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I watched the deleted scenes on the Last Jedi DVD recently, and there's some interesting stuff to learn from those. I'm not talking plot here, I'm talking structure, so strap in.
- One thing interesting throughout is the CGI progress. Many of the deleted scenes are unfinished, with only barebnes CGI in them, so this allows you to see how it's done nicely, and gives some insights into how much of it is practical. Short version: quite a lot, especially the Aliens. Most of them are really masks and makeup. Thought there's a lot more CGI there.
- We get some character moments for
a) Rose's sister. Her gun jams, and unjams last second to blow up a TIE, after which she clutches the necklace she shares with Rose. The moment is nice and makes her more sympathetic, but you could see how it takes momentum from the space battle, and why it had to be cut.
b) Poe. This one I was the saddest to see go. It's very short - Poe gives Finn the jacket back, with the back that Kylo sliced open awkwardly stichted, stating he's "not a great sewer". I'm unsure why that went out; maybe the joke disrupted the general flow of the evacuation scene. Speaking of which...
c) Finn. He gets an entire alternative opening sequence, where he wakes up directly during the evacuation. I can see why they didn't use that; the moment of confusion is very short, and because of the intercutting with Poe much shorter for the viewer, and it's a repeat of the "waking up on Jakku thing" from Episode VII, so the theatrical version is definitely superior.
d) Luke. He gets to stare into the void, and make a connection with Leia, but nothing comes of it other than "Luke and Leia are sad", and the film is already running long.
e) Rey. She gets even more frustrated with Luke, who makes practical jokes with her telling her the Jedi are dumb. I guess there are even more scenes like this, and they were taken out to soften Luke a bit. I understand better why Hamil seemed to be pissed at the character; include those scenes, and Luke is much more cynical, bitter and incoherent than he was in the theatrical cut.
f) The caretakers. While the scenes involving them are really funny and add world building, you don't really need them at all, so cutting them from an already long film was the right call.
- There's an extended chase with the Frathiers on Canto Bight, and god, it's EXTENDED. I'd recon it lasts twice as long, and many of those scenes add no benefit at all but draw out what's ultimately a scene whose payoff is signalled way in advance. The original length of that scene would have been a disaster. Imagine the Pod Race from Episode I.
- There's an extended scene on the Mega Destroyer Incursion. It's really great - stormtroopers enter the elevator, one of them recognizes Finn, but only jokes about reeducation camp and how he'd never figure Finn would make Captain material. Unfortunately, it's neither sensible - I guess the fact of his betrayal was widely telegraphed in the First Order, and the Hacker preparing to shoot them when it's later revealed that he sold them out already is just confusing the audience - nor fitting with the pacing, because the extended joke during the suspenseful infiltration is an awkward fit.
- There's another joke when Hux goes into a monologue how the Resistance may bite the First Order now and then and draw blood, but will lose, and Rose bites his finger. Great scene, but we had a fair share of "Hux is being ridiculous" scenes in the movie, and I see why it went out.
- Much more substantial is Phasma's end, reinvented. In the alternate version, Finn is surrounded by four troopers and tells them that Phasma lowered Starkiller's shields, at which point Phasma quickly kills the witnesses, giving Finn time to in turn shoot her after his "Rebel scum" line. It closes with the stuff from Episode VII, but I see why they went for the extended fight scene in the theatrical cut, which doesn't tie up Phasma's arc as neatly, but provides better pacing and a more cathartic end for Finn.
- There's a very short insert of Rose and Finn fleeing the Mega Destroyer and heading to the Reistance Base "where we belong", which reaffirms the major theme, but really, you don't need it spelled out. Show, don't tell, so the scene was cut. Good call.
- Another really short one is Rey and Chewie on the Falcon, seeing the attack on the gate - where the AT-AT 2.0 shoot like hell - and Rey drily stating they'd "go to the other side". It's just one more joke in a scene that really doesn't need one, and it's not like seeing her saying she's take the Falcon around is necessary setup.
- At last, there's an extended Canto Bight introduction scene with a lot of carefully staged extravagance that is completely unnecessary and draws out the scene badly. Good riddance.