Thanks to Mad Max and Star Wars, practical effects are back in vogue

Star Wars Practical Effects

While the Star Wars prequels (Episodes I – III) have managed to attract a reasonable fan base, for those of us who grew up with the original trilogy, the later films never quite managed to match the magic of the first batch. Computer generated effects weren’t the sole reason for the lack of emotional connection made by the films, but they contributed. The amount of time, money and focus placed on creating ground-breaking digital effects and all-CG characters such as Jar-Jar Binks, seems to have distracted George Lucas from the task of extracting the best possible performance from his actors, fostering witty repartee and immersing the audience in a coherent, engaging story.

There are plenty of movies within which CGI plays an integral role, but doesn’t overbear the film’s emotional content. Jurassic Park, the Harry Potter films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Life of Pi and many others have shown that CGI can breathe life into the mise-en-scene without distracting from powerful performances and strong screenplays. Having said that, when an over-abundance of CGI takes the audience or the actors out of the action, it tends to detract from a film’s impact.

The huge success of this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which features an abundance of practical effects not unlike those that cinema audiences were used to seeing in the 1980s, demonstrated the thirst that cinemagoers have for experiences that feel real and visceral. As good as CG effects can be, as soon as Neo soars above the clouds in The Matrix: Reloaded or a dwarf in a barrel destroys a squad or orcs while bouncing down a river in The Hobbit, the fourth wall is inadvertently broken and the audience suddenly becomes aware of the film’s construction, rather than being fully immersed.

By all accounts, JJ Abrams and the crew from Star Wars: The Force Awakens have taken particular care in maximizing the use of practical effects – both to return to the heartfelt and occasionally goofy feeling of the original trilogy, and to ensure that both performers and audiences are made to feel as though they’re involved in something real; something that can be touched, felt and lived. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

Kevin Spacey’s must-see Han Solo impersonation

Now, Kevin Spacey is known for bringing out the big impersonations during his late night TV appearances, but this one’s something special. It’s an impersonation-within-a-impersonation (all very meta), featuring a rather youthful Kevin. Within this, Kevin is the embodiment of Christopher Walken, while auditioning for the role of Han Solo.

Quick Trivia: Christopher Walken actually did audition for the role, as did Sylvester Stallone (gasp), Nick Nolte and Kurt Russell. Each would have brought a different flavor to the lackadaisical hero’s role, but I’m personally glad Harrison Ford made the grade. Then again, Kevin does have the right surname to be playing an intergalactic rogue.

Possible spoiler: The fan theory connecting Kylo Ren to Luke Skywalker

Kylo Ren

These days, it seems that every popular TV series or blockbuster cinematic release inevitably attracts fan theories, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception. These have ranged from the curious to the ridiculous, but one that has been gathering a lot of steam of late is worth a look.

SPOILER WARNING: We don’t yet know if there’s any credence to this rumor, but if there is, it could reveal a surprise, so read on at your own risk.

 

The theory in question has been fueled by the relative absence of Luke Skywalker from the trailers and official poster. As we know, Luke wrapped up Episode VI as one of the central heroes in the galaxy; set to herald in a new glory age for the Jedi movement and for all those who took part in the rebellion against the Empire. As such, one would expect him to feature prominently in Episode VII, unless something dramatic happened in the decades following Return of the Jedi.

Could his absence be related to the appearance of Kylo Ren? Could they be one and the same? Is Luke Skywalker Kylo Ren?

Now, we know that Mark Hamill isn’t the man in the suit, so to speak. Newcomer to the series, Adam Driver, is the actor playing the role of Kylo Ren, but we don’t yet know whether his role is similar to David Prowse’s Darth Vader, in that he’s the physical embodiment of a character that holds another face.

Evidence in favor of the notion are that Luke and Kylo do not seem to appear in the same scenes. Kylo also holds a fancy light saber, and though sabers of varying designs have appeared throughout the series, there were few Jedi warriors around by the time of Episode VI and we know that Luke loved to tinker with light sabers, so could he be the man to whip up Kylo’s impractical wonder?

Darth Vader's Helmet

More tellingly, Kylo Ren is seen to be communicating with Vader’s helmet in some versions of the trailer. As far as we know, Luke is the only person to know the whereabouts of this little trinket, and is the figure with the greatest emotional connection to the reformed Sith Master.

What do you think? Could there be something to this, or are the trailers light on Luke because JJ doesn’t want to spoil another big reveal?