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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisey Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendolyn Christie
Director: Rian Johnson
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, DTS MA 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 152 minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2018

What do you know about the Force?”

It’s a power that Jedi have that lets them control people, and…make things float.”

Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong.”

Film ***

A funny thing happened when I sat down to view Star Wars: The Last Jedi…I couldn’t remember the name of the preceding film, and literally had to look up The Force Awakens.

Though highly anticipated as the first film to finally begin the final trilogy of trilogies, for me, it wasn’t up to snuff. Creator George Lucas had sold his franchise and the right to finish his series to Disney for a whopping sum. After Episodes I, II and III, I never thought I’d be saying this, but the series definitely misses his touch.

So, The Last Jedi became the first official Star Wars film I did not see theatrically (standalone entries not counted). As someone who’s revered Star Wars from childhood, there was no way I wasn’t going to watch it eventually, but I was going to wait for it to come to me.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m glad. I’m still not thoroughly satisfied. However, having once reviewed director Rian Johnson’s debut Brick and commenting in the piece that I couldn’t wait to see what he did next, I have to say, he breathed a little life back into the franchise here.

It picks up exactly where we left off, with Rey (Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Hamill) on an island on a distant planet. Turns out, it’s not just any island…it’s the place where the sacred Jedi texts are saved and stored.

However, Luke has no desire to resurrect the Jedi. He believes their time has passed as the carriers of light in the universe. His decision has been influenced by his own failure as a Jedi leader (which you will learn about in the course of the picture).

Meanwhile, the First Order, under the rule of General Snoke (Serkis), has grown stronger, while the Rebels, led by General Leia (Fisher) are trying not so much to win, but to survive. The reckless Poe (Isaac) runs a successful attack, but at too great a price. Now, with little fuel, the Rebels are being pursued by the Order, patiently waiting for their chance to crush the Rebellion once and for all.

The hope all centers around Luke…like Obi-Wan Kenobi once did, can Luke come out of retirement to aid the fading Rebels? Is he even really what they need? At the same time, the conflicted Kylo Ren (Driver) is still coming to terms with the battle within, between who he was born to be and who he strives to be. Someone is orchestrating communications between him and Rey, each hoping the other will turn and bring the galactic conflict to a conclusion, one way or the other.

The film still doesn’t quite “feel” like Star Wars to me. It’s definitely better written and acted, with Mark Hamill aging into the role with perfection (he’s now a year older than Alec Guinness was in the original feature). And Daisy Ridley has really blossomed Rey into a memorable character, fully capable of carrying the weight of the franchise on her shoulders.

There is even some much needed soul searching…I once pondered where the Rebels even got all of their equipment…turns out from the same sources that supply the First Order. Is it really a battle of ideals when some get rich no matter who wins?

Johnson offers us yet another glimpse at a new world, when the climactic fight takes place on an abandoned base where red salt lies under the sand, kicking up spectacular red color everywhere. And it’s here where Luke will either rise as savior or fall, ending the Jedi once and for all.

It leaves me both anticipating and dreading the final movie. Oddly enough, I’ve read that Rian Johnson declined the offer to write and direct it; a shame. Carrie Fisher thankfully lived long enough to complete her work here, but with her gone, I can’t help but wonder: what will become of Leia in the last installment? A different actress? Write her out? Worst of all, giving us a creepy CGI rendering a la Rogue One?

Then there’s still the concern about the hands of Disney at the wheel. It used to be something to know that when I saw the original in third grade, I’d be in sixth grade before the next installment, and ninth grade for the conclusion. Now, there’s a danger with these movies and standalone entries that Star Wars is becoming an avalanche, with more attention to box office dollars than to quality. Fans expect dogfights and lightsaber flourishes, but there was always much more to the allegorical stories than the effects.

Still, Johnson and company still managed to breathe in some much-needed new life here. All good things must come to an end; let’s just hope that it does in fact end as a good thing.

Dedicated to Carrie Fisher…forever our Princess.

Video ****

This 4K presentation delivers everything you want; colors, speed, clarity, and beautiful settings, from deep space to Luke’s island. It’s a visual marvel, and just what you’d expect from a Star Wars entry.

Audio ****

Likewise, the uncompressed audio tracks are superb, delivering potency and dynamic range all the way through, from John Williams’ score to the battles and duels, to the quietest, most thoughtful dialogue. All render with precision and clarity, making for an immersive and enjoyable listening experience.

Features ****

The extras include a cast commentary, a dozen deleted scenes, and four production featurettes (all on the Blu-ray disc).

Summary:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the best franchise offerings in recent memory. Let’s hope the Force stays with us one last time, and George Lucas’ original vision gets the send-off it deserves.

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