Star Wars fans can collectively breathe a sigh of relief because Rogue One is not only good, it may very well be the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. It’s full of great action sequences, a cast of likable characters, and unlike The Force Awakens, pays homage to George Lucas’ films without feeling like a retread of what came before. However, while Rogue One is full of good ideas, there is one element that really should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Warning: Do not read further if you want to avoid SPOILERS for Rogue One.
I’m talking, of course, about the fact that Rogue One turns the late Peter Cushing into a horrifying CGI Frankenstein’s monster. Yes, one of Star Wars’ earliest villains, Grand Moff Tarkin, makes his return here and he actually gets a decent amount of screen time (I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on screen longer than Darth Vader, actually). As great as it is to see Tarkin’s menacing mug again, the way Disney decided to bring the character back is so terribly executed it makes every scene he’s in unnecessarily distracting. As impressive as the technology used to ‘revive’ Cushing is, Rogue One makes it clear that it isn’t quite ready for prime time, as CGI Cushing’s face reeks of uncanny valley and is quite unsettling to look at.
That being said, it’s hard to think of a better way Disney could have done this if they were adamant about bringing the character back. Recasting Tarkin would have been one solution, but one that would have introduced its own set of problems due to Rogue One being set just prior to the events of A New Hope. Tarkin also has quite a bit of dialogue in the movie, so I’m not sure if finding increasingly convoluted ways to hide his face would have worked either. Unfortunately, while Rogue One feels like a movie that could age well, CGI Tarkin is going to look increasingly ridiculous as the technology improves, but it’s a forgivable issue when Cushing’s performance is still one of the film’s best, which is an odd thing to say for an actor who has been dead for over twenty years.
In addition to Tarkin, one other classic Star Wars character gets the uncanny CGI treatment and it’s not only worse, it’s totally unnecessary. The very last scene of the film shows Princess Leia receiving the Death Star plans, thus setting up the opening scene of A New Hope. This is the perfect way to end Rogue One, so why did the filmmakers feel it necessary to show Leia’s face? We all know what Carrie Fisher looked like in A New Hope, so it’s not only unnecessary to give us a disturbing look at her CGI mug, it doesn’t even make sense considering the scene starts with a shot of the princess from behind. Everyone in the audience knows who she is, so there’s no reason to then have a shot of her from the front.
On the plus side, at least we can be thankful that Darth Vader wears a helmet and doesn’t have to suffer the same fate as Tarkin and Leia. Rogue One would be a lesser viewing experience indeed without his terrifying rampage scene.