When was the last time you watched a blockbuster that wasn't swimming in visual effects of the digital variety? It's more or less impossible to make an action, sci-fi or fantasy movie these days without going heavy on the VFX. Even scenes that look unaltered have usually had a makeover in post-production — take this scene from Mad Max: Fury Road, for example...
As blockbusters go, Fury Road was notoriously light on CGI and digital effects, using them to alter the landscape but employing real vehicles and performing as many practical effects as possible. More often than not, that just isn't possible, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, pretty much every frame was digitally altered in one way or another.
Although J.J. Abrams has spoken about his preference for practical effects, a new VFX reel released by Lucasfilm's effects studio Industrial Light & Magic makes it clear that an enormous amount of digital trickery went into creating the vast world of The Force Awakens, be it scenes on Jakku or Takodana, inside Rey's ship, or in the creation of motion capture characters such as Maz Kanata and Unkar Plutt.
In short, it's one of the most illuminating and downright extraordinary visual effects reels I've ever seen. Check out Movie Pilot's exclusive breakdown of the VFX below, and prepare to be stunned.
Tiny elements the viewer would take for granted while watching the film in the theater, like the ship creating a ripple of waves on the water surface as it comes in to land on Takodana, are created so seamlessly it's hard to imagine how anybody even made movies before the tech advancements of the late '90s and early '00s.
For more VFX brilliance:
- Before & After: How 'Deadpool' Went The VFX-tra Mile
- See Exactly How Much VFX Went Into 'Batman v Superman'
For even more digital effects before-and-afters from The Force Awakens, check out the original video from Industrial Light & Magic below.
The golden rule of VFX? Where possible, the audience shouldn't know that what they're seeing isn't real — and on that basis, the digital work done in post to The Force Awakens was a resounding success.
Star Wars 8 hits theaters December 15, 2017. Rogue One is just a few months away, arriving December 16.
Do you prefer minimal VFX, Mad Max-style, or are heavier digital effects fine when the movie looks as good as The Force Awakens?