New Blu-ray Releases

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to new Blu-ray releases and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

Hello, physical media fans. This week sees a big Blu-ray release: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Below, I delve into nearly every special feature contained on the Blu, from making-of featurettes to deleted scenes. In addition to the Last Jedi Blu-ray review, you’ll get a look at new Blu-ray releases for Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleBehind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and this year’s Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water

Here are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week, and beyond.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

Time will be extremely kind to Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. After J.J. Abrams revived the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens, there were several possible directions the franchise could go. Johnson, inexplicably, decided to go in a completely opposite direction than many people expected. Understandably, this caught fans completely off-guard – for better or worse. But the sheer unexpectedness of The Last Jedi is part of its strength. Rather than take the easy way out, and tell a story easily predicted by fan theories, Johnson opted to tell a complex story about failure, disappointment, and hope.

Mark Hamill‘s Luke Skywalker has become a bitter husk of a man – he shuns the galaxy, and wants no part of the Resistance. This comes as of much of a shock to Daisy Ridley‘s Rey as it does to the audience. Rey (and the fans) have a pre-conceived notion of Luke as a hero. “What did you think?” Luke asks. “You think I’m gonna walk out with a laser sword and take down the whole First Order?” There’s a cheekiness to this line – because by the film’s end, that’s exactly what Luke does.

Sort of.

Enough has been written about The Last Jedi at this point. I myself devoted thousands of words to an in-depth spoiler review, where I said, “Rian Johnson takes the saga to exciting, unexpected new places, and shows audiences that filmmaking within a big studio franchise need not be constricted, or travel down mundane paths.” So let me just mention a few choice elements that will continue to stay with me; that will continue to make me cherish this film.

  • Rey, someone who has spent her entire life on a dry, desert planet, taking a moment to catch the rain falling of the Millennium Falcon, a smile on her face.
  • Laura Dern‘s Holdo and her parting words to Leia: “May the Force be with you, always.”
  • Kelly Marie Tran‘s Rose, and the earnest, bitter way she delivers the line, “I wish I could put my fist through this whole lousy beautiful town.”
  • Comic relief Hux!
  • That red throne room fight – the best fight scene in the history of the franchise, like a fever dream hybrid of Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and David Cronenberg.
  • Snoke’s suddenly, shocking, highly satisfying death.
  • Yoda giggling like a complete asshole after he sets the sacred library tree on fire.
  • Porgs. Glorious Porgs.

The Last Jedi: Peace and Purpose

The Last Jedi: The New Walker

The Last Jedi: World of White and Red

Special Features To Note:

The Last Jedi Blu-ray is packed with features, and almost all of them are a delight. The cream of the crop is the feature-length documentary The Director and the Jedi. In this very in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the film, we’re treated to a look at nearly every facet of the production. There’s footage of Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill rehearsing. There are several sections devoted to how much practical effects work was created for the film. There’s a tearful goodbye to Carrie Fisher. Most of all, though, there’s Rian Johnson, front-and-center. Johnson has received a lot of harsh online criticism from “fans”, but watching just a few minutes of The Director and the Jedi confirms how silly that is. It’s clear that Johnson loves this franchise, and was very committed to creating the best film he possibly could.

There are moments here where Johnson walks us through the more “controversial” elements of the film. He explains that it makes sense that Luke would throw away the lightsaber at the beginning of the film, because the whole reason he went to the island is to run away; he’s not going to instantly fire it up and say “Let’s go!” Johnson also talks about how disappointment is part of the story itself – how in our lives, we often expect certain people to live up to our expectations, and sometimes they don’t live up to them. He also mentions how Rose was written as a character who seems like she shouldn’t belong in a Star Wars film. So if you thought she seemed out of place – that was the point, folks. And that’s what’s so interesting about the character. There’s a lot to love in this doc, but my personal favorite moment was a quick shot of a real dog running around wearing a crystal fox costume. Johnson and company briefly considered using real pups in costume to play those creatures before settling on CGI.

Beyond The Director and the Jedi, there’s a featurette called “Balance of the Force”, which features Johnson explaining his reasoning behind The Last Jedi‘s story. “The Force is not a superpower,” Johnson says. He wanted the film to be a bit of a re-set lesson, especially for kids coming to these movies for the first time. The filmmaker goes on to talks about Luke in exile, saying the most selfless act for Luke can do is ignore the calls of help from his friends and lock himself off.

Johnson also says he feels that if Rey was told she was related to someone famous, it would be the “easiest thing” – it would instantly define her place in the universe. The more interesting answer is to learn she’s no one, and for her to have to find out who she is for herself. Johnson also explains the film’s iconic final shot of the stable boy on Canto Bight. As the director tells it, the ending scene proves that Luke hasn’t just saved a few dozen people in the resistance – he’s relit the spark of hope in the galaxy, and the story is spreading.

There are also several scene breakdowns that walk you through scenes from conception (i.e. concept art) to realization. A particularly fun feature is “Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)”, which provides a look at Andy Serkis’ motion-capture work for Snoke before the digital effects are in place. I’d honestly like to watch an entire cut of the movie like this, because even in a mo-cap suit, Serkis’ performance is riveting.

last jedi concept

Then, of course, there are the deleted scenes. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film to date, but it was almost longer before Johnson trimmed some scenes. Thankfully, if you were curious about what was cut, it’s here! Here’s a quick and dirty breakdown of the Last Jedi deleted scenes.

  • An Alternate opening: instead of opening with the big space battle, we open with John Boyega’s Finn waking up from his coma. 
  • A quick scene with Rose’s sister Paige, where her guns jam during the opening battle.
  • Luke and Rey argue about Luke returning to help the Resistance. Luke says no, goes back into his hut, and mourns the loss of Han. There’s then a wonderful match-cut of Luke looking down in sorrow to Leia looking down in sorrow millions of miles across the galaxy.
  • A scene between Finn and Poe, with Poe updating Finn on what happened while he was unconscious. He gives Finn his old jacket, and reveals he sewed it for him (because they’re space boyfriends, and everyone knows it).
  • BB-8 shows Finn a recording from The Force Awakens of Rey saying “We’ll see each other again” to an unconscious Finn. Finn says to BB, “Okay that was kind of weird that you recorded that, but thank you.”
  • An additional scene where the Ahch-To caretakers (AKA the Fish Nuns) give Rey the stink-eye.
  • Luke’s “third lesson” sequence. Luke tells Rey that a raiding party is attacking the caretakers, and says a “true Jedi” would do nothing, adding: “Only act when you can maintain balance.” Rey ignores this, and runs off to help anyway. This results in the bad ass shot from the trailer of her running with her lightsaber fired up. Rey eventually breaks through a door only to discover the caretakers are actually having a big party. Luke catches up with her, and, laughing, tells her this was the lesson – that the resistance needs her, not him, some old husk. Rey is upset, saying she was wrong for believing in Luke.
  • Additional scenes of Finn and Rose’s big Fathier-riding escape from Canto Bight, including a scene featuring a weird, nude alien played by Warwick Davis.
  • An additional scene with Finn, DJ and Rose in uniform trying to infiltrate the First Order. Finn adjusts their uniforms so they look just right. They get paranoid that someone is noticing them and board an elevator, which backfires when a bunch of stormtroopers get on the elevator as well. One of the stormtroopers (played Tom Hardy!) recognizes Finn. Things get tense for a moment, until it’s revealed that the stormtrooper simply thinks Finn got a promotion. Apparently, rather than admit one of their own defected to the Resistance, the First Order made up an elaborate story about Finn being promoted to a higher rank.
  • After DJ’s big betrayal scene,  Rose drops her necklace. Hux picks it up and taunts Rose, saying: “You vermin may draw a little blood with a bite now and then, but we will always win.” In retaliation, Rose bites his hand.
  • An alternate (and better) death scene for Captain Phasma (watch it here!)
  • A quick scene with Finn and Rose aboard a ship.
  • An even quicker, jokier scene where Rey, flying the Falcon, sees the First Order firing upon the armored base door on Crait. “Let’s go around back,” she tells Chewie.
  • A lengthy compendium of shots showing off more aliens and sets from Canto Bight.

Special Features Include:

  • The Director and the Jedi – Go deep behind the scenes with writer-director Rian Johnson on an intimate and personal journey through the production of the movie—and experience what it’s like to helm a global franchise and cultural phenomenon.
  • Balance of the Force – Explore the mythology of the Force and why Rian Johnson chose to interpret its role in such a unique way.
  • Scene Breakdowns
    • Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle – Get a close-up look at the epic space battle, from the sounds that help propel the action, through the practical and visual effects, to the characters who bring it all to life.
    • Snoke and Mirrors – Motion capture and Star Wars collide as the filmmakers take us through the detailed process of creating the movie’s malevolent master villain.
    • Showdown on Crait – Break down everything that went into creating the stunning world seen in the movie’s final confrontation, including the interplay between real-word locations and visual effects, reimagining the walkers, designing the crystal foxes, and much more.
  • Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only) – Writer-director Rian Johnson presents two exclusive sequences from the movie featuring Andy Serkis’ riveting, raw on-set performance before his digital makeover into Snoke.
  • Deleted Scenes – With an introduction and optional commentary by writer-director Rian Johnson.
  • Audio Commentary – View the movie with in-depth feature audio commentary by writer-director Rian Johnson.

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