Always one looking to advance filmmaking technology, George Lucas made history in the early 2000s when his Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones became the first major production to be shot completely on digital. The use of the format opened doorways for aspiring directors, launching a cheaper method for filming. While the merits of digital have been extensively covered in the years since, many working in Hollywood prefer to use old fashioned film stock (see: Christopher Nolan and Dunkirk). In an arguably ironic twist, this includes the people working on the new Star Wars movies for Disney.
J.J. Abrams shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 65mm film, and Rian Johnson went to 35mm for his Star Wars: Episode VIII. It would appear that their fellow sequel trilogy helmsman Colin Trevorrow, who is calling the shots on Star Wars: Episode IX will follow suit, since word is he will be shooting his installment on traditional stock.
Today, Kodak announced the development (hat tip The Playlist), revealing that their U.K. processing facility has been fitted for 65mm film. Star Wars 9 is just one of the projects that will be incorporating the format, along with the Murder on the Orient Express remake and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Trevorrow shot parts of Jurassic World on 65mm, so he is familiar with it. Steven Overman of Kodak expressed his enthusiasm over the news, saying, “The film comeback is accelerating and the epic, big screen experience is well and truly back.”
It was also revealed that John Schwartzman, who served as cinematographer for Jurassic World, will also be the director of photography on Episode IX. This continues the tradition of the new era Star Wars films being lensed by a new DP each time out. For instance, Arrival cinematographer Bradford Young was recently confirmed for Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s young Han Solo anthology. The hope is that with a different team behind-the-scenes, the movies will have their own unique visual style while remaining true to the Star Wars brand. This will ideally prevent the series from becoming stale on a technical level, which is a necessity since Disney’s plan is to annualize the franchise for the foreseeable future.
Admittedly, this is hardly the juiciest Star Wars 9 update, but it’s still nice to get a sense of Trevorrow’s approach. Much of The Force Awakens was about taking the brand back to its early days with a renewed commitment to practical visual effects and shooting on real locations. It’s hardly surprising then, to see that continue. Arguably, Abrams set the tone for the modern Star Wars movies with his techniques, and while each director will be able to do their own thing, Lucasfilm is making some of his practices the norm. Episode IX was always going to be a spectacle on the big screen, but now film purists will have another reason to see it in theaters.