Following up on a brief discussion on the ST planets in the PT thread, I wanted to elaborate more on some thoughts I had about that.
I think it is a generally accepted the planets in the Sequel Trilogy don’t feel as interesting as some of planets from the Prequels. The new planets feel a little too similar to the OT planets with a few exceptions, like Canto Bight, Crait and Ach-To. I don’t think the issue is they aren’t alien enough, it’s just that people want to see new places. From a visual standpoint, some of the concept art for the “Junkyard Planet” and the “Pirate World” felt a lot newer than Jakku being another desert and Takodana just being a pretty normal forest (with D’Qar being another green forest planet in the same movie).
Hopefully will see some more interesting worlds in IX, but I do think it would be worth exploring ways some of the ST planets could stand out more from the Tatooine, Hoth, Endor/Yavin comparisons.
I don’t think these environments can or should be completely changed, but finding feasible ways to add elements to make them stand out more could help.
Let’s look at Jakku. Obviously a lot of Tatooine comparisons are made. So what sets Jakku apart from other planets? The fact that is basically is a ship graveyard. Maybe they were afraid to add too much stuff, but personally I think they should’ve really leaned in on it being a junkyard.
If you think about it, we really only parts of this ship graveyard in three sequences: when Rey is in the Destroyer in her first scene and as she drives away, her AT-AT house, and the Millenium Falcon chase sequence. Not a lot in retrospect.
So the simplest thing to do would be add more crashed ships to emphasize that part of the planet’s “character”. Let’s see more old AT-ATs around Rey’s home, maybe standing up rather than fallen over. One without it’s head, etc etc.
Another great place to add stuff would be Finn’s trek to Niima Outpost. What if as Finn got closer to the Outpost, we would see more and more junk in each shot. This would help show visually that Finn is going in the right direction. Then finally when Finn sees Niima Outpost, the horizon could be filled with small specks of crashes ships, and we could clearly see the remains of a long-forgotten battlefield.
Obviously the difficult part would be integrating these ships into the shots, but I think with some after effects/blender designs, plus motion tracking, would still put it in a realm of possibility.
Some ideas for potential crashed ship varieties:
Mon Calamari Cruisers
You also could have debris in space still floating in orbit as well.
I think seeing more stuff like this really would’ve given Jakku more character. I’ve also suggested that the large planet/moon we see in the opening shot of TFA could be inserted in the skyline of Jakku somewhere to set it apart from Tatooine more.
Moving on to Takodana.
I was really stumped on what could be done with it. To me, I would say the most interesting thing about Maz’s Castle is that it was the site of a battle between the Jedi and Sith, and according to Wookieepedia, the Castle use to house Jedi and its catacombs contained Jedi tombs. Pretty interesting, but you wouldn’t know any of that just by watching the movie!
So my idea for adding something to give this place more visual history/character would be to insert two giant Jedi statues on opposites sides of the lake. This would only require vfx for three or fours shots: the wide shot as the Falcon approaches the Castle, two shots of Rey looking out over the lake, and possibly one shot during the X-Wing battle. It could sort of be like an homage to the Pillars of Argonath from Fellowship of the Ring, the two giant statues they pass on their journey.
I think this could be a small addition that would make Maz’s Castle much more interesting, and it also might help surprise the audience when they enter the castle and it is actually filled with pirates.
With Starkiller Base, I would say one of the more interesting aspects regarding it is the theory that it might be Ilum, the planet where Jedi would go to get their lightsaber crystals.
Ilum actually appeared in the Clone Wars, but if you compare it how Ilum looks to Starkiller Base, it doesn’t immediately look the same beyond them both being snow planets.
So, what if we made Starkiller Base look more like Ilum to help strengthen that idea?
While most movie-only fans wouldn’t get the connection, Ilum is actually visually interesting. Not only does it have crystals jutting out of the ground here and there, but is also has a visible aurora borealis in the sky, something haven’t seen in a Star Wars movie before.
You can find crystal models on blender that could be used to place across the planet’s surface in certain shots. You also could added visible aurorae in space shots of the planet, and maybe in certain shots of the characters on the surface as well where appropriate. I think this would help make Starkiller more visually interesting.
Not only that, but if we emphasize the ideas of Takodana and Starkiller being sacred Jedi sites, then the First Order destroying them to serve their goals would go along with the idea that they want to destroy Luke and the last remnants of the Jedi religion.
That only really leaves D’Qar which I don’t think you can do much with honestly. The most interesting thing about it is its ring, but most scenes on D’Qar are overcast, so you couldn’t really add the ring to any of those shots even if you wanted to. The only thing I’ve thought of would be to change the greenery to a different color, maybe to something more autumn-like, such as yellow or orange, since we’ve never really seen a fall-season in a Star Wars movie. Not sure how difficult that would be though. On the other hand it might be the most feasible idea out of all of these!
Anyway, these are just “radical” some ideas I wanted to share. It seems like visually this one thing Lucas wasn’t too crazy about regarding TFA, and I can understand that. I think a good balance could be found though.
These ideas would require some work but I don’t think they are unrealistic either, and I think they would be effective changes as well. Would like to get some more thoughts on this.