Shooting for Star Wars: Episode VII has kicked off in Abu Dhabi, and TMZ has nabbed some of the first set photos for the 2015 sequel. And if you were worried that director JJ Abrams was going to shoot the whole thing on a soundstage and call it a day, they’re mighty heartening, showing real desert locations and practical effects and creatures.
While it’s unclear what planet these sets are taking place on, Tatooine is a good bet, taking us back to Luke’s home planet, with Abrams seemingly embracing the dirt and grit of the space opera.
TMZ claims the massive creature in the first picture is being manned by five operators, making me excited about how many more practical creature designs we’ll see and if the director is taking a hard left away from fully-GC critters. This is on the heels of Abrams revealing some of the Henson Workshop-esque props and puppets making their way into the film, as Amy so handily documented two weeks ago.
I know it sounds weird to get excited about a film actually shooting on location, but if years of CG blockbusters in the wake of Episodes I-III have taught us anything, it’s that actors need a sense of space and physical elements to perform against. Actors in those kinds of films have talked about attempting to work up a convincing reaction when you’re performing opposite a tennis ball with a pair of eyes. But lately, more filmmakers have been incorporating as many practical elements as possible (for instance, Paul W.S. Anderson set off real explosions around his actors in Pompeii).
Star Wars: Episode VII will be in theaters on December 18, 2015.