Watch What Modern VFX and Pacing Do to a Vintage Star Wars Scene
Star Wars is no stranger to face-lifts, but this one is fan-made and opens all sorts of possibilities.
FXitinpost spent two and a half years carefully recrafting the iconic lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Because they wanted to see what the decidedly old-school clash would look like if it was visually consistent with the duels of the prequels, and modern Star Wars films. The verdict?
It's pretty cool.
For reference, here is the original duel as it appeared in 1977's Star Wars:
Now take a look at how FXitinpost updated and altered the action:
Who knew Alec Guinness had it in him!
In a piece for Fast Company, Christopher Clements of FXitinpost said the team was "inspired" by the hallway scene with Darth Vader in Rogue One.
Rogue One takes place moments before Star Wars begins, and thus it would seem that the Darth Vader mowing down everything in his path in the scene below, would be... ya know...a bit more violent and dynamic when he fought his old master and nemesis a few days (weeks? hours?) later.
But there is more to the "why" here.
Since we're putting it all in one place to compare and contrast, don't forget how Obi-Wan and Vader fought back when they were young and both human:
The prequels really went all out with that nearly balletic fight choreography. George Lucas explained the idea for him was that the prequel world showed the Jedi in their prime, fighting at the height of their powers.
So when we see old Obi-Wan and mostly robot Darth Vader fight in Star Wars, it's like watching two long retired, injured, and out of shape star athletes play one-on-one.
The FXitinpost guys seemed to be interested in not dwelling on that, but rather assuming that Obi-Wan had a few veteran moves left, and Darth Vader could do some damage fueled by rage alone.
The creators started with a PreVis that they cut into the existing footage, and then in their words "[shot on] green screen and went to work creating CG environments, Face Replacements, and all of the other fun visuals."
What do we think of it, and where does it lead?
The most interesting thing about this project may be that, unlike Disney putting Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing back into their old roles when they were alive and young, these are fans tinkering with footage of Alec Guinness and the pacing of the classic in an almost convincing manner.
Of course, when you look at the end product, ignoring the story points, you immediately notice how the filmmaking of the 1977 film kept the camera at eye-level. Even if you don't watch the original duel, you'll recognize filmmaking beyond just the VFX, and the choreography has changed a lot. Cameras didn't move that way in a fight. Edits weren't paced that way either.
"Star Wars SC38 Reimagined" is quite impressive, and it begs the question of if and when we'd see even more elaborate and hard to detect deepfake videos. Part of me wonders what it would be like if someone altered the plan here a little bit, and emulated, say, the film grain look to try and match the look of the 1977 stock, mimicked the cuts and angles of the era a bit more. Would they be able to present a cut of the film with their sequence in it that new viewers wouldn't know wasn't the original?
How close are we to such a scenario?
When Fred Astaire sold vacuum cleaners and John Wayne sold beer, some of these questions started popping up. But we're getting closer and closer to a more complicated and convincing implementation of such things.
I mean, if you want nightmares just watch Jennifer Lawrence crossed with Steve Buscemi.
Star Wars SC38 Reimagined is well done, and harmless fan fun. But it also reminds us of some questions about the use of more advanced and readily available tools.