STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Blu-ray review – the bonus disc alone makes it a must-own

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Blu-ray review – the bonus disc alone makes it a must-own

As many are confined to their homes this week, they’ll undoubtedly be looking for a movie to watch to kill time a bit, and what better than the final installment of The Skywalker Saga. STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER aka EPISODE IX hits home video this week on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray (you can purchase the Blu-ray here), and we got a chance to give it an advance look. If you’d like to read my full review of the movie itself, you can do that by clicking here. As for the Blu-ray, you can expect a beautiful transfer with exceptional sound. The colors are crisp and bold and really pop off the screen. The magnificent Skywalker Sound mix plays quite well on my home system, filling the room with cinematic magic. I was a little surprised that the disc featuring the actual film is literally just that and nothing more. No trailers, and very sadly no commentary track. I’m pretty big on audio commentaries, and was really hoping to hear JJ Abrams talk about crafting this final film in the Skywalker Saga, but alas, that’s nowhere to be found. Thankfully, the second disc makes up for any shortcomings the first disc may have.

The special features disc here is the true selling point for this home release, as most people have likely already seen the movie in theaters. The bonus disc is pretty loaded too, highlighted by the feature-length (over two hours!) documentary “The Skywalker Legacy”, a making-of the goes deep behind the scenes for the latest installment. Not only does this provide an in-depth look at the making of the final installment, but also mixes in classic archival footage from the original trilogy, and features interviews with the people who made all of this happen. The doc takes time to focus on individual performers, like a sequence devoted to Anthony Daniels and his journey playing C-3PO, or how the filmmakers were challenged with including Carrie Fisher in the new film by using archived footage from THE FORCE AWAKENS. Carrie’s daughter Billie is also interviewed and shares her thoughts on the emotional resonance of playing scenes with her mother without actually having her on set. One of my favorite moments was seeing Mark Hamill visiting the creature shop, and talking about how on the original movies, when all the other actors were relaxing in their trailers, he was visiting the creature shop even then to see what they were working on. Regardless of your feeling on the newer Disney STAR WARS films, this doc should give you a strong appreciation of the work that went into this installment, and really helps pull the curtain back on the filmmaking process as well. It’s an intimate and honest look at how movies like this get made, and the importance of all the players involved.

Other bonus content includes featurettes like “Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase”, “Aliens in the Desert”, “D-O: Key to the Past”, “Warwick and Son”, and “Cast of Creatures” …oddly no trailers or marketing info, but these days all that stuff is pretty easy to find online. Here’s a breakdown of these featurettes and what they’ll show you:

Click to see full-size.

“Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase” – this is a great breakdown of how they filmed one of the film’s key action sequences, and shows the fascinating way they implemented green screen work while still shooting outside in the desert. This really does a great job of showing how the stunt coordinators, production designers and CGI aritsts all work together to create a scene that looks pretty flawless in the finished film. It also shows the immense amount of work that goes into a single sequence for a STAR WARS film, and shines a nice light on second unit director Victoria Mahoney and stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart. Sometimes you don’t think about what goes into a stormtrooper getting shot off a speeder bike, or flailing from an explosion, but here you’ll see exactly how all of that is staged.

“Aliens in the Desert” – this opens by showing the parallels from the original movie, to REVENGE OF THE SITH, to the final shot of THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, and how the importance of desert sequences plays into the STAR WARS legacy. We then see how they staged the scenes in Jordan, even building an outdoor soundstage and bringing in a huge crew to shoot massive scenes, plus casting locally in Jordan. Again, this illustrates the magnitude of what goes into the filming of a single sequence in a STAR WARS film, and it’s incredibly impressive. I cannot imagine the logistics of shooting a major Hollywood production in the middle of open foreign land, but this gives you an idea of just how much work that becomes.

“D-O: Key to the Past” – while the crux of this featurette is about introducing the newest droid D-O, the overall featurette deals with the sequence on the ship where Rey’s parents met their demise, the same ship Rey remembered in The Force Awakens leaving her as a child. We get to see the ideas the art team came up with for the design of the ship’s interior, even the sound design for it, and then eventually move into how D-O was developed both visually and sound-wise. It’s an interesting look into the mindset of developing a new droid character for an already established universe. There’s also some fun b-roll footage that provides some additional laughs. You really get a sense of how much fun they were having on set.

“Warwick and Son” – perhaps my favorite of the standalone featurettes, as it does a great job of honoring the wonderful Warwick Davis, and talks about the magic of filming a new scene with him as Wicket the ewok, and his son starring in the scene with him. But the true treat here is the inclusion of never-before-seen footage of Warwick as a young boy when he was originally cast in RETURN OF THE JEDI, and even hamming it up with the original trilogy cast (all in character) on set. The best aspect of this bonus disc is the addition of archived Lucasfilm footage from the original trilogy, peppered throughout but the documentary and the featurettes, and it’s used quite well here.

“Cast of Creatures” – one of the best aspects of the STAR WARS films is the creatures, especially ones involving puppeteers, which have sadly become a bit of a lost art in modern Hollywood productions. Here you see all of the exotic creature designs done from the film, even some that may not be readily seen in the finished film. And some of these designs are quite incredible. I really respect the fact that JJ Abrams values the practical effects rather than just relying on CGI characters, and this featurette does a great job of paying respect to the people who bring these characters to life. I particularly enjoyed the explanation of making THE FORCE AWAKENS character Maz Kanata practical this time around, as she’s always been CGI before.

English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Widescreen 2.39:1 Color

You can purchase the Blu-ray here

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.