The surviving members of the resistance face the First Order once again, and the legendary conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its peak bringing the Skywalker saga to its end. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker from Disney Home Entertainment.


The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:
Extras:
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

95

Details:

Studio and Year: Disney - 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 142 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Domnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Anthony Daniels, Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell, Lupita Nyong’O, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
Music by: John Williams
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: March 31, 2020
"The Saga Concludes"
Synopsis:

“The surviving members of the resistance face the First Order once again, and the legendary conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its peak bringing the Skywalker saga to its end.” – Disney Home Entertainment.

My Take:

In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the battle between the Jedi and the Sith comes to a thrilling conclusion in this final chapter of the Skywalker Saga. A year following the events of The Last Jedi, the remaining members of the Resistance are forced to confront their past while taking on the First Order one more time.

I thought that I would begin with some of my comments from my review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

I, like many of you reading this am a Star Wars fan, with a particular love of Episodes IV, V, VI. When it was first announced that a new Star Wars film (The Force Awakens) was in the works I had mixed feelings, until I saw the first trailer. Those mixed feelings were replaced with eager anticipation. On December 29th 2015 I took Star Wars: The Force Awakens in at my local Cineplex. Prior to seeing it I heard minor complaints/rumblings that the film felt like a rehashing of Episode IV. My feeling is that with the direction taken with The Force Awakens, it was essential to establish a definitive correlation between the iconography and thematic foundation of Star Wars (particularly episode IV) and the development of the progression of this next generation.

As I sat and watched The Last Jedi with my wife and son, who, is a SW fan, I found myself somewhat perplexed at what appeared to be the film’s primary plot point. It revolved around a group of the Resistance being pursued by a fleet of heavily armed ships from the First Order, and the deployment of two Resistance members, whose objective is to obtain a code breaker, and return with him to assist with disabling the First Order Fleet’s primary weapon, which is aboard their main ship.

In the meantime, the Resistance vessels, which are dangerously low on fuel, have to maintain just enough distance to reduce the effectiveness of the First Order’s cannon volleys on their defense shields. The remaining subplots involve Rey and Luke Skywalker, coming to terms with the status of the Jedi, Rey and Kylo, their place in the ongoing conflict, and what their futures look like, and lastly, the aforementioned exploits of Resistance members, Finn, and newcomer Rose, as they struggle to stave off the impending destruction of the Resistance Fleet, by locating and code breaker.

I really wanted to sit back and settle in for an enjoyable fantasy adventure. I can be forgiving of small narrative shortcomings, but, when it comes to Star Wars, there needs to be enough meat on the bone to bind the elements to the iconic status of the franchise. We get some of that here, but, not enough. The primary plot and its execution is not only thin, but, a little silly. I thought that the mystery surrounding Supreme Leader Snoke in TFA, was effectual but, that isn’t fleshed out at all. Given his status and abilities, there needed to be more development behind not only him, but, the First Order. Nope. After how TFA ended, I looked forward to the establishment of the relationship between Luke and Rey. That didn’t happen, and, to say that Luke Skywalker was drawn as a shell of his former self would an understatement. His reasons for this are stated clearly enough, but, doesn’t hold water.

I continue to like Poe, Finn, BB-8, and Rey. I really liked newcomer Vice Admiral Holdo (played very well by Laura Dern), and Rose, but, wasn’t crazy about the proposed relationship between she and Finn. We’ll have to see about that, I suppose. I don’t know, I didn’t dislike The Last Jedi but, there were things ABOUT it, that didn’t sit right, making it feel less traditional than any of the Star Wars films in the franchise. I was very curious to see how I would feel after a second viewing. My feelings haven’t changed. Overall, I enjoyed the moments that felt Star Wars like, and it is my hope that things get back on track.

So, enter Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As with the other two films in this series I took it in at the theater with my wife and son. Co-writer/director J.J. Abrams is at the helm which gave me some confidence that perhaps things would get back on track. And, for better or worse, they did. By that I mean it returned to more of a Star Wars like feel, bringing the iconic Skywalker storyline to conclusion in predominantly good fashion. It’s by no means a complete or wholly befitting sendoff but, accomplishing that to that level would require lots more time in order to bring all of the narrative threads together.

I think in general to does what it sets out to do and that’s to allow us to tick certain boxes via a narrative that brims with familiar elements set to a formulaic context that is what we have all seen from Star Wars. The question is, does it get old? I don’t know, for me, it doesn’t, not really. The tension surrounding Kylo and Rey is what sparks the film’s essence. The rest of it revolves around that like planets orbiting the sun. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver OWN these characters and their handling of them is what makes the film fun to watch.

I personally liked the ending of Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. No, every T isn’t crossed and every I isn’t dotted but, I found myself engaged, rooting for the outcome that I got and, didn’t walk away feeling let down. As I watched it for the second time my feeling didn’t change. I am glad that the series has come to a close and am amazed at how many years have passed since I sat in the theater at 13 years old and was awestruck by Episode IV which is where it all began. I will be ready for whatever comes next and hope that it offers the little kid in me the same feeling that it did in 1977. Thanks for the memories.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for sci-fi violence and action.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 
Dolby Atmos Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was rendered from 35/65 MM film sources and finished on a 4K DI. The 1080p transfer looks solid and this Ultra HD rendering takes it up a notch with a discernible increase in detail, color depth, and emboldened highlights, both light and dark. The film has a series of fiery explosions, streaming/cascading light and mixed visual elements, that look terrific.

This is primarily a dark film and its low-level sequences had excellent depth and dimension. Blacks are rich, and defining, and the rendering of shadow detail in most respects, is excellent. The film’s opening sequence with Kylo Ren provides a glimpse of what lies instore. Following that, there are a host of visuals that incorporate elements of brilliant light, such as the speeder chase during the festival, Rey and Kylo’s exchange when he is on Kajimi and she is in his quarters on the star destroyer, the arching/flashing lights that illuminated streets/alleyways of the settlement on Kajimi, or the HDR showcase during the extended battle, both in the skies above and below, in the Sith throne room, during the finale, which featured specular highlights that were bright enough that I found myself blinking is response to them. The use of shadows mixed with light, such as in the labyrinth below the quicksand, looked very natural as well.

The film utilizes varying chromatic schemes, incorporating splashes of vivid color (the aforementioned festival for example), that appears faithfully reproduced in Ultra HD. This isn’t a razor-sharp presentation but, overall resolution is excellent. Close ups revealing plenty of fine detail and textures that generally imparted a reach out and touch aesthetic.

Comparing this presentation to the 1080p rendering I would say that the Blu-ray appears slightly flatter. Whereas the Ultra HD’s vivid colors, enriching contrast and vibrant dynamic range elevate it to a cut above, making for a distinctive improvement that discerning viewers can appreciate.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety, which was welcomed. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics, panning fills and discrete sounds. This is done to good effect when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Nearfield sound placement is noteworthy, providing an involving listening experience that emboldens the "being there" effect when applied.

During the various sequences where the sci-fic action ramps up, such as in the aforementioned speeder chase, or Rey taking the skimmer over rough seas to the Death Star wreckage, followed by what occurred both within and just after, the track features environmental cues and discrete sound effects that extend the soundstage. Everything comes together in the large set piece in the finale, where Rey faces her destiny and the Rebellion takes on the massive Star Destroyer fleet. There are a host of explosions, nearfield pans, and weapon fire that rotate around the soundstage, shifting overhead, passing by at ear level and coming directly at the listening position. It all makes for a resplendent blend of room traversing, and well-balanced sound. I had a great time with this superb audio mix.

NOTE: I did find that a minor increase in volume, approximately 4db, was required to derive the most from it. Once there, it kicked nicely with no signs of dynamic compression or anemic bass. Speaking of which, I ran direct comparisons to several sequences between the Atmos track and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track and found that the Atmos track hit harder and deeper.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 
Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes to Blu-ray Disc from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

This film essentially utilizes two distinct visual styles to convey its thematic content. One makes use of darker/monochromatic color schemes, while the other features richer contrast and vibrant colors emboldened by warm accents. Each provides the look that the filmmakers strove for to drive the narrative components. Close ups reveal crisp definition and perceptible detail that reveals the presence of fine detail, including the minutia visible in the costumes and make-up worn by the members of the cast. The texture on the surfaces of objects is just as defining which give them visibly apparent structure and lifelike quality. Black levels are slightly elevated, leaving only the darkest scenes lacking in dimension and, contrast is spot on which delivers bright punchy whites and appreciable depth of field when mixed light/dark elements are present onscreen. The video has a noticeably clean and pristine quality that appears devoid of video related anomalies and artifacts.

I had high hopes for this soundtrack on Blu-ray, especially given the disappointing tracks on some of the recent home video release from Disney. I am happy to report that this 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio/Dolby TrueHD (Atmos core) presentation didn’t disappoint, and essentially matched what I heard in the theater. This lossless soundtrack is dynamically supported which accents the active nature of the sound design. Dialog has excellent presence with clear, defining vocal character and noteworthy room penetration. The mix makes involving use of the surround channels as multi-layered sound effects are appropriately placed within the soundfield so that they coincide with the events transpiring onscreen.

The surround mix utilizes the subwoofer to accentuate the action-based sequences which feature a palpable and occasionally room shaking low end. Throughout the presentation the quality of the bass is excellent, as it fills the room with clean, resonating, low frequency detail.

* Note: As with other recent Disney releases on Blu-ray I found that I needed to set playback at volumes above where I normally listen. In this case I found it to be less of an increase, only requiring a 4db boost. Once there, it played back as expected with no signs of unwanted dynamic compression, allowing me to become immersed in the film without distraction. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Blu-ray
    • The Skywalker Legacy – The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
    • Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase – Dive into the making of the movie’s epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
    • Aliens in the Desert – See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
    • D-O: Key to the Past – Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy’s newest, irresistible droid.
    • Warwick & Son – Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
    • Cast of Creatures – The team behind the film’s memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
  • Digital Code
Final Thoughts:

Co-written and Directed by J.J. Abrams Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth and final episode in the iconic Skywalker film series. While not a thoroughly gratifying film that will appeal to all series fans, it capably closes out the final chapter with ample heart and entertaining action/drama. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultimate Collector’s Edition from Disney Home Entertainment featuring terrific Ultra HD video, excellent lossless surround sound, including an involving Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience and a fan friendly supplemental package that is worth exploring. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker looks and sound great on Blu-ray and deserves a place in the collections of series fans.
No code has to be inserted here.
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from  Portrait.com )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems



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