Rogue Thoughts: A Star Wars Ponder

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December 23, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall

Yes, I did not have a blog post last Friday. *Special thanks to the person that noticed. You’re my favourite; I love you the most. (conspiratorial winky-face)
The first time in nearly four years that I missed a week in my weekly blog. However, there have been two special Saturday editions of TGA Fridays, so when you compare total blog entries against total weeks of blogging, I’m actually still ahead by one.
Anyway, the reason for the miss was that I simply ran out of time. Often I will sketch out notes on a Thursday night, then write the actual blog post on Friday morning before I go to work. That wasn’t an option last week. Unexpectedly I worked late Thursday evening and then (equally unexpectedly) I had to be back out the door soon after the sun came up Friday to work ten hours, followed by a totally expected evening out with friends; I got home again around 1:30 am.
The evening out was non-cancelable as it had been planned ever since the release date was confirmed for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Because I’m a big damn geek.
And, as you know, us big damn geeks think our opinions on movies matter to everyone else, so I’m going to share my thoughts on “Rogue One” with you.

Beware: Here there be spoilers!

  • Forrest Whittaker’s tribute to “Blue Velvet” was totally unnecessary and added very little to the plot, much like his character in general.
  • It was easy to spot which sequences were added solely to make the inevitable video game more interesting and gamey.
  • It was nice to see some inter-Disney cross-pollination from Marvel Comics with the inclusion of Stick from Daredevil and Cable of The X-Men, who are apparently a bickering old married couple in the Star Wars universe.
  • Sarcastic robot = fun.   Alan Tudyk = fun.   Sarcastic robot + Alan Tudyk = FUN!
  • Reprogramming the Tupac hologram to play Grand Moff Tarkin was just damned creepy.

star-wars-spin-off-rogue-one-peter-cushing

That last point generated a lot of post-movie discussion as we went for pizza later. One member of our group (for the purposes of this story, let’s just call him “Bill”) was particularly annoyed with what he referred to as the Peter Cushing-bot.

For those who haven’t seen “Rogue One” yet, but recklessly blasted right past the spoiler warning above, Peter Cushing reprises his role as Grand Moff Tarkin, looking very much as he did when he first played the role in 1977. This in spite of having died in 1994. An impressive feat for even the most talented of actors.

“Bill’s” point, and a valid one at that, was that being an actor himself, he would not want his image exploited after his death. Actors, and their agents, go to great lengths to prevent unauthorized use of their image while they are alive. Clearly, 22 years after his passing, LucasFilm and Disney did not have Peter Cushing’s permission to digitally create an entire character out of his image.

Years ago, speaking at the presentation of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award to George Lucas, Carrie Fisher made a joke about character merchandising and related actors’ agreements.

carrie-fisher

An argument could be made for the possible existence of a likeness licence being granted by Peter Cushing at the time of the original Star Wars film, for the purposes of merchandise tie-ins and possibly animated spin-offs. In the hands of a team of soulless entertainment lawyers, of the sort no doubt chained up in eternal servitude in the dungeons beneath the magic kingdom, such a contract could be forcibly interpreted as granting permission to beat every last dollar out of Cushing’s legacy. Of course, the counter argument is that that is ethically questionable and morally repugnant. Also, not at all what Cushing was considering when he signed the agreement.
If the agreement exists at all.
It may not.
I have my doubts.

Since the release of “Rogue One” it has been revealed that actor Guy Henry was brought in to walk the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, presumable in a motion capture suit. Later, the flesh of Peter Cushing was stretched over Henry’s performance via computer and virtually glued into place.
“Wait!” I hear you cry, as you grasp at straws, “That’s no different than Andy Serkis playing Gollum in “Lord of the Rings” or even just John Lithgow putting on make up to play Franklin Roosevelt.” But you are wrong, straw-grasper. It’s entirely different. The producers actively kept Guy Henry’s involvement in the film a secret, even including an NDA in his contract.
Also, Lithgow wasn’t pretending to be Jason Robards playing Franklin Roosevelt. Everyone knew it was John Lithgow.

But really, none of this should be a great surprise. As creepy as CGI Cushing is, we should have seen it coming. Ever since Natalie Cole made it socially acceptable to dig up dead people and perform with them, it was only a matter of time until technology caught up with our desire to disrespect the dead for our own entertainment.

natalie-cole

As audiences, we’ve allowed it to get this far. Take the trend to its ultimate and we won’t need actors at all. Studios will just CG a much more manageable Marlon Brando or whoever they chose into future films with impunity.

So whether the mythical unlimited likeness licence exists or not is irrelevant. It’s not a question of legal right, but of ethical wrong.

coulda-not-shoulda

If you see it differently, you can tell “Bill.”

In the meantime, try to be nice to each other.

tga

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