TODAY IN STAR WARS NEWS:
The most meaningful Star Wars news today is that good ol' Star Wars Kid—who's now 25 years old, which means his name is slightly out of date—is speaking out against bullying. Man. People were dicks to Star Wars Kid, which just seems insane to me. So good on you, Star Wars Man! The rest of us who weren't dicks to you still love you! (No word yet on if Star Wars Man is dreading the return of Arrested Development. I'd guess... probably?)
The most interesting Star Wars news today is that photographer Rä Di Martino tracked down the long-abandoned Tunisian shooting locations for Tatooine and took some great pictures.
Tozeur and the surrounding region, it turns out, have served as the backdrop to many Hollywood’s memorable epics, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, another Lucas romp, and The English Patient. Yet, there’s little glamour to be excavated at these abandoned sites. They sit in perfect stillness, at the crest of the Sahara Desert, eaten away by dust and sand.
NOW YOU'RE UP TO DATE ON STAR WARS!
In news that's hardly surprising—but still pretty depressing, at least for a guy like me, who started playing videogames in the '90s—Disney has shut down LucasArts, the videogame division of LucasFilm. After acquiring LucasFilm for billions of billions of billions of dollars and then instantly greenlighting a slew of new Star Wars movies, Disney's streamlining the empire that once belonged to George Lucas—first getting rid of the animation division that produced The Clone Wars (canceling the show in the process) and now getting rid of LucasArts, along with their in-development titles Star Wars: 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault. Here's some soulless PR:
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games," LucasArts parent company LucasFilm said in a statement. "As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.” (Via.)
LucasArts hadn't had a great game in a while—the last game they developed that I played was the underwhelming The Force Unleashed 2—but it's worth remembering that in addition to a bunch of great Star Wars games (the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series, the X-Wing series), they were home to a rash of some of gaming's best, funniest, and most groundbreaking point-and-click adventure titles: Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, The Secret of Monkey Island. I always felt like it was a huge missed opportunity that only one of those games—Monkey Island—was ported to iOS; while there are still ways to play those games on a PC, I would've paid good money to tap my way through Fate of Atlantis while riding the bus.
Via Latino Review and Fox News Latino (Fox News Latino? Okay!) comes an unconfirmed report that Harrison Ford will be reprising his role as Han Solo in the new Star Wars movies. (The thing I like best about the video where that news is revealed is the reporter responding to the scoop with, "Which is... big news?")
Meanwhile, while most of fandom is fretting over a doddering, grumpy old Ford, over at Wired, Laura Hudson has a piece that's more interesting, pointing out that the new Star Wars movies have a hell of an opportunity break down some gender barriers that've plagued the series in the past. It's well worth a read. (Full disclosure: I occasionally write some freelance stuff for Laura, but still, I'd be saying this anyway: Well worth a read.)
And that's your Star Wars news for Friday, February 15! You're welcome, everyone who cares about Star Wars!
"Nothing really lets everybody know that you're quite the ladies' man than having a massive Hoth dio right in your house. That's what the ladies look for. The big, big Hoth dio. Fortunately I've got that."
News coming in from around the nerdternets: J.J. Abrams is closing in on a deal to direct the next Star Wars movie. (WHAAAAA???!!!?!1) Disney isn't confirming anything yet, but hey, the Hollywood Reporter is pretty reliable, right?
Sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that the Star Trek director is negotiating to direct Episode VII, the next installment in the fabled franchise.
The Mouse House is closing the deal with the prolific producer and director, who is currently finishing Star Trek Into Darkness for Paramount.
And that's, like, all there is so far. But by all means, let us do what nerds do and and pick this news to death before we know anything else about it.
Ah, Zack Snyder! He's made some "eh, they're alright" movies (Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead), some "wow, that was jaw-droppingly terrible" movies (Owls of Gahoohleheiehy, Sucker Punch), and, to his credit, a film that did even more than Brokeback Mountain to make mainstream American audiences sort-of-a-little-bit more comfortable with homoerotic imagery (300). Next up, he'll be doing his best Christopher Nolan impression in an attempt to reboot Superman for Warner Bros., but after that? According to Vulture, he's working on something that has the potential to disappoint fans of both Star Wars and Akira Kurosawa. Let's just call it Seven Jedi.
He is in fact developing a Star Wars project for Lucasfilm that is set within the series’ galaxy, though parallel to the next trilogy. It will be an as-yet-untitled Jedi epic loosely based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai, with the ronin and katana being replaced by the Force-wielding knights and their iconic lightsabers. (Via.)
Vulture adds the film might not be "considered part of the 'numbered' episodes, but rather a stand-alone film set sometime post–Episode VI events, meaning the next phase of the franchise development is much broader than previously thought." So if you were wondering just how many Star Wars movies Disney's planning on cranking out from now until eternity? Um, a lot. And, just as Lucas did with the first Star Wars, they'll be leaning heavily on Japanese cinema in order to do so. And Zack Snyder will be directing, which means the film will be at least 75 percent slow-motion. Interpret this as you will! To be honest, I mostly just posted this so I'd have an excuse to make the sweet PhotoShop you see above. You're welcome, internet.
UPDATE! "Hey, Vulture? You're a goddamn LIAR! Why do you LIE about EVERYTHING?" —The Hollywood Reporter
Merry Christmas, John Bongiovi.
So this is weird. Nobody wants to direct Star Wars.
"No! No! It's not my genre. It's my best friend George's genre." —Steven Spielberg, who has, weirdly, directed many, many films in Star Wars' genre, and who once upon a time really, really wanted to direct a Star Wars movie
"Look, Star Wars is one of my favorite movies of all time. The opportunity for whomever it is to direct that movie, it comes with the burden of being that kind of iconic movie and series. I was never a big Star Trek fan growing up, so for me, working on Star Trek didn't have any of that almost fatal sacrilege. I am looking forward more than anyone to the next iterations of Star Wars, but I believe I will be going as a paying moviegoer!" —J.J. Abrams
“No, sorry. Especially if Disney’s going to do it. I’m not interested in the Simon West version of Star Wars.” —Quentin Tarantino, being awesome (seriously, I love Star Wars, and I love Tarantino, but whoever thinks Tarantino should direct a Star Wars is probably insane)
Sick of everybody talking about Disney buying Lucasfilm yet? WE DON'T CARE. In the closest the Mercury will ever get to publishing a "think piece," Blogtown's Alex Falcone and Senior Editor Erik Henriksen have decided to discuss the future of Star Wars, a series made not for, say, two grown men but rather for little baby children. Naturally, they disagree about the issue at hand; thus, we shall have a vote to decide who is correct, and therefore who is the better human being.
POINT: STAR WARS FINALLY ESCAPES ABUSIVE FATHER
by Alex Falcone
Earlier this week, the internet was swirling like Hurricane Sandy (too soon? sorry) with the news that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion. People were acting like George Lucas had personally let everybody down by handing the keys to the Star Wars franchise over to the evil empire. But why? There is no way Disney could possibly be a worse steward of the franchise than Lucas was.
George Lucas deserves credit for creating the series, sure. He birthed it. But he's been a shitty dad. He didn't just preside over three unspeakably bad prequels (only slightly more watchable than The Holiday Special), he actually went back and made the originals worse! That kind of abuse can't be tolerated.
During an interview on the VHS of the re-released version of A New Hope, Lucas said that he'd always wanted the movies to be this way but couldn't do it the first time around for technical and financial reasons. He doesn't even deserve credit for the original trilogy because he wanted them to be awful but fortune conspired to make enjoyable films! Sometimes art is bigger than the artist; it's about time we put this art into foster care.
It's possible that, deep down, George agrees with me and that's why he sold. Once you've got a few billion dollars, a few billion more isn't going to convince you to part with your life's work. But you will if there's ego involved. According to the statement he released, the squish-faced Lucas said he wanted to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. He wants to retire but he wants people to go on making terrible Star Wars movies forever. You can count on Disney to do that.
And maybe, just maybe, they'll do a better job than he did. They don't always put out the best sequels (The Return of Jafar, anybody?) But at least the Star Wars movies will be in a safe place where Papa Lucas can't hurt them any more. And like Hurricane Sandy, this will all blow over in a couple days. (Still too soon? My bad.)
COUNTERPOINT: UH, GUYS, ON PRINCIPLE THIS MAKES ME KIND OF UNCOMFORTABLE
by Erik Henriksen
I'm actually seeing the opposite of what Alex is—nerds being delighted that Disney now owns Lucasfilm. Which weirds me out. Say what you will about the prequels, or The Clone Wars, or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (for the record, I'll go to my grave insisting Revenge of the Sith is a lot better than anyone gives it credit for, that The Clone Wars is fun, and that anyone who was let down by the fourth Indiana Jones clearly hasn't sat through Temple of Doom or Last Crusade in a while), but they were largely the work of Lucas. Sometimes his stuff was crappy, and sometimes it wasn't, but it's worth remembering that, massive as they were, all the Star Wars movies from Empire on were financed solely by Lucas. Rather than test-screening his movies to death like Hollywood does, and rather than making them how others wanted him to, Lucas made 'em and put 'em out like he wanted. Regardless of how one feels about the final product, that's admirable.
Less admirable are corporate behemoths like Disney, who snap up better things once they become a threat (Pixar) or whenever they cater to a demographic that Disney can't acquire on its own (Marvel). This Star Wars deal has probably been in the works since the first rubber Mon Calimari showed up at Star Tours. Disney buying Lucasfilm was a smart business move for Disney and Lucas—just as it was for Disney's other acquisitions, from Pixar to Marvel to ESPN to ABC to the Muppets. And realistically, Alex is probably right: I'm not convinced the new Star Wars movies will necessarily be better, but they'll certainly be less like what Lucas wanted, and more like what Disney's studies tell them audiences want.
For Disney, Star Wars is something to be exploited—and with a movie every two or three years, they're going to exploit the hell out of it. Which, to be fair, is what Lucas has been doing forever too. But given the choice between rooting for an old guy doing shit the way he wants and a multinational corporation doing things the way that'll be most profitable, I'll always root for the old guy. The biggest challenges facing pop culture are less independence and fewer outlets: Fewer and fewer people being in charge of what movies get made isn't good for anybody. Yeah, this might result in Star Wars movies that people like more. But it's stuff like this that makes it even harder than it already is for invested, earnest, out-of-left-field filmmakers—like Lucas once was—to make their mark. Even if I really do want to see Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, I can't feel good about the reasons they're happening.
It's sorta amazing how so many people had their imaginations sparked by the news that a multi-billion dollar mega-conglomerate bought a multi-billion dollar mega-corporation for the express purpose of selling toys and churning out bedsheets, but that's what happened when news hit that Bob Iger and George Lucas had closed a deal to transfer the whole of Lucasfilm over to the Walt Disney Company for 4.05 billion dollars.
Yay, Rich people!
(Lucas is donating most, if not all of that 4.05, to educational programs, including his own, which is really cool. So seriously, in this case - yay, rich people)
The majority of the conversation online can be grouped into three basic headings:
1) Oh God, Disney's going to make Star Wars bland, toothless product.
2) Oh God! Disney's going to save Star Wars from being the bland, toothless product it currently is!
3) WHO THE HELL IS MAKING EPISODE 7 OMG JOSS WHEDON PLS!!
Well, a theory floated over at Aint it Cool News seems mighty interesting, once you subtract the mountains of fan speculation weighing it down, and that theory suggests we've known since May who is directing Star Wars 7. After the jump, I'm gonna try to cut away the wank (it doesn't really matter why they codenamed it 1952), and get to why this theory is fun to kick around.
For a long time, the only thing holding Disney back from complete world domination was the fact that none of its properties—no matter how hard they tried—appealed to the weirdly all-important demographic of adolescent males. With their acquisition of Marvel a few years ago, Disney made a massive stride in getting around that obstacle (hello, Avengers), and now they've gone for the big one: Star Wars. And Indiana Jones. Disney's buying Lucasfilm for no less than FOUR BILLION DOLLARS, and here's a picture of George Lucas looking vaguely bewildered as he signs away his life's work.
The most unexpected part of this is what Jay Rasulo, Senior Executive Vice President and CFO for Disney, says in the press release:
We plan to release the first new Star Wars film in 2015, and then plan to release one film every two to three years... We also expect to utilize Star Wars in other businesses including Parks & Resorts, in games and in our television business.
Despite not-quite-reliable evidence of Lucas possibly having nine films planned for Star Wars (or who the hell knows, maybe 12), he's long insisted that after he finished the much-beloved prequels, he'd be done with Star Wars feature films. Nobody quite believed it—they make so much money—but I don't think anybody expected another one as soon as 2015.
Locally, there could be some pretty big fallout from this: Since 1991, licensed Star Wars comics have been one of the cornerstones of local publisher Dark Horse Comics. As the Beat notes, Disney's acquisition could mean that "Disney will pull the Star Wars license back in when Dark Horse’s contract expires." That'd bring Star Wars comics back to Marvel, where they were published from 1977 to 1986—a move that would have massive repercussions for Dark Horse. When I asked Dark Horse about all this, here's what Dark Horse President Mike Richardson had to say:
Dark Horse and Lucasfilm have a strong partnership which spans over 20 years, and has produced multiple characters and story lines which are now part of the Star Wars lore. Star Wars will be with us for the near future. Obviously, this deal changes the landscape, so we'll all have to see what it means for the future.
Definitely a changing landscape—especially considering that Northlanders and DMZ writer Brian Wood's upcoming Star Wars series for Dark Horse looks incredibly promising. As far as massive mergers of media groups, the Lucasfilm/Disney thing is interesting. And as far as new Star Wars movies go, they'll give me something else to geek out over, they'll give cranky fanboys everywhere more stuff to whine about, and they'll definitely make Hollywood and movie theater owners happy. But right now, I'm most interested in how all of this could affect Dark Horse—along with all of the local writers and editors who've worked on the company's Star Wars books for so many years.
“People seem to instinctively know what to do when handed a lightsaber or a bird in a slingshot, so this is a natural combination.” —Colum Slevin, Vice President, Head of Studio Operations for Lucasfilm Ltd., discussing the forthcoming Angry Birds Star Wars
One of my dumb coworkers who shall not be named* has been going on and on for years and years about how they should remake Star Wars as an anime, which I have always taken as a conversational cue to look off into the middle distance and start thinking about something else until he tuckers himself out. THAT SAID. This fan-made Star Wars anime thing popped up online over the weekend, and... ugh, maybe Bobby had a point.
Also, no, I don't know why there's a Sleigh Bells song on top of it. :( You should probably mute it.
Danny Furrow-Kiebler is five years old and really, really likes Star Wars. His dad, Rob Furrow-Kiebler, just came back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Danny didn't know he was coming back. Rob showed up at Danny's birthday party. As a jedi. With stormtroopers. And Princess Leia. And a wookiee. This is great.
Via Topless Robot.
I would like to play this game.
That's Han Solo Adventures, a fan-made game that developer Stacy Davidson has been working on single-handedly for a few years—it's modeled after old LucasArts titles like 1992's great Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but, you know. Han Solo. Davidson says he's working on getting it finished soon, which would be great, because yes. I would like to play this game.
P.S. That reminds me: LucasArts, if you put Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on iOS, I would buy that more or less immediately. Just saying.
Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace 3D opens in theaters today, and while all of its advertising has focused on (A) podracing and (B) Darth Maul, that didn't fool our critic one bit. But George Lucas going out and doing interviews right around the same time as Episode I's rerelease might not have been the best idea—since try as he might, he kind of can't help but say stuff like this:
The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down. (Via.)
To be fair, Lucas prefaced that obviously false statement with something very true ("Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie"), but man: blackmailing fans into seeing Episode I again and digging up the whole Han Shot First fanboy freakout? Look, I'm just throwing this out there, but maybe not the best publicity move.
This has been today's installment of "Shit Wookiees Say." Thanks to wookiee fanatic Marissa for the heads up.
Mingle and take photos with members of Star Wars and Star Trek costuming organizations “The 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist” and “Starfleet International.” Watch the films, listen to the soundtracks and defend your galaxy’s honor!
All presenting donors will have the opportunity to cast their ballot for either the Stormtroopers or the Klingons, and the side which receives the most votes will walk away with the second annual Galaxy Drive trophy. In addition, donors will be given event-themed buttons, a black Red Cross t-shirt, and a free large, two-topping pizza coupon from Papa Murphy’s. They can also enter into a drawing for a $100 Safeway gift card and enjoy cake and coffee, along with standard refreshment items.
Pizza for blood? A BARGAIN. More info: 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org.
I'll admit to a little bit of push and pull before posting this one. One on hand, it's about a man swinging a lightsaber at a toy store, and briefly fending off the police with it. But, then, hey—buzzkill!—the case, at heart, is also about someone struggling with mental illness.
Anyway, here's what the Portland police had to say last night. It speaks for itself:
This evening, Wednesday December 14, 2011, at 9:51 p.m., Portland Police officers assigned to North Precinct responded to the Toys R Us at Jantzen Beach on the report that a man was inside the store swinging a toy light saber at customers and had assaulted at least three people with the light saber. As officers were still enroute to the store, the caller reported that the suspect walked outside Toys R Us with the light saber and was in the parking lot.
Officers arrived and attempted to take the suspect into custody but he continued to swing the light saber and was yelling incoherent statements. One officer attempted to use a Taser but it was ineffective. A second officer used a Taser which made good contact but the suspect used the light saber to break one of the wires. Officers then were able to grab onto the suspect and take him to the ground and place him into custody as he continued to violently struggle and yell incoherent statements.
The suspect was treated by medical personnel at the scene has been transported to an area hospital for a mental evaluation. None of the victims of the light saber assault required medical attention at the scene.
The only unanswered question: What color was the lightsaber? Police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson had the answer this morning: "It was a 'blue' lightsaber, which, as I recall is, favored by those in the Rebel Alliance."
The man was identified as 33-year-old David Allen Canterbury, who was placed on a mental health hold and was cited for three counts of fourth-degree assault, one count of disorderly conduct, one county of theft and one count of interfering with a cop.
Oh, and not to rain on the yuks again—but if this guy had something in his hand even just a little more dangerous than a toy lightsaber, we might not be chuckling over this. Because he just as easily could have gotten himself shot.
Look, I don't know either. I'm just delighted it exists.
And now, two of my favorite things... AT THE SAME TIME.
Via io9. Now get on making an Empire one, dude. One set to "Hells Bells" would be pretty badass. Or to "T.N.T." Or "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." I guess it doesn't really make a huge difference, actually.
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