What a difference a few months makes.
A little more than three months ago, audiences were packing movie theaters around the world to witness the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. Ultimately, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker managed to bank more than $1 billion at the global box office as filmmaker J.J. Abrams brought a 42-year storytelling lineage to a close. What many failed to expect is that The Rise of Skywalker would once again divide audiences and critics as Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: The Last Jedi did two years earlier. For some, the story served as a satisfying and entertaining conclusion to both the sequel trilogy and the nine-film Saga. For others, it managed to come up empty on both fronts.
Just in time for families to enjoy while hunkered down in the age of “social distancing,” Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is getting a fresh look at home on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Time will tell if opinions on the film itself (reviewed here) will change or evolve, but the in-home release brings a host of bonus features that shine.
The Skywalker Legacy
At the heart of the bonus features lies The Skywalker Legacy, a feature-length documentary film from director Debs Patterson. The two-hour doc is worth the purchase price alone as it explores the production of The Rise of Skywalker by infusing it with archival footage from the filming of the original and prequel trilogies to provide an overview of the daunting task facing Abrams and Co. It’s a beautiful and engaging glimpse into how the filmmakers looked to the past to conclude the Saga while simultaneously addressing the absence of the late Carrie Fisher and the technical challenges presented by crafting scenes around unused footage of the actress to provide closure to Leia Organa’s story within the context of everything else.
If there is another version of The Rise of Skywalker out there*, you’d never know it from the documentary. The film tells the story of the production that resulted in the film that arrived in theaters, but it notably leaves out some of the conflicts and changes that hardcore fans — and even some casual ones — are aware of and curious about.
A collection of bite-sized looks at specific scenes are pretty standard bonus-feature fare, but all are appreciated. Highlights include Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase; Aliens in the Desert, a look at what it took to build a production base camp in the Jordanian desert to house hundreds of performers and crew members; and Warwick & Son, which follows actor Warwick Davis as he returns to the role he performed in Return of the Jedi (1983), but this time with his son joining him as an Ewok.
There’s a big audience out there who was expecting to see some deleted and extended scenes, and sadly, there aren’t any to be found on this release. Following the exit of original filmmaker Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), the original trajectory of the final film in the Skywalker Saga changed greatly. The leak of Trevorrow’s original screenplay, Duel of the Fates, co-written by Derek Connolly, confirms this, with some bits making it into The Rise of Skywalker, hence both writers retaining a “story-by” credit alongside Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio. Pair that with a regular stream of leaks from inside the production, countless interviews with cast and filmmakers pointing toward loads of unused footage, production art that points to different scenarios, and several conspicuous changes in marketing and the potential is there for a very different story that hasn’t yet been told.
Remember the marketing push for the Sith Troopers last summer? At Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC), the red-suited Stormtroopers were trotted out as a major element of the film. The Sith Troopers received special merchandising launched a full month ahead of Triple Force Friday and were touted as having loyalty to Kylo Ren. In The Rise of Skywalker, the Sith Troopers are barely on screen at all and are never once commanded by Ren, despite production art showing the Supreme Leader inspecting legions of the mysterious troops.
Even D-0, the cute new Droid voiced by Abrams himself, seems to have completely changed along the way. Early descriptions of the character said he was created by Babu Frick, but in the film, he was discovered on a derelict spacecraft and had no connection to Frick, aside from visiting his workshop.
While the film clipped along at a brisk pace, much like 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, many elements that are known to exist were left on the cutting room floor and didn’t make it onto the home release. That’s pretty disappointing.