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Saturday, September 30, 2017

What to Expect in the Final 'Last Jedi' Trailer

We saw the two-minute teaser back in April. We got the behind-the-scenes reel in July. And Force Friday II (September 1) delivered all kinds of exciting merchandise. The next big step for Star Wars: The Last Jedi's marketing campaign is the full-length trailer, and as with The Force Awakens and Rogue One, it's going to drop in the next few weeks before the film's December 15 release.
Thanks to a quickly-deleted tweet by Mark Hamill, there's a good chance that the trailer will arrive during Monday Night Football on October 9. Star Wars News Net has also corroborated from their own undisclosed source that the trailer will drop next week Monday. The film's theatrical poster will most likely be revealed in the days beforehand.

This trailer will also be the final one, though that hardly means it's the last footage we'll see until December 15; both The Force Awakens and Rogue One had tons of TV spots and international trailers in the weeks leading up to their premieres.
In terms of plot details, action sequences, and character moments, there's a lot that The Last Jedi still hasn't shown us...and a lot that it'll continue to withhold until December 15. Here's what we can expect in the final trailer:

Battles!

Okay, yeah, we're obviously gonna get shots of explosions and lasers whizzing and starfighters flying. The teaser already gave us a taste of this, with the climax centered on a massive space battle involving Resistance frigates, X-Wings, A-Wings, and TIE fighters.
The Battle of Crait promises to be the film's most explosive sequence, with the sharp contrast of the planet's flat, white surface and the red dirt that lies underneath. You can bet that the trailer will feature a better look at the First Order's AT-M6 walkers attacking the Resistance base on the planet, countered by the Resistance's ski speeders and Rey with her lightsaber.
And we can't count out the violent reunion between Captain Phasma and Finn. Phasma played a significant role in The Force Awakens' marketing, despite her famously muted presence in the film. Now that she'll be confronting her traitorous ex-trooper head-on, we can expect a shot or two of Phasma in action with her new spear.

New characters

Unlike The Force Awakens and Rogue One, The Last Jedi is primarily relying on a returning cast that we're all familiar with. We already know who the main heroes and villains are, so the marketing doesn't need to waste any time introducing them. However, there are still three major new characters that we know of: Rose Tico, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and DJ. 

Out of the three of them, Rose has the biggest role in the film, and thus her appearance in the trailer is almost certain. She's already had a prominent role in promotional images and merchandise. We know that she'll be going on an adventure with Finn that takes them to the wild city of Canto Bight and then behind enemy lines, so she must be involved in some action sequences that would fit nicely in a trailer.
Admiral Holdo's conversation-heavy scenes with Leia and Poe would be a little dull for a trailer, but we know that she'll also get some action scenes that would be more appropriate. If a pink-haired Laura Dern firing a blaster pistol doesn't make you want to see the movie, then nothing will.
DJ is still wrapped in a fair amount of mystery, but since he's involved in the Canto Bight adventure, it's safe to say that he'll be getting some action as well. Like Dern, Benicio Del Toro is famous and recognizable enough to warrant an appearance in the trailer.
Lightsaber duels

We've seen teases of Rey and Kylo Ren's rematch, but it's about time that we actually saw some of their fight. Every Star Wars movie (with the exception of Rogue One) needs a climactic lightsaber duel, and since Rey's Force sensitivity is no secret this time around, the marketing will have no trouble hyping up her clash with her Dark Side counterpart.
As for Luke, he may or may not end up using a lightsaber in The Last Jedi (either Anakin's old lightsaber or Luke's green blade from Return of the Jedi), but we probably wouldn't find out for sure in this trailer. Luke getting back into action with the traditional Jedi weapon – or even just attacking enemies with the Force – would be a huge reveal better left for December 15.

Luke and Rey on Ahch-To

The first half of the teaser was devoted to Rey and Luke (or at least, Luke's voice) on the rocky island, and we can expect that the new trailer will follow suit. This time, however, we'll most likely get a deeper look, with close-ups of the two Force users together, more shots of Rey's training and visions, and perhaps even a glimpse of the sacred Force tree. We also can't count out the other inhabitants of Ahch-To, including the Caretakers, a sea monster, and the adorable porgs. 
We've heard multiple reports (including from Making Star Wars) that war will come to Ahch-To when Kylo brings the Knights of Ren to finish off the Jedi Order once and for all. The island has been displayed as a sacred and peaceful place, so shots of the First Order landing on the island would pack an emotional punch in the trailer without spoiling too much (since this would most likely take place in the middle of the film, prompting our heroes to leave Ahch-To and reunite with the Resistance). 

A Maz Kanata voiceover?

Of all the returning characters from The Force Awakens, Maz's role in The Last Jedi has been the most mysterious. We haven't seen her in any footage or images so far, and director Rian Johnson told Entertainment Weekly that her part will be smaller this time around. Making Star Wars reported in August that Maz mainly serves as a bridge between the Resistance and DJ.
However, we can't forget that Maz provided key voiceovers in The Force Awakens' trailer and TV spots, despite never showing her face in them. In fact, it seems that Lupita Nyong'o recorded several lines that were only ever meant for promotional purposes, and were never paired with her motion-capture performance in the film.
Nyong'o in her motion-capture gear in the BTS reel
The short story? If they want wise, insightful musings about the Force in the trailer from someone other than Luke, Maz is the best option, regardless of whether she actually speaks these words in the movie. And as a popular and recognizable character whose appearance is no longer being kept under wraps, we could also get a shot or two of Maz herself.

General Leia

Even if Carrie Fisher were still alive, Leia's integral role in The Last Jedi would warrant an appearance in this trailer—something bigger than the single shot of Han embracing her in The Force Awakens' trailer. We don't know if she'll get much action in the film, but she'll surely have big scenes with other characters (Rey and Luke, in particular) that would add to the emotional impact of the trailer.
Fisher's death makes it only more likely that Leia will have a significant appearance in the trailer. As demonstrated by the behind-the-scenes reel, the marketing team is more than willing to tempt us with heartwarming footage of Fisher and remind us that this will be the very last time we see the iconic actress on-screen.
Granted, this is a bit of a slippery slope. If Leia starts to appear in too much marketing material, fans will accuse Lucasfilm and Disney of trying to profit on the tragedy of Fisher's death. And if they go the other direction and downplay her role in the film to avoid these precise accusations, fans will be just as angry and say that they're disrespecting her final performance.

What do you hope to see in the final trailer for The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

JJ Abrams Will Return to Write and Direct 'Episode IX'

Just a week after announcing that Colin Trevorrow would no longer be directing 'Star Wars: Episode IX,' Lucasfilm (via StarWars.com) have found a very familiar face to replace him as writer and director: JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens and executive producer of The Last Jedi.
This announcement also quietly revealed that the film has moved back to its original release date of Christmas 2019 (December 20, to be exact). In June, the film was pushed forward to May 2019; the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy all opened in May, and it seemed like the untitled Han Solo (May 25, 2018) and Episode IX would return the franchise to its May tradition. Now each installment in the Sequel Trilogy will be opening on Christmas, two years apart.

Despite famous criticisms of "remaking" A New Hope with The Force Awakens, Abrams is hardly a bad choice to fill Trevorrow's shoes. He knows how to make a successful Star Wars movie better than anyone else in Hollywood, and he's more than capable of bringing the character arcs of Rey, Finn, Luke, and Kylo Ren to a close.
So it's not hard to imagine why Kathleen Kennedy sought out Abrams as a quick replacement for Trevorrow. It took her seven days to pin down Abrams and two days (back in June) to announce Ron Howard as the new director of Han Solo, after announcing Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's departures; even if you think that she's firing too many directors, you can't deny that she knows how to get reliable, experienced replacements just as fast.

However, Abrams' return is a bit of a missed opportunity. Though Rian Johnson was the top pick to replace Trevorrow, many fans were also clamoring for the franchise's first female or POC director, including Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) and Patty Jenkins (MonsterWonder Woman and its sequel). 

Maybe it made more sense to hire someone as familiar with the Sequel Trilogy as Abrams, and inevitably someone who's not a caucasian man will direct a Star Wars movie in the future, but it would have been nice to see this happen sooner.

What do you think of Abrams returning to write and direct Episode IX? Who was your top pick to replace Trevorrow? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Colin Trevorrow Exits 'Episode IX'

This has not been a good summer for Star Wars directors. First Chris Miller and Phil Lord were very publicly fired from the untitled Han Solo movie in June, and then today it was announced that Colin Trevorrow will no longer be directing Episode IX.
With 2015's Jurassic World, Trevorrow proved that he can successfully direct a nostalgia-heavy blockbuster nearly as big as The Force Awakens. But the extremely negative response to his latest film, June's The Book of Henry, shook any confidence Star Wars fans had in him. It's safe to say that Lucasfilm – and president Kathleen Kennedy in particular – reacted the same.

Coupled with Lord and Miller's forced departure from Han Solo, this incident is bringing Kennedy under fire once again, with many now seeing her as a ruthless boss who's willing to boot any director who doesn't agree with her exact vision of a Star Wars film. While Kennedy might not be very nice or tolerant when it comes to the men helming her movies, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't respect her decisions. 
It is, after all, her job to make sure that these movies will turn out to be critical and financial successes. She's hardly overstepping her boundaries by calling out trouble when she sees it. And after producing The Force Awakens and Rogue One (not to mention over 35 years of filmmaking experience), she's earned the right to make these tough calls. 

For many fans, the top pick to replace Trevorrow is The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. Though we've seen very little actual footage from the film so far, interviews have suggested that (unlike Lord and Miller) he managed to find a balance between his own creative vision and that of veteran Lucasfilm executives like Kennedy. He's also publicly expressed interest in directing another Star Wars movie.
Of course, Lucasfilm may very well want to stick with their original plan of a different director for each installment in the Sequel Trilogy. If so, some fans want them to finally choose a woman to helm a Star Wars movie. Lucasfilm have been criticized for their lack of diversity among directors – so far, they seem exclusively interested in caucasian men – and a female director would be fitting for a movie centered on a heroine as inspiring as Rey.

Episode IX is scheduled to start shooting in January 2018, ahead of its newly-secured May 2019 release, so a new director will likely be announced soon. This would seem to put a wrench in Johnson's return, as it would be risky for Lucasfilm to rehire him before they can verify his talent and success rate with The Last Jedi's release. And if there's one thing to be said about Kennedy, it's that she's not exactly open to risks.
What's most worrisome is that between Trevorrow, Lord and Miller, Josh Trank (who was fired from a Star Wars spinoff after the utter failure of 2014's Fantastic Four), and even the behind-the-scenes drama with Gareth Edwards on Rogue One, Star Wars is becoming less and less appealing to up-and-coming directors with their own visions and ideas.

It almost seems that Lucasfilm loves to hire fresh-faced indie directors, but at the end of the day, what they really want is reliable veterans like Ron Howard (the replacement director for Han Solo) who will make the kind of movies that they want to make. Johnson may very well be the exception to this, but we shouldn't be too surprised if Star Wars has trouble securing new blood in the future.

Who do you want to director Episode IX? What do you think of Trevorrow's exit? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.