Star Wars has always pushed the envelope of special effects technology. From the still impressive Death Star run in A New Hope, through to the technical (if not narrative) success of Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. But the most eye-catching effect the franchise has produced of late is the CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Now, courtesy of a new video released by ILM Visual FX, we can get an idea of just how much work went into this most delicate of special effects operations.
Bringing back actors from the dead is still a controversial cinematic technique, coming with a tinge of morbidity and creepiness to it. On top of that, simply recreating human beings in CGI runs the obvious risk of plunging deep into the uncanny valley – where artificial representations of people are just realistic enough that the primitive part of our brains yells that something’s wrong.
But, alongside their take on a young Carrie Fisher, I think it’s safe to say that ILM’s work on bringing back Cushing was a success. It’s not quite perfect, however, and I don’t think there was a moment where I ever forgot that he was CGI, but the technology is clearly right on the edge of verisimilitude.
The video also lets us look at the compositing and layering of other shots in the film, most interestingly in the way ILM constructed the planet of Jedha and various other natural flora and fauna. It’s safe to say that people recognize how much work they put into these movies, but when the results are so natural looking, it’s easy to forget what’s real and what’s not.
Rogue One is now available on VOD and Blu-ray and even after multiple viewings, it still stands as a great outing in the Star Wars universe.