Star Wars Strikes Back!December 16, 2013
Hitting the big screens again in 2015.
A long time ago… well, just over 8 years ago, the last installment of the Star Wars saga hit theatres, in the form of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Whether or not you liked, hated, or wanted to rip your eyes out at the sight of the prequel trilogy, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were a huge success, box office wise. Grossing over 2.5 billion dollars combined, the prequel films proved that there is still a strong want and need for new Star Wars stories. Not to say that Lucas Arts sat still for those 8 years. They had been busy in the video game world with titles like Lego Star Wars, Force Unleashed and Old Republic (just to name a few). They have also had great success with the animated television series, Star Wars: Clone Wars. All these titles help grow the, already immense, expanded Star Wars universe.
Rewind a year to October 30, 2012, to one of the biggest deals in entertainment history, when Disney purchased LucasFilm from George Lucas for a whopping 4.05 billion dollars. Almost immediately after the ink dried on the contract, Disney announced their plans for a brand new Star Wars trilogy to start pre-production immediately. This sent a shock wave through the internet and sparked the endless rumors about story, cast and everything else you could possibly think of. So, what’s real and what’s rumor? What will we see in the next films? What do we want to see? More importantly, what don’t we want to see? (*cough* Jar-Jar).
In November 2012, the rumor started that J.J. Abrams would be taking to the helm of the new Star Wars franchise. The director of the widely successful Star Trek reboot immediately squashed the idea that he would be getting behind the camera of another intergalactic franchise. Although the Lost creator did reveal that initially he did entertain the offer, but ultimately declined due his loyalty to Star Trek and his genuine love for Lucas’s trilogy.
“I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things,” Abrams stated in an interview. “I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”
Abrams also stated he had no such nostalgic feelings towards Star Trek when he started that project. This could have made rebooting that series easy for him. You kind of have to respect the fact that the man turned down a massive opportunity to direct one of the biggest franchises in movie history due to his genuine love for the series.
After Abrams ended all thoughts of him directing, next on the rumor block was 300 and Watchmen director, Zack Snyder. The speculation was that Snyder was in talks with LucasFilm, not to direct Star Wars: Episode VII, but a standalone spinoff based off the 1954 classic, Seven Samurai, which quickly become known as “Seven Samurai in Space”. In early January of 2013, a representative for Snyder put the rumors to rest, stating, “While he is super flattered because he is a huge fan, Zack is not involved in any way with Star Wars. He is currently in post [production] on his two films, Man of Steel and 300: Battle of Artemisia.”
Not long after, before anymore rumors of another director could surface, something odd happened. J.J. Abrams was announced to officially be the director of Star Wars: Episode VII. Perhaps he thought turning down this job was… illogical. I for one am excited about the choice to let Abrams take the reins of this upcoming film. He has proven himself a great director (Mission Impossible: III, Star Trek, Super 8). He created the fantastic and highly successful television series Lost. And with Star Trek and the sequel “Into Darkness”, he proved that he could handle the monumental task of successfully rebooting a franchise. With J.J. Abrams beaming over to the dark side, the future looks bright for Star Wars. Now, let’s all hope and pray we’re not blinded by lightsaber lens flares.
Hands down the most speculated part of the next movie is the cast. Dozens of names have been thrown around, and yet not one of them has officially been announced. The big 3 are obvious, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. All 3 have been rumored to be reprising their famous roles, but nothing has been set in stone yet. Mark Hamill revealed that the original trilogy trio have met with George Lucas about the new trilogy prior to LucasFilm being sold, but nothing is concrete as of yet.
Many fans were a bit surprised to hear that Harrison Ford was interested in reprising the role of the dashing smuggler, Han Solo. Given Ford’s public distaste for Return of the Jedi, many thought Ford was done with the space opera. (Did you know? Harrison Ford told George Lucas to kill off Han Solo in the beginning of the third act of Return of the Jedi because he felt it would bring a more dramatic weight to the film, but George Lucas refused. Could you imagine a more serious Return of the Jedi that wasn’t all fuzzy Ewoks who can defeat storm troopers with rocks and sticks and can apparently braid Leia’s hair?)
Another rumor that floated around was that Ford would only be interested in returning to Star Wars if he was able to return in yet another Indiana Jones movie. (Cause the last one was so amazing, who wouldn’t want another? What’s he trying to find this time? Bigfoot? But I digress.)
Most recently It was confirmed that actors Chiwetel Ejiotor (Serenity, Children of Men, Salt) and Michael.B.Jordan (Chronicle, Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox and recently announced as the new Johnny Storm in the Fantastic 4 reboot) have both auditioned for Episode VII. No clue on who they would play as of yet. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek: Into Darkness) has also been rumored to have been auditioning as well. Cumberbatch having worked with Abrams in Into Darkness, when he played genetically engineered tyrant named Khan (And did an amazing job, in my opinion).
Some rumored cast I will not even entertain the notion of (Zach Efron to name one) and some are plain confusing. Talks that Ewan Macgregor would return as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine leave us scratching our heads. The only way these returns could work is if they appeared as Force ghosts. A Force ghost Emperor could make sense since he died in Return of the Jedi. But, a Force ghost Obi-Wan played by Ewan McGregor just doesn’t make sense. Seeing as when the character Obi-Wan was killed, he was played by the, late, great, Alec Guinness (who also played his force ghost in Empire and Return), so how could he be young Obi-Wan become the Force ghost? At an appearance at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, Ian McDiarmid addressed the rumor of his return and stated that no deal had been made but he would not rule out a return of the Emperor; although he feels that the new trilogy would feature new villains. I can only hope that as pre-production winds down and we get closer to the 2014 filming date that we will finally start hearing about confirmed casting choices and then the internet rage about the choices can begin (because, let’s face it, it will).
About a week after the deal for LucasFilm was announced, Oscar winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3, Brave, Oblivion, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) signed a deal to write Star Wars: Episode VII. Since then, Arndt is no longer part of the production and they have moved on with director J.J Abrams and Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan working on a new draft or completely new script. I for one am excited for the change. It makes me feel safe knowing that someone like Kasdan, who knows Star Wars (and wrote my favorite episode), is working on this project. Hopefully he hasn’t lost his touch from Empire Strikes Back.
Everything else about the plot or screenplay is complete speculation or hearsay. With the vast expanded Star Wars universe, brought to life in video games, comics, and novels) there is no end to the story lines that Abrams and Kasdan can pull from. Will they adapt one of the hugely successful novels to film? Or will they create a completely new story? Recently, Disney has announced casting calls for the upcoming episode. These calls asked for a “late teen female”, “young twenty-something male”, “seventy-something male”, and a second “young female, late teens”.
This added to fuel to the already burning rumor of the plot of Episode VII being centered around Han Solo and Princess Leia’s twins, Jacen and Jaina Solo. In the expanded Star Wars universe the children of Han and Leia are powerful Jedi’s trained by their uncle, and Jedi master, Luke Skywalker (who in the expanded universe has rebuilt the Jedi temple and Jedi Order). Jacen and Jaina are two of the most popular characters in the expanded universe with one of the most amazing story lines (that I would never spoil for anyone). It is hands down one of my all-time favorite stories from the expanded universe and would make an incredible plot for Episode VII and could definitely be expanded the trilogy to Episode IX. But like I said, all of this is currently speculation and nothing has been revealed as to the actual plot of the film. Needless to say if Darth Caedus (read the novels) becomes the main villain of the trilogy, then there is no doubt in my mind that it will be amazing.
Also in the rumor mill was a standalone Yoda film, but then the rumors moved in another direction to possibly the two most popular characters in the franchise in their own standalone spinoff films. One film would be focusing on a young, savvy smuggler, Han Solo and the other revolving around the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett. Both films could be origins stories, but Boba Fett’s could in fact be set after Return of the Jedi. In the expanded universe Boba Fett survives his fall into the belly of the Sarlacc pit thanks to his thick Mandalorian armor. He manages to crawl out the almighty Sarlacc before being digested (come on, that’s pretty bad-ass).
The return of the Star Wars franchise back to the big screen has definitely gotten people talking and wondering just what are we going to see from this intergalactic juggernaut. Star Wars has never really left the spotlight since first wowing audiences in 1977 and over 36 years later, it still has people lining up to see the next adventures to has to offer. It’s hard to not to get swept up in the all the rumor hoopla surrounding Episode VII, but just remember that rumors come and go and there will always be someone making wild guesses at what or who will be in the next trilogy. Until it’s finalized and set in carbonite, we will just have to be patient and approach each rumor with some level of skepticism. What I know for sure is when Star Wars: Episode VII hits theatres December 18, 2015 I will be first in line, with my Boba Fett helmet on, wielding a lightsaber (cause who says it has to make sense?) and when those lights go down I will be taken back to a galaxy far, far away and brought back the wonderment I felt as a child, when I first witnessed Star Wars a long time ago.
May the force be with you.