Star Wars: Last Jedi VFX supervisors discuss why they went CGI with Snoke

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Feb 24, 2018

The Oscars are around the corner, so the nominees are giving their closing arguments before the big night. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was nominated for best visual effects, and it goes without saying that the film is rightfully recognized, but this kind of movie magic doesn't just come from thin air. The film's visual effects supervisors Ben Morris and Mike Mulholland gave a candid interview discussing their process with Deadline.

One of the filmmakers' significant challenges was breathing life into Supreme Leader Snoke, portrayed and voiced by Andy Serkis. The duo convinced The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson that making Snoke purely CG was the best route. "There was no question Rian wanted to bring him down to the human level, and the performance needed to have that resonance," Morris told Deadline. "The key was to try and capture the essence of the actor and make sure that you’re able to transmit that into the CG character," Mulholland said. Morris added that Serkis' performance helped construct the character, "As Mike and the team started to put together CG Snoke per the sculpt that had been approved, we suddenly realized that he was a far more imposing character. Andy’s voice gave a sense of a larger chest cavity. His throat carried far more timbre."

Rogue One and The Last Jedi managed to do the impossible and insert the late great Carrie Fisher only using VFX. "We worked with Carrie [Fisher] to at least get her to be blown forward in a believable way before she gets sucked out. Then, when she’s outside, it was a combination of digital double Carrie for the wider shots, and then we actually shot her, so we could do the moment where she comes to and the ice starts thawing off her face," Morris said. It's hard to distinguish which scenes she was actually in in The Last Jedi. It doesn't seem likely that she will be back in a CGI since Episode IX wasn't written or shot before Fisher's passing, according to producer Kathleen Kennedy.

I encourage you to read the full interview if you're interested in how the VFX team managed to pull off their incredible work. Were you impressed with the CGI in The Last Jedi? Do you think they're going to beat Oscar favorite Blade Runner 2049? Post your critiques in the comments!