Did the opening of The Rise of Skywalker look familiar? It’s set on a red planet, on which Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren mercilessly lightsabers his way through a hooded alien species before nabbing the “Wayfinder” prism thing that leads him to Palpatine’s secret planet. We never hear it’s name, but, as per Entertainment Weekly, a certain Star Wars book reveals that we’ve been there before.
According to Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary, the planet is Mustafar. And if you’re a true Star Wars nerd, you know that’s the location for the climactic lightsaber duel between Annakin and Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith. It’s the lava planet where a mangled Annakin was burned to a crisp, necessitating being encased in a big, black suit and helmet, spending the remainder of his life wheezing as he spoke in a voice quite different from his own.
Mustafar also had a cameo in Rogue One, as the place where Darth Vader built his giant black castle.
As for the unlucky species on the wrong end of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, they’re the Alazmec, described in the book as “cult colonists,” who “voyage to Mustafar in pilgrimage seeking to tap into the powers that supposedly fueled him.”
So there’s another way The Rise of Skywalker ties everything past into a nice little package. The film’s in theaters now.
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...