‘STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI’ was certainly divisive among fans. Some loved it. Some definitely did not, and many were like myself. Who found it entertaining with some great elements, as well as some directions I would have preferred it didn’t go. The film recently stormed its way to store shelves, and like any other ‘Star Wars’ film it came loaded with a buffet of special-features.
The Director and the Jedi
The first bit of bonus-material is the easily the golden-nugget of the release. That being a one-hour and thirty-five-minute documentary called ‘The Director and the Jedi.’ It’s hard to know where to start with this full-length documentary. It covers in fantastic detail, the journey it took to bring this film to the big-screen. Director Rian Johnson and many of the cast and crew members all share their thoughts on the voyage of making this film.
The process of creating this movie is captured down to all the tedious logistics of scheduling the on-site shoots with the performers windows of availability. It explored the massive task of designing and building the over one-hundred practical sets used in the film. It captures the informal cast readings in very early production. It showcases many of the different animatronics and practical-effects that were used. The crew also talk about hardships of traveling to the more remote on-site shooting locations, and so much more, that the hour-and-half watching went faster than some entertaining movies.
The most notable thing about this feature to many will be the meticulous inside-look at the creation of the visuals for the film, and all the pressures of making a ‘Star Wars’ movie. But to me what stood out more than anything, was the commentary from director Rian Johnson. This was a divided film among fans and purists. Johnson wrote, and directed this movie. It was clearly his vision. Therefore, the pressure was immense. Johnson had a lot riding on the line, from pleasing the fan-base as a whole. Continuing to build onto the ‘Star Wars’ world with legitimacy. Creating a film that would appease George Lucas, as well the Disney executives, and so many other pressures he had to factor.
Which are what made his comments so interesting. Johnson speaks on truly wanting to make the best ‘Star Wars’ film he could. Throughout this documentary Johnson lays out his overall mindset, and his creative efforts to do just that. He mentions how he wanted to make the most powerful ‘Star Wars’ movie anyone had seen. He understood his vision would go in directions people may not have agreed with. One of those being Mark Hamill himself, who didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with Johnson’s ideas for the Skywalker character. Hamill speaks on this, as well as his overall trust in Johnson’s vision, despite their differences which was interesting.
There were so many influencing factors that could have swayed Johnson into safer directions, yet he had to trust his gut, and it was fascinating to see this side of things. Overall this was an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the making of a film in general. Even if you are not a fan of ‘Star Wars’ you can still find each minute of this documentary interesting. It’s loading with information. It’s well-edited, with insightful commentary, and full of entertaining final film, and B-roll footage, that will keep you fully engaged until it’s over.
Balance of the Force
This was an entertaining ten-minute segment (again narrated by Rian Johnson) that explores more of the mythical concepts of The Force and how Johnson wanted to depict more of that dimension of it in this script. He lays out his thought-process of how he wanted this to translate onscreen, and his hopes of it giving audiences a viewpoint of The Force they weren’t as familiar with. He goes in-depth about his intentions for bringing Yoda back into the film. The dynamic of using of Force Connections between Kylo Ren and Rey. As well as explaining more about Skywalker’s place in this film, the characters overall mindset, and the process of turning Skywalker into a beacon of hope. More than focusing on him as a Jedi leader.
Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)
This was a fantastic segment I recommend checking out immediately if you already own the Blu-ray. This short clip is a perfect showcase of motion-capture work in filmmaking. It showcases the raw performance of Andy Serkis as Snoke during his powerful scene with Rey and Kylo Ren. It was incredible to see the actual performance of Serkis, with his rigging all in place. You get to see how he captures so much emotion with his expressions, and commanding delivery. This feature not only lets you see his performance, but it overlays it with the final film version. Once all the VFX worked was added, and it was a simple feature, but one of the better ones in this release as it captures the capability of technology in the development of mo-cap effects.
3 Scene Breakdowns
These vignettes take a deeper look at all the work that went into creating three of more monumental moments in the film. The first was “Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle” then “Snoke and Mirrors” and finally “Showdown on Crait.” I enjoyed all of these because it is always fun to have memorable moments from movies dissected, to see how they came to be from the ground up. Each segment covers the creation of these sequences starting with the mindset of Johnson both visually and from a story impact perspective.
As well giving rich perspective throughout all the various stages of development from the story-boards and sketches, through all the levels of VFX work. It was awesome to see the on-site locations and all the work that went into blending practical and digital effects seamlessly. As well as the effort that went it to making each moment look as good as possible, while still staying true to the source-material.
The last of the bonus-material was a collection of fourteen deleted scenes. Something I really enjoyed was the option of commentary from Rian Johnson explaining the scenes individually and the process of why some were removed, and why others were not completed in the VFX department. This collection of scenes overall, was a mixed bag. I did enjoy the commentary from Johnson who repeatedly speaks on overall pacing for the reason behind a lot of the scenes not making the cut. Some of them are simple extensions of scenes already in the film. Others were shorter intros to some scenes that didn’t add any impact to the film.
There was a fun alternate opening that wasn’t bad, but still not as good as the one we see in the film. There were a couple of moments between Skywalker and Rey that I would have liked to have seen left in the film as I thought they did add some substance to their connection. There was also a longer cut of the Canto Bight chase sequence that was pre-res, but still fun to watch. Although, I can see why it was trimmed down, as it did go on for a few minutes and really didn’t do much for the story. There was also one scene that literally shocked me between Finn and a storm-trooper. One that would have probable caused a riot among Star Wars purists. Johnson explains it as being cut for pacing. But I have my suspicions on that, as I think when it was seen by higher-ups, he got a collective rejection.
Overall there is a ton of great material in this release and it’s certainly worth picking up to add to your home collection. ‘Star Wars’ films have built a legacy over the decades. There is feeling of mystique and prestige when speaking of this franchise. They have always (other than the prequels) put their best foot forward on all levels, and this Blu-ray release loaded with enriching bonus-material, was no different.
Click the link for my full review for this film.