Very few popular culture franchises can ignite the debate around fan service and nostalgia quite like Star Wars can. It seems the vast collections of science fiction movies, and more recently, science fiction series from a galaxy far, far away have got fans angry and elated in equal measure of late. This time, it’s due to the return of perhaps the most famous Star Wars character of all time, Luke Skywalker, in Disney Plus TV series The Book of Boba Fett.
The iconic Jedi Master had previously appeared in the finale of The Mandalorian season 2, and now Disney‘s latest Star Wars offering has delivered a further cameo from Luke Skywalker. While the majority of fans were happy with his initial return, this more recent appearance has sparked a heated debate around fan service, digital de-ageing, and now, voice acting.
A large portion of fans have bemoaned Disney’s reliance on existing characters to carry new Star Wars properties, as well as the way these characters are presented with questionable CGI. The final straw however, seems to be the admission that the Luke Skywalker we see in these Disney Plus TV series is not voiced by the original actor, Mark Hamill.
We have already seen sections of the Star Wars fanbase become rather, shall we say, vocal, in the not-too-distant past, most notably around the release of The Last Jedi. That particular instalment in the Star Wars universe divided fans with its bold and controversial approach, not least in its handling of Luke Skywalker’s legacy.
And that beloved character is the source of discussions once again, as Jon Favreau, creator of The Mandalorian, has opened up about the technology behind reintroducing a young Luke Skywalker to the Disney Plus world, and why they didn’t need to use Mark Hamill.
In a recent interview with Esquire, Favreau explained that the Luke we see has a completely synthesised voice. Using archival material of Mark Hamill from his previous appearances in Star Wars movies, the sound editors “were able to slice it up and feed their neural network to learn this data” according to Favreau.
We already know that different actors were brought in as a body double for Mark Hamill, but interestingly, his name does appear in the credits. Indeed, it is a little odd that Disney decided not to use Hamill’s iconic voice for the re-emergence of his beloved character. And Star Wars fans had plenty to say on social media.
— Andrew Todd (@mistertodd) February 4, 2022
Of course, this is not the first time Disney has played around with technology for their Star Wars content. In recent years, we have seen the de-ageing of Princess Leia in both Rogue One and The Rise of Skywalker. The former of these two movies also featured a digital recreation of the late actor Peter Cushing, who played the revered villain Moff Tarkin in the original trilogy.
While the use of this technology is admittedly impressive, and has been celebrated by some fans, it’s safe to say there are many who are apprehensive, or angry, about the way Disney is delivering fan service of late.
Such is the broad spectrum of Star Wars fans, you can find plenty of people who love seeing their heroes back on the screen in this way. There is an argument to be made however, that such technology only leads to lazy nostalgia-bait, and it’s certainly a concern if the franchise has to rely on its characters from decades ago.