Star Wars Reveals the Problem With Luke Skywalker's CGI In The Mandalorian

By Andrew Gilman Posted:
Luke Skywalker Mandalorian CGI

Though a year and a half have elapsed, Luke Skywalker's surprising appearance in The Mandalorian Season 2's finale remains one of the most glorious moments in the era of Disney Star Wars. Fans across the world rejoiced as the beloved hero sliced through dark troopers and ultimately revealed his identity, a return to form from the previous interpretation of the character. While Luke's actual look was... rough, many were happy to ignore any shortcomings given the gravity of the moment.

And then The Book of Boba Fett came along, and ILM demonstrated the wizardry at their disposal. In what shockingly turned about to be an entire episode dedicated to the Jedi, the Luke Skywalker seen in Fett was an enormous improvement over his Mandalorian counterpart. There were several instances where the CG Luke was indistinguishable from Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi, and if not for the awkward voice generator the appearance would have been perfect.

Given how good Luke looked in Boba Fett, his deepfake in The Mandalorian has now been perceived as less than desirable by viewers. As things would have it, those responsible for the hard work happen to agree. A new documentary special has documented the process for bringing Luke back into the fold in Boba Fett, including a comparison to the quality of his appearance in The Mandalorian.

ILM Supervisor Talks Mando's Luke

In Disney Gallery: The Book of Boba Fett, ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Bluff detailed the changes made from Luke Skywalker's appearance in The Mandalorian Season 2 to The Book of Boba Fett:

"One of the most satisfying aspects of the work that we did with Luke was the progression. Where we started at the end of Season 2 was a place where we gained a lot of experience. So, for Season 2, we partnered with the visual effects artists at Lola. And of course, through that process, they were using deepfake to understand what the likeness needed to be for our Luke Skywalker face swap."

The Mandalorian Season 2 Luke

Bluff revealed the issue behind Luke's look in The Mandalorian was a product of Lola's technology being unfinished:

"At the time, we weren't able to use them in the final product because the technology was still developing. We couldn't get the resolution required."

Luke Skywalker Book of Boba Fett

With more time to develop Luke's appearance for The Book of Boba Fett, it became a group effort to craft the character with deepfake and CG technology:

"For Book of Boba Fett, we knew that we needed to do 10 times the amount of work. The character really had to carry the episode. And because of the stunt work required, we also need a CG head. So it was that point that we knew what we wanted to do was talk to John Knoll and ILM to see how could we combine all of the new technologies that are out there, as well as a CG head, to solve the problem on Book of Boba Fett. Landis [Fields, virtual production visualization supervisor,] continued his developments with the deepfake work and, of course, we worked with Dave Klein on running many, many tests ahead of the shoot.” 

Luke Graham Hamilton

By the time ILM got their hands on the work, progress on Luke was dialed "up to 11:":

“The level of progression continued to develop. So, once the work was turned over to ILM and Pete Demarest got hold of the high-res material and started cranking everything up to 11, the improvement continued to grow."
Luke Skywalker Graham Hamilton Tests

Bluff noted the efforts of the deepfake artist Lucasfilm hired as a key contributor in seeing the job through to completion with the rest of ILM's best:

"And, I think, for ILM, that continued to advance when they hired Sam Head. Someone, of course, that’s very familiar to people that have followed the progression of deepfake work in particular of this character. He came in and was able to offer advice and guidance, and it was really a collaborative effort between Pete Demarest, and Sam, John Knoll, Landis, and the many, many, many other artists that allowed this work to achieves the heights that it did.”

A Team Effort For Luke

As expected, it was a massive undertaking to make Luke Skywalker work in The Book of Boba Fett, a process even more in-depth than the efforts for The Mandalorian Season 2. It's no easy task to digitally recreate the most iconic hero in pop culture history, but ILM managed to do so in a manner that was faithful to the Luke Skywalker seen in the original trilogy.

Disney Gallery continues to shed light on the process for Luke's recreation. It had previously been believed that Mark Hamill had no involvement in The Book of Boba Fett's production, though it's now been revealed that the star did perform for every scene Luke appeared in. Much like the sequence in The Mandalorian, Hamill's performance gave the body double and ILM a foundation to build on, setting the stage for the extensive work done to bring him back to his days of youth.

With Luke's Mandalorian scene being so short, it's easier to get away with some janky deepfake effects. Having a full episode committed to Luke and Grogu in Fett, getting things as close to perfect as possible was critical to avoid taking the audience out of the moment. While it would be aesthetically pleasing to do a CG touch-up on Luke in The Mandalorian, it's doubtful that Lucasfilm and ILM would devote the resources to a finished and year-old product.

At this point, all eyes are on the future. There's more progress to be made with the visual effects for Luke Skywalker, and the MandoVerse has left the door open for the character to return at any point. When the Jedi Master returns once more, fans can expect him to look as real as ever.

Disney Gallery: The Book of Boba Fett is now streaming on Disney+.

- About The Author: Andrew Gilman