Wednesday, April 4, 2018

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

Having already written a review of this film, I find it necessary to approach the Blu-ray release a bit differently. 

In recap, writer/director Rian Johnson (who previously provided the cinematic world with the astounding debut BRICK, and followed it up with one of the better films about time travel, LOOPER) attempts to pull off an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of his own.  Following up Abrams’ shiny THE FORCE AWAKENS seems a daunting task, and the only way to try and up the ante is to provide a fresh look at an old, yet necessary, trick: raising the stakes and creating a darker vision.  The Resistance (this era’s version of Rebels) are on the run, albeit slowly, and without much fuel in their tanks—literally.  The First Order has them scrambling for cover, and what seems like a basic premise (a space chase between a few big-ass turtles and a few tiny ones) becomes quite complicated as the story unfolds.  Don’t go looking for many surprise revelations in this one; whereas EMPIRE was all about crippling truths, JEDI concerns the roles people play in our lives, and what makes them tick.

Also, Mr. Johnson ups the ante on power of the Jedi; after watching this film, you get the feeling their abilities were merely hinted at in previous chapters.  Remember how Darth Vader throwing crates at Luke Skywalker in EMPIRE seemed like the ultimate Jedi weapon?  Prepare for Jedi’s with mystical abilities. The force isn’t just for stacking rocks anymore, and Johnson amps up the power to tremendous and unexpected levels.

What I would like to focus on, however, is not the film itself, but the special features.  You can check out my previous review of the theatrical release on Tacitus Publishing’s website if you want more exposition and critical eyeballing.  What really sets this release apart is the all-inclusive documentaries and featurettes.  The first is “The Director and The Jedi”, an hour-and-a-half long film which gives you an honest and detailed look behind the scenes.  From Mr. Johnson’s seemingly controversial appointment as director, to the choices he made with the script and effects, the studio does not shy away from the questionable moments of the films’ production.  Remember that controversy with Mark Hamill not agreeing with Mr. Johnson’s treatment of Luke Skywalker in the script?  It’s here.  The hardships of limited filming time on Ireland’s Skellig Michael?  The Twitterverse?  All here, and all handled with enough humility and openness to present an honest depiction of the life it takes to create art. 

Another of the docs shows Andy Serkis’s motion capture performance of “Snoke”, evil Jedi.  My Regular Twelve readers can attest to the fact that I have revered what the man is capable of; surely, he should have won an Oscar by now.  But to watch him in action is a true testament to his abilities and artistic prowess.  He makes it easy for the other actors in the scene to dismiss the rig he is wearing and the dots which litter his face with the sheer ferocity of his performance.  Art, indeed.

There are several other docs—one explaining Mr. Johnson’s reasons for reexamining the parameters of the force, another featuring that epic opening space battle—right down to how they created some of the sounds, some deleted scenes, etc.  But you should make time for the aforementioned two best ones, which both give a more intimate view at what it takes to really create a STAR WARS film.

While J.J. Abrams is set to direct the third and final film in the main series, Mr. Johnson has been tapped to write and direct the first in another planned trilogy.  If he holds true to what he has created here, fans should feel confident that the future lies in such capable and creative hands.

Grade: A
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely

-- T.S. Kummelman

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