Star Wars has never been shy about showcasing weird alien creatures, but how they've been rendered has changed as years have passed and the series has developed. George Lucas' original three films were famous for their lo-fi, but lovingly intricate analog effects. Lucas' push into early digital effects via the Special Editions (and later the prequel trilogy) were pioneering and no less lovingly intricate, but poorly received by some fans who preferred the more tactile visuals of the originals. Fortunately, special effects have evolved considerably - part of their evolution revolving around filmmakers simply knowing which elements will look better when filmed practically.
The Force Awakens was Disney's first film in an all-new era of Star Wars and J.J. Abrams has been praised by many fans for his willingness to go practical at every reasonable opportunity. Based on what we've seen so far of the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) seems to be taking a similar approach, especially concerning many of the film's alien races.
A recently released featurette from Lucasfilm (see above) highlights the fantastic makeup, costume, and animatronic creature effects that fans will see when Rogue One hits theaters later this month. Creature Effects Supervisor Neal Scanlan discusses the process of pushing the film's practical effects, both creatively and technically "so that it feels as Star Wars as it could possibly be."
Despite some of the comparative limitations of practical effects in design and mobility, there are clearly benefits to going this route when possible. Not the least of these is that actors and the director are given something tangible to interact with while shooting. Lead actress Felicity Jones (who plays Jyn Erso) says it all.
"You look up and one of the creatures is a huge monkey shooting this enormous gun out of a plane and then you remember 'Oh, we're actually in Star Wars.'"
George Lucas himself famously said that "a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing." Soon the world will be able to decide for itself whether the story of Rogue One lives up to the success of its Star Wars brethren. Either way, at least know that its world is going to look pretty neat.
How do you feel so far about the aesthetic blend of CG and creature effects on display in Rogue One? Do you have a favorite new creature design from the film's promotional material? Let us know in the comments section, and stay tuned to Screen Rant for updates and impressions on the Star Wars series as they hit.
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