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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'Han Solo' Loses Its Directors

The untitled Han Solo Star Wars Story has lost its directors. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who directed The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street in recent years, have parted ways with Lucasfilm due to creative differences.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced this in a public statement. "Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon," she said.

Meanwhile, Lord and Miller's response similarly assured fans and investors to remain calm: “Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew."
By no means does this bombshell mean that Han Solo will be a mess when it hits theaters. Whoever Lucasfilm picks as Lord and Miller's replacement will undoubtedly be talented and capable of the job. No, the most jarring part of this announcement is that the movie has already been filming for five months.

That's right, somehow they had been in full production for almost half a year before they noticed the differences in their "creative visions." Shouldn't this have happened while they were still writing the script? Or did some Disney/Lucasfilm executive finally visit the set, take a look at some rough footage, and realize this wasn't the movie they were expecting?

It's easy to compare this to the reports about Rogue One's infamous reshoots last year and assert that once again, there's no reason to panic and the final cut will be fine. However, whatever happened with Rogue One wasn't nearly as momentous as this very public break-up between the directors and the studio, well into the process of principal photography. And despite proving to be a largely satisfactory installment in the saga, Rogue One's behind-the-scenes troubles were felt when the film hit theaters, with a noticeable disconnect between the final cut and the first teaser trailer.

Again, we shouldn't be too worried about the finished product. Han Solo's amazing cast is still very much attached (even if some of their scenes have to be reshot) and it still clearly has the dedication of the studio. The main concern is that it might have to wave goodbye to its May 2018 release as the studio takes the time to find a new director and rework the film.

Variety is reporting that Lord and Miller were not-so-amicably fired because of conflict with Kennedy and longtime Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan; Lord and Miller were used to a certain freedom as directors, while Kennedy and Kasdan preferred the stricter Lucasfilm filmmaking process that dates back to the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies. 

What do you think of this news? Are you worried about the untitled Han Solo movie? Tell me in the comments, and may the Force be with you all.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How 'The Last Jedi' Can Distance Itself from 'The Empire Strikes Back'

It's incredibly common for big-budget movie sequels to be compared to The Empire Strikes Back; just ask Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, or the untitled Jurassic World sequel. It's the perfect model for a sequel that's bigger, darker, and widely considered to be better than its predecessor. But for The Last Jedi, this comparison isn't a compliment.
Since the greatest complaint about The Force Awakens is its similarity to A New Hope, pessimistic fans are quick to accuse The Last Jedi of doing the same thing with The Empire Strikes Back. And the glimpses of the film we've seen so far have done little to doubt this. Like Empire, The Last Jedi will be a darker film that splits up our heroes as one of them trains with an old Jedi master while the others visit a fancy city with a sinister underbelly. 

Everything we've heard about the movie has also indicated that the First Order will indeed be striking back. Despite their crushing defeat at Starkiller Base, they'll be coming at the Resistance with an enormous Star Destroyer, Executioner stormtroopers, Heavy Assault Walkers, elite Praetorian Guards, and the Knights of Ren. Heck, even Captain Phasma is getting a new weapon (seen below). 
No matter what, The Last Jedi will have some parallels to Empire, and the truth about Rey's family promises to be as shocking and dramatic a twist as "I am your father." But what sets the two films apart is in their titles; Empire's puts the focus on the villains avenging their previous defeat, while The Last Jedi's is about Luke and the (overdue) expiration of the Jedi Order. 

The greatest thing that Episode VIII has to accomplish to distance itself from Episode V is deliver on its title and give Luke a key role that can't be easily compared to Yoda's. And that really shouldn't be hard to do; unlike Yoda, Luke will be an integral part of the film from its opening moments, and it's pretty unlikely that he'll just stay behind on Ahch-To while Rey leaves to save her friends. We also know there's a conflict within him and a reluctance to train Rey that Yoda never had.
This one's a little less likely, but what if the end of The Last Jedi was also drastically different from Empire's? Instead of a bittersweet conclusion with one of the heroes in peril and the others determined to save him, the film's ending could be a complete game changer. Luke's paternal revelation was an incredibly emotional moment for him, but what if Rey's had such an impact on her that she actually fell to the Dark Side?
Both she and Kylo Ren are tempted by both sides of the Force, so they could even end up switching sides during or after their climactic rematch. An ending with Rey now aligned with Snoke and Kylo happily reunited with his mother and uncle would certainly set the stage for an explosive Episode IX and subvert most fan expectations.

How do you think The Last Jedi can distance itself from The Empires Strikes Back? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Vanity Fair Covers 'The Last Jedi'

This post was updated on May 24 with the new details and images released by Vanity Fair. 

Following its Star Wars: The Force Awakens cover in June 2015, Vanity Fair is now – as many predicted – covering The Last Jedi for June 2017. This week, they unveiled four brand-new covers and a slew of exclusive photos by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, with exclusive details and reveals to match. 
The first cover features the title character(s), Luke and Rey, on Ahch-To. Their costumes are pretty much identical to what they wore in the last scene of The Force Awakens, but this is the first time that we've seen the two heroes side by side, united by the Force (and possibly blood). The one new addition is Luke's glove, which would confirm that the hand touching an ancient Jedi book in the teaser is Luke's.
The second cover showcases the leading triumvirate of the First Order: Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux. Hux looks as poised as ever, while Kylo has a new costume and cape. Phasma's appearance is the most notable here; she's seen without her helmet for the first time, and though it's no surprise to see Gwendoline Christie's fierce face, it does suggest that we'll see a more human – but still quite despicable – side of the character. 

Phasma is also wielding the staff that Making Star Wars first told us about in March. Vanity Fair elaborates that this is "a retractable pole arm that collapses into a smaller, easy to carry form." It connects to her own history, which Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo hints is "more low-tech than many would assume." Looks like she'll be trading in her chrome blaster for a unique, badass melee weapon. 
Next, the Resistance. Finn and Poe Dameron are united again, with mutual friend BB-8 sitting in the corner. Next to them is Rose, the biggest new character in The Last Jedi who we already know works as a maintenance worker. Vanity Fair revealed Rose's last name (not that it holds any great significance): Tico. The cover story confirms that her and Finn's "mission behind enemy lines" will take them to the casino city of Canto Bight. 
The fourth and final cover features General Leia Organa standing alone in a dark, almost sinister cloak. Carrie Fisher's co-stars assured Vanity Fair that she has a much larger role in The Last Jedi and truly dedicated herself to her performance. Lucasfilm was planning for Fisher to be at the center of Episode IX in the same way that Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill dominated The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, respectively.
Aside from Rose, Vanity Fair sheds some light on Laura Dern's and Benicio Del Toro's new characters. Dern is confirmed to be playing Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, seen in all of her pink-haired glory above. Holdo is a high-ranking officer in the Resistance, though Making Star Wars has told us that she'll be at odds with Leia and Poe. 
Meanwhile, Benicio Del Toro's "shady character" (above) is still called only "DJ" by the filmmakers. His shifty nature and unclear allegiances would perhaps make him The Last Jedi's equivalent of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. His real name must be a recognizable one if Lucasfilm is still reluctant to reveal it, although director Rian Johnson hinted that they call him DJ for a reason.

Leibovitz's full portfolio includes all kinds of exclusive looks at the cast of The Last Jedi:
Rey and Luke next to the "Jedi village" on Ahch-To. Luke has been living here with "an indigenous race of caretaker creatures."
Hux, Kylo, and Phasma are all smiles
The monochromatic Resistance
The wealthy inhabitants of Canto Bight who have managed to "live apart from the galactic struggle," according to Hidalgo
Rey training with Luke's old lightsaber on Ahch-To
Kylo Ren swinging his iconic crossguard lightsaber
Rey and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon
The droids of The Last Jedi, including Anthony Daniels in his gold C-3PO suit
Fisher with her daughter, Billie Lourd, who plays Lieutenant Kaydel Connix
The Skywalker twins reunited
What do you think of these new photos? Which new character are you looking forward to the most? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Reunions of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

The Last Jedi, like The Empire Strikes Back, will be splitting our heroes up as the young, Force-sensitive protagonist trains with a retired Jedi master while their rebellious friends attempt to escape an evil, fascist regime. However, the developments of The Force Awakens have set up the opportunity for friends, enemies, and family to meet again on an unprecedented scale. We're taking a look at seven reunions that we can expect in The Last Jedi, ranked based on their significance and emotional impact.

7. Captain Phasma and Finn

It's safe to say that Phasma is pissed after her former subordinate betrayed and humiliated her, sending her into Starkiller Base's trash compactor and leaving her for dead. She'll be coming for Finn, and as the commander of the First Order's ground troops, you can bet she won't be coming alone. 
This reunion is unlikely to inspire any tears from the audience, but it'll at least give Phasma a clear purpose in The Last Jedi (something she was sorely lacking in The Force Awakens) and the opportunity to prove herself to both Snoke and the audience. Who wouldn't want to see her pull a total TR-8R and attack Finn with her new spear like the traitor he is?

6. Luke and Chewbacca

The marketing for The Last Jedi will undoubtedly hype up Rey and Luke's meeting and interactions on Ahch-To, but let's not forget that she left Chewie and R2-D2 with the Millennium Falcon at the base of the island. No matter how reluctant he is to train Rey, Luke will definitely make a point of saying hi to his old friends.
Luke doesn't have an especially well-developed relationship with Chewie, and we don't know if he ever got around to learning the Wookiee language, but they share a special grief over Han Solo's death. Luke was one of Han's best friends so Chewie can find someone to properly mourn with, since he and Leia had zero interactions after his return from Starkiller Base. (JJ Abrams admits that Leia should have hugged Chewie, not Rey, when they got off the Falcon.)

5. Luke and R2-D2

This is probably the more tearjerking Ahch-To reunion. Artoo has been in a deep sleep since Luke's departure many years ago, and the only reason that he awoke was so that he could find his master again. Last time we saw him, he was rocking back and forth with excitement while Rey began to ascend the stone steps to find Luke. 
Artoo is simply Luke's most loyal friend and a longtime ally of the Skywalker family. His extremely limited role in The Force Awakens was a disappointment, so it would be great to see him become an active member of the plot again as his master does the same. 

4. Rey and Finn

"We'll see each other again. I believe that." Rey's last words to her comatose friend, before she left to fulfill her destiny with Luke, promised us that The Force Awakens' breakout pair would meet again. They care deeply about each other, and a reunion in The Last Jedi would be emotional for everyone.
Remember that Finn wasn't awake to see Rey use the Force to defeat Kylo Ren, so he would be shocked to see her burst in with a lightsaber to save his life once again. Meanwhile, Finn will similarly have found his place in the galaxy after (eventually) choosing to stand up to the First Order and dedicate all of his battle training to the Resistance. 

3. Rey and Kylo Ren

There's no denying that Rey and Kylo share a very special connection. They've both been estranged from their families. They're both attracted to Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. Kylo is tempted by the Light Side, while Rey's fury towards him brings her dangerously close to the Dark. They're going to meet again at some point, and the teaser already hinted at a rematch, with shots of Rey charging with her lightsaber and Kylo facing her with his own crossguard blade.
In the film, these shots are most likely 100% unrelated, but the marketing is clearly trying to hype up another lightsaber duel between the two. Rey will have honed her already-potent abilities while Kylo will have finished his training with Snoke (and probably won't be suffering from a Chewbacca-induced wound this time), so we can expect a duel on an even greater scale. 
If this were to occur near Darth Vader's old castle on Mustafar (which is likely to be a major location in the film), it would mirror Anakin and Obi-Wan's spectacular duel and finally silence the many fans who have criticized Disney of largely ignoring the events of the Prequel Trilogy.

2. Leia and Kylo Ren

Ben Solo's reunion with his father was one of The Force Awakens' most emotional – and saddest – scenes. We can assume that any scene with him and his mother would be just as impactful, especially considering the huge conflict of emotion that stems from Han's murder. Leia will always love her son and hold at least a sliver of hope for his redemption, but she knows what he's done and what she might have to do to stop him.
Leia is also no fool, so her reunion with Kylo would certainly be a far cry from Han's. She'll have all kinds of harsh words for her son (we know she's no stranger to space profanity), and she won't let him get within stabbing distance if she can help it. Nerdist also reported that we might see Leia (verbally) face off with Snoke after getting captured; a scene with Leia utterly roasting the First Order's leadership (including Snoke, Kylo, and even General Hux and Phasma) would certainly make Carrie Fisher's last performance a memorable one.
Unfortunately, there's only so many emotional reunions to fit into one movie, and it's possible that Lucasfilm elected to save this moment for Episode IX. In that case, we'd most likely never see it on-screen, since president Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that neither existing footage nor a CGI recreation of Fisher will be used in Episode IX.

1. Luke and Leia

The reunion of the Skywalker twins is definitely meant to be a high point of the Sequel Trilogy. Once again, we can't be sure if this was filmed for The Last Jedi or saved for later and then scrapped after Fisher's death. However, if Rey is returning to help her friends in the final act of the film, then Luke is likely to join her to satisfy the audience (who is dying to see him leave Ahch-To and kick ass once again), take down Snoke, and yes, see his estranged sister again.
Luke and Leia are bound by blood and the Force itself. Like Han and Leia's reunion, theirs has the opportunity to be a real tearjerker; while a loving hug can be expected, Luke must feel guilty about leaving her (maybe he blames himself for Han's death?) and Leia is sure to be resentful of his disappearance when she needed him the most.

Despite some serious daddy issues and an incestuous moment that they'd both like to forget, Luke and Leia are the Rebellion's greatest remaining heroes, and their reunion would signal a new hope for the Resistance. The Sequel Trilogy may be more focused on the next generation – Rey, Finn, Kylo, Poe Dameron – but the Skywalker twins together again at the end of The Last Jedi would set up an awesome final chapter in Episode IX, even if Leia won't be around for it.
Which reunions are you most looking forward to in The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Could a New Animated Series Finish 'The Clone Wars'?

It's no secret that Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans weren't happy about the show's premature cancellation, and four years later, there's still a strong demand for its revival. We know the basic details of the remaining episodes and some have been released as novels, comics, and even incomplete reels, but many of the most intriguing stories – especially "The Siege of Mandalore," the would-be series finale – still deserve to be released in some format.
Last month at Celebration Orlando, Dave Filoni confirmed that Star Wars Rebels will be concluding with Season 4, but this will hardly be Lucasfilm Animation's last project. Yesterday, a Reddit post suggested that Filoni's idea for a new project is exactly (or at least, very close) to what Clone Wars fans wanted: an eight-episode miniseries, 40 minutes each, focusing on Ahsoka Tano towards the end of the Clone Wars. This would naturally include some of the planned episodes that we never got to see.
Of course, there's little reason to believe that this post is actually from an inside source at Lucasfilm. Reddit obviously isn't the most trustworthy source in terms of information leaks. But at the very least, this is a fascinating rumor that we've never heard before, and it's worth entertaining the idea. 

Ahsoka is one of the most popular Star Wars characters, particularly among the younger generation of fans, and if anyone could carry a new series, it would be her. Rosario Dawson is even interested in playing Ahsoka in a live-action movie. The promise of finishing Clone Wars stories with an equal or greater animation budget (as the rumor indicates) would also attract Clone Wars fans who otherwise wouldn't be interested in a series focused on the feisty ex-Jedi.
Aside from "The Siege of Mandalore" (in which Ahsoka leads Captain Rex and other clone troopers to retake the planet from Maul), these episodes would most likely include Ahsoka's "walkabout" in the Coruscant underworld and her return to the Jedi as she investigates a Sith temple deep underneath the Jedi Temple, crossing paths with Darth Sidious himself. We've heard details and seen sketches of all three of these stories.
Yes, this rumor is probably too good to be true, but at least it's given fans something more realistic to campaign for. A miniseries led by its most beloved character is perhaps the most sensible way of finishing The Clone Wars, rather than a full-on revival or even (as some fans have proposed) a live-action "Siege of Mandalore" movie. 

What do you think of this rumor? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.