When it comes to Luke using the Force to destroy a hut on Ahch-To in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it turns out the effects were all practical. Like J.J. Abrams before him, Rian Johnson attempted to use practical effects whenever possible for the latest Star Wars film. Unlike the prequels, building actual sets, vehicles, and aliens makes the new films feel more like the originals and adds a visceral quality to the spectacle. The extra effort has so far paid off, as The Last Jedi broke $450 million globally this past weekend.
On top of the big box office haul, Star Wars 8 has an ‘A’ Cinemascore and a stunning rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving critics and audiences alike are thrilled with the new movie. And though that can’t all be attributed to the care put into the production of the film, it’s certainly a factor. While outer space dogfights and laser blasts are naturally CGI, even things like lightsabers are practical before a final glow is added to them. Similarly, the basic powers of the Force have long been brought to life with simple wire work. As it turns out, even the more spectacular displays of power in The Last Jedi follow this tactic.
In the upcoming The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi book, Production Designer Rick Heinrichs detailed how the scene of Luke blowing apart the hut in Ahch-To when he sees Rey and Kylo together was all done without the aid of CGI.
“Luke blowing apart the hut worked out amazingly. It’s all in-camera! There is a difference in what you get with Mark Hamill standing there and the rocks really going by him and not feeling like it’s a visual effect. What ILM does is always mind-blowing to me. When you combine what they can do with camera work so that they are matching stuff that the actors are really in, I think that just ups everybody’s game”
While the moment of the stones blowing apart isn’t the most grandiose scene, it’s certainly the type of move that would be faster, cheaper, and safer to do digitally. But to add the effects of the motion and the raw power, it’s hard to substitute the real thing. For both the actors and audience, the abrupt display of the Force is a shocking moment, and it’s to Johnson’s credit that he chose to make the whole thing practically.
Likewise, the Rey and Kylo communication scenes were done practically, with simple cuts standing in for something more complex and digital. Rather than some magnificent display of the Force, the scenes read just like two character sharing a scene together. By doing so, the emotions are grounded and not buried under layers of CGI.
Fans may be divided on some of Johnson’s choices in The Last Jedi, but it’s hard to deny the care he put into bringing the latest chapter in the story to life. It’s also no wonder Lucasfilm is giving the auteur his own trilogy, one that’s like to feature plenty of practical effects if Star Wars: The Last Jedi is any indication.
Source: The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi
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