|RISE OF SKYWALKERJ.J. ABRAMSSKYWALKERKYLO REN|
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
Quarantined viewers tuned into Saturday’s all-day, virtual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Summit were treated to a special surprise in the evening when filmmaker and TV titan J.J. Abrams crashed the party as the surprise special guest. He arrived just after his fellow “Star Wars” scribe Tony Gilroy “Rogue One” and the upcoming Cassian Andor series finished his conversation about the craft of screenwriting.
Abrams’ Q&A touched on a range of topics, from the origins of 2015’s “The Force Awakens” to scaling “the mountain,” as he called it, of writing a screenplay, and to the Golden Age of television happening now. It’s an era Abrams helped to launch with his ABC mystery series “Lost.” “I know my role in that. I’m not talking as if I had nothing to do with this,” he said.
“It’s the Golden Age of television, as they call it, even though I don’t know what television really is anymore,” Abrams said. “That’s because huge chances are being taken. Talent that might not have gotten the chance otherwise suddenly have the opportunity. For me, when I watch a show like ‘Atlanta,’ which takes the most spectacular risks in point of view, in genre, structure, and character […] every story has been told, it’s kind of all been done before,” remarking that the FX series tells its stories in unique ways.
Abrams also praised the Emmy-winning Prime Video series “Fleabag,” created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
“You see ‘Fleabag’ and you’re like, well, yes, the fourth wall has been broken [before], but not like that,” he said, referring to the protagonist’s tendency to face the camera and address the audience. “Yes, there have been amazing love stories, and stories of family, but not like that. What I love is the thing that makes you feel like, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazingly specific.'”
Abrams pivoted to discussing Hollywood’s place in a moment dominated by streaming content with originality that far exceeds what’s being reproduced on the big screen. “Hollywood used to be a place where something would happen, there’d be a movie where people would see it and think ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Here’s my answer to that,’ or ‘here’s my version,'” he said.
“Hollywood has become a place where, for the most part, studios say, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Let’s do that literally again.’ And that’s OK, and I think that will continue, but I really hope that all the writers who are here and others in the guild are as excited as I am about this new opportunity with streaming platforms. How many different stories are going to be...
Even three months after its release, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker refuses to leave the national conversation. Perhaps that’s because so much supplementary material keeps coming out after the fact to fill out the plot gaps in the film’s ever-so-complex narrative. The latest from the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization is all about Kylo Ren and his arc form Big Bad to big softie, and how exactly it happened.
Kylo Ren’s redemption arc was arguably one of the most dissatisfying parts of Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, primarily because all the motivation for his turn from the Dark Side to the light took place offscreen and in supplementary materials. But here is a little more supplementary material to explain why Kylo Ren turned out the way he did. The Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization fills out some of the plot holes in Ben Solo’s arc from the Skywalker heir apparent to fallen son.
First, there’s an explanation of Kylo Ren and Rey’s first fight in The Force Awakens, when the new Force wielder was able to beat a trained Jedi in a lightsaber duel. We can thank Chewbacca for that, according to the novelization, which reminds us that the Wookiee shot Kylo Ren after he killed Han, putting him at a disadvantage in the fight with Rey. The book reads per CinemaBlend:
‘I have not forgotten that you shot me,’ Kylo said. That wound had resulted in a defeat at Rey’s hands. Had he been in top fighting form, the scavenger never would have gotten the best of him.
Yep, this sure is an explanation that doesn’t take away from Rey’s victory at all, because how could a girl who had been forced to survive on her own on a desert planet all her life eke out a win against a trained warrior? Uh, huh.
But that’s not all that has been revealed about Kylo Ren in the novelization. The retcon of Kylo’s “lie” about Rey’s parents being no one in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is further explained, writing per Digital Spy:
“He’d glimpsed her parents in a vision, a poor, frightened couple eking out a meagre existence, surviving on the edge of desperation. He hadn’t been lying when he’d told her they were nothing, nobodies. But Force visions were filled with tricky truths and potential realities. Maybe he had missed something. Bringing all the power of the Force to bear, Kylo Ren demanded, ‘Who is she?’ The rotting remnant of Emperor Palpatine smiled.”
The last revelation digs into Kylo Ren’s pivotal turn, when he lays down his lightsaber and finally embraces his identity as Ben Solo. In the film, it appears to be his mother Leia’s death that leads him to make this turn, at the of his battle with Rey, when she mortally wounds then heals him. In the...