Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and more set out to finally defeat Kylo Ren and the New Order in the culminating finale of the world’s most favorite film franchise with Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. This ninth film concludes the Skywalker story while still managing to keep a hint of hope open for more tales in space. J.J. Abrams is back in the director’s chair from The Force Awakens and delivers an energetic and emotional end with both new characters and old ones we haven’t seen in quite some time. It’s a fitting and graceful finish that feels satisfying as a whole for something that’s been obsessed over for around 42 years.
J.J. Abrams is one of the better storytellers of our cinematic generation with projects like Alias and LOST under his belt. Some years ago, he brought Star Trek back to the mainstream, which added new layers of affection and storytelling to a once-beloved franchise. It was only fitting for Hollywood to entrust him the Star Wars franchise shortly after, which is where The Force Awakens came in. After George Lucas‘ prequel trilogy served as the main source of hatred for the better part of two decades with fans, Disney and J.J. Abrams brought in our favorite characters back to the franchise to complete the Skywalker narrative. It was mostly surface material, but it was a great welcome back scenario to see the likes of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker again. There was nothing more really than the nostalgic factor that came with The Force Awakens. I enjoyed it for the thrills and reunions, but other than that, it wasn’t deep in its nature or emotion with the exception of a scene or two.
Then the brilliant filmmaker Rian Johnson (Knives Out, Brick, Looper) took the reigns with The Last Jedi, which was a different kind of Star Wars film, but still had the necessary action sequences, creatures, and furthered the story in a very meaningful Star Wars kind of way. Johnson increased the mythology and lore of the Jedi and using the force in a smart way as we’ve never seen before. It had emotion and trust in the story and its characters that seemed to be in line with the original trilogy. That’s not how The Rise of Skywalker conducts itself though.
J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson are very different filmmakers and The Rise of Skywalker seems to be more about the surface material and less about its feelings and confidence in this universe. Instead, J.J. Abrams services the fans for better or worse throughout its 2.5 hour run time. That’s not to say it’s bad, because it certainly isn’t. There’s a lot to love about this Skywalker completion. There are a few tearful scenes, some surprises, and some intense action sequences, along with some character resolutions that are fulfilling. It just seems like the first segment of the film doesn’t settle into its main goal until about mid-way through. After that though, it’s an exception Star Wars film that pulls at all the right strings and emotions. Questions will be answered, characters will be introduced to the Star Wars universe, and new ways of the force will be revealed. It’s all extremely exciting.
Regardless of some ridiculous fan service, poorly timed climactic delivery, and the absence of some major missed opportunities, The Rise of Skywalker is still a winning film on multiple levels. Performances are good with Adam Driver being the standout among everyone. Driver gave such a nuanced performance in his body language and vocal delivery where you never know when he was going to strike. And of course, John Williams‘ iconic score is front and center along with some new themes that are as memorable as ever. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a grande closing of one of the best stories to ever be told, plus it’s wonderful to spend one last time with our film friends.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker light speeds its way to 2160p UHD with HDR in and impressive way. It’s a good uptick from the 1080p version on Blu-ray, although that version is top-notch as well. It’s more of the nuanced colors and details that enhance this 4K presentation nicely.
The first big improvement are the black levels, starting with the opening crawl in space. On this 4K Disc, the blackness of space is deeper with the perfect white stars the illuminate the vast emptiness. The yellow letters pop on screen in a more restrained way, while managing to still burn with that bright golden color. This is also evident in darker sequences at Palpatine’s underground lair as well as Kylo Ren’s black costume that never showcases crush or bleeding into shadows. The color spectrum is wonderful and wild, as the character’s journey to different planets that reveal some fantastic color schemes from red and orange desert-like terra to deep ocean blue and green worlds where there is not an ounce of sunshine. In between those, the lightsabers and gun blasts really light up the screen nicely with a perfect glow. Even C3PO’s golden body looks excellent in all lighting conditions. All skin tones are natural too.
The detail is extremely sharp and vivid, even in the heavier CGI sequences. Closeups reveal individual hairs, facial pores, wrinkles, and makeup effects nicely on each actor’s face, along with some fine stitching and textures in the wardrobe. The lightsabers themselves showcase their intricate details in the light source and each ship has the necessary detailed components shown from every angle perfectly. Nothing looks flat in this image. Lastly, there are no major compression issues to speak of, leaving this wonderful 4K presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with an excellent Dolby Atmos track that just knocks it out of the park. That said like most Disney releases, the volume needs to be adjusted higher to get the appropriate sound. Not sure why this is still an issue, but on most Disney discs, the volume needs to be louder to reach the correct level. Once there, this Star Wars audio mix is outstanding.
Again, the opening crawl starts out with a big boom of sound as the entire orchestra hits their first notes on the main theme, which then journeys right into some heavy sound effects, all of which are remarkable. The first big sound of bass comes when Palpatine lifts the entire fleet of ships on his planet. It’s exhilarating, to say the least, and never crosses into a rocky territory of a low end. In fact, it’s rather smooth and intense at the same time.
From there, other explosions, gun blasts, and other big sound effects are flawless and robust, oozing out of each speaker with wonderful directionality and balance. When ships enter into different atmosphere or warp into light speed, the bass and effect jump into high gear with a flash of sound that is dazzling. Overhead speakers sound off when lasers or ships are overhead that immerses the soundscape into the viewing room. Dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any audio problems. This is an energetic audio track in Dolby Atmos that shouldn’t be missed.
There is about 168 minutes worth of bonus material here, including a fantastic look at the making of the Star Wars franchise and more. There is a digital exclusive extra not included on any of the Discs, which is called the Maestro’s finale that features composer John Williams. All these extras are worth your time.
The Skywalker Legacy (HD, 127 Mins.) – A feature-length documentary that covers everything on The Rise of Skywalker, as well as the entire franchise, is located here. This is a next-level type of extra that has tons of cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes info, on set footage and more. There are 16 different chapters that explore the making of Star Wars and it’s amazing. Definitely worth the price alone for this.
Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase (HD, 15 Mins.) – This is a bigger look into how the big chase sequence was filmed and all that went into it.
Aliens in the Desert (HD, 6 Mins.) – This particular sequence was shot on location in Jordan, which documents the production, cast and crew, and behind the scenes of this specific scene.
D-O: Key to the Past (HD, 6 Mins.) – Focuses on some of the technology and new ships in this final film.
Warwick and Son (HD, 6 Mins.) – Warwick Davis who played Wicket the Ewok returns to play that character along with his son in the new film. This is a sweet and endearing little bonus feature.
Cast of Creatures (HD, 8 Mins.) – This is in an all too short glimpse at a lot of the different aliens and creatures that debut in the Star Wars universe. The makeup and costume people are all featured here as well.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a long time in the making. There’s a lot to like with this final film in the Skywalker storyline as characters come to their conclusion and others are just beginning. This Episode IX of Star Wars checks a lot of the boxes off for fans while keeping a nostalgic and fresh look on the series. The 4K UHD with HDR video presentation is wonderful as is the Dolby Atmos track. The bonus features are worthwhile and fantastic too. MUST-OWN!