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I’ve seen Star Wars in 4K HDR, and I can’t go back

The Last Jedi is a revelation on UHD Blu-ray

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Rey (Daisy Ridley) holds her lightsaber Lucasfilm/Disney
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars film to be released in 4K on home video, and boy, was it worth the wait.

The eighth episode in the Skywalker saga is available today in the U.S. on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD; it was released digitally on services such as Amazon Video and iTunes two weeks ago. Lucasfilm and Disney went all-out for this film, putting together an extensive set of bonus features — including a unique one that I’ll get to in a bit — and including support for the latest audio/video formats. If The Last Jedi’s home video release is an indication of the companies’ future plans for the rest of the Star Wars franchise, it’s an incredibly promising sign indeed.

Before we begin, let me level with you: My living room setup isn’t equipped to take advantage of everything this 4K Blu-ray package has to offer. I have a 2016 Vizio P50-C1, which is a 4K television that supports both Dolby Vision and high dynamic range (HDR) color, and my Blu-ray player is an Xbox One X. On the audio side, I have a Vizio SB4051-D5 sound bar, which does feature 5.1 discrete sound channels (via wireless satellite speakers) but only supports basic Dolby Digital and DTS audio formats.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Ultimate Collector’s Edition 4K Blu-ray box art Lucasfilm/Disney

I mention all of that to give you an idea of what I’m working with, but also because formats play a large role in watching this particular movie in all its visual and aural splendor. The Last Jedi’s 4K Blu-ray release, which is known as the Ultimate Collector’s Edition, offers Dolby Vision color and Dolby Atmos sound. I can’t watch the disc version in Dolby Vision, since the Xbox One X isn’t compatible with it. But the package of course includes a digital copy, and once I redeemed it via the Movies Anywhere app, I could access The Last Jedi on Vudu.

The Walmart-owned streaming service supports 4K resolution, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. My initial plan was to compare The Last Jedi in HDR and Dolby Vision, by watching the disc copy via my Xbox One X and streaming the digital version via the Vudu app on my Vizio TV. But for some reason, the Vudu stream was only playing in HDR10, not Dolby Vision. Long story short, Vudu says there’s a bug on Vizio’s side that’s causing Vudu to disable Dolby Vision and fall back to HDR10. So much for Dolby Vision.

All of that fell away once I started actually watching the movie. Some scenes are a little sharper than others; this might be a result of director Rian Johnson and cinematographer Steve Yedlin having shot certain sequences on IMAX cameras. The sweeping helicopter shots of Ahch-To are a particular highlight — Rey’s lightsaber appears with perfect clarity in the wide shot of her practicing swordplay on the cliffs.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Luke training Rey Lucasfilm/Disney

I was particularly struck by the texture of the image, which evinces a healthy amount of film grain. In addition to the clarity of fine details like the hairs in Luke’s beard, there’s a grit to everything that makes it all look more real. Nothing here feels overly processed, which is a strange thing to say for a sci-fi movie.

Johnson said that he and Yedlin personally oversaw the HDR pass for the home video release, and it shows. The level of restraint is admirable — the film doesn’t bowl you over with eye-popping colors except when it wants to, like the bright red hues of Snoke’s throne room and the surface of the planet Crait. When Luke tells Rey about Kylo Ren’s origin story, the golden rays from the sunset in the background light up his face in a beautiful, naturalistic fashion; without HDR, the yellows look comparatively garish.

I watched the 1080p, non-HDR version via Movies Anywhere — the service itself does not support 4K or HDR — because it’s the only way to access the score-only version of The Last Jedi. If you redeem your digital copy on Movies Anywhere, or on a linked service, you can watch this remarkable version of the film. It’s nothing but Johnson’s images paired with John Williams’ score; there’s no dialogue, sound effects or ambient noise.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Praetorian guards in Snoke’s throne room Lucasfilm/Disney

I’m not sure I’d sit through the entire two-and-a-half-hour length of The Last Jedi in this way, but a few minutes in, I literally said out loud to myself, “That’s really cool.” The lack of dialogue or even Star Wars’ iconic sounds — no blaster fire or lightsaber hum, no beeps from BB-8 or R2-D2 — forces you to focus on the interactions between the visuals and the score.

It’s amazing to notice the music alone telling the story of the film, with Williams using a quick change in the tenor of the orchestration to telegraph some impending dread. This is immediately apparent in the lesson where Luke asks Rey to reach out to the Force; she sees everything in balance, but is soon drawn to a dark place beneath the island on Ahch-To. There are surprises, too: places where you would expect music but none exists, like the entire sequence in which Finn wakes up and falls out of his bed, then stumbles around until Poe finds him. The score doesn’t pick up until the film cuts to Ahch-To, right after Finn asks Poe, “Where’s Rey?”

As Johnson said, it’s like a silent movie. I do wish this special feature were accessible via platforms other than Movies Anywhere — it would be nice to be able to watch it in 4K, let alone HDR, and the audio from Movies Anywhere appears to be limited to 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus. It’s also worth noting that this version of The Last Jedi doesn’t support scene selection or subtitles. Part of me would like subtitles, so I could still follow the dialogue — there are some pretty funny lines in this movie, after all — but I understand that the entire point of releasing the film this way is to take the focus away from the words.

If you’ve got a digital copy, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s another way to enjoy this movie while waiting for Disney to put out 4K releases of the other Star Wars films, and after The Last Jedi, I can’t wait.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was reviewed using a copy of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition 4K ultra HD Blu-ray Disc provided by Disney. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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