This is fascinating to consider, and it will be interesting to hear what brought this change about. As Serkis has displayed brilliantly in the new Planet of the Apes films, mo-cap performance is more than capable of bringing lifelike creations to the big screen. At the same time, it is exciting that in today’s day and age, Johnson is relying on old school techniques that harken back the the revolutionary effects of the original Star Wars trilogy. Puppets were of course used for Yoda and Jabba the Hutt in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so hopefully the practical Snoke can rival those in terms of design and execution. An argument can be made that using a puppet could be a risk (if viewers don’t buy into it), but with all the talent involved with Star Wars 8, they wouldn’t have gone this route if they weren’t 100 percent sure of it.
One possible reason for the shift is that some fans were critical of Snoke’s look in The Force Awakens, and the thought process is that a puppet made from real materials would make for a better visual. In any event, Snoke is shaping up to be the inverse of Yoda in more ways than one. Since Episode VIII picks up moments after its predecessor, we’re going to see a youngster from the Skywalker bloodline be trained in the Dark Side by an eight-foot tall alien. That’s certainly a new and fresh angle and many will be curious to see it come into fruition.