|STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKERTHE RISE OF SKYWALKERRISE OF SKYWALKERJ.J. ABRAMSCLONE WARSSKYWALKERSTAR WARS|
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...
The penultimate episode of the penultimate arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars seemed like a small story, documenting the struggle of the Martez sisters and Ahsoka Tano to escape the Pyke Syndicate, but it opened up into a whole new world of Star Wars. It added context to stories we’d thought had been completed, added characters from Star Wars Rebels into the mix, and ties directly into the struggles of Mandalore. Let’s dive deeper into “Dangerous Debt”.The Hunt For Ziro
Trapped in a Pyke Syndicate cell in the captivity of the great Marg Krim, Ahsoka and Rafa Martez argue about the right course of action and where to lay the blame for their situation. As they fight, Rafa reveals why she and her sister stay away from topsiders, stick to each other, and generally distrust the Jedi. Then, she tells a tale that fits neatly between previously seen episodes of The Clone Wars. Rafa talks about Ziro the Hutt’s prison break, led by Cad Bane. We saw most of this in the season one finale of The Clone Wars, “Hostage Crisis.” That episode ends with Cad Bane leaving with Ziro the Hutt in speeders into Coruscant after holding a number of Senators, including Padmé Amidala, hostage.
Rafa’s story takes it a step beyond what we saw. The Martez family is impacted specifically by a bounty hunter that perfectly matches the description of Cad Bane. Her parents were killed when Bane shot a transport to create a distraction for his getaway with Ziro. The distraction worked and Bane and Ziro got away.
After the incident1, a green-skinned Jedi came to comfort the Martez sisters with a tone-deaf response. It seems as though this Jedi was likely Luminara Unduli, the master of Barris Offee, the padawan who framed Ahsoka for murder. Ahsoka offers a strong, heartfelt apology, realizing just how wrong the Jedi she left behind might have been.
It was a touching moment in the episode and a fascinating look at how Ahsoka views her experience.The Mandalorians
A delightful surprise in this episode was the inclusion of a trio of Mandalorians. Who were these mysterious warriors? We have the identities of two of them. The first is Bo Katan Katee Sackhoff who would eventually take possession of the Darksaber and become the leader of Mandalore in the final season of Star Wars Rebels. She mentions her interaction with Ahsoka on Carlac, which were events that occurred in the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of The Clone Wars, “A Friend in Need.” In that episode, Ahsoka saw herself up against Death Watch and Bo Katan was there as part of their cadre. Bo Katan left that organization after Maul killed her leader, Pre Vizsla voice by Jon Favreau, and her sister, the Duchess Satine. Katan ended up helping Obi-Wan Kenobi weather the conflict and didn’t otherwise appear again on the timeline until Star Wars Rebels....