“The force is not a superpower,” writer-director Rian Johnson says during the bonus features of the new home video release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
That’s it. Boom. That’s the straightforward philosophy that guided Johnson as he reset the eighth film in the “Star Wars” series (10th if you count the two standalone movies). He references that general philosophy throughout the extras and commentary on the two-disc set as his reason for making changes, but he doesn’t go into detail.
If you’re going to reset the most beloved franchise in movie history, you owe fans an in-depth explanation. We need more - and we know Disney and Lucasfilm have plenty of footage, storyboards, photos and interviews that are probably ready for the next big premium box set. What they’ve given us here barely scratches the surface.
Don’t get me wrong. “Star Wars” fans absolutely need to buy "The Last Jedi" if just for the movie, one of the best in the franchise (I rank it third or fourth). Now we can painstakingly re-watch the Battle of Crait to see all the signs we missed in the face-off between Kylo Ren and Master Luke Skywalker. And we can immerse ourselves in that stunning scene in Snoke’s chamber, where the slight movement of a finger nearly changed the trajectory of the series.
When we're done with that, it's time for the bonus features. Though there could be more, there are some highlights.
The deleted scenes with optional commentary by Johnson. As is often the case, it’s clear why some of these scenes were deleted (there was an even longer chase scene through the casino?), but there are certainly moments that will have you asking "why did they cut that?" “Luke Has a Moment” is short, but powerful. A scene called “It’s Kind of Weird That You Recorded That” is interesting as well. Look for the original opening scene, which now shows up later in the film.
Johnson’s inspirations. Throughout the extras, Johnson explains where he drew his inspiration including "The Empire Strikes Back," the original “Star Tours” attraction, “The Wizard of Oz” and even “Rashomon” for getting to the truth of what happened between Luke and a young Kylo Ren.
Scene breakdowns. Out of three scene breakdowns, the best is the 13-minute “Showdown on Crait.” The planet Crait's striking white salt flats over a red mineral surface created striking visuals in the movie. This gives us storyboards, images and videos to show some of the creation process.
“The Director and the Jedi” documentary. Though the title sounds like this focuses solely on Johnson, it is more of a general making-of feature (which isn’t a complaint) taking us into the hallowed halls of legendary Pinewood Studios, behind-the-scenes to see snippets of creature creations and the motion capture processs.
What we need from the next home video release of "The Last Jedi."
A Carrie Fisher appreciation. It’s a glaring omission not to have anything honoring our Princess Leia. We also have questions on how her death affected this film and may change "Episode IX."
An interview with Johnson. He really messed with our heads in “The Last Jedi” and even if you accept what he did (cue the “Jedi” theme), Johnson has some explaining to do. A one-on-one interview is needed to ask the hard questions (starting with Luke) and push for answers and explanations (the Force connections?).
Same with Mark Hamill. It’s OK, he can talk now. It's common knowledge he wasn't happy with Johnson's take on Luke. “It’s not my character to be decided … They just rent it out to me,” he said in the extras. That’s not true – Hamill is Skywalker and we need a nice sit-down with him delving into his feelings about Luke over the past 40-plus years, especially relating to this film.
Music of John Williams. This is his eighth “Star Wars” movie and it's some of his best work. The character themes are important as they once again add substance to a scene. Hearing “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme) around Kylo Ren is chilling and acts as a harbinger of things to come. The majestic “Jedi” theme is used to perfection, giving a particularly difficult scene a sense of peace. It would be interesting to have a breakdown of the main character themes and how they are used throughout all the films.