The Crucial VFX Enhancements That Led to Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Snoke Finished Look
From a holographic bogeyman in Star Wars: The Force Awakens to a flesh-and-blood supervillain in The Last Jedi, Supreme Leader Snoke required the very best of the visual effects team to get him just right. This year’s crop of Oscar-nominees for visual effects represents some of the best villain-building in recent memory, with The Last Jedi nominated among killer replicants (Blade Runner 2049), monstrous aliens (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), a massive ape and his various murderous reptilian enemies (Kong: Skull Island), and incredibly photorealistic apes (War for the Planet of the Apes). The incredibly detailed, entirely believable creations living and breathing in these films would have been unthinkable when George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope graced screens in 1977. In The Last Jedi, Snoke represents one of the most subtly impressive villains in recent memory.
In an interview with Deadline, Ben Morris and Mike Mulholland, two of the four Oscar-nominated VFX supervisors who worked on both The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens (along with Neal Scanland and Chris Corbould), talk about the movie magic behind the creation of Snoke. One of the things about Snoke’s presence in the movie is that, unlike the physicality of his protegé Kylo Ren, Snoke didn’t need to be physically strong, because he could literally kill you with a wave of his hand. The question was, how did the VFX gurus create such a sinister and intimidating character whose powers were more mental than physical?
According to Morris and Mulholland, they ended up going in a different direction than when they first started. Before any CG was added, they used a maquette for reference when working with Serkis to capture the body movement for the character; but they realized later that CG Snoke would need to be edited. “As Mike and the team started to put together CG Snoke per the sculpt that had been approved, we suddenly realized that he was a far more imposing character,” Morris says in the interview.
There was also a distinct difference between how Snoke sounded and how he looked, and they realized the maquette was too thin and frail compared to Serkis’ voice. Morris explained that they made several modifications to the maquette such as making him taller, expanding his chest, and restructuring his jawline to give him a more imposing face. Once these changes were made it was easier to tie Serkis’ voice to Snoke’s character. “The key was to try and capture the essence of the actor and make sure that you’re able to transmit that into the CG character,” Mulholland explained. Serkis apparently provided a lot of inspiration to the character even though only a CG version of him is seen in the film.
Featured image: Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm/StarWars.com