Another day, another new character from the galaxy far, far away. ICYMI, Lucasfilm released a behind-the-scenes photo of Andy Serkis in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens , showing him in full motion-capture attire as he gets into character as — wait for it — Supreme Leader Snoke. If his name alone wasn't enough to strike fear, just stare into those eyes: He already looks in-character and terrifying. Though we don't know much about his character (he seems particularly villain-esque, for what it's worth), I can tell you one thing: I already know there's no one better to tackle a motion capture-centric role such as this.
For those unfamiliar, motion-capture works by dressing up the actors in skintight suits and decking them out with markers. They are then surrounded by cameras and lights on all sides. While the subjects are acting, the lights bounce off the markers and back into the cameras to record their motions. For facial capture, the same principles apply, which is why Serkis' face is covered in dots. Animators then go in afterwards and use these motions as skeletons for the creatures they will imagine.
If the Oscars had its own special category for motion-capture performances, then Andy Serkis would take home Best Actor every year. I don't mean to say that he singlehandedly made this brand of performance a fine art...but he kinda did.
Motion capture has been around in varying stages of development since the early Disney days, but Serkis rose to prominence for becoming a master of the craft. The first time we saw him incorporating this technology in a film was with Gollum in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Since then, he's played the precious-obsessed miscreant for four films, including the first Hobbit movie. He also portrayed King Kong in Peter Jackson's interpretation of the classic story. With every character comes more finesse from Serkis, and more advancements in technology.
And then there's Planet Of The Apes ' Caesar.
Aside from LOTR's Gollum, who essentially remains at the same level of crazy throughout his entire run on screen, Serkis was the first to undergo the process that would create a supremely intelligent ape — and his performance is stunning.
In addition to the his extensive acting resume, he also started his own studio/production company called The Imaginarium that specializes in this particular art form. He's helped a number of a studios as a consultant on their work. Most recently, he worked with Marvel on better conceiving the Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron .
With motion capture, Serkis has shown us that actors can become anyone and bring a more human element to even the most fantastical creatures. So, for something like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was perhaps the biggest movie-related news of the decade, Lucasfilm can only enlist the best.
Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy