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Reviews » 4K UHD Reviews » Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4K UHD)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4K UHD)
Disney // PG-13 // March 27, 2018 // Region 0
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted March 23, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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This is a tough review to write, because there's been a lot of controversy surrounding the latest installment in the Lucas-less Star Wars trilogy. There's a clear line between detractors and defenders, and while I typically enjoy conversations over divisive films, it doesn't seem like either side is willing to listen to the other. Franchise purists want you believe that Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is the worst film of all time, but it isn't. The people who loved this movie have tried to repress those negative views by arguing the purists just weren't ready to see a different kind of Star Wars flick, and that, too, is inaccurate. So, what's the deal, exactly?

I'll say up front that I wasn't a fan of Episode VIII, and to be clear, I have no problem living in a world where Star Wars, or any franchise, evolves into something different. Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Evil Dead II… the world would be a different place without these sequels, and not for the better. At the end of the day, all that matters to me is that a product works. The Force Awakens is a perfect example of this, at least for me. A lot of people gave it a hard time because it was similar to Episode IV: A New Hope, but I didn't mind because it was done extremely well. The Last Jedi, on the other hand, is a different story.

The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off, and as trailers have already informed us, Luke has little interest in being a savior, let alone training one. This becomes clear in a symbolic moment which was handled with little finesse. In fact, it would have been served better with the yakkedy sax playing over it, so needless to say, the execution left much to be desired. Director Rian Johnson could have handled this scene with precisional tact, but instead chose to be flippant. Coming from the guy who did Looper and (what I believe is) the best episode of Breaking Bad, I was stunned. I get what he was going for, but it just didn't work. And for that matter, neither does Luke taking a dark turn. Mark Hamill was fantastic in his portrayal as a jaded Luke, don't get me wrong, but his character would have had to have forgotten everything he had learned in episodes IV - VI. He put everything on the line, his life included, to appeal to the good he had felt in his father. Yet Ben (Kylo Ren) runs off the reservation and now Luke secludes himself?

Sadly, this entire film is comprised of strange narrative choices.

Take Finn, for example. He had suffered a severe injury during the last installment's finale, and the audience were left to wonder if he'd survive, and if so, how he'd react or change. Well, he awakens in a magical bag of chicken helper and takes off. Does he lend a helping hand to alleviate the chaos happening around him? No, he instead tries to escape. The question I have, is why? He left the First Order and knows how dangerous they are, sure, but he snuck onto Starkiller Base, talked smack to Captain Phasma's face, and even went toe-to-toe with Kylo himself. His days of running had clearly come to an end, so why regress his character like this? More than that, why doesn't Finn have a substantial arc in The Last Jedi? There's no growth whatsoever. He's merely utilized to service a useless side plot, one that could have been avoided if only the Resistance knew how to communicate. He does team up with newcomer Rose, but nothing happen there, either. The film expects us to believe there's some sort of love connection between them, but the film doesn't hint at it as much as hits you over the head with a shovel to make sure you got the message. There's no chemistry, no bond, and ultimately no heart.

Rey and Ren have the most substantial arcs in The Last Jedi, but even those pills are hard to swallow. They play a wonderful game of ‘let's sway them to the other side', because Ren feels the conflict in Rey, and she in him. I actually really like how they play mind games with each other, but I take issue with how it's done… because they're doing it from across the galaxy. It's ridiculous, and I'm certainly not alone in believing so. It's been a huge point of debate online. The naysayers reductively call this ability Force Skype, while others defend it by pointing out that Luke had previously reached out to both Leia and Vader. As for myself, there's no question that Johnson took artistic liberty with things presented in the original trilogy. While Luke may have reached out to others who were strong with the force (or had the potential to be so), they were also in relatively close proximity.

Finn's miraculous recovery, the love story between Finn and Rose, the Resistance in-fighting, and the unbelievable way in which Rey and Ren communicate are all representative of the film's biggest problem: Rian Johnson wanted to tell his own story - he allegedly scrapped an existing script to make his own - but didn't know how to structure it. In terms of story, he spends very little time building up to… well, anything. Instead, the director plops information at your feet and hopes you'll be satisfied with it. He's made it clear time and time again that he believes his decisions are justified, even going to such lengths as pointing out stuff that happens in the extended universe. Maybe it's me, but if it didn't happen in the movies, it shouldn't be assumed that the audience knows all the extra stuff. And hey, even if I drop the issues I have with all the universe inconsistencies, one simple fact remains: character and plot development here is extremely poor, and in some cases, practically non-existent.

Speaking of non-existent, you may as well forget most of the burning questions the last film had presented. How did Maz get that lightsaber? Why does Rey have such a strong connection with the force? Who are Rey's parents? Who's Snoke and why is he such a big deal? Why'd the lightsaber call to Rey? Either they aren't answered, or simply tossed out with the garbage. Cheers to Johnson for wanting to tell a unique story, but he accepted directorial duties for the middle film of a trilogy, and that comes with a responsibility. The first film set everything up, but instead of rolling with that, he decided to do a complete one-eighty. That's… not how storytelling works.

I hope I've made it clear that the people who loathed this film aren't angry because it was different, but because story and character beats weren't very good.

But with all that negativity - I know, I know, there's a lot of it - The Last Jedi isn't a complete waste of time. If you couldn't care less about where the story goes and just want a bit of Star Wars themed excitement, The Last Jedi will hit the spot. There are a lot of cool moments sprinkled throughout - everything that happens on Crait is drool-worthy - they just lack a solid contextual wrapper. Also, this is the most beautiful Star Wars film I've ever seen in terms of cinematography. From beginning to end, it's a sight to behold. Even the much hated Casino planet is beautiful in its own right, even if it seems out of place.

After all is said and done, The Last Jedi is a bunch of fun moments that are strung together by a bunch of nonsense. If you're looking for good characterization and story, you won't find it here. If you've tossed your hands up a long time ago to say ‘Star Wars is pretty fantastical as is, so who cares about following any rules or guidelines', then you'll probably wind up on the side of the fence that loved the film. Personally, I just hope that JJ Abrams is able to bring us back to something that makes sense, but thanks to Johnson, he's got an awful mess to clean.


Video


As expected, Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi - encoded via HEVC at a resolution of 2160p and an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 - looks wonderful on 4K Blu-ray. The standard 1080p disc is no slouch either, but there's no denying the 4K disc's supremacy. There's a nice refinement in the detail department, from skin to fabric and everything in-between. The image is just sharper in general, and when culminated with the increased detail, provides a nice sense of depth. The Last Jedi does offer a pleasant grain field, and Disney's encoding efforts keep it intact with no chunkiness or digital noise. There's also no edge enhancement or banding to detract from your viewing experience. Once you see The Last Jedi in 4K, there's simply no going back.

Many will be happy to hear that The Last Jedi's disc is equipped with Dolby Vision. While my television is Dolby capable, neither my Sony X-800 nor my Xbox One X are, so my impressions are of the HDR-10 base. I'm not sure how much more one would get from Dolby, though, as the improvements HDR offer on this disc, while plenty, aren't the same ‘blast your eyeballs' experience that are quickly becoming an expectation with home video enthusiasts. Black levels, highlights, and colors are improved in a way that looks natural, adding richness and depth as opposed to ‘better contrast and bright lights just for the sake of showing off your TV'. This is important because The Last Jedi is often a dark affair… it's not supposed to look saturated and bright, with the exception of perhaps Crait (those whites and reds are gorgeous). Highlights will enhance brighter portions of the image when applicable, and this even includes the white trooper uniforms, but they're enhanced in relation to the rest of the image, and not necessarily to reach an unrealistic number in nits.

And that's what 4K UHD is supposed to be all about. Yes, the labels say 4K when not every film had a 4K DI (this one does, though), and HDR promises to be brighter and more colorful… but it's all advertising jargon, and everyone knows it. Some studios are a little zealous in their HDR implementation, but The Last Jedi's 4K release replicates the theatrical experience splendidly. Fans won't be disappointed.


Audio


The Last Jedi has been granted a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but since I opt for my home theater to be 7.1 as opposed to utilizing overhead speakers, I'll be basing my opinions on what I heard in that setting. My experience with the 7.1 core was great. I was a little disappointed at first, but once I remembered that it was Disney that had authored the disc and not Fox - my memory escapes me sometimes, what can I say? - I knew what the problem was. Their mixes as of late have required bumping the volume up a little, but I don't count this as a problem. Sound mix volume has differed from studio to studio for a long time. It's never fun to have to tinker with volume when you're used to setting and leaving your home theater at a certain level, but it is what it is.

With that figured out, The Last Jedi was precisely the kind of track you'd expect for a modern Star Wars flick. All speakers get a workout, be it from environmental ambience or the film's more boisterous scenes. Sound placement is phenomenal, and is one of the more enveloping tracks I've heard in a while. When combined with the ever impressive LFE, the sonic experience is out of this world. Better yet is the score by John Williams, which perfectly accentuates every moment of the film, from first frame to the last. No matter what's going on, the dialogue is always clear and concise. Star Wars deserves nothing less, and it seems that as far as A/V is concerned, this film has the complete package: great cinematography, great video, and now great audio. Disney has hit another one out of the park!


Extras


Please note that none of these features are included on the 4K disc itself, but on the included Blu-ray discs.

-Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rian Johnson
-The Director and the Jedi
-Balance of the Force
-Scene Breakdowns
-Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)
-Deleted Scenes



Overall


In my humble opinion, Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi has many great conceptual ingredients, but Rian Johnson couldn't pull the recipe together. I commend him for attempting to steer the Star Wars universe in a different direction, though. To say such a decision was bold would be an understatement, especially considering how rabid the fan base can be. With better story structure, character development, and less of that ‘who cares about the established rules' attitude, The Last Jedi could have been one of the best films in the franchise. Instead, it merely limps along, to the point where I began to wonder if having Lucas off the helm was proving to be a detriment (which sounds crazy, I know). However, obvious flaws aside (of which there are many), The Last Jedi has plenty of fun moments, and that may be enough to keep you entertained. After all, the audience has proven they're split down the middle. And for those of you who genuinely enjoyed it, this is a top notch disc, which is no surprise as it comes from the house of mouse. But with my personal opinions on the film taken into consideration, I can only recommend you rent it.

-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!

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