We've written at length about all of the things that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does right, but nothing has become more talked about than the CGI Tarkin and Leia. Bringing these classic characters into the film was a total gamble, and plenty of members of the production team had their doubts about whether or not it could even work. As it turns out, when it came to the CGI characters present in Rogue One, the buck pretty much stopped with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Industrial Light and Magic CCO John Knoll explained:
Some of it was my just asserting that, 'No no no, let's not pull the [plug] on this, we're going to get there, this is going to work.' But ultimately the decision was Kathy's whether she thought it was working well enough to stay close up, full screen, for a duration.
John Knoll recently spoke to io9 about the process of recreating Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and admitted that Kathleen Kennedy was the one who remained resolute about this particular creative decision throughout the film's production. The team behind the movie had any and every opportunity to second guess whether or not the CGI resurrection process would work. Despite the fact that the production team established a variety of different alternatives (such as recasting the roles or using holograms to hide the inadequacies of the CGI), the decision ultimately fell upon Kennedy to proceed and give both characters substantial roles in the film.
It was a gamble, but it seems to have paid off. Online communities cannot stop raving about the quality of Rogue One's CGI, and many are hailing it as a fundamental breakthrough for the future of filmmaking. The technology has not progressed to the point where it can be used to replace actual performers in a movie. For instance, you can clearly see a few chinks in the armor when Tarkin is on-screen for too long, but the fact remains that CGI has fundamentally come a long way since Tron: Legacy used the technology to age down Jeff Bridges -- with somewhat lackluster results in hindsight.
This raises questions about the future of the Star Wars franchise, particularly with regards to Carrie Fisher's untimely death in December. Lucasfilm and Disney need to decide whether or not they want to use the technology to keep Leia in the Star Wars franchise beyond the footage that Fisher already filmed, or write her out of the story. It's a hard decision that comes with an array of technological and ethical implications, and it's one that must happen sooner rather than later.
CinemaBlend will bring you any and all relevant details related to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (as well as every other Star Wars story on the horizon) as more information is made available to us. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is currently in theaters, so make sure to check it out!