Star Wars


So in case you live under a rock, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Walt Disney for over $4 billion last year, along with all of the rights to the Star Wars franchise. Opinions were generally positive, as Disney had previously dealt well with acquiescing Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

What sent fans scrambling was when they announced the next three Star Wars films would be produced. Though long rumored, George Lucas had notoriously stated that he would never make a sequel trilogy, and that the story effectively “ended with Episode VI“. It is also known that ideas, concepts, and plots did exist for these films, penned by Lucas himself over the years. Faith was somewhat restored when J.J. Abrams was announced to direct the film, as his Star Trek (2009) reboot and personal films like Super 8 (2011) have been quite acclaimed. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have also been confirmed to reprise their roles, though to what capacity is still unknown.

While Star Wars features a rock solid plot and massive canon, special effects were a huge part of it’s success and appeal. The opening scene of A New Hope when the Star Destroyer flies overhead instantly captivated audiences; monumental in comparison to anything before it. The series and Lucas’ in-house Industrial Light & Magic have been forerunners in the development of SFX technology across the industry.


George Lucas positioning one of the Star Destroyer models.

With the giant gap between the original and prequel trilogies, that technology had advanced to computer graphics. Scale models, puppets, and physical sets were thrown to the wayside in favor of CGI, allowing for more efficiency and expanded possibility. While daring, the advent of the completely computer-generated “actor” in Episode I backfired, creating possibly the most loathed character to ever exist. Hopefully by now Jar Jar Binks has tripped over his own feet and fallen into the sarlacc pit.

While computer-generated effects are great, they now tend to get overused and become more of a detractor than a superlative. Luckily Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, has stated that they’re ditching the green screen and will focus on returning to practical effects and real locations. While they clearly won’t abandon CGI entirely, I think this excites me more than anything about the new trilogy. Some of the moments in Episodes I, II, and III felt so obviously fake, falling harshly into the uncanny-valley category. The scale model ships in the original trilogy have an innately organic feel to them that can’t be replicated. No, the Death Star isn’t actually floating around in space, but it was there in the studio being moved, filmed, and illuminated in real time. It just looks better, and that is why those scenes have held up so well over three and a half decades later.

I think we’re going to start seeing this trend of returning to traditional effects, with computers filling in for the physically impossible. The Godzilla (2014) reboot is a good example, returning to it’s kaiju roots and using CGI sparsely. I suppose it all depends on each film individually, as something like 2010’s beautiful Tron Legacy¬†would not have been possible. I have high hopes for the new trilogy and faith in Abrams to bring us to a fresh yet familiar place in our imaginations. The new generations deserve to be just as awestruck as we were when we all saw Star Wars for the first time. Just remember, Han shot first.


Star Wars: Episode VII (untiled as of now) is set to release in 2015, with episodes VIII and IX following shortly after.