Friday, November 28, 2014

With a Teaser Trailer, The Force Awakens (As I see it)

So I didn't bother posting when the title of the latest Star Wars was announced a few weeks back, as I felt that like all Star Wars sequel titles (Revenge of the Sith notwithstanding), it won't really be judged until after the film has been released. It is interesting to note that they're not pushing the Episode VII emphasis, just Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yet one more way in which they are harkening back to the original trilogy, as opposed to the prequel trilogy.

But the teaser trailer, well, that definitely requires some discussion and analysis.

My first impression... well, to be perfectly honest, I was hoping for more. Which is not to say I didn't like what I saw, nor am I suggesting that it's a valid indicator of the quality of the film to come. I just wanted, well, more. And not more in the way of specific plot details, but more in the way of content. If you go back to the original teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace, there was a LOT packed in that one. Did it spoil the story? Not at all. But it gave the fans plenty to chew on for several months.

Regarding that issue, my pal Steve Sansweet raised a valid point on Facebook, which is important to keep in mind:
Not commenting on the substance of your feelings, but we need to remember that the Episode I teaser trailer was released 6 months before the opening (and it was difficult even then to get all the footage that LFL marketing wanted). This is nearly 13 months in advance and it is a true tease, rather than a full teaser trailer, which I'm looking forward to seeing.
That said, I do still think the TPM teaser uses John Williams' music more effectively. In that, right away we got the Force theme—and goosebumps. For The Force Awakens, we get some subdued, original Williams music over a fair amount of black, an ominous voice-over, a barren landscape... and then a musical sting as our protagonist (wearing Stormtrooper armor—his? Or someone else's?) pops into frame. Listen closely for the mumbling of an imperial probe droid on the soundtrack.

Our next introduction is to an R2 unit. He's 'cute' of course, and while there's surely more to him than meets the eye, I can't help look at him through my Ralph McQuarrie-tinted Star Wars glasses and ask, how does that work. Form and function should always trump looking cool for cool's sake, and this concept seems to be firmly in the cool for the sake of looking cool school. The background elements in this shot bring to mind the prequel trilogy (looking a lot like pod-racer engines, though more likely just scrap machinery).

Next up, some revamped Stormtroopers, 30-years post Return of the Jedi. When I first saw this concept, I was thrilled to see them taking an OT concept further, rather than regressing to make it look MORE like one of Ralph McQuarrie's original concepts. Right now, this is my favorite design from TFA.

This is followed by a sequence with another protagonist on another prequel-era looking speeder, which pans to include the only McQuarrie concept that makes an appearance in the trailer, a structure Ralph painted in the late 90's depicting an entrance archway to Jabba's palace (not what I'm suggesting it's being used for here).

We then are treated to another taste of original trilogy goodness in the cockpit of the new split-wing X-Wing (with the single nacelle, like Joe Johnston's original concept, as seen in Ralph's painting).

We then get our money shot of the villain, dressed in tattered black robes, with a requisite red lightsaber.

And to up the ante from Darth Maul's double-bladed saber from the prequels, we get what is already being described by fans as the broadsword saber. Cool for cool's sake? Time will tell.

Finally, we get the John Williams fanfare with the return of the Millennium Falcon. Note the radar dish has been replaced with a new style...

...following the loss of the original radar dish in the assault on the second Death Star in this shot from Return of the Jedi.

 To bring things home, for the first time in 31 years, we see TIE Fighters firing upon the Falcon.

To recap, while I was hoping for more, there are several things I really like in this teaser trailer, and I'm certainly remaining optimistic that the best is yet to come. And frankly,  it can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's officially official. Officially.

So after what seems like years of speculation, we finally have an official Disney/Lucasfilm confirmation this week that our original trilogy heroes—Han, Luke and Leia (not to mention Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2) will all be back for Episode VII. Sorry Lando, unless they're planning to play the parallel game and have you return for Episodes VIII and IX.

Of these, the only one that I was particularly relieved to hear was the return of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. He is one of the few principle actors whose name hadn't been bandied about so freely in the ages leading up to this announcement. While his inclusion would appear to be a no-brainer, I can't imagine his negotiation would have been the smoothest. But let's face it—the thought of anyone else trying to fill the golden protocol droid skin causes a great disturbance in the force.

And then all the others... yeah. Whatever. The most exciting announcement outside of the returning characters is that we get Max Von Sydow as what everyone assumes will be the token elder statesman evil guy. Of course how cool would it be for JJ to have cast him against type as an unlikely hero. Time will tell.

So as the dust settles, let's take stock of things. The Expanded Universe fans are heartbroken that their tales are being cast aside (though not erased, or worse yet, being made to shoot second). The prequel deniers are sitting pretty, thinking they'll finally get the characters they were denied in the prequels. And the Crystal Skull haters are complaining that they'd much rather see new stories than the geriatric adventures of our original heroes (um, how about the prequels...).

And how do I feel, you ask? I'm still in a positive mood following the previous announcements I've discussed on this here blog. To recap:

John's Top 5 reasons to embrace the new Star Wars films:

  1. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back)
  2. Music by John Williams
  3. The return of the principal cast (Ford, Hamill and Fisher) and key supporting players (Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca and Anthony Daniels/C-3PO)
  4. An amazing executive in producer Kathleen Kennedy
  5. Did I mention Lawrence Kasdan?

Until next time, May the Force be with you. 

Or May the 25th be with you. (Because if you really MUST celebrate Star Wars day, for god's sake celebrate the original one.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Well that's one less thing to worry about...

It's hard to imagine a Star Wars movie without the music of John Williams, and thankfully, at least for the near future, we won't have to. Kathleen Kennedy has confirmed that John Williams will in fact be returning to score Episode VII. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is there such thing as too much of a good thing?

A few weeks ago, while on The Sarlacc Pit Podcast, I discussed my thoughts on the rumors of a live action TV series getting fast tracked. My opinion was that Disney wouldn't want to do anything that might risk pulling audience interest away from the sequel trilogy by giving them a 'free' version on television simultaneously. So imagine my surprise when Bob Iger came out and announced that standalone Star Wars films were not only also in development, but that they will be released in the same window as the sequel trilogy.

As I've already discussed, I'm thrilled at the thought of having Larry Kasdan involved in new Star Wars films. The fact that he's been confirmed as a consultant on Episode 7, as well as being involved in the standalone features is even better. So why, you might ask, would I think that too much Star Wars might be a bad thing?

Let's explore some of the rumors that have been bandied about as far as standalone films. 

Yoda. This one seems to be the hardest to believe, personally, as when taken outside of the 'SAGA', the only periods of Yoda's life that are available to explore are his origin and first few hundred year. Speaking as a fan of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, I don't know if The Young Yoda Chronicles would sustain my interest. I picture the little green guy rising above being picked on by his peers (another chance for an E.T. cameo!) only to follow a Jedi Jack LaLane on the road to becoming the great Jedi Master. Um, thanks, but I'll pass.

Han Solo. While the adventures of a young Han Solo does appear to be a ripe area for mining (moreso than the adventures of Young Luke Skywalker—moisture farmer and womp rat hunter!), that does go against the statements about the standalone films being focused on minor characters. Han and (I can't imagine them not including) Chewbacca are far from minor, though their adventures prior to Episode IV would be interesting to explore. So let's say they do go down this path. The primary challenge will be finding someone who can walk the line of portraying a young Harrison Ford portraying Han Solo without it becoming an actor doing their best Han Solo impression. To those who think it can't be done, I'd suggest you go back and watch Ewan Mcgregor's performance as Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy. While he's not playing Alec Guinness, he adopts enough of his mannerisms and speech patters to sell it without it becoming a parody.

Boba Fett. This is the no-brainer, slam dunk character to build a standalone franchise from. A fan favorite whose shoes can be filled by anyone (despite fan's tight association with the men/boy who played him). What's not to love? Can you imagine Boba Fett in remakes of A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. How cool would it be to see anything along those lines, where the emphasis is on the story in which this mysterious character is a part, without feeling the need to further tie him in with the rest of the SAGA (yes, we must be reminded that the character whose screen time was close to that of the Dianoga in Episode IV went on to become a pivotal figure in the conflict that set the galactic empire in motion).

Time will tell as more information is released with regard to the Sequel Trilogy and standalone films, but it's hard not to embrace the idea that it's a good time to be a Star Wars fan.

Friday, January 25, 2013

To boldly go where three men have gone before...

It's official. The man who opened up the Star Trek franchise to a new generation of fans by giving it more of a Star Wars feel has been tapped to work in a galaxy far, far away.

Following the collective sigh of relief when the rumors of a Zack Snyder Star Wars spin-off were debunked, I think a lot of us were waiting patiently for an official announcement before getting too excited about the thought of an Abrams-helmed Star Wars sequel.

I do think Abrams is capable of great stuff. Super 8 had a very Steven Spielberg-ish feel to it (plus a nice nod to George Romero). Mission Impossible III had great action set pieces AND an interesting story. The Lost pilot was great television (don't get me started on the rest of the series—it was all downhill from there). Call me crazy, but I even really enjoyed Regarding Henry.

The nice thing about Abrams, in my opinion, is that he's a well rounded filmmaker. He's paid his dues as a writer, a director, and producer, and has excelled in each arena.

It would be a bit premature to declare him the best Star Wars director since Irvin Kershner, but I won't be surprised to hear such talk bandied about in the weeks and months ahead. Of course if the prequels taught fans anything, it was that it's important to have reasonable expectations. 

So go forth, JJ, and make us a great Star Wars film. But I do have one request: I implore you, please do not bring Damon Lindelof along for the ride. Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Larry Kasdan - The New (Old) Hope?


Word spread quickly through the Star Wars fan community that writer/director Lawrence Kasdan had been tapped to work on future Star Wars installments. While it is not clear whether he will be directly involved with the sequel trilogy, it is the latest encouraging development in the much anticipated return of Star Wars. But why, you ask?

Kasdan came to the attention of Lucas after Spielberg purchased his original screenplay for Continental Divide. That led to his being hired to write The Empire Strikes Back in the wake of Leigh Brackett's death, and shortly thereafter (after several days of story conferences with Lucas and Spielberg) his masterful work on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Based on his work on those two films alone, I'd take Kasdan on any future Star Wars installment in any writing capacity we can get him. Sure, I'd prefer that he be involved with any films dealing with the main characters we know and love (as many of the most memorable exchanges between those characters were his), but beggars can't be choosers.

And in terms of his ability to balance action and drama, one need look no further than this fan's favorite film of all-time. Raiders of the Lost Ark is unparalleled in bridging major action set pieces with richly developed good and evil characters. What more could you ask of from a new Star Wars film?

Only time will tell if Kasdan is given the opportunity to provide us with more Star Wars tales on par with those we know and love from the OT, but in the mean time, forgive those of us who choose to celebrate like Ewoks drumming on empty Stormtrooper buckets.