With Solo struggling and a Boba Fett movie on the horizon, what does Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show need to be to survive?

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One possibility why it wasn’t so successful, though, is that Solo simply didn’t quite push the envelope enough to capture audience attention. Up to a point, that seems like the intention; in comparing the main saga to the anthology movies, it seems that they’re deliberately intended to counterbalance one another – that Solo is, in effect, the more traditional movie designed for people who didn’t like the more experimental The Last Jedi. A Boba Fett movie, and indeed the planned Obi-Wan Kenobi movie, seem to follow broadly the same thinking. However, if audiences have rejected Solo for being too traditional, and not offering enough new ideas, it’s possible this approach isn’t quite going to work.

If we’re assuming that the reason, or part of the reason, Solo has struggled (and it is, in fairness, an assumption) is because of a relative lack of new ideas, then this is one of the first important steps for Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV shows to make to succeed.

I wrote this a day or two after watching Solo, a film which I enjoyed rather more than I expected to. (Mainly on the strength of Alden Ehrenreich’s performance, actually; I thought the story was often less than inspired, and the direction occasionally dire, but Ehrenreich was just so charming a lead he rescued the entire film. I wish he’d been Han Solo in a much better film, really.)

Anyway, following Solo and the Boba Fett announcement (which is now a little more in limbo, I guess), I started thinking about Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show, which I am desperately hoping will be something entirely new. Not even necessarily new in general, just new in terms of Star Wars at least.

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Why a Princess Leia origin movie would be better than a Han Solo one

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Much of Leia’s story is still a relatively blank slate, and it’s one that’s ripe with potential. We know she was a political leader in the senate, but also a secret leader of the rebellion, all before the age of 20. That’s an outline, not details; beyond that, there’s so much story still to be told.

You could easily imagine, say, Millie Bobby Brown starring in a Star Wars movie directed by Rachel Talalay – quite apart from just how good it would be, 2018 is exactly the right time to tell the story of a woman leading a rebellion against an oppressive government.

In a way, unlike a Han Solo movie, it’d also lend greater meaning to the films as they already stand. Consider a movie where we see Leia on Alderaan, learning more about her life and her family and her friends – wouldn’t that make the destruction of Alderaan all the more poignant and all the more impactful?

tired: Han Solo movie

wired: Lando movie

inspired: Princes Leia movie

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The problem with Nazi allegories in fiction

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Of note – simply because it’s right around the corner, and a pretty good indication of what I have in mind – is the upcoming CW DC crossover event. Crisis on Earth X is set to unite the Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow heroes in one great big extra-dimensional fight against their alternative selves from Earth X – a secret world where the Allies lost the second World War, and all our heroes are thus Nazis.

There’s something uncomfortable about this, I think, in a way that’s not necessarily easy to articulate. It’s not that it’s normalising Nazis, exactly, because it isn’t. Rather, it’s rendering them as objects of fantasy, villains that exist only in secret alternate earths – when that isn’t really the case. It doesn’t matter if you refer back to the idea of the awful atrocities committed (and the special crossover does put concentration camps in a key role), there’s an implicit suggestion that these are ultimately just cartoonish figures by placing them in that role.

An attempt to articulate something I’d been thinking about for a few years now; I also spoke a little about Star Wars, but the main focus is Arrow etc, because it was timely. I’m quite behind on the Arrowverse shows, but I did watch the Crisis on Earth-x crossover. It was… quite something.

Looking back, this article actually posted the same weekend as one of the more egregious of those New York Times Trump voter profiles, about a man who was a literal Nazi, being celebrated because he actually quite liked Seinfeld. Which was patently ridiculous, and got me pondering the role of fiction in reaching this climate. The above is very much a starting point rather than the definitive word on the comment, but I think it gestures at something that’s broadly on point.

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The woman behind Star Wars: How Marcia Lucas gave us the Original Trilogy

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On the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, it’s worth taking a moment to remember someone who’s been largely forgotten – but deserves to be celebrated.

An article I wrote a little while ago, for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, commemorating Marcia Lucas for her involvement in the trilogy. She is, I’d wager, the most important yet least recognised architect of Star Wars as we know it.

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Why the Star Wars Prequels are much better than everyone thinks

It’s become something of a truism to say that the Star Wars Prequels are pretty awful films. They’ve become concepts that slipped into popular culture and never really left. Even the people who don’t like Star Wars, and have never seen the films, know that these productions are the bad ones.

And yet, this critical consensus is in fact rather unfair.

Sure, the Star Wars Prequels are imperfect – no one’s ever going to really argue that they aren’t – but there’s still a lot to like about them. And when it comes down to it, they’re actually a lot better than people give them credit for.

A Star Wars article for Metro. I have something of a complicated relationship with the prequels, I guess. Obviously, they are not necessarily brilliant movies – in many ways, they range from dull and turgid to just straightforwardly bad. At the same time, though, they’re the Star Wars movies of my youth, and the ones I have a (slightly) more personal connection to, I suppose.

I’d argue, though, that there is a lot about them that’s very good – they’re genuinely creative in a way that sets them apart from the majority of the other Star Wars films, and I think the story they struggle to tell is a more interesting and engaging one than the story the original trilogy tells successfully. And the sequel trilogy, arguably, though I don’t think the sequel trilogy has an obvious overarching story yet.

Anyway, so, yeah. Here’s a bit of an attempt at defending the prequel trilogy, with a few thoughts as to why they’re a bit better than the reputation they have (which is more often than not a repeated meme rather than genuine critical engagement).

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It’s Star Wars Day! Here are 7 Star Wars anthology films they should make

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Star Wars is fast becoming an annual staple at the cinema, with a new release planned every year up until 2020. As part of the ‘Star Wars Story’ brand, however, it seems likely we’ll see these Star Wars films continuing indefinitely – one a year, every year, forever.

We had Rogue One just last year; a young Han Solo film is set to appear in 2018 and another mystery flick is planned for 2020. What could this mystery film be? And when Disney begins to develop films for 2021 and beyond, which aspects of the Star Wars galaxy should they tackle?

It’ll be interesting to see if any of the ideas here – which I’ll tell you are Young Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the First Jedi, Mace Windu vs Boba Fett, The Old Republic, an unrelated love story in the middle of the Empire, and Jabba the Hutt – ever actually materialise.

Certainly, I suspect that the Boba Fett movie will include Mace Windu to some extent – it’s the most obvious version of the story, and I think in positioning it as more of a Mace Windu movie than a Boba Fett film there’s a way of making it at least a little bit more interesting. An Obi-Wan film is confirmed, and I figure the First Jedi or the Old Republic will have some relevance to Rian Johnson’s new trilogy.

A Leia movie is still the best idea, as it goes. Increasingly, I’m convinced it’s the most important film for Star Wars to make at this point. They need to diversify it a bit, really.

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Why Rogue One: A Star Wars Story wasn’t as good as everyone thought it was

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Star Wars: Rogue One is finally released on DVD today, having already been available on digital download since last week.

As you’re re-watching the latest Star Wars spin-off, though, you might be met with a worrying thought – that the film is actually not quite as good as you thought it was the first time round.

Yes, it’s true – Star Wars: Rogue One isn’t actually all that good.

From forgettable characters to continuity-overload, here are a few reason why you might not want to watch it a second time.

I wrote an article about Star Wars for Metro, specifically about Rogue One. I never really got around to reviewing the movie properly when it first came out, but this sums up most of my thoughts on it.

Mind you, in the time since, I have been thinking I should probably rewatch it – I am massively out of step with the general cultural consensus about this film, and I do wonder if there’s something I’m missing. It’s possible that, because I watched it after having been awake for around 24 hours, I was just in the wrong state of mind to appreciate it – but I doubt that had much of an effect. Perhaps I’ll write about it again come… ooh, December 2018?

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5 potential premises for a Star Wars Netflix TV show

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I think it’s fair to say that the Star Wars galaxy is a vast one, with a lot of storytelling potential – and I’d love to see it expanded with a Netflix show, no matter what form it may take.

Here, then, are a couple of potential avenues that they might be able to explore…

So, here’s a few ideas for a possible Star Wars Netflix show! It includes a suggestion for a new animated series, a couple of different anthology shows, an Office-style show set on the Death Star, and a Coruscant crime drama.

Of the different ideas, I think the one I’d be most interested in seeing personally is… hmm, actually, which one? I’m fond of the idea of Tales from Maz Kanata’s Castle, as an anthology show featuring a series of vignettes focused on different characters, though admittedly as a commerical idea that might not actually work out. That’s probably why I like it best! If limited to the ones that are actually, like, likely, then I think the space noir Coruscant show is one I’d be interested in seeing.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Who is Rey?

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The new heroine of the Star Wars movies, as I imagine we all know by now, is Rey. She’s a fantastic character, played well by Daisy Ridley, and she’s got a wonderful leitmotif to boot. (It’s one of my favourite pieces of Star Wars music, actually, and I’d probably go as far as to say it’s one of my favourite pieces of John Williams’ music as a whole.)

Rey’s lived on Jakku for much of her life, having to become nearly entirely self-sufficient; despite her wanderlust, she’s lead a very sheltered existence, always waiting for a family that would never come. (I thought her line upon seeing Takodana –  “I didn’t think there was this much green in the whole galaxy.” – was one of the more memorable subtle moments of the movie.) In the end, she’s a hero, much like Luke Skywalker before her.

While we know a lot about Rey as a person, though, there’s still much about her that’s a mystery. It’s the question first posited by one of the initial trailers:

“Who are you?”

At the minute, smart money suggests that she’s a Skywalker; a child that Luke fathered and abandoned during the thirty year stretch between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. And, you know, it could certainly explain a few things; Rey’s affinity with the force, her piloting prowess, Kylo Ren appearing to know of her on Jakku. Certainly, there are also some thematic parallels that could line up with Luke’s origins in A New Hope – but then, there are thematic parallels that could line up with everything in A New Hope. After all, I can’t imagine Han Solo is a reincarnated Obi-Wan, or anything like that.

Honestly, I am expecting Rey to be a Skywalker; I was, in fact, expecting the movie to end with a reversal of the iconic “I am your father” moment. But… there’s something about that idea that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, in much the same way the idea of Luke being Kylo Ren did. Luke Skywalker, iconic hero, abandoning his child to a life of slavery, not so different from how Anakin was brought up? I mean, particularly given Luke’s relationship with Vader, I can’t imagine he’d abandon his own child at all.

Similarly, the suggestion that Luke used to force to suppress Rey’s memories (and potentially Han and Leia’s) of him, leading to the “I thought he was a myth” comment, is equally offputting. I think this is a result of the recent Doctor Who episodes examining the relative fairness of non consensual memory wipes, actually; there’s something about the idea that, no matter what trauma or greater good they justify it with, makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Certainly, there are ways to make it work – perhaps that’s how they signify Luke’s own fall from grace – but I wonder if that’s just an attempt to fix an idea that is already fundamentally poor.

There’s also, from some people, the suggestion that Rey is a Kenobi. On the one hand, it’s a nice idea – thematically speaking, the idea that these two families are tied so closely together that we’ll see another generation of Kenobi save the latest in the Skywalker line is a really great concept, which is something they could get a really compelling story out of. And yet… it seems far too unlikely to happen, simply as a result of the level of exposition that would be needed; with no prior indication of Obi-Wan having a family, the necessary backstory to include doesn’t seem like something they’d want to shoehorn into future movies. From a practical standpoint then, I don’t see it happening.

Honestly, though, my favourite answer to this question is Rey’s own: “I’m no one.”

I’d rather see Rey as a ‘normal’ person, unconnected to any character we’ve seen before, or any important lineage. Let her story be her own; her merits as a character are borne from the fact that anyone can be special, not because of who her family is.

We’ve already got a familial connection in this new generation of characters – and it shows us how that’s not necessarily a good thing. Rey is the thematic parallel to that, then; you don’t need to be a Skywalker to be a hero.

In Star Wars, anyone should be able to be a hero.

Related:

Star Wars retrospective

On the Identity of Kylo Ren

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On the identity of Kylo Ren

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So, I watched The Force Awakens again recently; I maintain my original judgement, that it’s a fun film with great characters, but ultimately a very derivative plot. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure most of the people there were also rewatching it; there were no big laughs at any of the moments there were the first time around, so I’m assuming that was because the other people there were anticipating the jokes, rather than that they didn’t find it funny. Glad to see lots of people liked it enough to watch it twice (or thrice!), in any case.

There was, though, one sticking point for me, and that was the identity of Kylo Ren – or, more specifically, how it was revealed to us.

From this point on there will be spoilers.

Consider, if we jump back to 1980 for a moment, The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone is familiar with the twist which takes place at the end of the movie, of course – Darth Vader is Luke’s father. That’s thought to be one of the most impactful moments in cinematic history, and it’s certainly one of the most memorable; you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t know that Luke is Darth Vader’s son. (Which, I suppose, is something of a shame, because it means it’s rare that people are able to actually experience the twist. But that’s beside the point.)

Part of the reason why this is such an effective reveal is the way we come to learn the information – it’s built up as a surprise, and delivered during an already tense moment. It was foreshadowed previously; Darth Vader and the Emperor have a conversation about “the son of Skywalker”, but they never get any more specific than that.

You can see it here. (Incidentally, there’s a rather clever moment where the Emperor says to Darth Vader “Search your feelings; you know it to be true”, which is echoed later on, as Darth Vader says the same to Luke upon revealing his identity as Anakin Skywalker.)

In any case, though, what’s crucial is that the Emperor doesn’t simply say “your son”, or “the son of your former self, Anakin Skywalker”, or anything that would pre-empt the coming reveal. The exposition is built up as a dramatic moment, rather than as a piece of throw-away dialogue (which is, notably, the problem in Revenge of the Sith when we learn Palpatine is Darth Sidious).

In The Force Awakens, though, we have an almost complete reversal of this scene – rather than saving the revelation of Kylo Ren’s identity for his confrontation with Han Solo on the bridge, Supreme Leader Snoke says something along the lines of (and look seriously spoilers!) “Han Solo… your father”. This is very much not a big reveal – there’s no big gasps from the audience, there’s no shock or surprise. It’s just not structured as a reveal.

I suppose in some ways that makes sense; in The Empire Strikes Back, this information was a reveal to Luke as well. Here, all the characters know the information already – it’s not a surprise to Snoke or Kylo Ren or Han. Why, then, structure it as such? Well… for the audience. After all, if it’s not going to be structured as a reveal to us, why Kylo Ren? Why not just tell us in the lead up to the movie? Announce Adam Driver as Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s son?

Because a twist reveal is just more fun, to be honest. But what we got didn’t really function as a twist reveal.

star wars the force awakens kylo ren adam driver han solo ben solo reylo identity twist reveal empire strikes back I am your father luke skywalker snow hd picture forest

So, let’s structure it thus: we remove any reference to Kylo as Han and Leia’s son until the final confrontation on the bridge. Prior to this, you can just keep it vague; Han can say things like “I saw him, Leia. I saw… Kylo Ren” and Leia can respond with “I wish you wouldn’t call him that”, to which Han responds “That’s who he is now. That’s all he is now” and suchlike. We don’t reveal who he really is until Han calls him by his true name on the bridge – and, hey, that becomes a cool character moment for Han too, because it’s a more overt symbol of how he’s trying to connect with his son, in that it’s the first time we see Han acknowledge Kylo as his son.

But… if we’re going to go for a big reveal, why not push it further? Let’s see if we can top The Empire Strikes Back.

You know what I thought was kinda silly? Naming Han and Leia’s son Ben. I could buy Luke naming his son Ben, but Han and Leia were more likely to call their child Lando or Chewy – Han barely knew Obi-Wan, and didn’t exactly seem to like him, and I’m not convinced Leia had even met Obi-Wan. It was fan service that didn’t really land properly, in terms of the actual characters.

You know what they might name their child, though?

Luke.

So let’s run with that, and take a page from the book of the speculators and theorists: we’re going to have a fake out, and imply that Kylo Ren is Luke Skywalker, fallen to the dark side.

We’ll modify some of the earlier dialogue; Han can say things like “I thought I knew him” when Rey and Finn ask about Luke Skywalker. Han and Leia’s conversation would be more “To him, I was just family. But you were his best friend. You can reach him.” We’d also, I think, add in the idea that Leia doesn’t know exactly what happened to Luke, and make it seem that Han does – he can disparage the idea of looking for a map, saying that they might not like what they find, that sort of thing. Obviously Han doesn’t, but we want to preserve the eventual reveal.

Then, on the bridge, rather than calling out Ben, Han will say “Luke!”.

And everyone in the audience is shocked! They gasp! What a surprise… and how confusing it is when Kylo Ren removes his mask (it’d have to be the first time, so earlier scenes would need rewriting) and we don’t see Mark Hamill, but… Adam Driver? (Obviously, they wouldn’t have announced the casting of Adam Driver ahead of time.)

The conversation between Han and Ben Luke Solo will go similarly, but removing any outright references to how they know each other, until… this mysterious other Luke stabs Han. And as the music swells, and Han strokes Luke’s face, he says:

“I love you, son.” “I know, father.”

And then, with that callback to one of Han’s most iconic moments, we learn the true identity of Kylo Ren.

That, I think, is a lot more impactful than Andy Serkis’ throwaway exposition.

Related:

Star Wars Retrospective: Rewriting the Prequels

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