The CGI debate in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Spoilers! This article contains important spoilers, so it might be wise to watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story first before continuing to read.

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Rogue One features two special appearances by familiar characters: Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. Each character shows up through the wonderful use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). For those who cannot afford to see the movie and analyze the CGI characters, someone uploaded a video showing still images.

Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher played the roles of Tarkin and Leia in the original trilogy. For the purpose of motion capture, actors Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila portrayed the iconic characters during the filming of Rogue One.

In post production, Henry and Deila were digitally replaced to resemble Tarkin and Leia. A similar process was used in the film Fast and Furious 7 to recreate the deceased Paul Walker.

“I mean ideally, you get the original actors to play these roles, but it’s been 30-odd years since then, and so it’s impossible,” director Gareth Edwards explained for a Radio Times interview.

It goes without saying there is a debate on the use of CGI in Rogue One though. No matter how realistic computer graphics become, the human eye can always tell when something looks fake on screen.

Mike Matei of Cinemassacre described the problem best while reviewing the movie with James Rolfe (otherwise known as the Angry Video Game Nerd).

“These are probably like PlayStation 6 graphics,” he said. “It looks really … really good. But, it doesn’t look real.”

“To take a great actor like Peter Cushing, and CG him …. you can never replace the real guy. The performance was so stilted by being CGI.”

In contrast, some fans believe the CGI is real enough. Just read through some YouTube comments in the first link.

“The CGI of Leia and Tarkin was incredible. I spent the ride home from the movie wondering if the only reason it seemed a bit ‘off’ was simply because I know that Peter Cushing is dead,” one enthusiastic viewer wrote.

Others found fault when the characters moved and spoke. People could notice the flaws more easily.

“Tarkin looks okay when he’s standing still, but his face looks weird when he talks. It’s unnatural movement,” another user pointed out. “Leia looks bad, I think. Like a video game character.”

The general consensus is that CGI Tarkin comes off as more believable because his scenes take place mostly around dark shadows, thereby covering up the flaws of computer graphics. Leia, on the other hand, appears in a brighter setting with her skin more exposed. Despite advancements in CGI, human skin is very difficult to duplicate.

There is also the question of ethicality in using a dead actor, although permission was received for Rogue One.

Needless to say, the debate over using CGI characters in a movie made up of real ones will go on for a long time.

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