How 'Rogue One' Plays Tricks on Star Wars Fans' Memories Using Visual Effects

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 - 12:39PM
Star Wars
Star Wars: Rogue One
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 - 12:39PM
How 'Rogue One' Plays Tricks on Star Wars Fans' Memories Using Visual Effects
Despite lingering fan trauma caused by residual memories of George Lucas' love of green screens, one of the most impressive parts of Rogue One was the CGI, especially Grand Moff Tarkin. Rogue One did a fantastic job hearkening back to the visuals and props of the original trilogy, so you may not have noticed the subtle differences between the older films and the new one, especially when it came to creating CGI recreations of classic Star Wars fixtures.

CinemaBlend recently conducted a phone interview with John Knoll (visual effects supervisor on Rogue One) to parse the details, and the upshot is that the goal of the Rogue One team wasn't to make the props and visuals identical to the original movies—it was to match them to our collective memory of them. According to Knoll: "We wanted to match how you remembered things more than necessarily how they actually were."

Knoll was taking advantage of something called reconstructive memory—the process by which memory recall is influenced by other cognitive processes like imagination, beliefs, and current knowledge. Over time, people's memories become diluted and re-remembered, and a rift begins to grow between what people think happened and what actually happened. 

Knoll explains how this works with the example of constructing the Star Destroyers in Rogue One:

Opening quote
"There was a three-foot long model that was built for New Hope, and then there was an eight foot model that was built for Empire Strikes Back... a lot of the details are different between the two of them... the problem is the 3-footer has no real detail on the upper surface. so we cribbed details from the upper surface of the 8-footer. And then the 3-footer has no lights in it... The one we built was kind of a hybrid of the two, using the best of both, and putting in even more details than the 3-footer had to hold up some of the closer views that we had, but I think that when you see in the film, it matches everybody's memory."
Closing quote


It's amazing how sneaky these memory games are, especially when it comes to Star Wars. Who hasn't quoted the famous "Luke, I am your father", or Obi-Wan's inspiring message to Luke, "May the Force be with you"? Well, you're quoting those wrong (or at least misremembering who said them). Rogue One isn't the first movie to take advantage of audiences' perceptions to cover up inconsistencies: some clever editing allowed Cipher in The Matrix to somehow violate the rules of "plugging in" to meet with Agent Smith, while Raiders of the Lost Ark just glossed over the fact that Indiana Jones hitched a 500-mile journey on the outside of a submarine.

So, in short: trust nothing in movies.

You can see the full interview on CinemaBlend here.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Movies
Star Wars
Star Wars: Rogue One