Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
Ask anyone who saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and they'll tell you one of the movie's highlights is Luke Skywalker's final standoff with Kylo Ren on Crait, giving the Resistance a chance to escape the First Order. Even the audience members who had major problems with the film would be hard-pressed to say that sequence doesn't send chills up your spine, even if they do hate the way writer-director Rian Johnson handled Luke's death after the fight.
Animator John Stratman was a fan of the moment and decided to turn it into something out of a 16-bit video game you might find for the Super Nintendo. It was done in collaboration with Mr. Sunday Movies, a video channel that reviews movies, breaks down trailers, and reveals easter eggs.
Stratman gets every detail of Luke and Kylo's encounter perfectly, down to their respective lines of dialogue and John Williams' score, which gets the old-school 16-bit treatment. Lord knows how many times he had to watch the scene until he got everything down pat, but we commend his dedication and commitment to detail.
"I see this as a follow-up to what I did with the Darth Vader hallway scene from Rogue One that I recreated for Mr. Sunday back in late 2016," Stratman told SYFY WIRE over Twitter. "Shortly after The Last Jedi came out, Mr. Sunday approached me, asking if I wanted to do it again, and I definitely did."
The 16-bit look was inspired by his love of classic LucasArts titles and '90s side-scrollers. "I love old LucasArts games, and I love the art of the old Super Star Wars titles. Personally, I've never gotten past the Sandcrawler in Super Star Wars, but I love the old 90's 16-bit aesthetic," he added. "I make these old video game style remakes because I want to see the finished product as much as everyone else does. Growing up I loved playing old side-scrollers and beat 'em ups, and licensed video games like that are a rarity now. I miss seeing old games based on movies, and judging by the response these videos have been getting, I'm not the only one."
According to Stratman, this project took much longer to animate (10 days) compared to the Vader video (2-3 days) because of the bigger pieces at work. "The walkers were especially challenging," he said. "This was the first time I tried animating a pixelated character of that size. I guess I sort of cheated by building a cut-out puppet and pixelating it later, but it was still a challenge to get it to look right and find the right frame rate for it to have the right amount of choppiness in its movement."
In terms of the music accompaniment, Stratman did that too, impressively recreating it by ear. "I'm no expert, but I enjoy dabbling in music composition. These pixelated remakes are where I get to practice composing and replicating these music pieces by ear. I'm a huge movie score nut, so replicating them is always a pleasure."
The animator's Star Wars videos didn't start off as 16-bit. Rather, he did an 8-bit trailer for The Force Awakens (his first foray into pixel animation), which was picked up by JoBlo, and then graduated to the larger pixelated format. "After losing a really ambitious project a few years ago, Star Wars made me want to start creating again," he said. Following the success of The Force Awakens trailer, he started working with Mr. Sunday Movies on Star Wars projects like the Vader sequence and the Caravan of Garbage series.
As a fan of the franchise, Stratman is looking forward to what comes next in the current trilogy. Far from being upset about the changes Johnson made, he said, "The Last Jedi is a jaw-dropping movie. The parts I liked most were the parts that I didn't see coming, like the throne room scene, Holdo's hyperspace sequence, and the finale. I know some people have their problems with TLJ, but after a couple of viewings, I really loved what Rian Johnson did. With Episode 9, I have no idea what to expect. I want to see Lando come back. J.J. Abrams is one of my favorite directors working today, and I'm sure he'll do a great job."