Kevin Smith's account of his recent visit to the set of Episode VII at San Diego Comic-Con. Not safe for work. In fact I'm really not sure how it was appropriate for Comic-Con--children do go to this event, don't they? But it's spoiler-free.
Entries in episode 7 (12)
HuffPost has a great piece in response to the news that screenwriter Michael Arndt is no longer working on Episode 7. Mike Ryan points out that the script to The Empire Strikes Back changed massively as a result of the death of its original author, Leigh Brackett. From the piece:
The original Leigh Brackett draft of Empire is a bit of a marvel in and of itself. It's online if you want to read it (which I have), and it is really drastically different than what appeared in the final film. And it's an oddity worth exploring to illustrate just how much a story can change from the first draft to the final draft.
Brackett's version of Empire -- titled Star Wars Sequel Screenplay -- still starts on an icy planet that we all know now as Hoth, even though this planet's name is never identified (though Hoth will play a role later on in the script). The Wampas, which are basically relegated to the beginning of the final film, play a huge role in the first script, to the point that a massive battle breaks out between the Wampas and the Rebel Alliance (oh, also, Wampas have the power to freeze people with their touch).
During this battle, Luke Skywalker basically gets his ass handed to him by a Wampa, resulting in Han Solo barking sarcastic lines like, "The Force is not with you today, kid." Then Han explains to Luke how a lightsaber works (which is just weird in every way), "Those lightsabers were ceremonial weapons, even for the Jedi Knights."
Follow the link for more ESB weirdness, including the ghost of Luke's father (hint: he's not Darth Vader), the clone Lando Kadar, and Han's stepfather Ovan Marekal.
Oliver Miller posted this on Thought Catalog back in March, but it's new to me and probably to you, too. The quote selection is interesting in itself, but my favourite part is Miller's hilarious, dead-on introduction to his list. Here's an excerpt:
…And by “quotes from Star Wars,” I of course mean the three real Star Wars movies, and not the prequels, which I still haven’t fully recovered from. Seriously; the prequels — I have no words. I am speechless. I have no words. And now they’re making three more Star Wars movies. Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves: how many Star Wars movies do we need, exactly? This seems like an important question to be asking. Maybe three Star Warsmovies is good? I’m good with that.
Follow the link for more Star Wars irreverance/amibivalence, not to mention the quote list itself.
Nicely done video with four propositions about what made Star Wars great. It's full of subtle and not-so-subtle digs at the prequels.
You can also visit the web site and sign a petition in support of these sentiments. If they get one million signatures, the makers of this video plan to visit Disney HQ in Burbank (with camera crew) to hand deliver the petition to, er, the receptionist I guess.
io9 asks the question and has had some thoughtful answers in the comments, including Leia, Han, Vader, Artoo, Boba Fett and the Bespin ice-cream maker.
Well why not? asks Sean O'Neal in this AV Club post that is not only funny in its own right, but links to another funny post by the same Mr. O'Neal. The latter piece is about pointless Star Wars 7 speculation by an ex-employee by the name of George Lucas. The former is about how Warwick Davis (and dozens of other Star Wars alumni, most of whom have enjoyed far less success that Mr. Davis) would really really like to be in the new Star Wars movie.
If even a quarter of these faint-hopers end up in the new film, it will be worse than Attack of the Clones.
This analog analogy is not very apt to a digital medium, but I'll deploy it anyway: the internet is lousy with speculation about the plot of Star Wars Episode 7. Most reports (such as this one) say that the story will revolve around the children of Skywalker, Solo and even--if this report is to be believed--Chewbacca.
I hope Disney/Lucasfilm have the creativity and courage to steer clear of this. If there is one feature of the prequels--and even of Return of the Jedi--that most undermined those films, it was Lucas's penchant for making everyone everyone else's relative. In a galaxy of thousands of star systems, most (it seems) teaming with life, there must be at least an ensemble-cast's worth of people to tell stories about who are not the offspring of Luke, Leia and Han.
Why should we assume the old Star Wars heroes had children at all? Leia in particular strikes me as one for whom parenthood may have held few attractions. She's all business and dedication to the cause. People change, of course, but one of the compelling aspects of Leia's character is precisely that she is a female lead who is not a maternal figure. If Leia comes back in Episode 7 at all, I see her as a leader of Alderaan's tiny diaspora, having dedicated her post-Rebellion life to the memory of that people's genocide--not as the doting mother (or, by now, grandmother) of a new generation of Force-weilding superheroes.
It's nearly as hard for me to see Han and Luke as parents--or husbands, for that matter. Solo isn't an obvious candidate for Galaxy's Best Dad. And Luke's Jedi calling is seemingly not one that leaves a lot of time for nurturing relationships with one's wife and children. Obi-Wan and Yoda were both, it seems, bachelors. Indeed, the only example of a Jedi father in Star Wars is Vader--and we all know how that turned out.
Star Wars is not the Cosby Show. (Sorry for the very dated reference. I haven't watched TV in about 25 years.) What I mean is, it's not a story about family life. Don't domesticate it.
If you're reading this blog you likely know by now that JJ Abrams has agreed to direct the new Star Wars sequel, scheduled for release by Disney Lucasfilm in 2015. On this blog I haven't been covering any of the speculation surrounding who might write the film, who might direct it or who might star in it. That's partly because the internet really doesn't need me chiming in on the topic (I know nothing). Mainly, though, I keep quiet about that stuff because, as I struggled to explain to my wife the other day, I don't really consider This Sort of Thing to be a movie blog. It's about Star Wars--a phenomenon that started as a film but hasn't been just a film in a very long time. I frankly don't really care about movie stars or the movie business. I'm certainly not a movie buff. But I am interested in culture and fanaticism and storytelling and fatherhood--all of which are themes Star Wars has come to encompass.
Reaction to the choice of Abrams as director has been overwhelmingly positive. Observers have pointed out that Abrams grew up with Star Wars (he's 46) and is a self-proclaimed fan. I liked Ben Childs' take in The Guardian:
It is, frankly, a thing of wonder that there is anything left of this once-proud franchise to be revived after George Lucas spent the past 15 years systematically destroying all goodwill towards him with dodgy CGI retrofits of the original trilogy and a lifeless, prosaic second triptych of films. Yet, miraculously, there is still a lot of love out there for Star Wars, and Abrams would have been at the top of most fans' lists to take charge of Episode VII and its two proposed sequels. On past evidence, we can expect a movie that holds true to the spirit of its predecessors but delivers a fresh and imaginative take on well-worn themes.
I've been skeptical about the prospects of launching successful new Star Wars films. But in the last few days the excitement surrounding Abrams started to rub off on me. I allowed myself to contemplate the possibility of a really good new Star Wars film in 2015. It wouldn't really be for me anymore. I'd see it, of course, but however good it might be it would likely just be another fantasy flick--fun but inconsequential. However, my son Zach will be four-and-a-half in May 2015--the age I was when I saw Star Wars in 1977. The idea of taking Zach to see Star Wars 7, and him really enjoying it, and me then sharing the original three films with him--that's what has now got me guardedly excited about the prospect of a successful revival of Star Wars.
As I indulged further in this middle-aged-dad fantasy, the corrective potential of really good new Star Wars films occurred to me. Since 1999 I have viewed the prequels as a stain on Star Wars that couldn't be removed, a case of vandalism beyond restoration. But if Star Wars 7 were great, and if Star Wars 8 and 9 were great, too, the contamination of the prequels would be significantly diluted. Instead of three of six Star Wars films being drivel, only three of nine would be. Convincing Zach to never mind the bollocks and stick to the good Star Wars films would be much easier with such a high volume of quality material on offer.
What, then, does Abrams need to do to make my daydream of sharing a rejuvenated Star Wars with my little boy come true? Lucasfilm seems to be off to a good start by recruiting talented people. But the key, for me, is for Abrams and everyone else involved in the Star Wars sequels to understand the significance, to 30- and 40-something Star Wars fans like me, of what they are being asked to do.
The task is not just to make an entertaining, successful film. The challenge is to understand the phenomenon that Star Wars has been for our generation--the infatuation, the mystery, the frustration and disappointment--and to respond with a story that respects that while also speaking to the rest of the audience and saying something new. The benchmark are, of course, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Both of those films have an epic, mythic quality that run-of-the-mill action-adventure films do not. By "epic" and "mythic" I don't mean just mean Joseph Campbell mumbo-jumbo, though that is part of it. What I mean is that for the story being told to live up to the Star Wars franchise at its best, it cannot simply be exciting or fast-paced or visually impressive. It must be grand. There has got to be a grandeur about the next Star Wars for it to truly succeed.
Grandeur, by the way, can not be manufactured through visually-impressive shots and scenes. Special effects were undoubtedly part of the magic of the original trilogy. But technological advances have made striking, even outlandish visuals so commonplace that they hardly matter anymore. If there is one thing the prequels emphatically taught us, it is that CGI, or any other form of special effect, must not be allowed to drive--or even influence--the story. We seem to have got to the point in filmmaking where we can show on a screen anything we want to show. All the more reason, then, to be judicious in the storytelling. I hope Abrams knows how to keep his effects people working in the service of the story, and not the other way round. I hope he builds a few sets instead of bluescreens. I hope he builds a few models instead of CGI.
It's a daunting task Abrams has taken on. You've got to admire his courage in daring to tackle it. I'll be rooting for him, and for the writers, too.
Tony Hicks reviews the increasingly long list of leading directors that have taken a pass on the new Star Wars sequel and asks, Can the franchise be saved?
Who would want to attempt making history when somebody else can possibly get blamed for screwing it up even more?
That's not to say Disney will screw it up. In fact, the company has a long history of doing wonderful things with the artistic material of others. But this isn't the Muppets (no disrespect to Kermit). This is "Star Wars," the pop culture phenomenon that still owns so many hearts 35 years (and three disappointing films) after its debut.
Taking the "Star Wars" franchise from Lucas for $4 billion and announcing ambitious plans for another trilogy isn't for the faint of heart. Disney has great resources and creative talent, and it knows how to use them. But this is easily the biggest risk its taken along those lines.
Especially since, after the incredible success of the first three films, the last three tanked among die-hard fans and critics. Oh, they made a lot of money, but that was a testament to the quality of the first three films. Fans had to go see them, but that didn't mean we had to like them.