Wednesday, February 6, 2013

They Are Already Doing the New Star Wars Wrong

by Patrick Bromley
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Listen. LISTEN. Disney buying Star Wars is old news at this point. And I'm in favor of it, even though I get a little bit nervous about the fact that one company is going to have a monopoly on every geek property (the circle continues to close now that JJ Abrams is at the helm of both Star Trek and Star Wars; nerd culture, like everything else in the world, is being absorbed by the same five corporations). But Disney has done a good job with Marvel so far, letting Marvel be Marvel and make interesting decisions like hiring James Gunn to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie starring Chris Pratt. READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN. That is a thing that is happening. So let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

But now Disney has announced plans for two of their first standalone Star Wars movies: one centering on Boba Fett and one centering on young Han Solo.

No. Nope.

No thank you?

Star Wars has been given a clean slate here. It's Under New Management, and taking the movies out of Lucas' hands instilled faith in the series' fans. Everyone had a New Hope (sorry) that things were going to be better this time -- or that, at the very least, it couldn't be worse than the prequels. Hiring Michael Arndt and JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote the best Star Wars movie) only helped bolster that newfound confidence. The people in charge seem to know what they're doing. More importantly, they seem to want to do things right.

Most of that came crashing down with the announcement that two of the planned spinoffs would be Boba Fett: The Movie and The Young Han Solo Adventures. Clearly, no one has learned any of the right lessons. This is the prequels all over again. This is the fan fiction approach to filmmaking. This is about picking the two most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe and exploiting them further for ticket sales. Knowing more about Boba Fett will not make him a more interesting or dynamic character. It will have the opposite effect. Lucas already proved his when he explained the character's "origin" in Attack of the Clones. Apparently, Boba Fett became a bounty hunter because he saw his father, Jango Fett (the "D" is silent and also nonexistent), beheaded. This made him want to be a bounty hunter. When I was a kid, if I saw my dad get beheaded while managing a grocery store chain, I probably would have decided that managing a grocery store is dangerous, behead-y business and actively choose a different career path. That's me. The point is that just because Boba Fett looked really cool while standing around in Empire and then got killed off like a pussy in Jedi does not mean we want to know more about him. It's stupid, reverse-engineered thinking, and it's ruining not just geek culture but movies in general.
Patton Oswalt has a whole routine on the prequel trilogy in which he says it best: "I don't want to know where the things I like come from. I just want to like the things I like." He compares it to being offered ice cream but being handed a bag of rock salt. I can't make it any clearer than that.

Clearly, no one at Disney has heard the Patton Oswalt routine. And they NEED TO HEAR IT.

We can all agree that Han Solo is the best. It's not really an opinion. It's science fact. Until Return of the Jedi gave him nothing to do but stand around and mope and watch Carrie Fisher do stuff, he was the most interesting character in the whole Star Wars universe. What would a Han Solo prequel hope to accomplish? Do we want to see how he became such a lovable rogue? Do we need to see him meet his Wookie BFF? "Han Solo, meet Chewbacca. Chewbacca, meet Han Solo. I have a feeling you two are going to have a lot to talk about." Should we see him acquire the Millennium Falcon, or owe Jabba the Hutt a bunch of money? Would any of that increase your enjoyment of his character in the Star Wars series? Let me answer for you: it would not.

I'm being negative about movies I haven't seen. Movies that haven't been made yet. Movies that haven't even been written yet. So that's not fair, and I should reserve judgment until these movies are released and I have seen them. I don't like to prematurely shit on things. But this seems to be the time to speak up and make it known that this might not be the best path to go down. If you are a Star Wars fan, you are probably excited about the prospect of new Star Wars movies. That's great! But if the prospect of a solo Han Solo (GET IT?? Please don't just call it Solo, because Mario Van Peebles has BEEN THERE, DONE THAT) or Boba Fett movie sounds like a good idea to you, let me ask you to name an example where that has ever worked out.
I know that I'm in the minority in that I don't really need a new Star Wars movie every other year. The prospect of these standalone spinoffs doesn't interest me much more than the fact that we're getting new chapters in the series' proper continuity. So maybe I'm not the right guy to chime in. But at least the first one to be rumored (and then quickly denied) was a Jedi take on The Seven Samurai directed by Zack Snyder. I know that Snyder is a polarizing figure (I lean towards being a fan, because I've liked three of his five movies), but at least that sounds like a cool idea -- the series has borrowed so much from Asian cinema (specifically Kurosawa) already that this just seems like the logical extension. It also hinted at an original (ok, close enough) movie that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe, and offered a unique filmmaking voice the opportunity at doing a Star Wars movie without fucking with the series proper. I'm on board with all of these things. I think it would be great to get different takes on Star Wars without directors being constrained by elaborate continuity and trade federations and sand that is rough and coarse. Instead, the first place that these one-offs will go is right back to the original series and to filling in back story that we don't need.

They're handing us more rock salt.

29 comments:

  1. Nice article Patrick gotta agree prequels generally dont work, closest thing i can think of is Temple of Doom and I am being generous there cause that's only technically speaking a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. A young Han Solo movie ugh I'll shoot myself first Greedo dont worry. Boba Fett eh maybe could work, SPOILER ALERT if they continue from the expanded universe where Boba actually gets out of the Pit of Carkoon aka Desert Vagina monster. Still that being said worry about this trilogy now Disney ok, one movie at a time fellas the star wars characters arent going to be able to AVENGER themselves together anytime soon.

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  2. Wow, not much to say here other than "wow, that sounds terrible" and "you are absolutely right about everything". I could not be less interested in seeing either of those two movies. "Prequels" SUCK. Unless maybe they're giving a history behind something we don't already know about, like going way back and showing how the Jedis even came about in the first place - that MIGHT be interesting. I don't need to see how Han got the Millenium Falcon. I already know he has it, that's all that really matters. I am looking forward to Episode 7 - I do not need any Episode 3.5's. Ugh.

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  3. Although I definitely understand where you're coming from, Patrick, I ultimately disagree. There seems to be a collective logic that because George Lucas created awful prequels, prequels will always be awful.

    It's easy to imagine a terrible Boba Fett movie because we've seen the worst case scenario. Doesn't mean there isn't a fantastic story out there.

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    1. My feelings about prequels aren't just limited to George Lucas' efforts. In my experience, prequels that work are the exception, not the rule. And you make a good point about having seen the worst case scenario. There may absolutely be a good story there. I think I'm just reacting to my own disappointment that they're already closing off the universe and limiting it to what we already know. There are probably LOTS of good stories to tell there. I want them to think bigger, I guess.

      But I appreciate the comments, Mr. Teaspoon, and WELCOME!

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    2. Thanks Patrick, long time listener and huge fan of the show.

      As I said, I definitely understand where you're coming from. Star Wars is literally a giant universe, the idea that standalone movies would be so insular is a little disappointing.

      I guess the most optimistic way of looking at it is that Disney has to be hyper-aware of how many people were burned by the prequels. Right now a movie with all new characters would, at first glance, appear to be 'hey remember the prequels? Here's more of that, except with none of the goodwill of the original trilogy'.

      I think delivering a great movie with a known character would go a long way towards allowing audiences to be excited about the universe again.

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  4. It does seem like they're trying to fish for ideas that probably are better left unexplored, now that they have this new property that they need to figure out what to do with. I don't support a bunch more prequels, per se, but I also am still intrigued and (probably falsely) hopeful, considering we haven't seen what Disney really can do with the property yet. Maybe they will surprise, but I agree that it's not likely. I was totally onboard for new material that furthers the plot from the end of Return or the Jedi, or even goes into something entirely new after that story, but these new ideas sound a little risky.

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    1. Return, OR the Jedi

      Now that's a title!

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    2. Haha, sure. It's one or the other! You can't have both!

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  5. Oh. My. God.

    Young Han Solo? Did no one at Disney see Red Letter Media's take on Episode III, where one of the few things Mr. Plinkett DID like about it was there was no young Han Solo? With the accompanying action figure "Stupid Kid Han Solo?"

    Why can't they flash forward a thousand years or so to see what's up with the New Republic when all the old characters have long since died (INCLUDING R2 and C3PO) and we don't have to play "spot the droid?" Why not create NEW and interesting characters we can grow to love?

    Well, the only thing to do now is speculate about which dumb young action star they're going to cast as 'lil Han.

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    1. To quote Doug: "I've loved Zac Efron in everything." Or something like that.

      This has killed whatever motivation I had to keep track of Star Wars news. Who's coming to watch "Parker" with me?

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  6. I'd be in favor of a young Han Solo if his name was Mutt and he was played by Shia LaBeouf.

    YA BURNT, CRYSTAL SKULL!

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    1. DON'T EVEN JOKE ABOUT THAT! Some insane exec at Disney will read it and think, hmmmm...

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    2. Or if he crossed paths with historical figures like T.E. Lawrence and Thomas Edison.

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  7. I've been very confused by all of this. Are we not going forward with a comprehensive **Episode VII** that continues a multi-centric story in the tradition of the previous trilogies? Do these new standalone character pieces (I also read the rumor about a Yoda movie...YIKES) represent the entirety of the "new" Star Wars universe? Because that really bums right the fuck out.

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  8. Patrick and I had dinner recently and I went on and on (and on) about how hopeful I was for the new Star Wars films, and how I thought Disney was taking the right approach, and NO you can't eat more of my fries, etc. After this news, however, I'm a little less optimistic.

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  9. I think there could be a cool Boba fett movie (maybe directed by Joe Johnston?) and I'd like to say Han Solo as well (because well you said it when saying "Han Solo is the best") but yea unless they get a 35 year old Harrison Ford (which they scientifically cant) i'm sort of indifferent towards a Han Solo movie. It probabaly wont work but, since i'd like to think i'm an optimist, i'll leave a little wiggle room, so to speak.

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    1. And also, in keeping with the Kurosawa/samurai connection. How about 'Yojimbo' (but not specifically following that storyline) but set in Mos Eisley and we follow a "gunslinger" like figure. That's the type of stuff I'd like to see. Not the same 10 recycled characters.

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    2. I agree with you, Anonymous. Joe Johnston designed Boba Fett for George Lucas when he worked for Lucasfilm way back in the day, and he's been vocal about wanting to direct a Boba Fett movie for years. Given that he has a history of directing projects under the Disney umbrella, I'm very hopeful about that prospect. It doesn't have to be an origin movie, nor do I want that, I just want to see a pulpy, PG-13 Boba Fett movie where he hunts down bounties in his awesome ship. I mean, honestly, that would make me very happy. I've been wanting a Boba Fett movie for at least a decade.

      And I'm also less optimistic about a young Han Solo movie, but I'd be lying if I said that it didn't make me excited. he's a great character and Harrison Ford can't play him much longer (if he even returns) but I'm fine with someone who can capture that spirit telling some awesome stories about Han back when he was a scoundrel, lying, cheating, and smuggling his way across the galaxy. Okay, just typing that made me excited. I've read SCORES of Star Wars novels just because I love the universe and the characters. If I can be modestly entertained by the adventures of septuagenarian Skywalkers and their children, seeing these characters in their prime sounds pretty entertaining. I've yet to be disappointed by a Marvel movie under Disney's umbrella, so I'm actually excited by this news. I think Kathleen Kennedy is the right person for the job. There's been rumors of these things (including a Yoda movie...Lucas apparently has notes on Yoda going back to the 70s that no one is allowed to see because he wanted to leave that area open for future exploration) for years and years. Most of us had given up hope on them, but I'm really glad to hear that Disney is going to make them. I get the fears of everything being under one big umbrella. That's totally valid. But I do have high hopes. this news makes me feel like a 10 year old again.

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  10. Stand alone Star Wars films are a tricky proposition. Upon hearing this idea the fan community began thinking of random, nothing characters in corners of the universe never seen before with appearances of Jedis and mentions of the Force but very much its own thing. But to the mainstream audience the appeal of Star Wars isnt the broader mythos that the fan community indulges in, its the films and the characters within them. So, in order to capitalise and exploit the brand (not a bad thing) there is a need to stick with what is known. Therefore, the continuing adventures of XXXXX is the only option that makes sense for the stand alone movies, IMO.

    But of all the options they could have gone with I think these two are amongst the worst. Young Han has an element of logic behind it because he has a very interesting backstory that is only hinted at in the movies, but seriously who wants to see that? Nobody that I can hear is asking for that. Nobody!

    Boba Fett baffles me. Why is he a thing? It seemed to start as an indication of whether you were a "real" Star Wars fan if you knew who he was, then it turned is a weird segment of fandom who would proclaim him as a "good and interesting' character, then he somehow got elevated to a fan favourite culminating in his origin playing a central role in the prequels. Waaaaah? He is a nothing non-character with a name. How did this happen? Now he's going to get his own movie?

    So, are there characters that could support and warrant their own movie? I dont think so. If we assume that the sequel trilogy is going to cover the saga territory (Skywalker, Jedi, Force) is there any other ground that the mainstream would be interested in. Is there a desire for doubling up? Is a simple sci-fi space adventure Star Wars-y enough?

    From a business perspective, if the sequels are going to be the end of the saga but the brand is going to continue beyond them, it would seem to make sense that the standalone films work towards the post-saga landscape, like the Marvel films worked towards the Avengers. Nothing in the announcements so far negate this possibility, but I dont see how Young Han could work in that way.

    Personally I would prefer Yoda to Han and Boba, but thats like saying ill take to poo with corn in it over the poo with grass.

    Now excuse me while I go watch Caravan of Courage.

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    1. CARAVAN OF COURAGE and Battle for Endor! Yub Nub!

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  11. I really don't dig on the idea of The Young Han Solo Chronicles, unless you bring George Hall back from the dead so he can do the bookends.

    Really, the problem is that like all prequels, we know where it HAS to end. It must end with Han being a shoot-first, out for himself, money troubled pirate. Basically, we're going to see Han Sparrow and his minority side-kick who doesn't speak English. Granted, Chewie's a step up from Legolas, but... really?

    Boba Fett just makes me scratch my head. I've never understood the fascination with him.

    The problem is, all the ideas I've heard have been like this. Let's re-make something of Kurosawas, let's see even more back stories, what if a lense flare was the main character? Okay, they might have been yanking my chain with that last one.

    Still though...

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  12. Dear Star Wars,

    Make the new movies fun, that's all you have to do. Like Fast Five.

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    1. Yes! I'm more excited about Fast and Furious Six than I am about any new Star Wars movies.

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  13. (Trailer begins. Jabba the Hutt appears against a black background.)

    Hutt (beckoning to the audience, eyes slowly darting back and forth): "Come closer. I want to talk to you. I'm going to tell you an astounding story - the story of the Millenium Falcon. ..."

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  14. Thankful

    http://latino-review.com/2013/02/07/star-wars-spin-off-films-early-stages-focus-determined/

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  15. I don't really like my initial response above - very dismissive and negative. Looking through the other comments, I appreciate Heath's excitement and the Star Wars Geek part of my brain that hasn't entirely disappeared kind of agrees with him - both the movie ideas Patrick mentioned are movies I would see if they made them. But I stand by the idea that I don't want them to be made because I think it dilutes the Star Wars we do have and the story that was being told (check out a great interpretation by Dave Johnson of DVD verdict about half-way down this page: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/starwarsrots.php).

    Like, I love Pulp Fiction - one of my favourite movies and I'm sure a lot of people here would agree. But does anyone want to see a movie about Vincent Vega's adventures in Amsterdam? Or how a guy like Jimmy came to become involved with any of those guys? How the Wolf attained his notoriety as a cleaner? What Jules did after he gave up a life of crime? There are a dozen movies someone COULD make about the "Pulp Fiction Universe" but there's a reason stories have a beginning and an end right? It's more interesting not knowing EVERYTHING about EVERYBODY isn't it? And how silly would Pulp Fiction start to seem if any of those movies started coming out?

    Yeah, there were a lot of things going on in the six Star Wars movies, but it was really about Anakin and Luke Skywalker and as far as the other main characters go, we saw the most important parts of their lives insofar as they intersected with Anakin and Luke. Yeah, I'm sure Han did some fun stuff beforehand but all that really matters is that he had a change of heart and chose to help the rebels instead of just making off with the cash. Etc.

    I'm fine with the idea of branching out and exploring completely different people, times and places in the Star Wars Universe. But don't water down any further what is already a complete story. It just feels greedy - on the parts of both the people selling it and the people consuming it.

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  16. Only thing I've ever wanted to know about
    Boba Fett is why he took that shot at Luke and appeared to intentionally miss.

    But that was probably always one of Lucas' red herrings anyway.

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