When we first met Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was plenty of mystery surrounding just who she was. Flashbacks showed her family deserting her on Jakku, and then there was the fact that she was able to yield the Force with great ability and strength. Immediately, fans began speculating: was she secretly a Skywalker? Of course, now we know the answer: No. She wasn’t. She was actually a Palpatine – a twist that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But was that always the plan? There are plenty of indications that the new Star Wars trilogy was assembled bit by bit, without a clear map indicating where the story would go. But according to the new art book The Art Of Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker, there was definitely some early discussion about Rey’s lineage.
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Creature and Special Make-up Effects Creative Supervisor Neal Scanlan began his career working on films such as Walt Disney’s Return to Oz, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and the 1986 Oscar-nominated Little Shop of Horrors. A founding member of the Jim Henson Creature Shop, Neal was involved in projects such as Witches, Babe (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects), 101 Dalmatians, The English Patient, and more.
In 2011, Scanlan was asked to head up the Creature and Make-Up FX department for the new series of Star Wars movies. He has worked on every film of the Disney era: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, Solo, and the final episode of the nine-part Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker.
With The Rise of Skywalker now available on Digital HD and hitting 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on March 31st, I recently got the chance to speak to Scanlan about his work on the film. He discussed the process of creating creatures for the saga, the origins of Babu Frik, and some tantalizing details on a character we didn’t see: The Eye of Webbish Bog.
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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has sent the Internet into an uproar, but amid the ping-ponging hot takes — all of which are right, “from a certain point of view” — it’s worth pausing to remember that this movie brings a close to a saga dating back to 1977. The 9-episode Skywalker Saga has served up its denouement the same year as that of Marvel’s 23-episode Infinity Saga. Avengers: Endgame also had a lot of threads to tie off, but it did so in a manner that caused less of a disturbance in the Force. Most Marvelites seem to have gone home happy back in late April. Is it even possible anymore for Star Wars to appease its opinionated, cross-generational fan base like that?
The fates are always dueling and it is your destiny as Jedi or Sith apprentices to make up your own mind about what you saw when The Rise of Skywalker opened in theaters around the globe. I have my own opinions about the movie, but I’ve said my piece in a separate spoiler review and am happy to keep this discussion compartmentalized from that one.
Star Wars once staked out Memorial Day weekend as its piece of box-office territory. The release of a new George Lucas space opera traditionally meant the start of the summer movie season. But in the Disney era, the franchise has shifted to Christmas-y December releases. For the purposes of this analysis, I’ll try to try to tap into some yuletide cheer and keep the tone as neutral as possible. If you think The Rise of Skywalker hasn’t been getting a fair shake and are looking for a more even-handed perspective, you don’t need to worry about hearing someone else trash it here as we examine how it wraps up the Skywalker Saga.
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In the year of our Ford 2019, trying to make sense of people’s wildly divergent Star Wars opinions opens up a murky frontier of epistemological questions that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters now, only complicates all the more. Epistemology concerns the nature of knowledge and justified belief. I believe that people believe what they believe when they share their Star Wars opinions but I often wonder how they acquired those opinions in the first place. There’s a precedent for Jedi mind tricks in the Star Wars universe and it leaves me questioning whether some opinions were planted in people’s minds, Kenobi-style, or whether they were genuine reactions that people formed on their own. Like, “Hey, have you Change.org petitioners perchance been inceptioned by the Kremlin?” Or, “Hmm. You journos been getting all chummy with Rian Johnson, listening to him sing subliminal karaoke at film festival bars?”
Discussing Disney’s sequel Star Wars trilogy online is like venturing into a mad minefield decorated with the same bad blood as George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. As the young Lando Calrissian tells us in his Grammy-winning music video: this is America. When J.J. Abrams stepped back into the director’s chair for The Rise of Skywalker, there was always the lingering fear that a big ol’ landmine was planted right under that chair, just waiting to detonate. In 2015, Abrams rescued the franchise, restoring its cultural clout with the $2 billion success of The Force Awakens. Now, he’s essentially trying to re-rescue the franchise from a re-polluted water cooler. This translates visually when The Rise of Skywalker introduces an ocean moon that’s polluted with the wreckage of the second Death Star.
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While some people would be perfectly fine forgetting the Star Wars prequels even exist, J.J. Abrams isn’t one of them. He’s said several times that the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker is meant to be not just a conclusion to this new trilogy, but to the franchise as a whole – and that includes the three prequel movies.
And now Abrams is opening about his favorite Star Wars prequel scene. What do you think it is? Does it involve Anakin shouting, “Yippie!” or complaining about sand? Or maybe one of the scenes talking about trade disputes? Or perhaps it’s a scene featuring everyone’s favorite Star Wars character, Watto? No, it’s none of those things. Instead, it’s a scene between Anakin and Palpatine – a character soon to return in The Rise of Skywalker.
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J.J. Abrams really wants you to understand that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the end. Is it the end of Star Wars? No, of course not. But it is the end of the Skywalker Saga – the saga that encompasses nine films total. And when it comes to Skywalker, Abrams wanted to make sure he provided not just a good final film, but a satisfying conclusion to the saga as a whole. In two new interviews, Abrams hammers home how conclusive and satisfying he hopes this will end up being.
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