The digital release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now on sale (sorry Blu-Ray owners, you have to wait two weeks). That means we just got to feast our eyes on the movie's long-awaited selection of 14 deleted scenes.
This is a pretty big deal. It's our first glimpse at what director Rian Johnson, who way overshot the mark in the length of his original version, reluctantly left on the cutting room floor. (A sign of the self-aware times: he and the editing crew kept consoling themselves about cuts with "well, at least people will get to see it in the deleted scenes.")
So do the deleted scenes fundamentally change or enhance our understanding of the movie? For 12 of the 14, the answer is: nah, not really.
For example, a scene titled "not much of a sewer" shows Resistance pilot Poe Dameron handing ex-Stormtrooper Finn his jacket, the one Finn had borrowed in The Force Awakens. Poe notes that he sewed up the hole left by Kylo Ren's lightsaber in while Finn was in a coma. Which is ... sweet, I guess? Fodder for Finn-Poe 'shippers? Fun for fans of both Star Wars and stitching? But there's no sense in which it helped the story the movie was trying to tell.
As so often happens when perusing a list of deleted scenes, you can immediately see in each case why these snippets were removed. Turns out highly-paid movie-editing professionals are really good at their jobs!
And yet ... there are two deleted scenes that help enhance our understanding of that problematic hero, the eponymous last Jedi himself, Luke Skywalker. Especially given the problem a vocal minority of fans had with the way Luke was portrayed, they probably belonged in the film.
Johnson, in his commentary, sounds the most regretful notes about losing these scenes. They just slowed the movie down a tad too much, he says.
The first, "Luke Has a Moment," shows our grumpy old Jedi going back to his hut and weeping silent tears. We presume, since he's just been told about Han's death, that Luke is crying for his old smuggler buddy. Many moviegoers wondered why Luke didn't express more grief at this news. Here's your answer, and Mark Hamill's performance really sells Luke's sense of desolation.
Also in this version, Johnson cuts straight from Luke with his head in his hands to Leia aboard a Resistance ship many light years away in the same posture, showing that there is still an emotional connection between the estranged twins. That could have done with more emphasis, too.
The second scene — which at three minutes is the longest to be completely cut from the movie — is "Caretaker Village Sequence." It shows Luke in trickster mode, fooling Rey into thinking that the Caretakers (those adorable fish-faced nuns whom Rey keeps accidentally upsetting) are being attacked by a raiding party. Rey rushes in, lightsaber drawn, only to find them in the middle of ... an actual party.
This isn't just a neat punchline to the ongoing Rey-Caretaker joke. (She breaks their property again, making up for it by meekly raising her lightsaber like it's a glow stick at a rave.) It's also Luke trying to make a wider point about the moral bankruptcy of the Jedi. Had it been an actual raid, he says, the old religion's texts would have told her not to interfere.
The fact that Luke pulled this stunt also gives the hot-headed Rey extra reason to be angry with him. In The Last Jedi as screened, her decision to turn and fight him over Kylo Ren's revelation does seem to come a little too easily.
There are other amusements to be found in the deleted scenes. Rose bites General Hux's hand after getting captured. Finn is recognized by a former Stormtrooper buddy when trying to break into Snoke's Mega Star Destroyer.
And there's a longer version of the Finn-Captain Phasma fight scene in which Phasma has to kill four stormtroopers first, which ... seems just a shade on the wrong side of ridiculous.
But it's the deleted Luke scenes we'd most like to see in any subsequent amendments to the official, canon version of The Last Jedi. Special Edition, anyone?