Star Wars: The Last Jedi spoilers follow below.
If you’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, then you’re aware that writer/director Rian Johnson crafted a number of unforgettable sequences within the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise. This isn’t any old blockbuster, it’s Star Wars, and Johnson and his team appropriately set out to craft set pieces that wouldn’t easily be forgotten.
One of the most memorable parts of the film involves Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, who takes over for the Resistance when Carrie Fisher’s General Leia is incapacitated. Holdo opts to stay behind on the main Resistance ship so the remaining members of the movement can flee in smaller escape ships, without detection. But the plan goes awry when the First Order discovers the evacuating ships and begins firing. In an act of bravery, Hold turns the main Resistance ship around and jumps to lightspeed right through the First Order’s giant ship.
It’s a stunning sequence in that it plays out silently with great impact, cutting quickly from shot to shot to relay to the audience the scope of what Holdo just did. So when I got the chance to speak with The Last Jedi editor Bob Ducsay at a press day for the film, I had to ask him about how this sequence came together.
Ducsay says it was tricky crafting this particular sequence, but he had a feeling it was always going to get a big audience reaction:
“It’s really incredible, right? I mean, we thought it was going to be big, but you could just feel the crowd. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing, and it’s funny about that sequence because it’s sort of complicated editorially, because you’re cutting between Kylo and Rey, and Finn and Rose, and Holdo, and Hux. So it’s a lot of balls in the air, and things got moved around a lot in there to make it accelerate the way that it does. It used to be a little bit longer, which it didn’t really support, but it was complicated. It was fun to get there.”
The editor reveals that the sequence was very much a work in progress, and the initial versions of the scene didn’t work quite as well:
“The thing to me that’s the most interesting is that the way that the actual impact works was storyboarded. And when you watched it with storyboards, it was very, very, hard to understand. And we got the first iterations of the digital effects back from ILM, and it really didn’t work. We sort of revamped how it was going to work, and when that happened, it suddenly went from, ‘I’m not sure how this is going to work,’ to ‘This is obviously fantastic.’ Then the whole rest of the way, bringing it into finished digital effects was very quick, and surprised—I mean, I’d say it’s easy for us. We’re not the ones executing the visual effects, but the design of the scene, we basically had a breakthrough at one point in post-production. This was not something that was all figured out in production or prep, and it just came together and turned into just incredible.”
Ducsay also pointed out how integral sound is to how the scene plays out:
“The other thing too, the way the sound works is just fantastic, because it’s building. The John Williams score and the sound effects, they’re building to this full-throated crescendo, and then everything goes away, and it’s just the tiniest atmosphere. Sort of a low-end space sound, and you can just feel the audience because of that incredibly significant contrast in both sound and imagery. I mean it’s amazing. And by the way, it’s all Rian. He had that in his head, how that thing was going to work, and even though we made tweaks on it, this was always where he was headed. So, I’m glad you love that because I sure do too. It’s really something.”