Brace Yourselves; More STAR WARS is Coming

By Tom Holste

Feb. 7, 2018

Since I blog a lot about Star Wars, I really intended for my next blog post to be about something else. But every so often, a crazy story breaks where you just have to drop all your other plans and focus on the new thing.

Yesterday, Lucasfilm astonished fans around the world by announcing that a new series of movies was on its way from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the show runners of HBO’s immensely popular and acclaimed fantasy series Games of Thrones.

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David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, two of the happiest guys in the galaxy.

Why astonishing, you ask? These two writers/producers have a great track record, after all. (Indeed, Thrones has made such a cultural impact that I know the catchphrase “Brace yourselves; winter is coming” even though I haven’t seen any episodes.)

Well, it’s astonishing because one would think that Lucasfilm would wait for one trilogy to be done or at least partway through before announcing the next one. We’re not even done with the current sequel trilogy; director Rian Johnson hasn’t shot one frame of his follow-up trilogy; and now we’ve got another series of films announced beyond that. (And note that Lucasfilm does say “series of movies,” therefore not limiting it to just a trilogy.)

After the negative fallout from many fans regarding Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, one would be excused for thinking that Lucasfilm had removed Johnson from heading up the new trilogy, yet the press release clearly indicates that Benioff and Weiss’ films are completely separate from Johnson’s upcoming saga.

Even more baffling is that we still don’t have any official confirmation of the next standalone Star Wars movie. Variety announced back in August that they had heard rumblings of an Obi-Wan movie. Variety has a very good reputation for accuracy, but the “sources” that they mentioned never made an official announcement.

We were expecting to hear an announcement about Obi-Wan or whatever the next standalone film turned out to be either way, but we just got crickets chirping. And then this news — which no one was expecting — gets a straight-up confirmation on StarWars.com.

Mind you, none of this is bad, just surprising.

I am starting to wonder if the next standalone has just simply been canceled at this point. It seems like it would have made more sense to continue doing standalones in between the trilogy installments. But maybe all the production problems that Rogue One and Solo went through have caused Kathleen Kennedy (the head of Lucasfilm) to swear off any more standalones.

Of course, as with anything, one can see potential issues, which are not the same as real concrete issues, just fun/interesting things to speculate about:

1) Rian Johnson is already known for turning in dark and gritty stories. Both Last Jedi and his earlier film Looper fit that bill. I presume his new trilogy will be more of the same. Does it make sense to hire another creative team also known for making dark and gritty stories? It seems like it would make sense to do a different movie (or series of movies) with a lighter, more crowd-pleasing tone, since a lot of people associate that with Star Wars more than the darker stuff.

It’s possible that the GoT producers want to break from tradition and not be pigeonholed, deliberately choosing to do something lighter. But I assume part of the reason why Lucasfilm hired them in the first place is so they could basically market the movies as “Star Wars done Game of Thrones-style,” which should pack people in the theater.

2) On that same note, I initially assumed that Benioff and Weiss understood that Star Wars is more family-friendly than GoT. But considering the fact that Marvel has done some TV-MA stuff with the Marvel brand (albeit only on Netflix), a few people I’ve talked to have expressed concern that these producers were brought on board specifically to bring R-rated content to Star Wars, which I certainly hope is not the case.

3) StarWars.com cites Benioff and Weiss as the creators of Game of Thrones. While it’s true that they developed the TV series, the actual creator of GoT is, of course, author R. R. Martin, who wrote the books on which the series is based. Benioff and Weiss have shown that they know how to adapt a story in a way that makes the fans happy, but this wouldn’t be adaptation, it would be creating something new (although admittedly playing within a very well established fictional universe). I wonder how much difference that’s going to make in the final product.

4) If they had been hired as the showrunners of the upcoming live-action TV series coming to Disney’s new streaming platform, that would be less surprising to me. But apparently these movies are going to exist in addition to Johnson’s movies, plus a live-action TV show on Disney’s streaming service, and another animated TV series following Rebels.

In fact, the same day as yesterday’s announcement, Disney also announced that they have several TV shows currently in development.

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Hold on to something — we’re just getting started. (Source: Reddit)

As an old-school fan who’s used to having to wait three years between installments and then decades between trilogies, I am a little concerned about viewer burnout. This feels like the Avengers effect: Because Marvel has been so successful at having multiple movies and TV shows on all at once, every other franchise feels like they have to do the same thing. But Star Wars is special, and I’m concerned that this abundance of media will make it less special. (To be fair, though, it used to feel like there weren’t enough Star Wars movies, and that certainly won’t be a problem now.)

I do think / hope Disney means that they’re developing multiple ideas and trying to figure out which one they want to take all the way to the finish line, rather than saying we’ll have 20 Star Wars shows on the air at the same time.

I must again heavily emphasize that these things pique my curiosity, but I’m not an angry raging fanboy about them. In the world of fandom, there’s probably nothing bigger than Game of Thrones right now, so Lucasfilm has really gone all out and gotten the top people to work on these new movies. Metaphorically speaking, I just got told that Michael Jordan got hired for my favorite basketball team. That’s a good thing, and I want to show a proper level of gratitude for that.

My concerns are small, and hopefully none of them will be realized. I plan to keep an open mind. These are just my initial thoughts.

Finally, there have been many Tweets weighing in on the news, but this one was by far the funniest: (SPOILERS for The Last Jedi ahead!)

 

Blake Schultz‏ 
@AsAlwaysBlake

What are the Game of Thrones writers going to bring to Star Wars?  The siblings already kissed, and the beloved characters are dead…. #starwars #GameOfThrones

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THE LAST JEDI: What Happened?

By Tom Holste

Jan. 16, 2018

There has been a grave disturbance in the Force.

The new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, released last month to an astonishing level of critical acclaim, with “the best movie in the series since The Empire Strikes Back” being a common refrain. But once fans started seeing the movie, a much different anthem started gaining traction: “the worst movie in the series, worse than The Phantom Menace.”

Rotten Tomatoes, a site that pulls reviews from around the Web and compiles percentages based on positive and negative reviews, has been at the center of the controversy. At the time of writing, Last Jedi’s critical consensus stands strong at 90%, but the Audience Score (which can be affected by any user who signs up and votes) has currently plummeted to 49%.

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“Oooooh. Triggered, people on the Internet are. Hmm, hmm, hmm!”

So, what happened to cause such a wide gap in reception between critics and audiences? What follows is not a review, but an attempt to objectively show both sides of the argument. (Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movie!)

It’s Different. A common sentiment after the release of The Force Awakens is that there were too many things that felt like clichés from other movies in the series. People wanted (or thought they wanted) the sequel movies to be different. Writer-director Rian Johnson took the message to heart, and ironically delivered a movie that felt so different in its tone and structure that it became off-putting to many fans. For critics, though, who probably like cinema as a whole more than they like Star Wars in particular, any change was welcome.

It’s Sad. Rather than playing it safe and having nothing bad happen to characters from the Original Trilogy, as one might expect from a major corporation reviving a franchise, Disney-owned Lucasfilm has surprisingly taken a lot of risks, putting the classic characters through the ringer. In Force Awakens, we learned that Han Solo failed to be a good husband and dad and that he went back to a life of crime before ultimately being killed by his son. In Last Jedi, we find a bitter, depressed Luke Skywalker who failed to revive the Jedi Order and enabled his nephew to go on a killing spree. (In fairness, all of these ideas are already in Force Awakens, but in Last Jedi, everything gets spelled out in detail.) In the end, Luke also dies.

These sequels have also shown us that Leia failed in her diplomatic duties to restore the Republic. By the end of this film, the heroes are once again broken and on the run. And since actress Carrie Fisher has passed away, there’s no chance for her character to take part in any happy ending in the next sequel. All of the major classic characters are now dead. While critics enjoyed the risk-taking elements, fans are crushed from watching their childhood heroes meet such sad fates.

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“I hear there’s going to be a new TOY STORY trilogy, where Woody dies, Buzz dies, and Jessie gets written out of the story.”

It’s All About the New Characters. Unsurprisingly, Disney has made the new heroes—Rey, Finn and Poe—the focus of the new trilogy. As already mentioned, the major characters from the Original Trilogy are now all gone (with no mention of whatever happened to Lando Calrissian), and supporting characters such as Chewbacca and the droids have been reduced to cameos in films that juggle a very large cast. Critics appreciate the focus on the new, interesting characters; nostalgic fans come away with an empty feeling.

A Twist or Not a Twist? Poe’s subplot is about trying to stop Admiral Holdo, who he believes to be a spy. He recruits Finn and Rose to help him. Ultimately, their plan fails, but it doesn’t matter because Holdo’s plot succeeds. For anyone who thought that Poe’s plan was going to succeed, this movie has two great twists in it. For those who guessed that Holdo was in the right, though, the Poe/Finn/Rose subplot has no twists.

Elsewhere on the plot-twist front: Virtually no one saw the twist coming that Rey’s parents aren’t anyone famous or connected to the overall Skywalker/Solo saga. For those who enjoyed the feel of the original movies, and remember that Luke Skywalker himself started off as an “everyman” character from the middle of nowhere in the original movie, this twist feels like a return to form. However, with this saga’s famous shocking family reveals, and with the previous director (JJ Abrams) known for crafting mystery stories like the TV show Lost, this reveal fell flat for some.

Another genuine surprise was when the villainous Snoke was abruptly killed off in this installment, when nearly everyone expected him to make it to the last film in the trilogy. Critics loved the surprise and the renewed focus on Kylo Ren as the main villain. Fans who wanted to know more about his backstory were frustrated that he was dispatched so quickly.

Social Commentary. Many critics gushed over the apparent social commentary, with the movie seeming to take an anti-war stance and to criticize wealthy people. Many fans hated this aspect and preferred the saga when it was more mythic in its storytelling. Ironically, Star Trek fans were upset when the new movies became like theme-park rides rather than the social commentary that they’re known for; now Star Wars is criticized for its commentary from fans that are used to the movies being theme-park rides.

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Star Wars fans: “I hate the Ewoks! They’re too cutesy.” Also Star Wars fans: “Porgs are adorable! I need to buy all the toys!”

With all of these issues in mind, the Star Wars franchise stands at a tenuous crossroads. Last Jedi has made a ton of money despite the backlash (it was #1 for three weeks in a row and quickly became the highest-grossing movie of 2017), but many long-term fans have sworn off seeing Ep. IX. To Disney’s credit, they’ve tried playing it safe and got criticized, and they’ve tried taking chances and gotten criticized. Where do they go from here?

The questions remain as both the studio and audiences find out that Star Wars means something very special to nearly everyone, but we all have different ideas about what exactly it is that makes it special.

Disney Out-Foxes Its Competition

By Tom Holste

Dec. 14, 2017

Last week, I reported on the potential merger between the Walt Disney Company and 20th Century Fox. As of today, via their website, Disney has announced that the merger is officially happening.

Some of the terms of the deal are even weirder than initially expected: Disney will own FX Networks but not the Fox Network. Disney will own both ESPN and Fox Sports. Fox will own a controlling interest in Hulu, but are already planning on launching a streaming service to compete with Netflix in 2019.

According to some of the reports I read, this deal is bigger than any of Disney’s previous acquisitions combined (for Pixar, Lucasfilm, the Muppets, and Marvel). Disney will now own about a third of the entire entertainment industry.

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The Fox Fanfare is now as much a Disney song as “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” (Image source: Slashfilm)

Many questions still remain, the biggest one in my mind still being: If Fox Networks will continue to function independently, who gets to own the logo? Will one of them be forced to change their name?

If Disney gets to use the Fox logo, then I can see them using that brand for their R-rated releases, such as the Alien and Die Hard movies. If Fox Networks keeps the logo, I expect that Disney will revive its nearly defunct Touchstone Pictures. Lately, Touchstone has been a shell of its former self, only existing to distribute DreamWorks live-action movies (and DreamWorks is moving over to Universal). But if Fox keeps the logo, I expect Touchstone will release the Alien movies and so forth.

Other weird aspects of this deal:

–Universal Studios, Disney’s chief competitor in the theme park arena, recently opened a Simpsons area of the park. They’ll now be licensing those characters from Disney. Since Disney also owns the Marvel characters, which are in Universal due to a prior licensing arrangement, Disney will now own about half of the characters in the Universal park.

–Disney will own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly (although those will also probably be distributed under the Fox logo or Touchstone, as mentioned above). Expect their long-running comics at Dark Horse to end, and for new series to start up at Marvel. The same thing happened to Star Wars.

–Disney will own all of Fox’s animated movies, including the Ice Age films. Expect those characters to show up in the parks soon. Anastasia will also technically become a Disney princess, although whether that will just be a humorous footnote or something we’ll actually see in the parks remains a question.

There are good aspects to this deal. (And not everything mentioned above was bad, just sort of weird.) Kevin Feige’s track record with producing excellent Marvel movies is unparalleled. I expect the upcoming X-Men movies to be amazing. And we’ll probably finally get a good Fantastic Four movie for once.

Anyway, one source I read said it would take a year for the deal to finalize, and the current Fox movies in production (Deadpool 2, X-Men: Dark Phoenix) will probably reach completion before the big reboot. It’ll be fascinating to sit back and watch what happens in the coming years with possibly the biggest entertainment merger in history.

STAR WARS: Where to Start

By Tom Holste

Dec. 11, 2017

Over and over again in my Facebook feed, I’ve been seeing the same question show up in groups: “I want to watch Star Wars, but where do I start?” The hype for The Last Jedi, which opens this Thursday, is at a fever pitch, and some people who have never dipped their toe into this franchise want to give it a shot. But with nine live-action theatrical films and a ton of animated TV shows and other media, the barrier for entry is getting bigger and more overwhelming.

This blog is intended to help those who want to get to know Star Wars, with different levels dependent on your level of interest.

BEGINNER LEVEL: WATCH THE FORCE AWAKENS

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that The Force Awakens is the only Star Wars movie you should ever watch. I’m saying that, with the goal of getting ready to watch The Last Jedi this weekend, The Force Awakens is probably the only one you’ll need to watch to understand the new story. The caretakers at Lucasfilm don’t want audiences to have to watch everything in order to understand what’s going on; they want as many people in the seats as possible. The Force Awakens itself was made in such a way that newcomers could easily understand what’s going on, and any references to the past are clearly explained. By all means, eventually watch other Star Wars movies, but if you’re short on time and just want to be ready for this weekend, The Force Awakens is an entertaining entry point.

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INTERMEDIATE LEVEL: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY

Let’s say you have more time on your hands this week, or you’re going to wait until the crowds die down. Then you should start with the original trilogy – Star Wars (1977), retroactively titled A New Hope to distinguish it from the others; The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). People argue about the relative quality of the other films, but pretty much everyone agrees that the first three movies are good, and they tell a complete story unto themselves. For most people, I would recommend having these under their belt before watching the new movies if they have the time.

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ADVANCED LEVEL: THE PREQUELS

In homage to the old adventure serials that he grew up watching at the movie theater, George Lucas playfully added “Episode IV,” “V,” and “VI” to the first three movies that he made. After fans kept asking him what happened in the other episodes, Lucas finally fleshed out the details of the backstory that he had created for the saga in Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones  (2002), and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Many people feel that these movies are not up to the craftsmanship of the original films. Still others defend them passionately. Whatever the case, the original movies made sense without this backstory so they can be watched independently. Despite being numbered “Episode I,” etc., these movies ruin some of the surprises of the Original Trilogy for new viewers, so if by some chance you’ve managed to remain unspoiled on some of the most famous plot twists in movie history, don’t destroy the pleasure of discovering these for yourself for the first time. Save these movies for after you’ve seen the others.

My personal favorite way to view the films has become the Machete Order, wherein a couple of the prequels are viewed as a flashback in the middle of the Original Trilogy to preserve the surprises yet create greater emotional impact in the final installment. However, if this method seems too confusing, just ignore it and save the prequels for the end. (Also note that the blog I linked to has some NSFW language.)

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JEDI MASTER LEVEL: EVERYTHING ELSE

Lucasfilm is now also making standalone “Star Wars Story” movies, the first of which was Rogue One, which in my opinion was excellent. Next year will see a standalone movie about Han Solo, one of the most popular characters in the franchise. Despite being set in the past, the standalone nature of these movies means that they aren’t necessary to watch immediately to understand anything else.

If you’re still excited after seeing all of these, there are two different animated series under the name Clone Wars; I preferred the first, although the second is more popular. Rebels, Forces of Destiny, and LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures are other current popular animated series. There are also TV movies featuring the furry Ewoks from Return of the Jedi; a couple of Saturday morning cartoons from the ‘80s based on the Ewoks and the Droids from the films; and an awful, unwatchable Holiday Special that only ever got a semi-official release when the Rifftrax crew released a mocking commentary on it. These latter projects are mainly for the hardcore completist.

There are also a variety of excellent comics, novels and video games, but sifting through those requires a post unto itself.

Happy viewing! As Obi-Wan Kenobi say, you’ve just taken your first step into a much larger world.

9 Problems with Disney Buying Fox

By Tom Holste

Dec. 7, 2017

Fans everywhere have been celebrating the news that the Walt Disney Company is in the final stages of purchasing the entertainment division of 20th Century Fox (not the news or sports divisions).

Currently, Fox still holds rights over some Marvel characters, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. This purchase would allow Disney-owned Marvel to bring those characters into the Avengers-related movies, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU for short). This purchase would also allow Disney to own the few bits of Star Wars not currently covered through their purchase of Lucasfilm.

Disney-Fox

This is one of many things eerily predicted by THE SIMPSONS.

Everywhere I look, fans are cheering: “Wooo! X-Men in the MCU!” But has anyone thought of some of the other ramifications of such a purchase?

  • FEWER MOVIES, NOT MORE

Fans seem to think that if Disney buys Fox, there will be just as many X-Men and MCU movies as there are right now, the only difference being that they’re interconnected. I think it’s much more likely that Disney will put out the same number of films they currently do, meaning that we’re about to get half the amount of movies that we currently get from each studio.

  • FORGET THE MINOR CHARACTERS

Part of what’s so great about the MCU is that Marvel took the time to develop second- and third-tier characters into awesome franchises. Iron Man and Captain America are A-level characters now, but do you think Marvel would have bothered with those characters if the company had the rights to Spider-Man and X-Men in the first place? I can’t see Marvel developing characters like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy when they can just crank out three X-Men movies a year.

  • MOVIES LIKE DEADPOOL AND LOGAN MIGHT GO AWAY

Many of the fans cheering the idea of the X-Men joining the MCU are the same people who lobbied Fox to release edgier, R-rated superhero fare like Logan and Deadpool — movies that would never get made under the Disney regime. That actually doesn’t bother me personally, since I prefer the more family-friendly stuff already. But do fans who petitioned for those other films realize what they’re getting into?

  • RECASTS ALL AROUND

Because Hugh Jackman (who plays Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine) has said in interviews that he’d love being part of the MCU, many fans think that this will finally be his chance. But when Marvel finally brought Spider-Man into the MCU, one of the first things they did was recast Peter Parker, even though it felt like Andrew Garfield had just started his run as the character. Plus, Jackman got to go out on top with the acclaimed Logan. How many actors can say that? Maybe it’s best to let sleeping wolverines lie.

  • REBOOT!

On the same note, Marvel started with a fresh continuity with Spider-Man even though there had only been two previous films since the last reboot. Does anyone think Marvel is going to expect people to watch nearly 20 years’ worth of X-Men films before watching their debut in the MCU? I can pretty much guarantee you that Disney is going to start with a clean slate (much like how they wiped out all the Star Wars comics and novels prior to their purchase of Lucasfilm).

Logan

Not coming soon to THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY.

  • CANCELLATIONS

When Disney bought Marvel, they canceled fan-favorite animated TV shows The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man and replaced them with their own series. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, they canceled the Clone Wars cartoon and replaced it with Rebels. Two of the most acclaimed live-action shows on the air right now are Fox’s Legion and The Gifted, both of which are X-Men spinoffs. If Disney buys Fox, how much do you want to bet their days are numbered?

  • MISMATCHED PROPERTIES

People forget that this purchase isn’t just for Star Wars and Marvel. If the sale goes through, Disney gets all of Fox’s assets: the Alien movies, Die Hard, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and tons of other stuff that’s tonally a complete mismatch with the Mouse House. Will they make these franchises more family-friendly, or will they make Disney synonymous with some very non-Disney stuff? Either decision will probably tick a lot of people off.

  • TOSSED ASIDE

Disney has a habit of largely ignoring their lesser assets: the Muppets, Winnie the Pooh, Inspector Gadget (when they owned DiC), the Fox Family TV library, etc. Why bother building up struggling brands when they can just re-release Pinocchio for the 300th time in a Super Deluxe Diamond Anniversary Super Unleaded Edition – and make a lot more money doing it? Expect a lot of Fox’s programming to just get tossed into the attic and forgotten about if this sale goes through. Even Disney doesn’t seem to see anything but X-Men and Star Wars in this purchase.

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Yes, Disney would technically own the hilarious animated series THE TICK. But don’t expect them to actually do anything about it.

  • DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING

Why is no one talking about antitrust issues? Disney doesn’t have an entertainment monopoly yet, but the industry is getting frighteningly close to an oligopoly, where just a few people own everything. Doesn’t that make anyone else nervous about the lack of opportunities for independent artists and alternative voices if there are three big monolithic companies owning everything we watch and hear? No? Just me? Okay, then.

So there are my reasons.  I honestly hope I’m wrong. And actually, I overall really like Disney. But to quote some of my favorite Star Wars characters: I have a bad feeling about this.

 

 

More STAR WARS News Than You Can Shake a Gaffi Stick At

By Tom Holste

Nov. 10, 2017

Yesterday was an unexpectedly busy news day for Star Wars fans.

First up was the announcement that Rian Johnson, writer-director of the upcoming film The Last Jedi, has been given the greenlight to develop an entirely new Star Wars trilogy after the current one. The trilogy will be the first to go in a new direction in this universe and not be tied to the Skywalker-Solo family saga.

As I said back in September, I’m really surprised that Lucasfilm is putting so much faith in Johnson without yet seeing how the fans react to Last Jedi. I don’t doubt that he’s talented, but is it wise to give so much power and creative control over such an important franchise to one person before we see one Star Wars film completed by the guy? If the movie is well-received, I could see this announcement being made in January. But this seems a bit premature.

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Yeah, if I was Rian Johnson, I’d be jumping up and down with excitement, too.

I am grateful that the new trilogy won’t just rehash what’s been done before. The poor Skywalkers and Solos have been through enough misery already. (Weirdly, many people are speculating that the new trilogy will be an adaptation of the Knights of the Old Republic games. Seeing as how the press release went out of its way to say that Johnson is being given a “blank canvas,” and that he would “introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored,” I don’t see how anyone could think that this is going to be an adaptation of any previous material.)

As if that all wasn’t enough for us, an hour or so later brought the announcement that Lucasfilm is finally moving forward with a live-action Star Wars TV series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service. Fans have waited a long time for such a series, since George Lucas announced in 2005 that he was developing a live-action series called Underworld. That long-gestating project never got off the ground, and it’s unlikely that this new series is in any way related to it.

I’m intrigued by the idea, and having waited so long to see new Star Wars, I certainly don’t want to complain. However, considering all the behind-the-scenes difficulties that Lucasfilm has been dealing with over the last few years, with multiple directors getting replaced, I would almost think it would be smarter for the company to step back and get their bearings for a minute before rushing into other projects.

This all feels very much like the post-Avengers effect. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the powers that be at the studio continue to turn out great movies and shows. Unfortunately, as with any success in Hollywood, everyone rushes to imitate them, usually to significantly lesser effect. (This is no different than the rush of lesser outer-space movies released after the success of the first Star Wars.) In this case, Marvel has been able to keep so many plates spinning at once, everyone else thinks they need to do the same thing with their franchises. And so Lucasfilm keeps greenlighting one movie after another, and multiple TV shows (counting their animated output).

I’m keeping an open mind. I don’t have a problem with a lot of Star Wars. I just really, really want it to be good more than I want it fast and plentiful.

Gaffi Stick

This is a Gaffi stick, in case you were wondering.

Ep IX Update

By Tom Holste

Sep. 15, 2017

Last week, I commented on the removal of Colin Trevorrow from Star Wars Ep. IX, and suggested possible replacement directors.

Just a few days later, Lucasfilm announced that JJ Abrams, who had previously directed Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, was returning to cap the series by taking over Ep. IX.

jj-abrams-star-wars-episode-vii

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Originally, I expressed a bit of concern over the possibility picking Abrams. He’s a talented director, but ironically, I actually thought his two Star Trek movies functioned really well as imitations of Star Wars, but when it came to actual Star Wars, I found The Force Awakens just ever so slightly lacking. It was exciting and fun, but I strongly disagreed with the fates of some of the characters, particularly from the Original Trilogy. It’s still miles better than the prequels, but it was just a little less than what I hoped.

Having said all that, when this news broke, I found myself realizing that it was a completely sensible choice. While other directors may have potentially been more exciting, the last thing that Kathleen Kennedy wants right now is exciting. As the head of Lucasfilm, she’s had to fire far too many directors. She wants a dependable person who can bring this thing to the finish line on time. There were murmurs of some tension on the Force Awakens set, but Abrams and Kennedy still managed to get out a really good film that was popular with both audiences and critics. Considering how often the director hasn’t managed to survive all the way through production, that’s saying something.

As for “on time,” shortly after the news of Abrams’ hiring broke, yet another huge news item hit: Ep. IX got pushed back to December 2019, causing Disney to have to shuffle around the rest of their schedule. Originally the movie was supposed to be released in December anyway, but Disney has been trying to get the Star Wars back to their more traditional May release date. The Han Solo film is the only one on the current release schedule to still be slated for May 2018, even though that also recently had a director swap.

Again, I was originally skeptical when Disney wanted their Star Wars movies released in December instead of May, but at the moment, that makes more sense. In fact, I think positioning the Han Solo movie just a mere 3 weeks after Avengers: Infinity War might actually hurt both films. Star Wars: Episode IX was scheduled to be released 3 weeks after the fourth Avengers movie, and I was concerned about Disney cannibalizing themselves in that case as well. The December date avoids that problem.

And, at any rate, I would rather have the final episodic Star Wars movie to be done right than to be done quickly.

Apparently, Rian Johnson (currently working on The Last Jedi, due out in September) reportedly was asked to take over Ep. IX as well since Lucasfilm is so impressed with him. But he turned it down because he’s still too busy finishing the current Star Wars film to take on another one! To me, that seems like a very smart move on his part. He shouldn’t spread himself too thin.

The only worrisome point is that Chris Terrio has been brought on board to rewrite the script, despite having previously worked on the much-loathed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m trying to keep an open mind.

When I told my wife the news about Abrams, she had the appropriate reaction: an excited gasp! We’re both huge fans of Lost and Alias (TV shows that Abrams produced), and Abrams’ film Super 8 is one of her all-time favorites. So, yeah, despite a little bit of reservation, I think Abrams will overall do a bang-up job. I’m looking forward to this.