[Editor’s Note: Spoilers for “The Last Jedi” follow.]
Much has been written about the fan backlash against “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” so much so that even Mark Hamill has expressed some hesitation over the fate of Luke Skywalker. But one of the more peculiar responses has been fans complaining that the sound cuts out during one of the film’s most important moments.
The scene in question finds Laura Dern’s Holdo sacrificing her life to save the Resistance, including Genera Leia and Poe Dameron. Holdo decides to fly her spaceship at light-speed directly into the First Order’s Mega Destroyer to allow the Resistance’s escape pods to flee safely. When she cranks the ship into light-speed, the sound instantly drops. A vacuum sound effect is created as a result as the image of the ship piercing through the Mega Destroyer wows the big screen.
Many fans will report hearing gasps during this moment (that’s how effective the smash cut to silence is), but apparently some fans have been complaining and blaming the theater for a sound issue. Complains were apparently so consistent that an AMC Theater decided to print out and post signs warning fans in advance about the moment, saying the silence is very much an intentional creative decision made by director Rian Johnson.
The idea that fans would complain about this moment may seem ridiculous, but “The Last Jedi” VFX supervisor Ben Morris does admit that the silence drop is very unconventional for a “Star Wars” movie. Most action scenes in the franchise are accompanied by John Williams’ score and/or sound design, so it’s extremely rare for an entire beat to go completely silent.
“That’s never really happened in ‘Star Wars’ before,” Morris recently told Collider. “We had always hoped that would resonate, both as a story beat and as a striking visual, and when I heard all of the cries and gasps in the silence, it was just fantastic. We realized that it worked.
“On a creative and slightly technical level, it was based on physics photography of cloud chambers and high speed particles colliding with each other,” Morris said of creating the shot. “We always talked about how this look would happen, where we’d drain all of the color out of the image. I think it shows strength, if you invert your normal concept of what space shots in ‘Star Wars’ look like, with a white ship on a black background. For that sequence, you turn it on its head and you’ve got a black ship with white space.”
For anyone not surprised by the creative decision, Holdo’s sacrifice ranks as one of the best moments in “The Last Jedi.” The film is now playing in theaters nationwide.