Director/co-writer J.J. Abrams and the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker participated in an official Q&A last night at Disneyland in front of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride, but if you were hoping for any insight into the movie itself, prepare to be disappointed. Instead, the talent spent their time talking about things like whether they prefer turkey legs or corn dogs, whether they ride Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion, and choosing between Fantasyland or Tomorrowland.
Oh, and Oscar Isaac reveals his favorite Star Wars droid. So that’s something, I guess! Check out the full video below.
No disrespect to anyone personally involved here, but this is honestly one of the most banal Q&As I’ve ever seen. Every question feels like it was forced through multiple focus groups to sand down any possible chance of generating an interesting answer. But we did get to hear Oscar Isaac talk about how he loves gonk droids and see him do an impression of one where he bounces from side to side in his chair, so I suppose it’s not a total loss.
Honestly, the only two times my ears perked up at all were when Anthony Daniels explained his favorite C-3PO scene in Star Wars history it was spitefully chosen because of a miserable look on Harrison Ford’s face, and when Abrams was asked how the character dynamics changed in the one-year time jump between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker:
“It’s an interesting thing because, for example, Rey and Poe essentially are only in one scene together, really, so far in this trilogy. So no one has ever really seen them together. One of the things that I think is really fun about this movie is coming in to see not just how the Finn and Poe dynamic has evolved – and obviously between Rose and Finn and even Rey and Rose – but also the fact that these characters get to be in scenes together and really feel that time has passed. That they’ve developed a kind of relationship. There’s a great spark and dynamic between all of them.
To me, the most fun about this movie is getting to see the whole gang on an adventure together. Everyone has their role and their part, but to have that group adventure, that was always sort of at the heart of what Star Wars was for me. So I was really happy to get to be a part of that in this movie.”
But even that is a variation on an answer he’s given in other interviews, so it’s not really breaking new ground. Oh well – at least we finally found out the answer everyone’s really been desperate to learn: yep, the cast prefers churros to dole whips when they visit the theme park. What an immense relief to finally have that mystery solved!
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...