Kylo Ren may have been Star Wars: The Force Awakens' main antagonist, but he wasn't the man at the top of the First Order ladder. That honor belongs to the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke, who was only seen as a hologram during the movie. We still don't know how Snoke seduced Kylo Ren to the dark side or even where Snoke comes from, but like most of the major players from The Force Awakens, he's returning for Star Wars: Episode VIII. While Disney and Lucasfilm are keeping a lid on details surrounding this character, there's word now that rather than be a 100% digital creation next year, Snoke will be a puppet.
After seeing The Force Awakens, many moviegoers wondered whether Snoke was actually giant-sized or if that was just a hologram enhancement. Well, Making Star Wars has heard that for Episode VIII, a "huge puppet around seven to eight feet tall" was used to create Snoke. This puppet required several people to operate and a "man in a suit" to walk around in. It's unclear if this Snoke will be enhanced by CGI effects afterwards, but according to this report, for the most part the character will be a practical puppet, at least when it involves scenes where he's appearing in the flesh rather than as a hologram.
On the surface, this doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Unlike with the Prequel Trilogy, the new Star Wars movies are more willing to embrace practical effects like the Original Trilogy did rather than rely too much on CGI. However, assuming this information is legitimate, there is one concern with the new Snoke approach: Andy Serkis. The actor voiced Snoke in The Force Awakens, and there's no reason to suspect he's been recast in Episode VIII. That said, the man is also a master of motion-capture performance, from Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes movies. Why not have him play Snoke the same way in Episode VIII?
As great as it is to see practical effects in a Star Wars movie, not having Andy Serkis' physically play a visually distinctive Star Wars character motion-capture style is an unusual decision. If Snoke's height is the issue, that can be resolved if the crew sticks one of those balls on a stick on a helmet Serkis wears so that anyone acting with him can look up at the ball as a point of reference for Snoke's face, similar to what was done for Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. That's not to say this Snoke puppet won't look impressive (I'm especially interested to see how that thing would look during a fight), but if Serkis isn't the one performing the villain's movements, it seems like a waste.
Whether Snoke is a puppet, digital creation or somewhere in the middle, you can see him scheming again when Star Wars: Episode VIII is released on December 15, 2017.