What We Thought Of Rogue One’s CG Characters

What We Thought Of Rogue One’s CG Characters

With the opening weekend of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finally behind us, there are a great many things to talk about. On the internet, though, one conversation has seemingly risen above them all: the movie’s CG characters.

Star Wars is no stranger to computer generated characters, obviously — Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace was the first fully CG character ever — but if you’ve seen Rogue One, you realise they took things one step further. But was it too far?

Rogue One has three prominent CG characters. The first is K-2SO, a droid performance captured on set by Alan Tudyk, who isn’t an issue because robots and mechanical things always look fine in CG (assuming they’re done well). The same can’t be said for humans, and Rogue One has two computer-generated human characters: Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, looking exactly as they did when Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher played them back in 1977 during A New Hope.

This is not the first time human beings have been made as CG characters, nor is it the first time either a deceased actor was resurrected for a film. And plenty of actors have been digitally de-aged for scenes set in the past. But putting the late Peter Cushing and the young Carrie Fisher back on-screen are probably the most prominent and advanced uses of this technology — and certainly most controversial.

Among the questions fans have been asking about the characters are:

  • Is it ethical? Is the idea of bringing actors back to the big screen something that should even be an option?
  • Why didn’t Lucasfilm recast the roles? Was it even necessary to have the faces of these characters in the film?
  • Is the technology screenworthy? Did the effects take you out of the movie in anyway?

Of course, there are also potentially immense legal ramifications surrounding these characters, and the question of the actual process of completing these effects. These articles from Variety and Vulture do a great job breaking down each, respectively.

We contacted Industrial Light and Magic, the effects company responsible for the work, and were told they wouldn’t be talking about the CG characters publically until January. So before they get an official word out, we wanted to hear from you: What are your thoughts on Tarkin and Leia’s inclusion in Rogue One?

Personally, when I first saw Tarkin, I was very surprised. He’s been teased in some of the preview footage, so I knew he was in the film but, I did not expect to see the character realised so vividly or playing such a prominent role. So while it did take me out of the film for a beat, I was so excited to see this iconic character back I quickly got back into the movie. Sure the effect wasn’t “perfect,” but it was damn impressive.

Once we’d seen Tarkin, I had a feeling as the film approached its ending we’d also be seeing Leia. When we did, I was hit with more… mixed emotions. Seeing Leia, in any capacity, in that moment, was the perfect way to make everything ok after all the heroic sacrifices that take place during the finale of Rogue One. She’s the visual embodiment of the fact what our heroes have given up will all be worth it.

On the other hand, I felt the effect itself was significantly less clean than Tarkin’s. Even though you only see her for a fraction of the time, she looked significantly less real — a bit like a wax figure. Again, though, what she represented overshadowed for me.

What about you? What did you think when they first appeared? How did the CG models look to you? Do you think Disney and Lucasfilm should have recreated Peter Cushing and young Carrie Fisher for the film? And if this technology is going to be used in again in other Star Wars films, what would you like to see next — if anything?

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo


  • Honestly I was impressed by the CG characters. It was impressive how confident they were with Tarkin given how much screen time he got. As for Leia, she was definitely more creepy than Tarkin and I would have preferred if she didn’t make an appearance but not because of the CG.

    The technology they’re using is incredible and the fact that they look so creepy means that they’re so close to creating realistic looking human actors using CG as per the uncanny valley theory.

    • I pretty much agree with you 100%, Germain Lussier, wouldn’t you say?

      As for who I’d like to see if they do it again, I guess I would have liked to have seen Wedge, Porkins and Biggs in Rogue One. In other films I feel like an older Ben Kenobi might return, though they can probably just make up Ewan McGregor enough for that role.

  • Even with Tarkin, you could still tell at times that the character was CG. However, it was a really really good effort, and I was really impressed with it. He managed to have a presence similar to in a New Hope, which is what you wanted from the character.

    Leia was definitely more noticeable. It was still a pretty good job. I think the main issue I personally had with Leia is that Carrie Fischer was in last year’s film, and so we have a relatively recent memory of what she looks like. Peter Cushing by comparison passed away in 1994, so he has not been in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. The CG version looked very much how I last remember seeing him, and so it was almost nostalgic in a way.

  • I find these comments strange because I had pretty much the opposite experience. I groaned internally when Tarkin turned to face the camera because of how terrible and fake he looked and found it extremely distracting every time he was on screen – it really took me out of the movie.

    CGI Leia at the end, probably just by virtue of it being so brief, didn’t bother me at all and I actually thought she looked pretty legit – initially thought they’d found a look-a-like to play the role.

    Strange that so many people had the opposite impressions.

    • I was exactly the same, Tarkin looked like a videogame character from the start (albeit a very realistic one) while Leia had me think about it for a second or two.

    • Personally I thought the, Tarkin was so good I checked IMDB to see if he was actually dead like I thought. It was only in the second viewing knowing he was fake did I notice the mouth movements with his accent were slightly off, otherwise I thought it was outstanding.

    • I felt exactly the same. Tarkin was impressive, but noticeably fake. I mean, he was 95% believable, but that 5% is where the uncanny valley happens. Lisa’s appearance was more novel than distracting.

      But seriously Disney, hire some look-alikes next time.

  • I liked what they were going for, but whenever they were on screen I felt like I was watching a (admittedly good) CGI cut scene from a computer game, and it knocked me out of the moment for a bit.

    Who knows how it would have ended up, but I’m imagining that I would have preferred them to cast a lookalike and maybe tweaked them with some CGI, but overall it didn’t detract from the film enough for me to be bothered.

  • I found that the two human CGI characters were both immersion breaking though as mentioned above Leia was creepy as well. I have just returned from seeing the movie for a second time and it was less jarring the second time around I must admit. Went to see it again with my kid so we could catch all of the Rebels Easter Eggs.

  • I found nothing wrong with either, then again I must be the only person who is immune to the “uncanny valley” effect, because as far as i could tell, Disney either have access to a working time machine OR they have prefected the art of necromancy

  • It’s only because you know they’re CGI that it’s jarring – I’d love it if they disclose that one of the other cast was CGI and no one knew

  • I was pretty impressed by it. CGI artists have definitely improved since Tron Legacy’s CGI Jeff Bridges. It didn’t bother me at all because I was enjoying the movie as a whole and I was pretty hooked. Seeing Leia was pretty awkward, not neccessarily because of the CGI, that was pretty good too but more so the fact it was another one.

    Now if only CGI objects could blend into the scene better.

  • I honestly had more issue with the fact that the voice actor doing Tarkin’s lines didn’t quite nail the voice than I did with the actual character himself.

  • Haven’t not seen the Star Wars films and not knowing that those characters was CG left me in awe after reading this article. They did a good job.

  • I liked how they replaced Mon Mothma with an actress (one who ended up on the cutting room floor from Episode 3) and wished they’d gone for this simpler approach with Tarkin and Leia. Both the actors who performed the mo-cap could have pulled off this replacement role – the young actress who performed Leia looks a lot like her. And anyway, audiences are forgiving with real actors – we did it with Dumbledore and we even did it with Darren on Bewitched!

    Admittedly, the CG was impressive but the whispers that went up around the audience when Tarkin and Leia appeared suggested it took quite a few people out of the moment.

    Didn’t matter – loved the film, especially the relatively new ground it broke after the disappointingly derivative Episode 7. Hopefully Disney will now be prepared to take on riskier narratives in the Star Wars universe.

  • Weird that people can suspend belief for the light sabres, light speed travel, defiance of physics, sentient AI etc, but not for CGI human characters.

    Just enjoy the movie?

  • I think the issue is, that we know that Peter Cushing is dead and that Carrie Fisher is much older now than the part played. So as soon as the characters appear on screen we know it’s CGI and we’re looking for differences. If the characters had been CGI of unknown actors the hoopla would have been nowhere near as loud. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t have noticed, but we’d have accepted it, we wouldn’t have been jarred or thrown out of the scene.

    I think even if the CGI had been 100% perfect, people would have had an issue, maybe the acting or voice was a little wooden, they would have found something. I had no issues, with either CGI character. Everyone around them acted naturally which was the main point and the emotional portail of the characters was fine. To be honest i had more issues with Vaders voice than the CGI even though it was voiced by JEJ.

  • CGI Grand Moff Tarkin threw me off, mostly because this is Star Wars, sorry, Disney. They have the resources damn it to make better CGI.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger vs CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger in the latest Terminator movie was incredibly done, so why was Tarkin so bleh?

  • I’m sort of shocked at how some people considered them unrealistic looking. All of my friends are big Star Wars fans and took me to see the movie and I had no idea either Leia or Tarkin were CGI. If I had know beforehand I probably would have noticed discrepancies, but there was literally nothing that gave it away to me and I doubt anyone else would notice unless they were told to look or worked with CGI.

  • Peter Cushing’s family were very involved in making sure that he looked like the real deal (well as much as CG will allow). If we’re talking ethics – I think if the director/screenwriter etc discuss allowing the deceased actor on screen with said actor’s family first, and get their approval to use his or her’s likeness, then it’s all good.
    I was so happy to see Tarkin on screen again. He fit in perfectly within the context of the story, and I think they nailed his sharp tongue and badass demeanor.

  • Funnily enough it didn’t even click in my head that K-2SO was CGI until I read this article.

    Tarkin was pretty obvious, I kind of wish he was just relegated to a cameo at the end like Leia was – I mean he belonged in the story but the CGI was a bit distracting for me and Krennic could have filled a lot of his role until the end where Tarkin could have showed up to take over.

    In the end it didn’t ruin the movie or anything.

  • here I was thinking they were body doubles with really good make up with something a little off. BUBBLE BURST

  • The CGI certainly wasn’t perfect, but I have to say I admire their chutzpah for having the guts to go all in with them. When Tarkin was first shown I was sure they’d try to keep him obscured – back to the audience, only seeing him in reflections, that sort of thing. When he turned around for a full reveal I was happily shocked. And frankly seeing this excellent character again on screen tickled my nostalgia bone so hard I was forgiving of the CGI’s flaws.

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