The Best Case Against CGI Luke Was Made By George Lucas
Because the internet is basically the movie Groundhog Day but in an entirely argument-based way, people on social media are once again passionately debating the Star Wars franchise’s depiction of Luke Skywalker – specifically, his appearance in the most recent episode of The Book of Boba Fett in which a young Mark Hamill’s face was deepfaked onto some other dude’s body.
And while Luke had previously popped by the season finale of The Mandalorian, here he got far more screen time and far more dialogue. While some fans clearly loved this trip down memory lane (with a detour through the uncanny valley) others were put off by how Luke now sounds like a virtual assistant offering you Jedi tech support over the phone.
Despite the fact that Hamill is still credited as Luke on the show, as was the case with The Mandalorian, Luke 2.0’s voice is entirely digital, the result of a sophisticated “neural network” that learned Hamill’s voice from old Star Wars dialogue and even a vintage audiobook. Which may have been fine for a quick cameo, but now that Luke is actually stepping into the spotlight and impacting the emotional throughline of these new stories, it’s more than a little weird that the performance feels about as soulless as a tobacco lobbyist blow-up doll.
A lot of fans have been clamoring for actor Sebastian Stan to take over the role – and apart from concerns that Luke might suddenly sport a giant talking prosthetic dong, that makes a lot of sense; he looks the part, he’s already on Disney’s payroll, and he’s seemingly amenable to the idea. But regardless of who takes on the part, the case for recasting an iconic Star Wars role rather than resorting to computer-generated hijinks has already been made very well, more than 20 years ago, by the Star Wars franchise itself:
Inarguably, one of the best parts of the sequel trilogy was Ewan McGregor’s take on Obi-Wan Kenobi, originally played by legendary actor Alec Guinness. Despite the intimidating stature of his predecessor, McGregor was able to carve out his own, no less definitive, interpretation of the character that has become so beloved, he too is getting a new streaming series. And this wasn’t always a given, in 1996, there were unsubstantiated rumors that George Lucas was going to digitally superimpose archival footage of a young Guinness onto a stand-in’s body. Which sounds crazy, and ultimately wasn’t true, but that basically describes a rudimentary version of what they’re now doing with Luke.
And Lucas himself has argued against this technology in the past, specifically the digital resurrection of dead movie stars. Granted, Mark Hamill isn’t dead, and is a willing participant in Lucasfilm’s plan, but the trend of CGI-ing old actors’ faces into new Star Wars projects was kicked off by bringing back a dead actor, when they replicated the late Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. But Lucas’ concerns, made during the premiere of Attack of the Clones, weren’t ethical ones, they were purely artistic. He argued that “you bring back Marilyn Monroe , what you would have is a caricature” because “acting is a human endeavour.”
He also claimed that said performance would “ultimately be the work of an animator” and surmised that “people don't want to see an imitation of someone who was a strong presence in real life.” He even said that “it's something we are trying to stop happening.” Wow, George Lucas saying that CGI has gone too far is not unlike Tim Burton complaining that someone’s vibe is a little too gothy.
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Top Image: Lucasfilm