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I'm not sure this is exactly breaking news so much as it's a confirmation of what they've been saying since the Disney deal was originally announced.
Yes… they are making stand-alone films in the "Star Wars" universe. Yes, they will feature characters you already know. Yes, Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan are working on them. All of this has been reported already.
This is what we have to look forward to for the next few years. We're going to end up breathlessly reporting the same few things over and over in an absence of new information, just because each and every mention of "Star Wars" is a bonanza of SEO magic. And why not? "Star Wars" fans are out there frantically searching for new information. We've probably run ten or twelve stories about the series since the Disney deal was announced, and I've got a podcast going up sometime today with a ton of "Star Wars" conversation at the center of it.
I guess the reason this is "news" today is because Bob Iger confirmed it in a video clip on CNBC:
There's really nothing new here, but it's nice to know that we're getting excited for the right reasons. I love that Kasdan has been brought into the fold as a major voice in the mix. Took everyone long enough to bring him back into the "Star Wars" fold. It's like someone finally went back and read the credits to "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" and "The Empire Strikes Back" and noticed who one of the key players on those films was. Kasdan's contributions to the best moments in those series cannot be underestimated. He took the very interesting ideas that Lucas and Leigh Brackett had and he turned them into a script that perfectly expressed an aesthetic that was equal parts '70s cynicism and '40s optimism, a new version of old pulp done right. You want to see just how on-target Kasdan was in a dartboard that featured a whole lot of "how-to-get-it-wrong," throw on "Doc Savage - Man of Bronze" sometime. Wow. Just wow. They started with the actual source material that Lucas and Spielberg were dropping into the blender, and they ended up completely and utterly wrong. Kasdan deserves credit for nailing the thing that I think most people love when they say they love "Raiders" and "Empire," and that's the wry smartass voice that made Harrison Ford a movie star, and that's the single largest element missing from the prequels. I don't need Kasdan to write Han again, per se, but I'd like to see him bring some swagger back to space opera.
The real story that's being told here is that JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy are building an ongoing overall creative team, and that team is going to be generating a variety of "Star Wars" stories in different styles and lengths, and that's been the dream all along. The moment that "Star Wars" goes from being the personal story told by one artist to being a canvass against which pretty much any story can be told by a filmmaker, it becomes larger. It is a richer world the moment you start opening it up, and I find I'm not excited by the prospect of any particular upcoming "Star Wars" story, but by the notion of all the upcoming "Star Wars" stories. I know I'll like some, I know I won't like others, and I'm just happy they're going to get made. It is right now, in my opinion, the most exciting time to be a "Star Wars" fan that has ever existed, because right now, it's all about potential in a way that it hasn't been since about 1978. I remember dreaming about all the possible things we'd see in the future of "Star Wars," and as the toys finally started to arrive in stores and I set out playing with them, there were some days where my friends and I would play our favorite scenes from the films. But there were plenty of days, many more in fact, where we'd simply start with our favorite characters and play out brand new stories with new planets and new aliens and new powers in the Force and new Jedi and new Sith and new allies and new enemies. Any other toy I owned was pressed into service and repurposed for the "Star Wars" universe. That blank piece of paper is what made "Star Wars" so thrilling to me as a kid. Dreaming about what might be is what kept it active every single day for me. It occupied such a primary part of my childhood inner life that I can't imagine a world without it.
And now, my kids get to have that same experience because of this Disney deal and because of the breadth of the plans they already have, which I'm sure are just the earliest versions of the plans they'll eventually make, it's a safe bet that we're looking at another six or seven "Star Wars" films at the bare minimum. There is a chance that my kids will eventually get to share new "Star Wars" films with their own kids, that this really will become a generational thing that is ongoing. Forget about the corporate or the financial implications of that… speaking creatively, I think there's something really powerful about a fictional universe that is lived in by decades worth of creators, all of them adding something, contributing, making it into this living thing over time.
Will it be a "Yoda" film or Joe Johnston's "Boba Fett" film or a Jabba The Hutt film? I guarantee that the call hasn't been made yet about what's going first. The point is that it sounds like they're generating material, exploring ideas, and seeing what ends up being the most exciting option. Fair warning... I ran a little market research test of my own this afternoon. I was out with the kids when Greg Ellwood called to ask me if I would write something about the Iger appearance, and so as I drove home, I asked my two "Star Wars" fans which characters they would want movies about. There were votes for Chewbacca, "the Butt-Heads," which is what they call the Hammerhead aliens, two of the Clone Trooper characters I can't tell apart, and Asaaj Ventress. When I asked them how they'd feel about a Yoda movie, there was a long silence.
Finally, Toshi asked, "Just Yoda?"
Another long silence, and then, quietly, "Borrrrrrrring." Followed by an echo from the four year old, that same damning dismissal. "Borrrrring."
I have a feeling young "Star Wars" fans and older "Star Wars" fans may end up with very different wish lists for what they want from these stand-alone films. For now, it still sounds like "Episode VII" will be the key priority, and the prime focus for the studio.
"Star Wars: Episode VII" is set for release in the summer of 2015.