The recent years have been quite exciting for all Star Wars fans, with two new movies to enjoy. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does not sync perfectly with A New Hope, at least not from a visual perspective. That’s to be expected, to some extent, considering that back in 1977 CGI options were far more limited than now, but there was also a certain change in philosophy of the filmmakers between then and now.
As explained by John Knoll, producer and visual effects supervisor working on Star Wars, there’s a reason why certain details are different when the two films are compared. The philosophy when making Rogue One was to match what audiences remember when it comes to the whole Star Wars franchise that evolved over time. As he stated, synchronicity wasn’t the main goal, and they went with catering memory over reality.
We had [_A New _Hope] online so we could immediately jump to that part of the film and, 'Ok, this was how this was shown before.' But there was an overriding philosophy on this film, which was we wanted to match how you remembered things more than necessarily how they actually were... So, when you see some of the things that are familiar, like the X-Wings and the Star Destroyers and the TIE fighters, those all kind of look pretty authentic -- like, 'Boy, they matched them exactly.' We matched your memory of them more than the reality of them.
Of course, people don’t just remember A New Hope when they think of Star Wars - even in the original trilogy there are two more movies with evolving CGI and visual effects to think of. While making Rogue One, all of those details were available to Knoll and his team in order to create a visual that is instantly recognizable by everyone as quintessential Star Wars. Just look at the legendary Star Destroyer, for example, and the way it is portrayed throughout the movies.
There were two models that were built for the original series. There was a 3-foot long model that was built for New Hope, and then there was an 8-foot model that was built for Empire Strikes Back. The 8-foot model and the 3-foot model are kind of different. A lot of the details are different between the two of them. But because of the events of the film and when it takes place, I felt like, 'Well, we should be matching the 3-footer conceptually.' But the problem is the 3-footer has no real detail on the upper surface. So we cribbed details from the upper surface of the 8-footer. And then the 3-footer has no lights in it - and I think everybody remembers that the Star Destroyer has a whole bunch of port holes on it, midline lights in the trenches, and the hanger bays. But that's not present in the 3-footer. The one we built was kind of a hybrid of the two, using the best of both, and putting in even more details than the 3-footer had to hold up to some of the closer views that we had, but I think that when you see in the film, it matches everybody's memory of what, matches just as I remember it.
This provides an interesting way to look at Rogue One and how it ties in with and sets up the original trilogy. It certainly gives everyone the reason to pay close attention to the opening shot of A New Hope. Rogue One added a sense of completion, not only story-wise but also from a visual perspective, recreating many iconic ships and showing them from new angles. It’s exciting to think what other new movies in the franchise will bring, and we’ll be looking closely at the upcoming Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Han Solo movie.