By now I think most people who would read this article are probably deep into multiple viewings of Rogue One, so I'm going to assume its safe to write about this. FlickeringMyth have a great piece about bringing back a long passed actor for the new movie, but what does this mean for the future Star Wars films..?
I read two separate articles that lead to this post. One had a few statements from John Knoll, the man behind the Rogue One story idea and one of the people responsible for bringing the CGI Tarkin to the screen for the new movie, the other artical was a IBT post that referred to the Lucasfilm statement that suggested (mistakenly by IBT) that Carrie Fisher had completed filming on both episode VIII and IX. The truth is Carrie had wrapped her role on episode VIII. It's not clear if the intention was to include Carrie in pick ups in 2017, but we can assume the filmmakers have what they need for Leia's story contributions to VIII.
First lets look at John Knoll's comments.
As you can see in the image above, actor Guy Henry was filmed with extensive referencing equipment to help the special effects artists and animators map the Peter Cushing digital "mask" over Guy's face. This method collects minute data about the actors performance that translates into accurate movement of the digital model.
I'm looking forward to more reveals about the process of bring legendary actor Peter Cushing back to Star Wars in this manor. Personally I thought the effect was 98% successful, and when we spoke with Anthony Breznican recently he speculated that perhaps the artists will be continuing to refine their work beyond the films released to nail it by the time the movie comes to BluRay.
People have been responding the use of Peter Cushing in a number of ways. There are those who feel the experiment failed, that Tarkin looked like a video game cut scene. There are also those who feel that using the likeness of a long passed actor was in poor taste, despite the fact that the actors estate, managed by his former secretary Joyce Broughton, gave the project its seal of approval and went on to praise the final effect. It would seem, however, that there is a moral element to this process that needs to be considered. Events of the last week may in fact make this simply the start of a huge moral dilemma being faced by Lucasfilm.
Now lets talk about the elephant in the room.
It feels a little early to be talking about this, so forgive me. With Carrie Fisher's passing this week, there are questions about the character of General Leia's future within Star Wars. A TMZ post claims that a Lucasfilm spokesperson made it clear that Carrie had "absolutely wrapped" for Star Wars Episode VIII. We know that the movie wrapped in July 2016, but might we expect "pick ups" now to address General Leia's fate? If the answer is yes we have one option, if the answer is no, we have another, more challenging option. Lets take a quick look at both.
If filmmakers decide to give the character of Leia Organa her final moments in Episode VIII its reasonable to expect that some things will need to change. Carrie has publicly stated that she would be a part of Episode IX (See the embedded video), so we know Leia survived the initial cut of VIII. If the plan is to change that now in post production can it be done with existing material or will Lucasfilm need to adopt the "Tarkin Tech" to comp in a CGI version General/Princess Leia that will give the character a fitting ending? An ending that honours the character and the star that gave her life. There may be ways of handling this that might be considered a little more sensitive than the bold effect of recreating Tarkin. See John Knoll's comments below.
The second option, which is slightly more of a risk, in my opinion, would be to allow Leia to survive the events of Star Wars Episode VIII and then use the opening of Episode IX to write the character out of Star Wars. This could be done by killing Leia off, which might upset a few fans if Leia survived VIII (we have heard that Leia will be incapacitated during that film) only to be killed at the start of the sequel two years later. Or do they use the "Tarkin Tech" to create a digital Leia that will star in Star Wars Episode IX throughout? This would certainly ruffle a lot of feathers.
This is what I mean by the reaction to Tarkin being the tip of the iceberg.
Whichever way the creators choose to go with this they will have to create a digital version of Leia. A digital version of Carrie Fisher. To do this so close to the star's passing will be challenging for all. Those creating the effect, and those being asked to accept the CGI character as Leia.
An early rumour is that Leia will be injured during an attack on her ship, during which Leia will use the Force to defend herself. It's this attack that inspires Poe Dameron, in Leia's absense, to step up and take control and lead the Resistance against the First Order. If this is true we have an option. Lucasfilm could use these events to have a CGI Carrie Fisher/Leia appear as a Force ghost and communicate with Rey and/or Luke, or even Kylo Ren, before becoming one with the Force. One would imagine, much of this could be dow in dialogue only, greatly reducing the need for the "Tarkin Tech" and thereby reducing unfavourable reactions from the audience. This means we could go into IX without the Leia issue to deal with.
This way we get to respectfully say goodbye to Leia and, of course, to the beloved Carrie Fisher.
What would you prefer? Should Leia be given a respectful exit in VIII? Or should Leia make it to IX where the creators can then find a way to manage Leia in the absence of Carrie Fisher? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Thank you for reading,
Note- This post was written with the best intentions. My thoughts are with Carrie Fisher's family as they deal with the loss of not only Carrie, but Debbie Reynolds, Carrie's mother, who we lost just one day later.