Last Jedi: You’d Be Surprised These Scenes Weren’t CGI

Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould breaks down some of the secrets of the movie.

These days it’s generally assumed that anything in movies beyond the norm of reality — and even then, some of the humdrum stuff too — is achieved via CG. But that’s certainly not the case, as Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s special effects supervisor Chris Corbould could tell you. From Force-destroyed huts to scores of falling bombs and beyond, many of the effects in The Last Jedi were created the good old-fashioned practical way.

On the occasion of The Last Jedi’s release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, I spoke to Corbould — who has worked on everything from The Dark Knight to a bunch of James Bond movies to The Who’s rock opera Tommy. He broke down some of the secrets of his trade…

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Attack of the Hut

No, not Jabba the Hutt. We’re talking about the hut on Ahch-To that is decimated by Luke when he interrupts Rey and Kylo Ren’s Force-convo. Corbould explained that, amazingly, the disintegration of the hut was accomplished through practical effects in camera.

“I think what we did do, which you’ll probably think was visual effects — there’s a scene where Luke Skywalker comes into his hut while Rey is having the big talk with Kylo Ren, and all of a sudden the whole hut blows backwards away from him,” he said. “We did that practically. So I was very, very pleased with that. We put the whole hut together like a big jigsaw, and then we attached a wire to every single individual piece. And then, on a cue, on a button, all those individual pieces were connected to pneumatic jerk rams, which jerked them all out in different directions.”

Luke

Since Mark Hamill is standing amid this Force-barrage of hut bits, you might think there was some element of danger to the effect. But Corbould says no way.

“No, no, all the bits were made of foam,” he said. “When we did it, I showed [director] Rian [Johnson]. I stood exactly where Mark Hamill was gonna stand. So, when you see that, a very exciting part on the Blu-ray coming out is the documentary. And I’ve never been part of a documentary like they’ve done on Last Jedi. And normally you have the behind the scenes people shooting in little key bits, but they miked us up for a lot of the film, even when we were doing our tests away from the set. So they saw all the trials and tribulations of the crew, not just the on-set bit, and I think that’s gonna be a really exciting little thing for the audience to look at.”

The Bombs Awaken

One of the most difficult effects for Corbould and his team to pull off on The Last Jedi comes early in the film when Rose’s doomed sister Paige Tico releases the bombs from her ship in a final act of self-sacrifice against the First Order Dreadnought.

“In the start of the film, there’s the big fight with the bombers all going towards the enemy, as it were,” explained Corbould. “And there’s a scene where there’s a bomb bay with about 30 rows of bombs, and a young girl is struggling — she falls down, and she has to let those bombs go, and eventually she gets a hold of the control to let them go. We rigged those 30 lines of bombs to all drop sequentially out the bottom of the set. The set was about 50 foot high, and all those bombs went down, and they sort of went out the bottom and out sideways, and then the CGI took them over and continued the run down towards the big Star Destroyer. That’s one of the practical effects.”

bombs

Noting that most viewers seem to think that sequence is completely CG, Corbould just laughed.

“It was a full-size set,” he continued. “They were round bombs, about 16 inches diameter. There were 30. There were two rows all the way around. They were two deep. So I think there were about 30 runs of bombs, if you like. Rian was very insistent that [as] they started off, they went clockwise, came to an end, and then went back anticlockwise for the second row. So, we had to get every one right, and there were a couple times we had one hold up, which, you know, it just stops! You have to start again, reload them all again, so you make sure you had all 30 lines all drop. I think we nailed it about 90 percent of the time.”

The Phantom Tree

We know now that one of the big surprises in The Last Jedi was the return of not just Yoda, but a practically achieved puppet Yoda to boot. But the little Jedi Master wasn’t the only non-CG creation in that scene. The tree on Luke’s island which contained the original sacred texts of the Jedi was also fully built on an exterior set at Longcross Studios in England. And when Yoda burned it down? That was real too!

tree

“Some of my favorite shots were the Yoda shot with the burning tree,” said Corbould. “We rigged the tree, and I never — you know, when I read it in the script, I didn’t realize how big that tree was gonna be. It was enormous. And then Rian was very insistent that he didn’t want it to just burst into flames. He wanted — we did a lightning bolt effect, as it were. A big shower of white light and sparks. And then it slowly sort of caught, burned, and the whole tree caught alight. And then there was that conversation between Yoda and Luke Skywalker in front of it as it burned in the background.”

As it turns out, the burning of the tree served a dual purpose too.

“It was a very cold night when we shot that, so everybody was very happy when we lit that up!” laughed Corbould.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Talk to Senior Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3. Or do both!

SOURCE: IGN.com

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