I generally like Rogue One, but I thought that the CGI recreation of a dead actor was deeply wrong. Seeing Peter Cushing’s corpse digitally puppeteered around is deeply unnerving and there’s something really weird to the idea that a CGI model is necessary at all rather than just recasting (which they already do for two characters in the film). They have a whole video where Guy Henry says he’s not an impressionist and his portrayal will be an evocation of Cushing’s and then they cut to ILM painstakingly matching Cushing’s expressions. So much of the discussion around this focuses on the uncanny valley, but for me the uncanny bit isn’t just the CG model, it’s the idea that any of this is necessary or okay.
As an experiment, I cut together a version of the film which only shows the back of Tarkin’s head during his scenes, in a similar manner to how an older Hollywood film might handle the absence of a distinctive actor. I also took the opportunity to cut out Evazan and Baba, the Darth Vader hallway scene (which I have never liked) as well as cutting around showing Leia’s face. (I have much less issues with her CGI appearance as Carrie Fisher could consent to it, but the idea that it’s necessary is again really weird to me. It’s cinema, it lives and dies on closeups! Ending your film with a shot of technology just feels hollow).
Here is a video showing the scenes I changed:
There’s not really any extra coverage in these scenes to work with, so this involved splicing in shots from elsewhere in the film, often with obviously off continuity. I used footage of Ben Mendelsohn found only in a trailer, as well as emulating rack focus in a shot to blur out Tarkin. To cut around Leia’s face, I added footage of the droids from the original Star Wars with some Anthony Daniels lines from the latest Battlefront game. I like the idea of ending with the droids as they are the core of the first film.
The result is very unpolished, but it turned out better than I thought it might. If anyone has any ideas on how the editing might be made smoother I’d love to hear them.