The Rise of Skywalker's 2160p/HDR UHD immediately fixes the most glaring Blu-ray weakness, light blacks behind the opening crawl and across the first shot. The familiar yellow text is a bit more subdued here but very effective in pop and over the inky star field. Black level improvements are also noted in chapter 13 when Kylo Ren, clad in black, telepathically communicates with Rey while standing in a bright white room. Both his costume and the star field through the porthole are much more deeply pronounced on the UHD, and it's also perhaps the best example of white balance betterment in the entire movie; this is a more pure, intense white compared to a flat, creamy color on the Blu-ray. The picture is by-and-large perfect. Color saturation and tonal extension are terrific, from densely colored natural green during Rey's training early in the film to the bleak grays that dominate much of the film's third act. 3PO's golden body is a more sublime, thoroughly saturated color. Lightsabers dazzle with newfound intensity over the Blu-ray and high yield luminance that allows the beams to leap off the screen as the most dominant tonal force in the movie, followed closely by hyperspace light and Palpatine's lightning. The image is not as bright as the Blu-ray, but it's more accurate with improved overall depth and nuance. It's very pleasing beginning to end.
Textural improvements are surprisingly not as dramatic. While grain is more natural and more flattering (though it's unproblematic on the Blu-ray) and overall image clarity and sharpness are improved, there's not a night-and-day difference here. The picture enjoys more thorough filmic stabilization accuracy as well as generally crisper and accurate details, but the improvements are more fine than they are far-reaching. Viewers will note improved clarity and steadiness to wear and tear on robots and Resistance fighters, more intimately revealing skin and hair elements on humans, and sharper environmental elements, ranging from sandy deserts to dense jungles, from the weathered Falcon interior to slick and smooth First Order bridges and meeting rooms. Make no mistake, the UHD improves on the Blu-ray's resolution limitations, but even at native 4K the differences are not dramatic, albeit vital in the big picture. Source and encode flaws are entirely absent when viewing from normal distances. This is the best way to watch The Rise of Skywalker at home.
As with the Blu-ray's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, it's immediately obvious that this Dolby Atmos soundtrack is in dire need of an upward volume adjustment from calibrated reference levels. Once there, the presentation largely evens out and even approaches "knockout" levels of sonic satisfaction. Bass is not wanting as the Emperor lifts his fleet in the opening moments; the rumble is impressively intense and stage saturating, marking the first truly exciting listen in the movie, even beyond the familiar Williams refrain to open the film, which does sound puny without the volume turned up. Music throughout pleases at adjusted levels, boasting rich instrumental detail and well dispersed but front-dominant stage saturation. There are a number of impressive subwoofer pronouncements, including again when another Star Destroyer enters a planet's atmosphere at the 53:56 mark, causing quite the rumble and stir from within a structure. Action scenes are intense, with endless movement and seamless directional accuracy; listeners can trace a number of objects as they maneuver through the listening area, whether one-off examples of a TIE Fighter or the Falcon screaming through or a symphony of action in the finale when First Order and Resistance ships zoom around and shoot at one another in orchestrated frenzy. It's highly enjoyable and the added fullness created by the top layer only adds to the excitement. The top end also chimes in with a few obvious discrete effects too; listen at the 1:39:00 and 1:58:00 marks for a couple of the best examples. With faultlessly reproduced dialogue also in play, this track never fails to impress; just turn it up.
4K Bluray detailsVideo
Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
4K Ultra HD
Three-disc set (1 BD-66, 2 BD-50)
Movies Anywhere, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play
Slipcover in original pressing
4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free