JJ Abrams Talks Crucifix Lightsaber, Physical vs. CG Effects in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ever since the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out over Thanksgiving, fans have had several burning questions. Who are John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac's characters exactly? Will this new trilogy be a CGI disaster like the prequels? And most of all, what is up with that crucifix lightsaber? In an interview with Collider, director J.J. Abrams took it upon himself to answer some of these questions, at least in part.
First, he spoke about the massive reaction to the new lightsaber, which was arguably the most exciting new bit of information from the first teaser: "I will say that what's been funny is, since the lightsaber's come out, I cannot tell you how many contradictory emails I have received from people who have both defended it with unbelievably detailed graphics…I've gotten things that are nuts, and I've gotten people who've shown how it'll kill you and how it doesn't make any sense. It's been the funniest thing to see the arguments that have developed over this thing."
He didn't get into the lightsaber's origins, teasing that it's a "long story," but he spoke a bit about the process of creating it: "It was a number of conversations [that led to the design]. It was a sketch that became a whole thing and, you know, this was not done without a lot of conversation and it's fun to see people have the conversation that we had, but in reverse."
He also reassured fans that, although CGI was obviously utilized in the film, physical effects took precedence: "I feel like the beauty of this age of filmmaking is that there are more tools at your disposal, but it doesn't mean that any of these new tools are automatically the right tools. And there are a lot of situations where we went very much old school and in fact used CG more to remove things than to add things... There are obviously an enormous amount of CG effects in the film, and I can't wait for you to see the combination. But it was very important that we build as many sets as we could and that the film have a tangible, sort of authentic quality that you believed that these things were actually happening in a real space with real sunlight, if it was an exterior scene, or if we could build a big portion of a scene and not have anything be blue screen, do it where we could. It was a very important piece of work."
If nothing else, it sounds like they've learned from some of the prequels' mistakes, and this is just another in a long line of pieces of evidence that physical effects will be more prominent than potentially cheesy CGI effects. Hopefully they've also learned not to cast actors with negative chemistry, to nix annoying and racist characters like Jar Jar, and to refrain from discussing intergalactic trade laws for an entire movie.