Yesterday it was announced that the next, as yet unnamed Star Wars movie, Episode VIII, will be pushed back from Summer 2017 to Christmas 2017. This set off a rescheduling frenzy among studios with Spider-Man, Terminator, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jumanji all getting moved around. I wasn’t a bit surprised at the move: 18 months seemed like a VERY short time to put together a Star Wars movie, and filming hasn’t even begun. The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit added some speculation to the rumors, however, as reported at Comicbook.com:
Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter heard from his sources that Episode VIII is being delayed so the script can be adjusted to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of the new characters. “Obviously the December date worked out very (very) well for them but I’ve also heard they are rewriting the script,” he tweeted. “I’ve heard from several sources the rewrites are positive, based on audience reaction to the new characters. People loved them. So strongly. And Lucasfilm was surprised at how well they were received, according to several sources.”
Kit is a veteran reporter, so I trust his sources, but my immediate reaction is “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Did Disney/JJ Abrams/Lucasfilm really think that these enormously charismatic young actors in these showcase rolls were going to be also rans? Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie have been watched, parodied, quoted, projected, and watched quoted and projected some more for 30 years, every day, all day, and they are timeless, but there is always room for fresh blood as well especially presented as lovable characters from jump.
I mean maybe Episode VIII is going to be all about Luke Skywalker’s return, but why even bring in Kylo, Finn, Poe and Rey if they weren’t going to get their own hero mode storyline? Perhaps it is a bit surprising that the four new characters have been embraced so wildly by, well, everyone who saw the movie, but that was part of the design of the film.
This also reminded me of a nagging question I’ve had ever since I walked out of seeing The Force Awakens for the first time. JUST WHO IS RUNNING THIS FRANCHISE. I’m sure the answer can be found somewhere in the approximately 1000 news stories about TFA, but it hasn’t been that obvious in my reading. While George Lucas may have planned “A New Hope” as a one off, he always had a longer story in mind, and Return of the Jedi is the next part of Empire Strikes Back; it’s one big storyline, allowing for a few continuity breaks. The prequel trilogy is one big story, with character arcs that run all through it, and as flawed as it is, this is probably its greatest strength. We see Palpatine, Anakin, Padme and Obi Wan develop and age over the whole saga.
It’s not clear to me if the new trilogy is a trilogy or just three new movies. I assume someone–JJ Abrams? Kathleen Kennedy?– has a storyline for the whole trilogy worked out somewhere, maybe set in that new empty safe where JK Rowling kept the ending of the Harry Potter franchise for years. But Abrams has been talking about how happy he is to “hand it off to Rian Johnson” who is writing and directing Episode VIII, with Colin Trevorrow taking over for Episode IX. The last two movies will be produced by Kennedy and Abrams, but Johnson is writing the treatment for both Episode VIII and IX.
I can understand Abrams taking a scarper after making a Star Wars movie…after a big success like TFA it’s good to quit while you’re ahead. However, did he really just write the first third of a story and then let someone else finish it, exquisite corpse style? These “rewrite” rumors make it sound like the plot for the whole trilogy wasn’t entirely set in stone when TFA was made, which would just be….stupid.
I’m sure I’m just overreacting here, but I hope Episodes VII-IX are one big story, as the All Father Lucas intended. As Trevorrow himself said, “it’s the greatest story of all” and the new characters deserve their own epic tale, with all the unities included. I walked out of The Force Awakens with feels I hadn’t felt since…well, since I saw The Empire Strikes Back. It was rare and special though, and just as Return of the Jedi was something of a disappointment after the greatness of Empire, the enthusiasm for the next movie with Rey, Finn and the rest is going to be hard to live up to. Better to steel myself for disappointment now. That’s the Jedi way.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.