I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Movie Grade: B-
Star Wars will forever be a franchise that has some of the most passionate fans. There’s just no pleasing everyone. The Last Jedi is evidence of that. Rian Johnson’s eighth-episode entry ticked off a lot of people for deviating from the original vision, while others appreciated Johnson’s attempt to “kill the past” and push toward something new.
When J.J. Abrams and Disney released the ninth installment in the Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker, it was met with even more blasts to the narrative. Everyone came with red pens in hand because, from the trailer alone, Rise of Skywalker looked like it would undo a lot of what Johnson had set up.
Admittedly, in its full presentation, Abrams took a safe, familiar and rushed path to the story’s conclusion. As problematic as the film is, Rise of Skywalker is arguably the most visually striking of the nine and a whole mess of fun.
Video/Audio Grade: A
Disney’s Ultra HD presentation of The Rise of Skywalker offers the film in 4K (2160p) at the proper widescreen 2:39:1 aspect ratio. Veteran cinematographer Dan Mindel (2009’s Star Trek) captures the dark and light sides of the force with such precision. The details — such as character sweat and Kylo Ren’s flowing locks — are more visible in this image than you see on the standard Blu-ray edition. Textures are more refined and subtle characteristics are tighter and more nuanced. The High Dynamic Range and significantly expanded color palette make all the difference and provide more depth.
This is evident from the film’s opening sequence. Kylo Ren (a terrifically committed Adam Driver) has heard “the dead speak” and is visiting the Sith home planet of Exegol. As if he’s floating down through the mines of Moria, the scene features shades of blue that are punctuated by brilliant flashes of hot white lightning. The well-contrasted shadows and overall darkness are elevated by the 4K picture and fantastic English Dolby Atmos mix that’s 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible. The sound field is big and deep, with smooth and active panning, and head-turning directional effects as spaceships zip past the frame.
Extras Grade: A-
There are no special features on the Ultra HD release. However, the packaging (which includes a stellar image of the Sith fleet facing off against a single X-wing fighter pilot on the cover) includes a copy of the Blu-ray edition, a bonus disc filled with extras, and a digital copy (featuring an exclusive special with composer John Williams).
The bonus disc offers several behind-the-scenes featurettes that break down various aspects of the film, such as a 14-minute in-depth look at the making of the speeder chase sequence on the desert planet of Pasaana, creature designs that applaud the actors in the suits and the people who built them, and a heartwarming meetup with actor Warwick Davis and his son.
The No. 1 feature that powers this release up to a quality buy is the two-hour documentary titled The Skywalker Legacy. Not only does the doc explore the making of The Rise of Skywalker in amazing detail, but it also delves into the franchise’s history. Similar to the film’s intention of incorporating a poet’s eye for full-circle story arcs, the documentary leans into that idea by matching behind-the-scenes moments with the cast and filmmakers of the new films with those of the original trilogy.
Personally, I thought The Last Jedi’s feature-length doc, The Director and the Jedi, set the bar for supplementary package material, but The Skywalker Saga takes it to another level by complementing the creativity and love for Star Wars.
Complete Special Features:
- 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 EXCLUSIVE) The Maestro’s Finale – Composer John Williams reflects on his body of work for the Star Wars saga and shares insights on scoring Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.