Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker closes out the Skywalker saga that has been 40 years in the making. J.J. Abrams is once again at the helm for this final chapter and he also co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio.
Picking up from the last film, the surviving members of the Resistance have to face the First Order with barely any hope of victory in sight. Their alliance has been all but wiped out and the First Order is on its way to total victory led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who seems ready to side with a newly reemergent Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to consolidate the power of the Sith and crush the Jedi once and for all in what is the inevitable battle between the opposite sides of the force that this has all been leading towards.
But the Resistance is not without hope… Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) refuse to admit defeat and they pursue a path to defeating the First Order, led by their general, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), even as Rey finds herself confronted with a painful revelation about her past.
J.J. Abrams had the weight of the world on his shoulders completing this trilogy, which was not just an end to episodes VII-IX, but the entire saga of the Skywalkers (supposedly) that began with Star Wars: A New Hope back in 1977. As such, there was a lot riding on this film and he managed to pull it off reasonably well. Star Wars: The Force Awakens still registers as the strongest film in the trilogy according to this reviewer despite it being basically an uncredited reboot of A New Hope, but Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker comes in second with a good mix of allusions to the classic films, an ease to the performances from the actors who have now thoroughly settled in and, of course, stunning visual effects.
Fans of Star Wars who grew up in the era of these films won’t have to feel cheated on missing out on anything as they have plenty of classic moments, action, and memorable characters, and the old school cast members do not overwhelm the newcomers at all, but rather act as a necessary underpinning.
In the end, this is a film with some weaknesses, but the strengths manage to overcome them and create an enthralling adventure spectacle that sets the franchise up for a strong future.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was shot on a combination of Arriflex 435 ES cameras with Panavision Primo, Retro C-, E- and T-Series and Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras with Panavision Primo, Retro C-, E-, T-Series, ATZ and AWZ2 lenses on 35mm Kodak Vision3 50D 5203 and Vision3 500T 5219 film; and the Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio camera with Panavision System 65 lenses on 65mm (horizontal) Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, and Vision3 500T 5219 film stock and was mastered with a 4K DI with Dolby Vision HDR. The film arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K) encodement with HDR10.
I’m not sure why Disney and other studios continue to film and master productions with Dolby Vision and release on 4K disc with HDR10 and digitally with Dolby Vision, but here it is. Anyway, this film looks quite gorgeous on disc and the 1000 nit max HDR10 transfer adds a lot of ‘pop’ to the image. Lightsabers and blaster beams have a lot more glow on the 4K disc versus the Blu-ray, which itself still looks quite strong. There’s a lot of crisp, filmic grain and the blending of formats and film stocks is seamless.
The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes with an English Dolby Atmos audio mix (the included Blu-ray feature disc as a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix). Disney releases have not been so great in the audio department for the past couple of years and Skywalker falls into that same middling territory. For me I’m hearing that same sort of tight, restrained dynamic range — almost as if there’s a great mix being held back from busting out to its full potential. I had to boost the volume a full 6db over my normal listening levels to just to get this one at a decent level. After that what I heard was something a bit overemphasized in the low-end even as some major explosions in the film seemed to land with zero impact. Dialogue was clear and perhaps the strength of the mix. Kylo Ren’s voice from behind the mask was very deep, stentorian, bone-chilling, and when there were some more clear moments in the mix there were some good uses of panning through the surrounds, but the Atmos/height channels are underused, particularly in the battle sequences.
In addition to a Movies Anywhere digital code and the film on Blu-ray in HD, this 4K Ultra HD Combo also comes with a Blu-ray Disc filled with bonus materials, including the feature-length documentary The Skywalker Legacy.
- The Skywalker Legacy (1080p; 02:06:11) – Feature-length documentary
- Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase (1080p; 00:14:16)
- Aliens in the Desert (1080p; 00:05:59)
- D-O: Key to the Past (1080p; 00:05:33)
- Warwick & Son (1080p; 00:05:37)
- Cast of Creatures (1080p; 00:07:46)
The Final Assessment
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is good popcorn entertainment in the best tradition of the franchise. J.J. Abrams gave the saga the nonturbulent and eyepopping landing it needed to justify the decision to increase the number of films and keep heading into the future. This 4K Ultra HD Combo release also provides a stunning visual experience and a strong selection of bonus features.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo March 31, 2020 from Disney
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- The Creative Content: 3.5/5
- The Video (Overall): 4.5/5
- HDR Effect: 4.0/5
- The Audio: 3.5/5
- The Supplements: 3.5/5
- Rating Certificate: PG-13 (for sci-fi violence and action)
- Studios & Distributors: Walt Disney Pictures | Lucasfilm | Bad Robot
- Director: J.J. Abrams
- Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay by) | J.J. Abrams (screenplay by)
- Run Time: 142 Mins.
- Street Date: 31 March 2020
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
- Video Format: HEVC (H.265) 2160p (4K) | AVC 1080p (Blu-ray)
- Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Compatible w/ Dolby TrueHD 7.1)
- Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1 (Blu-ray Only) | English Descriptive Audio 2.0 | French DD+ 7.1 | Spanish DD+ 7.1
- Subtitles: English SDH | Spanish | French