This story was first published on Outer Places.
When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuted in theaters last December, fans of the series were struck by how well director Gareth Edwards managed to nail the old school, grimy aesthetic of the original Star Wars trilogy: everything from Jyn Erso's childhood home to the bustling city of Jedha felt tangible and real, with carefully crafted sets and props that hearkened back to A New Hope. Almost 20 years after Phantom Menace hit theaters, the consensus is that the prequels suffered from an overuse of CGI, and Rogue One seemed happy to eschew VFX in favor of elaborate costumes, puppets, weathered blasters, and outdoor sets.
But here's where we blow your mind: Rogue One had almost as many VFX shots as The Phantom Menace.
In a recent interview with SlashFilm, visual effects supervisor John Knoll broke down how many effects shots appear in Rogue One when compared with previous movies:
"It's about 1,700. The original A New Hope was about 360. Empire Strikes Back was about 700. Return of the Jedi was about 900 or 950. Episode I was 1,900-something, 1950, I think. Episode II was 2,200. Episode III was 2,400. Episode VII was, I think just under 2,000. So we're kind of in the middle."
With 1700 effects shots in Rogue One compared with just 360 in the original Star Wars, clearly making the first anthology movie look the part involved a lot more behind-the-scenes trickery than audiences might have realized. No doubt a lot of this involved creating K2-SO and other entirely digital characters, as well as giving all the impressive space battle scenes the punch they needed.
It's also difficult for most fans to gauge the difference in effects quality between the 2016 movie and its 1977 counterpart. Thanks to Special Edition tampering, most fans remember A New Hope being more technically impressive than it actually was back in the day, as Lucasfilm added additional effects shots after the fact. If Rogue One proves anything, it's that it's not the amount of CGI you use, it's how you use it. It makes it all the more galling that Lucas dropped by the Rogue One set and said they should use more CGI.
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Featured photo from "Rogue One" via Industrial Light and Magic