As if the Empire, First Order, bounty hunters and death gangs weren’t enough to deal with, the Star Wars universe is filled with all sorts of creepies, crawlies, and nasties wreaking havoc for heroes and villains alike… usually by eating them. The galaxy is a big place; so why haven’t we seen more of them on film?
Depending on the extent of the effect, size of the creature, and man hours involved to build, form, fashion or render, bringing new creatures to life can be a daunting task. Whether by practical effects or CGI, creating new life forms isn’t cheap. When it comes to Star Wars, we’ve seen both, but still only glimpses of the vastness of Star Wars species.
Episode V gave us our first real, up-close look at some of the non-humanoid creatures inhabiting the Star Wars universe with tauntauns and the yeti-like wampa of Hoth. A combination of practical creature creation and stop action photography made these two beasties, and the smells and perils that came with them, very much real for the fans.
In Return of the Jedi, we’re introduced to the Rancor and Sarlacc, a stop-action puppet on the one hand, and massive set piece on the other. Constrained by technology, both were nevertheless stunning visual displays at the time.
In sharp contrast to the original trilogy, the prequels relied extensively on CGI to bring massive sea creatures, reeks, acklays and other beasties to life. Again, technological constraints, while light years ahead of what was available in the 80’s, hampered the believability of the threats they posed.
J.J. Abrams, to his credit, returned the franchise to more practical effects with the inclusion of Teedo’s luggabeast and the happabore with which Finn humbly shares a drink in The Force Awakens….but required the use of CGI to bring Rathtars to life.
Perhaps someday cost and technology will allow us to see an even greater array of life-like, realistic creatures on screen. Until then, I suppose we’ll just have to wonder what a gundark really looks like, and how strong you have to be to pull its ears off.