Aside from the fact that it effectively revitalized the franchise after the bantha fodder that was the prequels, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received unending praise for its use of practical effects whenever possible. Of course, the filmmakers had to use CGI for some of the bigger set pieces, but J.J. Abrams and the set design team still took it upon themselves to craft real sets, props, and characters in order to give the world and incredible "lived in" vibe. Now it seems that one of the smallest practical effects in the film actually turned out to be one of the hardest to craft: Rey’s "just add water" bread.
The Force Awakens' special effects supervisor Chris Corbould recently opened up to MTV News regarding just how difficult it was to nail that quick, ultimately nonessential aspect of the film:
You wouldn’t believe how long it took to actually perfect that one, that little tiny gag in the film. It started off with the mechanics of getting the bread to rise and the liquid to disappear, but then there was the ongoing problem of what color should the bread be? What consistency should it be? Should it have cracks in it? Should it not have cracks in it? It took about three months. The actual mechanics of it was fairly simple, but the actual cosmetic side took a lot longer.
So while the actual shot itself was not entirely difficult to achieve, creating the look and general aesthetic for the bread turned out to be a huge issue altogether. Those of us who have seen the movie – which at this point is just about everyone – know how amazing that shot was upon first glance. Rey adds water to a dehydrated powder, and within seconds she is has a piece of delicious looking bread.
Getting such an effect done properly with practical effects went a long way towards helping the fantastical world of the Star Wars universe feel real, and somewhere a person like Rey could actually inhabit. The backstory behind the food is that they are scavenged rations previously used by the Rebels and the Imperial Army during their Civil War. Watching the old ration cook so realistically in the pan essentially had the same effect as seeing a crashed X-Wing, or a burned out At-AT: it added to the mystique and the attention to detail within this beloved universe.
Of course, as nerds perhaps we are just overthinking it. At the end of the day the only thing we can say for sure about Rey’s instant bread is that it’s simply one of the coolest practical effects we have seen in a movie in some time. Our only hope is that Rian Johnson brings the same level of commitment to minor details when he helms Episode VIII, which will hit theaters on May 26, 2017.