One of the biggest questions about the new Star Wars trilogy is the origin of the galaxy’s new savior. Who is Rey and where does she come from? Star Wars: The Last Jedi seemed to give us an answer when Kylo Ren flat out told her, “They were filthy junk traders, sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert.” Rey seemed to acknowledge this as a truth that she knew but was never willing to fully accept, but it turns out, like some Star Wars fans, she wants to know more.
When we reunite with Rey in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, not only have her skills in the Force improved as she’s continued training in the time since The Last Jedi, but she’s still trying to figure out who she is and exactly what lies in her past. In fact, Daisy Ridley says that aspect of Rey “is not satisfied” with that part of her story. So how will this movie rectify that?
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about what details she could regarding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Daisy Ridley talked about the never-ending discussion about Rey’s parents:
“The parents thing is not satisfied — for her and for the audience. That’s something she’s still trying to figure out — where does she come from?”
But what about Kylo Ren said? Does Rey not believe him? Not necessarily. Ridley added:
“It’s not that she doesn’t believe it. But she feels there’s more to the story. And she needs to figure out what’s come before so she can figure out what to do next.”
So it sounds like J.J. Abrams won’t need to fix anything that was revealed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as the filmmaker previously said. But he will reveal more about Rey’s origins that might provide a more definitive. On one hand, the idea of revealing more about Rey’s parents could taint the idea that she’s a hero who came from nothing. But at the same time, the origins of her parents might help bring the circle of the Skywalker saga to an end. That doesn’t mean she has Skywalker blood, but maybe her family history will tie in somewhere else in the Star Wars saga that helps bring everything to this conclusion.
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...