Jun 3 2014 12:05pm

The Millennium Falcon is Being Built Right Now

You know what this is, don’t you? You’re already giddy and we can’t exactly blame you. TMZ has some super secret set pictures from Star Wars: Episode VII, and it’s clear that the Millennium Falcon is getting a second life... and there’s more!

So here is more Falcon in about a... quarter of her glory? Make moooooore. And then open it for tours!

TMZ Episode VII set pics, Millennium Falcon


And this is definitely an X-Wing of some sort!

TMZ Episode VII set pics, x-wing

TMZ Episode VII set pics, x-wing


And this is defintely a... pig monster? A giant pig monster. Yes.

TMZ Episode VII set pics, pig alien


We hope to see more soon! And, of course, it’s exciting to see them building so much—more rubber aliens!

Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
We've really come full circle, haven't we? Though not in the sense you're probably thinking I mean. Star Wars and ILM started a revolution in visual effects, pioneering new techniques like computer motion control that revolutionized motion pictures and created the era of the effects-driven sci-fi blockbuster. Now we feel those innovations and advances have been taken too far and we want our Star Wars to be more "traditional" and "old school," using physical models and sets and animatronics -- even though being old school was the last thing the founders of ILM wanted back in 1977.

I noticed the same thing with The Muppets. Jim Henson was always on the cutting edge of TV technology and creature effects, and was intrigued by the potential of CG character creation; but when The Muppets was made, the producers insisted on doing it old school and avoiding anything CGI, "like Jim would've wanted."

I'm not saying we're missing the point, and I share the fondness for physical effects over CG (though CG can be amazing when it's done well, and when it's reserved for things that can't be done well practically). But I wonder if we've reached the point where we feel the revolution has gone too far, that innovation has been embraced to such an extent that certain fundamentals have been forgotten. So maybe we're trying to pull back from that now, to recapture the best of the old while still using what works about the new. At least, I hope it's about that, rather than just being about nostalgia trumping originality.
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
That's a good point.

I think CGI works best when it's used to augment effects, not make them.

For example, the trial by combat on GOT Sunday. There was a lovely shot of the outdoor arena, with the Red Keep in the background. Now, the Red Keep doesn't actually exist, so they could have just as easily, kept the focus on the shot tight. But by using a SMALL BIT of CGI, they gave it a great scope.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
There are things that CGI does better than any other technique. For instance, the CGI Godzilla and MUTOs in the recent movie had a sense of immensity (particularly in 3D) that a guy in a suit could never convey, and I found it extremely effective. My problem is only with using CG to do things that can be done better with other techniques. It's one tool in the kit, and a very valuable and useful one, but it's far from the only one.

And then there's the fact that it takes a great deal of time and work, and therefore money, to make CGI look convincing. So unless it's done really well, it can be very fakey. Although the same went for conventional FX techniques too, admittedly.
4. Theo16
That looks like a Z-95 Headhunter.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
@4, That ship has two cannons on each wing, the Z95 only has one. It's an XWing
Stefan Raets
7. Stefan
Moderator note: duplicate comment (6) removed.

Also: that giant pig monster is terrifying. :/
8. Cybersnark
Though the fighter's nose is too short and the engines look more like the McQuarrie design (that became the Z-95) than the original X-Wings. It's clearly something new.

And I think the big problem with CG sets/props/effects is that it cripples the actors (in favour of giving the director too much control) --no matter how skilled and imaginative an actor is, you'll get a better performance if he/she has something to interact with. Doing everything with greenscreen reduces the actors to "moving props" who can only do what the director tells them to do with no variation (which, apparently, is exactly what Lucas wants of his actors). They "perform," but they can't really inhabit a role enough to bring it to life.
Chris Nelly
9. Aeryl
Well, they have updated the XWings. In the EU there are Stealth ones, and ones designed especially for Jedi, with weaponry you have to have Force powers to use.
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
@8: "Doing everything with greenscreen reduces the actors to "moving props" who can only do what the director tells them to do with no variation (which, apparently, is exactly what Lucas wants of his actors). They "perform," but they can't really inhabit a role enough to bring it to life."

Just because that was true of Lucas doesn't mean it's always true. Look at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Bob Hoskins spent most of that movie playing off of cartoon characters that weren't physically there, but for decades, critics and co-stars have praised how totally convincing his performance was, how it was like he really believed the toons were there.

A lot of acting is about following a clearly defined script or structure without improvisation, and creating the illusion that it's spontaneous and real. It makes no sense to say it's impossible to get a good performance that way. The problem isn't that Lucas used CG -- the problem is that Lucas is terrible at directing actors. A good director can use plenty of CG and greenscreens and still bring great performances out of a cast.

In short, the tool is not the problem. Tools are neither good nor bad -- it's just a matter of how they're used. People blame the technology for things that they should blame on those who misuse it.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
I totally agree. It always bothers me a little when the only thing somebody can think of to say they hate either the prequels, George Lucas or other movies (such as the PJ Hobbit movies) is, 'there is too much CGI'. There may or may not be (I actually think it looks pretty good in many of the cases) but that's not what automatically may make the movies bad (if they are bad). I do have a lot of problems with Peter Jackson's movies, but the CGI isn't one of them. And I don't think focusing on the CGI necessarily means you aren't focusing on plot, direction, etc. There are some movies that do but they probably would have even with old school effects, based on the kinds of movies they are. They are not magically going to become better movies if models are used.

Acting with bluescreen is definitely a unique challenge, but it seems like it would be a bit like a play - and would require a different sort of direction.
12. hoopmanjh
When movies transitioned from silent to sound there were actors whose careers were cut short because they had awful voices. Same thing with the move to greenscreen/CGI -- some people will be better at acting in a CGI-heavy environment than others.

And while George Lucas has always had an eye for action sequences, yes, he's pretty terrible at directing human beings doing human things.

And YES!!!! Real Falcon!!!!
13. Roy Batty
I think the problem most people have with CGI is not its use but its overuse. There's simply too much of it in a lot of movies, and it doesn't need to be that way.

The original Star Wars movies look like real movies. There's something in your brain that recognizes, yeah, that spaceship is something I could touch if I visited the studio. The prequels on the other hand went overboard with the digitial stuff, giving them a phony screensaver aesthetic in many scenes. Spaceships were turned into flying toasters.

Hopefully Abrams doesn't repeat the mistake.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
14. Lisamarie
I really liked a lot of the scenery/spaceship CGI but my biggest annoyance was CGI Yoda (aside from the scenes where he really did need to move) - I think the puppet was a lot better.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
Was I the ONLY person who thought Yoda as an (to use Lucas' words) "ass kicking frog" was AWESOME?

And while the original movies puppet was better, that is an actual puppet in Phantom Menace, and it looked terrible, which is why it switched to CGI only for the next two. I don't know if it was the anachronism of a puppet in that digital world, or if their attempts to make a younger looking Yoda puppet failed terribly, but I would have more put out by that.
Anthony Pero
16. anthonypero
The original Star Wars movies look like real movies. There's something in your brain that recognizes, yeah, that spaceship is something I could touch if I visited the studio.
Oh my gosh, I can't agree with this LESS. If you are talking about the 97 rereleases and beyond, when nearly EVERY SINGLE FX SHOT HAS BEEN REPLACED, then, yes, it looks like a real movie. I happen to have VHS tapes circa 1986 of the original trilogy. They are unwatchable. Its been almost 25 years since anyone was able to purchase Star Wars in its original theatrical release. People have forgotten how shitty it all lookes compared to the new movies.

Then they complain that Lucas won't leave "their" movie alone. The added scenes are annoying, granted, the adde dmusic too, in a lot of cases... but the explosion of the original death star looked like my kid stepping on a popcorn ball.
17. Roy Batty

Nope, talking about the original cuts, warts and all. I enjoy them because they are of their time, not some sad digital upgrade, like an old movie star with a stretchy-faced "improvement" to their looks.

The old movies may not look like much to you, but they've got it where it counts, kid.
Christopher Bennett
18. ChristopherLBennett
Like I said, the irony of holding up the original SW as an exemplar of old-school filmmaking is that it started the trend of big effects-heavy blockbusters. At the time, the films of Lucas and Spielberg and the other blockbusters they inspired were often denounced by critics for depending too much on flashy special effects at the expense of story and characters.

Just one more example of how nostalgia is a self-delusion. Our complaints about how things today are worse than they were a generation ago are the same as the complaints people made a generation ago about the things we're nostalgic for now.
Anthony Pero
19. anthonypero
@17: haha. I'm in my late 30s and have four kids of my own. I'm an original star wars native. Good reference anyway, though ;)
Anthony Pero
20. anthonypero

The difference, of course, being that our generation knows what its talking about :P
21. Roy Batty

The irony is even the guy who helped usher in the modern age of practical effects AND computer effects thinks special effects aren't that special anymore.


It's not about nostalgia. It's about restraint and a common sense approach.
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@21: Yes, but again, back in the '70s and '80s, it was the original SW trilogy and the Lucas and Spielberg ouvres in general that were being held up as the exemplars of lack of restraint, of taking effects too far at the expense of story. It's just that the level of action and effects that were seen as excessive back then have become so commonplace that we see them as normal today, so the goalposts have shifted. Today, the film that was originally a poster child for the gratuitous overuse of special effects has become the poster child for their restrained and disciplined use.
23. Roy Batty

Which leads to a horrific thought: people in the future holding the prequel movies up as a standard of good taste. Ha!

But really, there's a line you can cross, no matter what decade you're movie is made, where the visuals outshine or even prop up a weak story. The original trilogy didn't cross that line for the most part, in my opinion. Ridley Scott's Legend did.
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@23: Maybe it's not so much what SW itself did as the trend it started. It's not uncommon for filmmakers to take the wrong lesson from a successful movie and emulate the wrong parts of it. But it's worth keeping in mind that complaints about movies being too driven by visual-effects spectacle have been around since at least the '80s, long before CGI became a viable FX technique except in very specialized contexts.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
25. Lisamarie
Aeryl - oh, I loved the dueling Yoda and think that was a good use of CGI Yoda. And I agree that the TPM puppet was strange looking. I was more talking about the ESP/ROJ era puppet vs. the times they used CGI Yoda for the rest of it. Something about it just didn't seem solid or like he wasn't really in the scene.

That said, it may have been too obvious if the puppet was used for most of the movie and then switched to CGI for the duel. But I'm not an SFX expert.
26. Ace Hamilton IV

"I happen to have VHS tapes circa 1986 of the original trilogy. They are unwatchable."
Because they are badly transferred VHS tapes, not becuase there is something wrong with the films.
"Its been almost 25 years since anyone was able to purchase Star Wars in its original theatrical release."
Wrong. They were released on DVD a few years ago.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
The original theatrical release was not, that's the special edition.

The final release of the original trilogy, was when they did the THX remastered released in the early 90s. And they had to do that to preserve the film. And I own that VHS set, along with the ORIGINAL VHS.

It's unwatchable.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
28. Lisamarie
No, I am pretty sure there were some DVDs released that came with bonus DVDs of the theatrical release, but the quality was really bad and I think not even in widescreen.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
There was a fan release, but nothing official.
30. hoopmanjh
Yep, Lisamarie is right. There were two-disc rereleases of the Original Trilogy back in 2006 or so where one disc had the Enhanced edition and the other had the original theatrical release -- for Ep IV, it didn't even say Episode IV: A New Hope in the title crawl; it just said Star Wars.

But, again as Lisamarie said, the original theatrical versions were very crappily (dare I say spitefully) mastered -- widescreen but not anamorphic, and the audio was about two steps up from VHS.

You can find listings on Amazon if you search "Star Wars Enhanced and Original".

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