Whether you loved or hated Rogue One, there’s no denying that the digitally replicated Peter Cushing was a shock. Defusing Carrie Fisher digitally for a Leia cameo at the end of the film was one thing. Bringing a person digitally back from the dead crossed a threshold.
After Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016, a year before the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the question of how to deal with Leia’s unfinished story became particularly worrying as Rogue One’s scary images are still in the mind of the Are fans. Fisher had finished filming the scenes for The Last Jedi, but had not yet completed some post-production dialogue shots, which meant director Rian Johnson had to put together the lines they had previously recorded. A single scene – that of Leia flying through space – was created digitally. the rest was the real fisherman. Where’s Leia’s bow for The Rise of Skywalker?
In an interview regarding the release of The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy stated that the company did not intend to continue using CGI copies of actors and that Fisher would not even appear in archive footage. “Unfortunately, Carrie won’t be in (Episode) IX,” she told Vanity Fair in December 2017.
Fisher and director Rian Johnson (left) on the set of The Last Jedi.
Photo: David James / Lucasfilm
But the plans have changed between then and now, as Leia plays a fairly prominent – if somewhat strange – role in the last Star Wars film. “When we watched The Force Awakens footage,” said director JJ Abrams during the Rise of Skywalker press tour, “and realized that we had a number of scenes that we could use and rewrite scenes, it was suddenly like : “Oh my god, we could tell the story with Leia in the film. ‘ “
The remaining footage was eight minutes, according to Fischer’s brother Todd Fisher. From then on, it was a matter of reverse engineering to build scenes around Leia’s existing dialogue instead of writing it linearly. “Hopefully it will be an invisible thing if it works, and if you didn’t know it you would never know,” Abrams said. “But we have to tell Leia the story we would have told if Carrie had lived. And that is incredible. “
Unfortunately, the effect is not quite as seamless.
(Ed. Note: Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow.)
Fisher in The Force Awakens. Image: Lucasfilm / Disney
At the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, Leia’s dialogue inevitably feels stilted, as if she wasn’t part of the conversation with the character she is supposed to speak to. Her scenes with Rey look like something from the new Jumanji films with video games. Leia is the Rhys Darby equivalent, an NPC that is forced to speak in cans instead of actually responding to what is said to her. It also has a bit of digital fluff around it – the filmmakers still need to talk specifically about how they reprocessed Fisher’s old footage – and it always appears in the same position.
Sewing them together is less alarming than a flashback in which a young Luke and Leia are doing lightsaber training in a dense forest. The two initially wear helmets, but then raise their visors and show their digitally reproduced faces. Both look strange, but Leia especially – she looks scary as if Billie Lourd (Fischer’s daughter and a supporting role in the new Star Wars trilogy) stood up for the role and its functions were digitally changed to more like Fisher’s look. It is basically this terrible villain. Another moment.
The flashback is particularly outrageous because the reveal is unnecessary – the narrative has already told us which characters we’re looking at, so we don’t necessarily have to see Fisher’s CGI face. At least the converted footage feels justified, since every member of the Skywalker family has reached the end of the new trilogy and missing Leia would be more noticeable than integrating Frankenstein into the film.
“As I said, there was no way to tell the story without Leia,” Abrams repeated during the tour. “It’s the Skywalker saga. She’s the living Skywalker in our story. They don’t want to start the story and don’t say that something happened to them between the films. It didn’t feel right.”
Though it would be strange if such a big character dies off-screen, Leia’s plot in The Rise of Skywalker is less for her than for Ben / Kylo Ren. Leia uses the very last power of her life to turn her son, and the review also shows that she gave up her Jedi education because she had a vision of Ben’s fate. It’s a sideline that feels like Abrams has limited footage, although Leia’s reappearance as a spirit of power confirms that she was really connected to the Force. Had Fisher been alive, would Leia’s bow have felt better?
However, given the end of the Skywalker saga, Lucasfilm may find it easier to keep its original promise of no longer having CGI actors.