This week my family was excited to receive a preview copy of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in both Blu-ray and digital formats. We wasted no time loading it into our iTunes account so we could watch it on Apple TV.
For the first time in many years, our family was not disappointed in the extra features that should be a privilege of owning our very own copy of one of the family’s favorite fandoms. The Last Jedi is available now in digital format and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, March 27th.
You’ve heard me fuss before. I was incredibly disappointed in the extra features that accompanied Rogue One almost exactly one year ago. The extra features in The Force Awakens were also rather “Meh…”. I think the franchise finally got the memo, and earlier this week my family had a fun evening watching the 2+ hours worth of extras that accompanied The Last Jedi.
Yes, you heard right.
I don’t feel like that’s much. But, honestly, “not much” in terms of bonus content is par for the course for the Disney franchise films. Two hours is on the high side for Pirates of the Caribbean, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar, and Disney Animation Studios films. Heck, even DisneyNature!
That being said, the set of extras chosen for this Blu-ray and digital release knocks it out of the park! Good job Lucasfilm! Or is it “Good job Rian Johnson?” Perhaps it’s his fresh, reimagined feel of the franchise that led to deeper contributions to the featurettes.
As always here at GeekMom and GeekDad, if the movie was reviewed already at its original release, I’m going to point you to our original review. Without further ado, I will share my three favorite extra features on The Last Jedi’s Blu-ray and digital releases (warning: mild spoilers about the original film, but nothing earth-shattering), which has 14 great reasons to own your very own copy:
1. The Director and The Jedi
Hands down, this is wonderful. Beautifully filmed, beautifully edited, and beautifully scored.
The Director and The Jedi is a 95-minute glimpse into the making of The Last Jedi. This is by far the most comprehensive making-of compilation of a Star Wars film I have ever seen. The viewers are taken from the days right after Rian Johnson is named as the director (and screenwriter) of the 8th Star Wars film, to casting of the newest characters, to filming locations, to preliminary set designs, to the crew’s interactions with Mark Hamill, Frank Oz, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, John Boyega, and, in an emotional “farewell” way, Carrie Fisher. Our family enjoyed the scenes from Ireland, Pinewood Studios, and the CGI studios such as Industrial Light & Magic.
Here are some of the highlights I truly enjoyed seeing explored more deeply:
Mark Hamill didn’t agree with Ryan Johnson’s portrayal of Luke.
This made the news quite a bit when the film was originally released, such as with this interview here. But this topic gets explored again in the documentary, with emphasis from several sources at how, despite disagreeing, Mr. Hamill did a fine job saluting smartly and carrying out his character in line with Mr. Johnson’s vision.
This island is the UNESCO Heritage Site that was designated Ahch-To, Luke’s fortress of solitude, so to speak. Oh my goodness! My mind is blown by the pre-planning of crews, catwalks, helicopters, power, and the actors to take advantage of every available minute in the two days the crew was allowed on the island. They show how often the weather was completely wrecking their plans; backup plans were in place at neighboring islands, such as the nearby Dingle Peninsula. Of course, there was always CGI to back everything up, but for many scenes, Johnson wanted the real deal on film.
The gorgeous casino settings.
During the film, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 journey to the city of Canto Bight on the planet Cantonica in search of the master codebreaker recommended by Maz to help them with an important mission. The time and attention given to crafting the casino are remarkable. They wanted to convey the obnoxious profiteer wealth and European-like charm. The crew chose the beautiful coastal city of Dubrovnik, Croatia for on-site filming, and with CGI assistance, blended together the other-worldly-elements that are a keystone in the Star Wars universe. Scenes in the documentary about this included the casting of the extras, the design of the sets, and the gorgeous costume design (the casino guests were all in black and white, which made Finn, Rose, and BB-8, filthy from coming in from the war, stand out).
Casting Rose and “DJ.”
In The Last Jedi, we meet some new characters. In The Director and The Jedi, we get to see Kelly Marie Tran’s screen test for her role as Rose Tico: Kelly is holding her crescent-shaped pendant crying, which is essentially the first glimpse we get of the character in the film. Benicio Del Toro’s character is never outright called by name in the film — Rose and Finn just refer to him as “the codebreaker” time and time again — is simply referred to as “DJ” in media circles. The documentary features clips of Del Toro practicing “DJ”‘s stutter. There is also a scene of Del Toro’s “wrap” with the thank yous and applause upon completion of his last scene.
Adam Driver is “so intense”.
There are numerous scenes of crew members speaking, in a confession-style, to the camera about what it had been like working with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Issac. By comparison, there is very little said in the documentary about Adam Driver. The most interesting thing said is that he’s “so intense.” Those of you who read interviews during filming and the premiere will know of the accounts of Driver being a quiet individual and a very serious actor, trying to remain immersed in character during filming, similar to Daniel Day Lewis’s method acting techniques.
Special effects artist Neal Scanlan got to work with Frank Oz!
For the scenes with Yoda, the crew initially thought that they’d have to find a new voice artist for the brief speaking roles. However, Yoda’s original voice actor, Frank Oz, reached out to the crew and asked to continue his involvement. There’s an interview scene with Neal Scanlan about it and he couldn’t hide his excitement!
Burning of the great Jedi wisdom tree — on a soundstage.
There are numerous parts of The Director and The Jedi about the large-scale scenery jobs for The Last Jedi, such as the salt flats on Crait and Snoke’s throne room. As you might guess, much of the expansiveness it appears to have is due to the amazing CGI contributions of companies such as Industrial Light & Magic. The large setting that shocked me the most was the tree that contained the Jedi texts, that was built and then set fire in the Pinewood Studios. Really. They burned it. There were real flames. It wasn’t all CGI!
These beautiful four-legged horse-like creatures will appear several times throughout the documentary. First viewers will see scenes of the creature shop director Neal Scanlan working on the animals’ facial expressions (they all look SO SAD!), then there is coverage of the chase scenes through the streets of Canto Bight. The themes that the fathiers represent really struck a chord with me. We are introduced to them in the movie as animals that are trained to win races, being whipped into submission and penned up between their competitions. The children who are enslaved to care for the creatures are also a symbol of this Haves-vs._Have-Nots dichotomy that the city of Canto Bight is supposed to represent. I appreciated how much time in the documentary was dedicated to this storyline.
As we all know, you don’t see her at all in The Force Awakens, but those who have seen The Last Jedi did catch a glimpse of her face at the very end of her scenes. It was made clear in interviews during the filming that Captain Phasma would reveal a human side. In the documentary, fans will enjoy some fight scenes being filmed where Christie shows up without her Phasma headdress.
Everyone is so tired.
I got a kick out of a sequence of making-of scenes of the cast and crew yawning and napping. There are confessional interviews where Rian Johnson, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, and others are commenting about the long hours and how “the job must get done.”
How they filmed that creature that Luke milked.
If you were like me when you saw the film in the theater, you were probably cringing and saying “EWWWWWW” when Luke had to milk that creature while was performing his daily chores on the island of Ahch-To (with Rey following him around). The creature is called a thala-siren, and the one that Luke is interacting with is an 18-foot-tall Creature Shop creation that was built at the Pinewood Studios out of foam latex and then helicoptered to the filming location. There were two puppeteers controlling her head, and then inside the creature were two more puppeteers to control her udder.
Carrie Fisher’s Tribute
I saved this for last, in part because there were numerous touching tributes to her acting, her legacy, and her sense of humor throughout the documentary. I was incredibly emotional about Carrie Fisher’s passing at the end of 2016, perhaps amplified by my having been in the middle of reading all of her autobiographies. In fact, that’s freaked me out considerably: after nearly a decade of telling myself, I need to read her books, when I finally started to, she died. I digress.
There are many scenes in the documentary that show Ms. Fisher being pensive between takes (similarly, there are numerous “pensive” Leia scenes in The Last Jedi). She clearly was regarded as the matriarch of the set when she was present, and there are some beautiful looks at her with Daisy Ridley. She had her sweet companion, Gary, on set with her and you see him hanging out between takes. In one of the first interviews in the documentary, regarding Ms. Fisher’s thoughts about the selection of Rian Johnson as the writer and director, her first words were “Rian Johnson is an a$$hole!” But as she expanded upon that, she made clear that he did a great job keeping his vision consistent throughout.
2. Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)
The second featured extra that you absolutely HAVE to see on The Last Jedi’s digital and Blu-ray release is called Andy Serkis Live!, which gives fans a unique glimpse into how Andy Serkis as Snoke was filmed. After a brief introduction by director Rian Johnson, viewers are treated to about 5 minutes of the conversation between Snoke and Rey in the throne room. Except it’s not really Snoke, it’s Serkis himself in his motion capture (or “MoCap” as Rian Johnson described it) suit.
It’s intense. Serkis is amazing.
3. The Score-Only Version
For the first time, there’s this full-length version of the movie on the digital and Blu-ray releases that is presented as a “Score-Only Version.”
Um, I can’t offer any other explanation that would be more clear. It’s a version without dialogue.
We watched a few minutes of it this weekend and it was pretty strange, my sons basically were telling me to make it stop.
However, I am sure there are Star Wars fans who would find this absolutely beautiful, so I’m including it here as something everyone should at least try out. Who knows? You might really enjoy it.
For me, however, it’s a more-acquired taste.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now via digital download, and the Blu-ray and DVD copies will hit stores and online retailers on Tuesday, March 27th.
GeekMom received review samples of Star Wars: The Last Jedi on both Blu-ray and digital download for review purposes.