Star Wars: The Last Jedi Blu-ray Review: Spectacle Trumps Story

The Last Jedi is an epic space fantasy filled with brilliant state-of-the-art special effects. Unfortunately, writer/director Rian Johnson’s plot is overstuffed and at times nonsensical, leading to a lot of misfires in the story.

Following up Episode IV retread The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi opens with an exciting, albeit illogical, action sequence. The First Order, in place of the Empire, is pursuing the Resistance, in place of the Rebellion. (It doesn’t say much for the beings in this universe that so many repeatedly cave into authoritarian leaders and so many join their ranks throughout the series.) Against General Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) orders, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leads a Resistance squad against an Imperial Dreadnaught with a series of slow-moving ships filled with bombs. He’s sees it as a great victory but Leia questions the cost.

The scene is filled with great suspense and explosions, reminiscent of a WWII film, but it will leave anyone who knows there’s no gravity in space puzzled. And it’s clear the filmmakers know there’s no gravity because after the bridge of a Resistance ship is blown up, people and items float in the vacuum of space rather than fall.

The Last Jedi deals with a few storylines. Leia leads the fleet away from General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) but they are running out of fuel. To help them escape, Finn (John Boyega), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and BB-8 head to the planet Canto Bight to find a code breaker who can disable the First Order’s tracking system. That’s because, once again, the good guys need to turn something off that the bad guys have running for them to succeed. Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to bring Luke (Mark Hamill) out of hiding to join the fight, learns about the Force, and deals with her growing connection to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

With a talented crew working behind the scenes, The Last Jedi contains many thrilling scenes, although too often Johnson went in the direction of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” rather than “does it make sense if…”. For example, when the Resistance members head for escape pods, Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) stays behind, which makes little sense with all the droids available until she makes a heroic decision that leads to one of the most visually impressive scenes of the entire franchise.

A similar thing happens with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who like many Force users, is inexplicably unable to understand what is happening right in front of him. He has a cool comeuppance, but not a believable one, and the character becomes wasted potential, much like the chrome-tinged Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). I wanted more from both characters in the movies because weak villains diminish the heroes. I don’t want to dig through ancillary products to learn about them. In fact, the same goes for Kylo and Luke, neither of whose motivations are always understandable.

While the story stumbles, the high-definition presentation is outstanding. The video presents a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The colors pop in a variety of bold hues, lush greens, deep reds, etc. Blacks are exquisite in their inkiness and whites shine bright. The frames are filled with realistic depth and intricate texture details seen in both real and CGI objects.

The audio is available in am immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. Dialogue is always clear (thankfully, Snoke got Kylo to ditch the mask). The effects inundate the viewer, from light ambiance of a setting to the massive action sequences filled with the engulfing sounds of warfare occurring across and throughout channels. The subwoofer offers quality support. John Williams’ score is wisely not lost as it augments the scenes. The track has a wide dynamic range. (If you haven’t heard by now, there’s an action scene that intentionally has no audio so don’t worry.)

Disc One has an audio commentary from Johnson recorded before the film’s release, which is too bad because his reaction to the divided (over)reaction would have been interesting. Still, he offers great insight into the film’s making, revealing where ideas came from, items that got cut as well as cameos.

There’s a second disc filled with HD extras as well. “The Director and Jedi” (95 min) is an informative, feature-length documentary that should delight anyone who can appreciate the amount of work that went into the film’s creation. In “Balance of Force” (10 min), Johnson presents his take on what the Force is and its use by different characters in the story. He also better explains why Luke is hiding out than he did in the film. Three Scene Breakdowns (33 min) offer a more thorough look behind the scenes at “Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle,” “Snoke and Mirrors,” and “Showdown on Crait.” “Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)” (6 min) shows Serkis acting without the effects. There are 14 Deleted Scenes (23 min) with optional Johnson commentary.

The Last Jedi is a wondrous spectacle one expects from a Star Wars film. Johnson deserves credit for pushing boundaries and offering more substance in his story than most of the film franchise. However, having so much to deal with in one film might have contributed to the plot troubles. But for those that only seek “wondrous spectacle,” the Blu-ray delivers a marvelous HD experience and will likely make best-of lists at the end of the year.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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