Catching Up on Star Wars Developments

It has been several months since I reviewed what’s going on in the Disney version of the Lucasverse. So, this week I thought I’d touch briefly on four developments that have since been announced. First, on the current “anthology” front…

1) As of Dec. 2017, the previously announced Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff film now has a production start date of January 2019. It will be based out of the legendary Pinewood Studios UK, home to James Bond, Superman, alien xenomorphs, hobbits, Avengers, and the last four Star Wars films, among many others. Rumor has it they may also do some location shooting in Ireland, perhaps in association with Paint Hall Studio. Most likely release date would be some time in 2020. I’m very curious to find out what sort of story they come up with, when it takes place, and whether or not Ewan McGregor reprises the title role.

As I noted in a post back in Jan. 2016,

“We know that, at some point, Kenobi decided he needed to watch over young Luke — though, from a distance — on Tatooine. Was this “exile” self-imposed? Did other Jedi Masters know and approve? Much of this has been explored in the Expanded Universe (e.g., Kenobi by John Jackson Miller, which has a “Western” vibe to it). So, they could pull ideas from there or come up with something totally new for the new canon. Ewan McGregor appears to be up for it!”

Fingers crossed…

2) Closer on the horizon, of course, is the impending release of Solo: A Star Wars Story on the 25th of this month (May 2018). The production has been plagued by problems and much anxiety. For example, about three-quarters into principle photography, co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired and replaced by the incredibly talented Ron Howard. One of the supporting actors has gone on record (though anonymously) to contrast the two directorial styles as “disorganized and chaotic” under Lord & Miller vs. “controlled and efficient” under Howard.

It seems the original pair, in their element doing light comedies like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, may have bitten off more than they could chew.

“Phil and Chris are good directors, but they weren’t prepared for Star Wars. After the 25th take, the actors are looking at each other like, ‘This is getting weird.’ [Lord and Miller] seemed a bit out of control. They definitely felt the pressure; with one of these movies, there are so many people on top of you all the time. The first assistant director was really experienced and had to step in to help them direct a lot of scenes.”

On the other hand, experienced master-craftsman that he is, Howard worked “really fast”….

“When he came on, he took control and you could feel it. He got respect immediately. He’s really confident. A really easy guy to work with.”

They re-shot a lot, including many scene-for-scene do-overs, and, as of a few weeks ago, are in post-production. Howard will end up with the “Directed by” credit, while Lord and Miller will be listed among the executive producers.

The other main problem was the performance of the lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, who struggled to “convincingly channel Ford’s swashbuckling”.

“Trying to mimic Harrison Ford is really tough. Lucasfilm wanted something very specific: copying someone else. Alden’s not a bad actor — just not good enough.”

So, the studio hired an on-set acting coach for Ehrenreich, and the result was reportedly amazing.

“You could see his acting became more relaxed. He became more Harrison-like. The coach helped!”

YAHOOOOO! You’re all clear, kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home….

Benioff (l) and Weiss (r)

3) Readers may remember that I blogged on the new Star Wars trilogy being developed by The Last Jedi‘s Rian Johnson. Now, it looks as though Game of Thrones‘s David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have a similar deal. It was announced in February that they will write and produce a separate series (trilogy?) of non-Skywalker-focused films. Production likely won’t begin until at least 2019, and no release dates have been set.

“In the summer of 1977 we traveled to a galaxy far, far away, and we’ve been dreaming of it ever since. We are honored by the opportunity, a little terrified by the responsibility, and so excited to get started as soon as the final season of Game of Thrones is complete.” — Benioff & Weiss in a joint statement

We know these guys are good at handling complex stories with complex characters and large-scale action, so as long as they keep it family-friendly, this could turn out to be a great choice.

4) For those of you who missed it, Jon Favreau is now going to get to play in the Lucasverse, too. Well, perhaps I should say “play again”, since he has lent his acting talents to the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story. Since he has written/directed/produced some popular films (e.g., Swingers, various Iron Man and Avengers), you might think they’d tap him for a SW movie. Rather than doing a film, though, Favreau will be writing and exec producing the live-action Star Wars series set for Disney’s new streaming service. He’ll get started once he wraps on the live-action The Lion King film.

“Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe.” — Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm

The streaming platform has a tentative launch date of late 2019.

I’m looking forward — with my usual cautious optimism — to all of these projects. If they can retain the magic and tone of the original films (and animated series), perhaps they can make up for missteps in recent years and rekindle the enthusiasm of young and old fans alike.

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