As promised, now we are going to talk about Star Wars. It comes out Friday and I’m seeing it Saturday. It’s a pretty big deal, in case you weren’t aware. Something that director J.J. Abrams and the rest of the design team has been stressing since they first started publicizing the movie is that they devoted a lot of time to using practical effects, much like the ones that were used in the original trilogy. I think this is pretty fantastic and a lot of the reviews have been saying that they successfully recreated the feeling of the original trilogy. This is good of course, because that very feeling disappeared in the prequel trilogy, which disappointed many fans. With CGI technology becoming increasingly better, the team behind the prequel series decided to animate basically as much as they could. Fifteen years or so later, the effects look pretty crappy. And why is that the case, besides the fact we’re used to much better CGI today? I think that practical effects have a gritty feeling to them that are much more realistic than perfectly animated CGI characters/things.
Another example of this is with Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings. Yes, he used a fair amount of CGI, but he also had real people made up as ugly, deteriorating orcs. When it was time for him to make The Hobbit, the CGI was naturally much better than it was during the making of the LOTR series fifteen years earlier. And much like George Lucas, Jackson chose to go the route of CGIing almost everything. All of the orcs and goblins in the Hobbit trilogy were CGI with the use of motion capture (which is cool in itself, but lacks the grittiness of actual costumes).
Now, I’m not trying to belittle CGI and say that we should all go back to using practical effects in entertainment. I think there’s some damn good looking CGI out there and it’s been used to make some really cool characters and to tell some really cool stories. But I think there’s a lot of value in maintaining that gritty look in characters, the kind that JJ Abrams tried to install in the new droid BB-8, which was remote-controlled. It’s an actual prop that rolls around on set with the other actors, as opposed to being the work of post-editing. And when it’s onscreen interacting with the other characters, it feels like it is part of the same world, imperfect and dirty.
This has been very random and I’ve now run out of things to say. I see Star Wars on Saturday, which is also my next day to write for Holidalies, so get pumped.