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A Crew of VFX Artists Take on the CGI of the Star Wars Prequels

Look, “Duel of the Fates” is a great track.
Look, “Duel of the Fates” is a great track.
Image: Lucasfilm

Even a couple decades later, a lot of it is very impressive.

The people at the Corridor Crew production studio run a series of YouTube videos called “VFX Artists React,” where their artists dissect, respond to, and try to understand the effects work in TV and film. This weekend, they tackled the harbinger of modern VFX: the Star Wars prequels, which pioneered and heavily used many techniques and styles that would define visual effects work in the 21st century.

And the artists find that a lot of the Prequels effects work… holds up pretty well? Techniques that were visually impressive then are often still fairly visually impressive, especially considering the era. The artists in the video also share some interesting process information, such as explaining how shots of waterfalls in a CGI exterior of Naboo are actually pictures of salt poured over a black screen, with the CG around it.

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They even have some love for Jar Jar, who does, admittedly, look incredible for what he is. Check the video out, and I dunno, maybe watch The Phantom Menace for kicks. If nothing else, it looks pretty good.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

The reevaluation of the prequels continues the perplex me. But this video does seem highlight some of the impressive effects work. The landscape in the pod race is utterly convincing, in part because it is an effect where you wouldn’t necessarily expect one, and the light effects of lasers through smoke are undeniably awesome.

It’s a shame that the storytelling did nothing to protect this technical work. Those impressive light blooms take place in a battle sequence between anonymous clone soldiers and robots, with no real suspense or rooting interest. And the next shot (as these guys point out) looks toy-like.

I’m all for acknowledging discrete achievement in movies that don’t work in a holistic way. But let’s not parlay any of this into a defense of these utterly tone-deaf films.