JJ Abrams talks STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – Lightsabers and old school special effects

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There’s something magical about having a proper Star Wars experience. When you’re sitting in a packed cinema, and you hear that familiar tune blaze around you in skull-shattering Dolby Surround Sound, reading a familiar scrawl of text before the camera pans down towards a planet, you’re most likely ridiculously happy for that one moment. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to deliver those feels to a whole new generation of fans this year, with director JJ Abrams helming possibly the most anticipated flick of the year. And it’s the kind of film that will be a blend of both old-school and new-school special effects, according to the director who touched on several key points.

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One thing that Abrams isn’t talking about right now, is that new lightsaber design which features a polarising cross-guard feature that had him and his crew debating for quite a while when he spoke to Collider:

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.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.

One thing that Abrams did confirm however, was that IMAX fans were in for a treat, albeit only for scene:

It’s really one sequence so it’s not a ton [of IMAX footage], but it’s a good sequence.

If there’s been any real buzz towards the film, it’s most likely directed at the old school practical effects that are littered throughout the flick according to reports in order to give the movie a touch of realism that CGI had yet to replicate:

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.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be CGI in the film however, as some scenes were impossible to shoot without a touch of digital magic. But combining practical with digital effects was the key goal here:

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.

As for future plans in the franchise, Abrams will remain on as the executive producer for Episodes 8 and 9, with director Rian Johnson handling the next instalment:

I wouldn’t say 8 and 9 are my baby, Rian will be working at least on 8, but I’m executive producing those films, yeah.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still ten whole months away. Dammit.

Last Updated: February 9, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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