Two Deadly New First Order Vehicles from The Last Jedi
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the First Order’s military might goes next level.
As revealed in this week’s episode of The Star Wars Show, The Last Jedi will see the debut of two deadly new vehicles: the Dreadnought warship and the AT-M6 walker.
The Dreadnought is classified as a Mandator IV-class warship, featuring two enormous orbital autocannons for large-scale bombardments and 24 point-defense anti-aircraft cannons on its dorsal surface. It’s also big — 7,669.72 meters in length, or 25,162.8 feet.
The AT-M6 (All Terrain MegaCaliber Six), named for the laser cannon on its back, dwarfs the Empire’s AT-AT; its simian-like gait stabilizes the cannon.
But how did these two new technological terrors come to be? StarWars.com called Kevin Jenkins, Lucasfilm’s design supervisor for The Last Jedi, for some insight — including how this new walker solved that pesky tow-cable problem.
StarWars.com: Let’s start with the Dreadnought. Can you tell me about coming up with the design and how closely you were working with Rian Johnson to bring it to life?
Kevin Jenkins: All of my work was with Rian. Direct with Rian. The Dreadnought didn’t actually come to life until we got into post [production]. We had made some passes that were similar that Rian had approved that were on set, but it kind of turned into the final version that we are seeing now when we were in the post process, and we were going into full model-build stage. Basically, it evolved from story reasons because Rian needed a new battleship in the script called the Dreadnought. Essentially, it needed to be a ground-firing gun platform, and the other limitations that Rian put on me was he needed and required a flat surface with gun turrets on it. So basically, it’s an armored gunboat, an armored gun platform. It’s sort of a heavy artillery that’s much bigger than a standard Star Destroyer, about two-and-a-half times the size of a standard Star Destroyer. That was the original brief to me.
StarWars.com: As you were developing it, what were you looking at for inspiration? Were you looking at real-world craft or were you going back to the original trilogy and building off what came before? How did you approach it?
Kevin Jenkins: Combination of the original trilogy stuff, in the sense that I designed everything in Episode VIII as if it was to be a model. World War II and the Korean War and that era was a heavy influence in all the design, going into the ‘60s. But also using the mentality that Rian and I talked about a lot, which was an iteration-type idea. War makes you adaptive. So you start off with one vehicle, tank, gun, ship, and it evolves through combat into something else. The gun platform, of course being a larger Star Destroyer gun platform, we initially started with a giant triangle, which was the shape of a Star Destroyer. But then flattening off the top became a big design requirement. Quite late in the design phase, the under side of it was also sloped like a traditional Star Destroyer, because they are kind of a trapezoid shape if you look at them in a cross-section.
We had all sorts of design ideas and things, but when seeing an early cut with Rian, I just remember straight afterwards we talked to each other and went, “We need guns.” We tried radars because, obviously, you look at Return of the Jedi and there were radar dishes. There’s one on the Death Star. So it was also part of that retro, Flash Gordon-esque sci-fi thing, and we went down that path for a while, but then the cut just went, “Nah. Big guns. It just needs big guns.”
StarWars.com: Let’s jump over to the AT-M6. Walkers are a huge part of Star Wars and a fan-favorite thing. We see them in the original trilogy, the prequels, the animated series. So in coming up with a new kind of walker here for the sequel trilogy, what did you want to accomplish and what direction was Rian giving you?
Kevin Jenkins: Well, there were a few ideas that were kicking around before we came up with this idea. Funny, just before I took a vacation, sort of half way through preproduction, I talked to Rian about “what is a walker.” We went through this whole discussion about iteration. Iteration, to me, makes more sense than random walker design. So we talked about the way a Sherman tank in World War II evolved into an Abrams tank, for various reasons, or a Chieftain tank, or a Challenger, or whatever you want to say. And so we were trying to think about what made sense for a walker and I just said, “Look, a walker, to me, it’s essentially a Panzer tank mixed with a dog.” One of the questions that tied us up a lot is the fact that they’d been taken down by snowspeeders in The Empire Strikes Back, and it felt like everyone else is trying to avoid the problem of a four-legged version of a walker because they had been defeated on Hoth. So I sort of took that on board and I suggested to Rian, “Well, instead of a dog, what about a gorilla?” I can’t remember why I said a gorilla, but I just said, “They have a great stance, they are very aggressive,” and that’s how the idea of the gorilla came. And literally in profile, I molded it over an actual photo of a gorilla to get the initial base pose.
The front legs are very heavily armored, and you can see can almost up to the forearm. And again, that’s my take on, “You can’t take these down with a snowspeeder.” They’ve armored up the front or maybe they just cut the ropes because they are too big now. Also, the way they are balanced now is like a gorilla, because their knuckles are turned backwards and they’ve got very high shoulders. They are a completely different poise. Maybe they could even sort of kneel down or something. So I just took that gorilla design iteration, with the very high back, and just went to town with it. Actually, I didn’t do many conceptual designs or even images for it. Funny enough, I literally just took my laptop on holiday and I modeled it by the beach over two weeks and brought it back to Rian. Did the only two or three pictures that were done for it, and then showed those to Rian, who was really happy with it, and then I just made the physical models. Because the other thing I was doing on this show, compared to Episode VII with a lot of the vehicles that I was doing, I actually got Rian to approve them as physical prototypes. I would 3D print them from my 3D files, and then I would sort of scratch-build them. They are fully-painted. Rian has a fully-painted gorilla walker I’ve made for him. That was done for a number of the vehicles on Episode VIII.
THe entire interview can be read at StarWars.com.