Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reel Facts & Opinions: Return of the Jedi and the Smuggler

When the credits rolled on George Lucas’ sixth STAR WARS film in 2005, there was a general assumption that there would be no more movies or stories to tell from that famed galaxy which lived far, far away. Fast-forward to today where series-creator Lucas has sold his empire to Disney, and it seems we can’t go more than a few days without more news to digest concerning more STAR WARS. The series, which embraced episodic storytelling with six films from 1977 to 2005, has a full slate of movies on the horizon, with some of the biggest and interesting news breaking just this week. 

The first shot across the bow of the starship concerned Disney’s STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY films, which will be a sub-series of STAR WARS movies which take place inbetween episodes. The first offering, sub-titled ROGUE ONE, will be released in 2016 inbetween Episodes VII (2015), and VIII (2017), and concerns a character who is considered to be one of the most iconic in cinema history…Darth Vader. 

Vader, who first appeared in the original STAR WARS trilogy and had his Jedi backstory told in the Prequels, will make his big-screen return in ROGUE ONE, which is set inbetween the events of Episodes III and IV. This is huge news for STAR WARS fans who loved the heartless killing-machine version of the character they were first introduced to, but couldn’t quite embrace his origin story. Vader, listed as the third-greatest movie villain by the American Film Institute, has been making appearances in the STAR WARS REBELS TV series, but will be making his first big-screen appearance since 2005. For many fans, Darth Vader is STAR WARS, which makes this a welcome return. 

Also making a return, although with a little more apprehension from fans, is another beloved character from the original STAR WARS, Han Solo. The character, which was originally played by Harrison Ford in 1977, will appear again in this year’s Episode VII THE FORCE AWAKENS, but Disney has announced that the character will appear in a younger form in his own ANTHOLOGY film set for release in 2018. The film will be directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord (THE LEGO MOVIE), and will be written by STAR WARS veteran Lawrence Kasdan…who has written the screenplay for THE FORCE AWAKENS, and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Episode V, 1980). 

The (ahem) "solo" film is a strong contrast to the announcement of Darth Vader’s return. The new adventure of everyone’s favorite wisecracking space-smuggler is said to feature a younger version of Han and to explore his origins, which is exactly what fans groaned about with Vader. A lot of the success of a young Han Solo film depends on who is cast in the role, as the shoes of Harrison Ford are not easy to fill. Having a strong writer like Lawrence Kasdan is a big plus (he also wrote RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which also starred Ford), and directors Miller and Lord have proven themselves to be more-than competent directors with the wildly successful THE LEGO MOVIE and the JUMP STREET series. 

Disney is certainly taking  a gamble by taking two beloved and heralded characters and giving them new things to do, as a lot of fans prefer to remember them in one way and one way only; in the past. The new plans for the characters are certainly bold and ambitious, and they seem committed to exploring all of the unseen and unheard of corners of that far, far away galaxy. Apprehension is understandable, but these are two great characters living in a great universe born for the big screen. 


STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS arrives December 18th, 2015.
STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY ROGUE ONE lands December 16, 2016.
STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY (as yet untitled Han Solo film) is set for May 25th, 2018. 


  1. Who would you like to see cast as young Han Solo?


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