same old same old for the sheer reason it’s the same old same old.

And that’s what really hampers this for many. The constant dedication to wanking fandom for nothing that serves the story and, if anything, just causes distraction or embarrassment. I’m hit and miss with all of this. I genuinely think finally seeing an ancient temple of some sort is REALLY awesome and that Sith Temple is really perfected and fits in with a lot of what we have seen in the animated adventures, be it The Clone Wars or Rebels. However, there is dumb stuff like Chewie being handed a medal as an afterthought or ending the film on Tatooine as if it is some holy place with happy memories. You can easily find why this is such an awkward and incorrect direction, so I don’t need to regurgitate it here. Also…why no Kylo Ren force ghost with Luke and Leia? Of all, he was the Skywalker that meant most to Rey at the end of the day.

One point of contention with this film that I’ll defend is Finn’s thing he’s gotta tell Rey. Despite unfortunately being relegated to a guy who shoots and jumps and yells “REY!” for the whole movie, he does have a small throughline with his force sensitive. Perhaps clumsily not removed from the film, or because they like the humor of the “You mean when Poe’s not around?” part and kept the gag, we can quite easily assume that’s what he wants to tell her. And perhaps he realizes she already knows. He shares all of this with Jannah and finds common ground there, which may be comforting enough for him – that he doesn’t need just Rey (which we have a history of him just latching to her for three films now). Finn even uses his abilities to assist in finding the critical attack in the final battle. Sure, your criticisms are correct that there is some sloppy dialogue with this left in, but we are all smart and can figure this out.

This film smartly chooses to run at a breakneck pace. Its quickly edited so that you don’t have time to really ponder much of what has come before. We don’t get to gaze into space as we used to, or settle in on some drama or explore. Everything happens quite quickly and jumps from place to place. Upon rewatches, it becomes much messier and even has a humorous moment where Kylo Ren goes from Star Destroyer to planet and back to Star Destroyer in about three minutes. And in some silly bit of illogical its because he has to…hold on, Rey, I’ll come up and tell you in person. None of it would have made any difference had he told her during their link. That’s the kind of logic this film is full of. But, if it can pick you up and carry you and you can just go with it, I can see how much fun you’re having. You’re not being allowed to settle down. And for many people, ones that see the latest Star Wars movie and move on with their lives, that’s very truly good enough.

If you’re still reading, yeah, I’ve been a bit hard on this movie. My thoughts tend to circle around things that didn’t sit right with me. Overall, I do think its a pretty entertaining film. I love Star Wars and its a Star Wars film and part of the family forever. I’ll wind up finding some newer things to enjoy, not caring as much about some of the bad stuff and winding up using humor for the others. I wavered between rating this with 2 stars or 3 back and forth. Luckily there is an easy average to that. Most of this comes from such a high point with The Last Jedi that a “fine” movie feels a bit of a disappointment any way you shake it. Yes, I would have preferred something like Colin Trevorrow’s abandoned script that followed Episode VIII, but that’s not what we got. And what we got is a bit messy, but hits some nice highs of its own, like both lightsaber duels and seeing Lando Calrissian in the form of Billy Dee Williams again (even if all his lines are basically “Hey, remember Star Wars?”). The film is one I battle between wanting more from it and just relaxing and enjoying what’s being served in front of me. I could have probably gone over more criticisms positive (The cast, especially the sequel trilogy crew are SOOO fantastic in this, regardless of what they are given) and negative (Seriously Rose deserved SO MUCH BETTER) with the film, and that’s because I love Star Wars so much, and I have lots of thoughts. Overall, was the sequel trilogy big and important? I don’t care, I was served up more slices from my favorite fiction, and I enjoyed a lot more than I did not. And warts and all, I can watch and enjoy The Rise of Skywalker.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker features a natural 4K picture in its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Like any JJ Abrams film, it looks very lovely on the format. It is quite sharp and full of details and lovingly saturated colors. The film handles the CGI effects wonderfully and showcases great texture and details on the costumes, props and animatronic creature work featured in the film. When it comes to a Star Wars movie on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, you can’t really ask for any better.

Depth: The film has zero issues with depth of field and having a three-dimensional appearance. Space sequences with ships and planet showcase a grand scale with a lot of free moving ability. All environments showcase a lot of space and floatiness with characters and objects, showing good distance and separation. Movements are natural, cinematic, smooth, and face no issues regarding motion blur or jitter.

Black Levels:  Blacks are quite natural and match the matte lines with no issue. Textures and features still pour through with ease, no matter how deep the tone or shadows. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors have no issues standing out and being well saturated into the picture. HDR provides a nice glow for blaster bolts, display screens, lightsabers, and roaring explosions. Whites also come across pretty impressively in this image as well. Some of the best work is done with the Sith blues/grays and the snow of Kijimi.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and texture like stubble, make-up, lip texture, pores, gross Palpatine face, blemishes, and dried dirt or blood come through clear as day from any given angle at a reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: Welp, here we go again with Disney and the Atmos track. A continued drama for this reviewer. Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker will need you to crank it up to a level beyond your normal listening setting to have maximum enjoyment. Why the hell they do this, I have no idea. It benefits no one. Despite cranking it up, this one still is quite weak on the low-frequency sounds and primarily in the score’s bigger boisterous moments. The mix itself is fun and fine, quite well done, layered, and playful as you’d expect. It’s just once again, set so low and fearful of making a grand impact from your system.

Height: Debris, ships, a few lightsaber swings, and more stuff flies around above your head. There is plenty of fun to be had from the ceiling channels in the mix.

Low-Frequency Extension: The subwoofer may be the most disappointing with the mix. It leaves you wanting a lot more punch. Ship sounds, blaster pops, and explosions sound well enough but could hit harder. In terms of the film’s score, it really doesn’t land on the drums and bass portions as it should.

Surround Sound Presentation: Plenty of playfulness from the speakers, be it random sparks from behind or feeling the camera movement in the 360-degree space from one shot to another. Sound rolls with quite a bit of fun and power as it goes all around the room with such a natural push and throw.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with fine attention to diction and mouth sounds.

Extras

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is a 3-Disc set (1 4K UHD, 2 Blu-ray) that comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a Movies Anywhere digital code.

Blu-ray Disc 2

The Skywalker Legacy (HD, 2:06:11) – I wrote an entire review for this feature-length documentary. You can find it by CLICKING HERE

Pasaana Pursuit: Creating The Speeder Chase (HD, 14:16) – “Why would you build a green screen in the desert?” This provides the specifics and challenges of JJ Abrams and company shooting the speeder chase that occurs early in the film. Lots of set up, test footage, and ideologies in visual effects come into play here.

Aliens In The Desert (HD, 5:59) – This featurette highlights the abundant usage of deserts in the Star Wars universe and the local people who get to be part of the crew and participate in bringing the magic to life.

D-O: Key To The Past (HD, 5:33) – Here’s one that tells us all about the new droid, how he works, and thoughts on his place and relation with the other characters.

Warwick & Son (HD, 5:37) – Warwick Davis tells his story of initially getting the role and then stepping back into the role for The Rise of Skywalker and his son joining him as an Ewok. It includes some terrific archive footage from the Return of the Jedi days.

Cast Of Creatures (HD, 7:46) – This featurette goes over the creature work, design, and functionality on the film as well as a respect for the past and some of the wisdom of Jim Henson seeping in. It features plenty of interviews and on-set footage, as well as some reveals like Jeff Garland in the film. You also get to see the impressive nature of the animatronic Maz Kanata.

Digital Exclusive

A Look Back: Lando’s Journey (HD, 1:09) – A clip from ‘The Skywalker Legacy’ focusing on the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.

The Maestro’s Finale (HD, 11:04) – An all too brief look at the master John Williams’ work on the Star Wars saga over the years. Features plenty of archive footage and John’s own input. Williams also talks the challenges of creating new Star Wars music and trying to make sure it fits with the old ones, specifically focused on Rey’s and Kylo Ren’s themes and how that evolved over the 3 sequel trilogy films.  We even see Steven Spielberg show uptake in a scoring session.

Summary

The Rise Of Skywalker brings the Skywalker-focused saga of big-screen adventures from the Star Wars Universe to a close. As is with all Star Wars material since 1983, your mileage of enjoyment may vary. The best thing you can do about it is not be a complete a-hole to those who feel differently than you and provide honest dialogue and ARTICULATE discussions as you know, fandoms USED to do in better ways. At the end of the day, its all fiction made by people who wanted you to enjoy it.  Disney’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray finds its a beautiful video transfer with an expected disappointing Atmos track. Plenty of bonus material is available, but be warned its all super fluffy though it does carry some useful information. No commentary track to be found, but perhaps some release someday will have it. Its a Star Wars, this is the best presentation of it, you’ve decided whether you’re getting it or not before it was even announced.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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).

  1. No Comments