Star Wars News!

at_at_cloudThat look like an AT-AT to you? The Star Wars geek in me earns to think that this sort of manifestation is some kind of indication that there is good news, vis a vis Star Wars upcoming sequels. But the realist in me thinks it’s just photoshop. Who knows? The important thing is, in the weeks leading up to the end of 2012, there were some rather interesting flashes on the news circuit regarding Disney’s recent acquisition.

For starters, there was one development with regards to all the talk about who would direct the next installment in the Star Wars saga. J.J. Abrams, who was rumored to be a top contender, recently admitted in an interview with Empire Magazine that the rumors were true. It seemed that Disney approached him shortly after the merger took place, but he was quick to turn them down:

“There were the very early conversations and I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things. I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

Makes sense. Star Wars and Star Trek are two distinct franchises, and never are the twain supposed to meet, except at ComicCon and tributes to George Lucas (apparently).

starwarsIn addition, there has been some news as to who is slated to write it. And in this respect, it seems that Michael Arndt, the writer who brought us Little Miss Sunshine, will be taking the helm. Yeah, you might say what do stories about family, dysfunction, and coming together in spite of it all have to do with Star Wars?

Hello, people! Look at Luke and Vader! A father who turned evil and then tried to convert/kill his own son. And let’s not forget Han, Chewy Leia, Lando and the droids. Han and Leia used to hate each other, then they had a weird triangle involving her brother! Ick! But then, in spite of that, they fell in love. Oh, and Han hates C3P0, Lando betrayed Han, and Chewy tried to pull Lando’s head off on more than one occasion. On top of all that, they’ve been arrested numerous times, and Han and Lando clearly have a gambling problem.

Throw in some alcoholism and a visit to the Jerry Springer show, and you’ve got the perfect dysfunctional family! And yet, the family works, and even wins wars! And on a more serious note, Arndt is a great writer, as anyone who has seen Little Miss Sunshine can certainly attest. And great writers are great writers, regardless of the genre. And since it seems he harbors a serious love for Star Wars, I’m sure he can be counted on to bring give A game and inject it with some serious passion.

No word yet on who will be cast in the roles of the main characters, but rumors abound. Mark Hamil was an early signee, but whether or not he will be reprising the role of Luke Skywalker is unclear at this time. There’s no telling how far into the future the sequels will be, and depending on that, Hamil may need to be recast in order to avoid any questions of aging poorly! However, some more creative suggestions were made, particularly by the good folks at Geek Tyrant.

Luke-Skywalker-Hamill-YelchinFor example, it was said that if Hamil wouldn’t be cast as Luke this time around, that the role would be ably filled by Anton Yelchin – the 23 year old who rose to fame playing the young Kyle Reese in Terminator: Salvation and Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams Star Trek.

Captain-MalSuggestions for Han Solo range from Chris Pine – Captain Kirk in (again) Abrams Star Trek – to Garrett Hedlund from Tron: Legacy and Nathan Fillion from Firely, Serenity and Castle. Do I even need to say it? Fillion for the win, people! He’s already played Solo in the form of Mal, the scoundrel Captain and smuggler with a heart of gold. He would be perfect for the role with his characteristic mix of wit, charm, occasionally seriousness, and general badassery.

anne-hathaway_17Mae Whitman and Anne Hathaway have both been suggested for the role of Princess Leia Organa Solo (yes, they eventually get married), who at this point in the story has gone from Rebel agent to a Senator of the New Republic. Personally, I think Hathaway would be the better choice for the role, for she has some experience capturing Leia’s combination of regality and ass-kicker. She’s also had plenty of experience playing the love interest of many a man in Hollywood cinema.

As for the rest, speculation certainly abounds and will continue to abound for some time. Depending again on when the new movies are to take place, relative to the original storyline, there’s any number of spots they need to cast for. Stay tuned, as I plan to be in the know when things begin to break!

Source: Geek Tyrant, IO9, (2),

More Judgement Day Announcements…

terminator_judgement_dayNovember saw some rather interesting developments in the field of robotics. First, there was the unveiling of Disney’s charming juggling robot, an automaton capable of playing catch with a human being. This robot is intended for use in Disneyland parks as a form of entertainment for guests, but many people wonder if this is an eerie precursor to a machine that is capable of throwing other things as well…

While Disney was scant with the details of how the robot works, they did explain that a camera tracks the balls being thrown, while an algorithm works out exactly where the ball is going to land and positions the robot arm accordingly. Combining video tracking and software, the robot is able to anticipate where its catching hand needs to be, much like the human brain does. Check out the video of it playing catch with a human stand-in below:


Also in the news, Momentum Machines unveiled a new automated burger robot chef last month. After being successfully tested on the line, the company announced its plans to introduce this robot to fast food chains everywhere, saving companies millions of dollars in staffing costs. According to projections, Momentum Machines says that its automated burger robot — which does everything from flipping burgers, to slicing tomatoes, to toasting the bun — could save the fast food industry $9 billion in wages.

Of as yet, no video is available of the burger robot doing a demonstration, but this helpful infographic does give a breakdown of the robots structure and basic functions (below). Granted, this might seem like a callous and insensitive move, especially to the over 2 million workers currently employed in fast food in the US alone. But with just about every other production line having been automated already, this seems to many like the next logical step. Good luck Momentum Machines; hope the angry mob outside your offices doesn’t scare you!

robot-burger-flipper-momentum-machinesGranted, this may all still seem like a far cry from Skynet and Cylons, but under the circumstances, is it any wonder that Cambridge University founded the Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) to evaluate new technologies? Clearly, some people are worried robots are going to be doing more than just chucking balls and flipping our burgers.

Star Wars News!

Big news from a Galaxy far, far away… Sorry, couldn’t resist! There has been some new industry buzz regarding the upcoming relaunch of the Star Wars franchise of late. Ever since the media giant bought out Lucasfilm from Mr. Lucas himself, there has been plenty of speculation about what the focus of the new trilogy will be. According to Marketsaw, an entertainment and movie blog, the primary focus will be none other than Luke Skywalker himself.

Apparently, the source of this news is an industry insider who reported earlier this year that there would be an episode 7, 8, and 9, so fandom is treating this rumor as canon! Though Luke would be the main focus, they claim the rest of the original cast will also play a prominent role. As such, we can expect that Disney will be veering away from prequels and will be either taking the Thrawn Trilogy approach, or just picking up the story where it left off after Return of the Jedi.

What’s more, the age of the original actors was acknowledged as a bit of a hurdle, but the studio still seems committed to working with them. So perhaps a sequel that takes place many years later would be more the goal here. Or, as the source put it: “The main problem was the age of the cast, and the tone of the story. Now I do believe that Walt Disney intend on playing to the cultural significance of that original trilogy. You will see a tone more in line with the original trilogy, and specifically featuring that cast, if everything shakes out as intended. Which it will, I promise you.”

Promise, eh? Wow, that’s a bold statement!

Also of interest was the role that Lucas himself would be taking in the new trilogy. According to the source, the Disney made this decision after they “realized that George Lucas and STAR WARS are one and the same, so George will certainly have a voice on any angle taken, in fact I believe it’s one of many stipulations. However he will no longer have creative control, and as I said before George was already looking at other creative talents to bring his canon to life…”

Interesting. The source went on to say that the new movies were being “rewritten from previously secret drafts from way back during the making of the original trilogy.”

Well… this sounds like good news! In short, the new movies will feature the original cast and will be trying to strike a tone similar to the original trilogy. What’s more, while Lucas would have input and they would be working from his original notes, he would be relying on others to help bring his vision to life. If I recall correctly, it was this combination which made the original trilogy so enduringly awesome, and Lucas’ straying from it which made the prequels suck!

So really… score!

And that’s not all. The source also gave some information as to who would be starring in the new movie and who would be attached to direct. Apparently, many of the original actors have already been approached, and Mark Hamil is said to be “a certainty”. In terms of directors, the studio is apparently considering Steven Speilberg, Neil Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity), Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, First Class), Darren Arnofsky (The Fountain, Noah) and Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, Avengers). Personally, I don’t know who would be best suited, as every name in this dossier seems like a winner!

All I can say is, this is exciting news indeed. A new dawning for the Star Wars franchise, with plans to make not just one, but a series of trilogies that turn the story into a multi-generational saga – which is apparently what Lucas originally hoped for. And since the studio is planning on mounting a very aggressive marketing strategy – a la Harry Potter- we can expect to be hearing plenty more before the first movie is set to air in 2015.

And may the Force be with us! Again, sorry!

Star Wars VII, What’s it Going to Be?

The news that Disney has purchased LucasArts for a cool 4 billion has certainly been making the rounds of late! Even more interesting is the release that they will be releasing the sequel trilogy sometime in 2015. This news has once again fueled a great deal of speculation as to what direction the new movies will take. Regardless of who is at the helm, it is generally agreed that there are only so many story arcs that the new movies could take…

The following list comes from AMOG‘s (Alpha Male Of the Group) online magazine, courtesy of Keith Veronese. The list is pretty comprehensive, and covers all the likely candidates for potential sequel and spinoff story lines. And lets face it, with the course of the prequels took, we all would like something new to rehabilitate the series! And with Lucas no longer at the helm, we all might just get what we want!

Immediate Pick-Up:
The first possible story arc for the new trilogy would be to pick up where the last movie left off. As it stood, the Empire was dealt a significant blow, but was far from finished. Granted, the Death Star was destroyed and both the Emperor and Darth Vader were dead, but the majority of the Imperial Fleet was still intact, as was its infrastructure and network of allied planets. As evil and rotten as it was, the Empire still commanded a great deal of loyalty and support within the Core Worlds, and the Rebel Alliance was likely to have its hands full dealing with all of them.

The benefits of this story are pretty clear. It’s a blank canvass in terms of plot, into which a new generation of writers can hurl all kinds of ideas. In addition, it’s a chance to bring back the old gang for another run, albeit with new actors and actresses.

The Thrawn Trilogy:
Written by noted sci-fi author Timothy Zhan, the Thrawn Trilogy are perhaps the most famous novelization in the franchise. Set five years after events in Return of the Jedi, the trilogy centers on the enigmatic character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last of the Empire’s senior officers who has assumed control of the Imperial fleet. Intrinsic to these plans are a lost fleet that disappeared prior to the Clone Wars, a secret cache of cloning vats the Emperor established during his reign, and an insane Jedi Master living on a remote world.

Meanwhile, Senator Leia Organa Solo (that’s right, they tied the knot!) is pregnant and expecting twins. While she has become a member of the New Republic government, Han has continued in his role as a fleet General and is using his old contacts in the smuggling world to try and drum up shipping for the new government. His efforts bring him into contact with a group of privateers who will one day go from being self-interested sorts to the same kind of heroes Han had become.

And finally, there are the adventures of Luke, who is drawn to Jedi Master C’boath and seeks to learn from him. However, they quickly become enemies as Luke realizes he is insane and seeks to capture Leia’s twins for his own purposes. He also comes into contact with Mara Jade, a Force-sensitive woman who once served the Emperor. She plans to kill Luke, but circumstances have thrown them to work together and cooperate.

Needless to say, this would be a good story arc for the series, and would be convenient since it’s already been written in full. All the old characters are reprized and fleshed out, and some new, decidedly Star Wars-esque characters are also introduced. And given that much time has passed since the originals, it would be a good opportunity for some new actors to tackle the roles of all our favorites. I’m sure Disney would be willing to spring for some cameos from the original cast as well!

Darth Vader Spinoff:
True, we got more than enough of his origin story with the prequel trilogy, but there’s still plenty of room for Darth Vader to grow! In fact, there is a twenty year gap between the prequels and the original movies, during which time Vader essentially did his best work. This included hunting down the remaining Jedi, rooting out dissent and resistance to the Emperor’s rule, and just generally cementing his reputation as an evil cybernetic menace!

The benefits here are pretty obvious, at least as far as a single movie are concerned. Plenty of lightsaber fights, stalking from planet to planet looking for Jedi, and lots of that creepy respirator and James Earl Jones-esque dialogue. However, it might be difficult to maintain a three-movie story arc from this. But that might not be a problem, given the next option:

Boba Fett Spinoff:
Boba Fett is arguably the most popular member of the supporting cast, and there are plenty who believe that he deserves his own moment in the spotlight. And after the prequels gave him a passing intro, there might be some merit to giving him a more complete origin story. Imagine Boba Fett as a young man, going about the known universe and establishing himself as the most notorious bounty hunter.

Aside from being action-packed and full of plenty of the seedier stuff of Star Wars, this film could be paired with a Vader movie as a potential second installment. And perhaps a third could be opened involving Obi-Wan, focusing on his adventures as he travelled from place to place on Tatooine, hoping to stay off the Empire’s radar while keeping an eye on Luke.

The Sith Wars:
Finally, there is an area of the franchise which has become rather popular of late, and that is the rather fertile period in the Star Wars timeline known as the Sith Wars. What began with the Knights Of The Old Republic series has now evolved into a MMOG with Star Wars: The Old Republic. And even though the reception was not as extreme as LucasArts might have hoped, the stage has certainly been set for a possible second prequel series.

Taking place thousands of years before the events in the first Star Wars trilogy, the Sith Wars chronicles the titanic war which took place between the Old Republic and the Sith Empire. And although there have been several installments in the franchise that carry the name “Sith War”, the expanded universe now claims that the greatest confrontation took place 3681 years before the fall of the Old Republic and lasted until 3653. This war was in turn the result of over 1300 years of preparations and buildup by the Sith, who never forgot the crushing defeat they had suffered at the hands of the Republic during the Great Hyperspace War.

The benefits of this story are also quite obvious. In addition to being a very established story arc, there are plenty of interesting characters, developments and battles in this period which, if properly developed, would result in cinematic gold! What’s more, people do enjoy origins stories which are well told, and after the mixed reviews of the last prequels, a deep-origins story could be just the thing to rehabilitate the franchise. And it’s got all the right elements; Jedi, Sith, lightsaber fights, and a titanic war between good and evil, similar in tone to the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire.

What’s more, this story will have no sense of duty to suffer from. Unlike episodes I, II, and III which were burdened by having to explain where all the original characters came from, how Anakin fell to the Dark Side and how the Empire came to be, a Sith War trilogy would be able to tell a story where the details are not entirely pre-written. What’s more, the massive war does not suffer from the ambiguity or the Clone Wars, which seemed like little more than background for the prequels main focus – which was the fall of Anakin Skywalker. This time around, we’d be able to see lots of fighting and not be distracting by a whining Hayden Kristensen complaining about how much his life sucks!

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So what’s it going to be? Personally, my money is on options two and five. Having read the Thrawn Trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed it, I would certainly pay money to see it adapted to the big screen. At the same time, I’m itching to see some of that Sith War swashbuckling and fleet battles! Man, tough choice, and the studio hasn’t even announced what they might be planning yet…

Eh Tu, Disney?

Oh dear. It seems that Disney, not content to let other movie magnates have all the fun, will be launching (no pun) a reboot of its own. Yes, The Rocketeer, that kitsch, feel good movie about a guy who finds a rocket pack and becomes a super-hero, is getting remade for a new generation.

Personally, I got nothing against the original. Families had to have some kind of inoffensive option for super-hero movies back when Spiderman didn’t exist and Batman was still a bit Gothic for children to watch. But why does it need to be remade? Wasn’t the last one enough?

But then again, that’s a can of worms which myself and many smarter people besides have already opened. If you pull one thread in this giant tapestry known as reboot/remake/relaunch fever, it all comes tumbling down!

Luckily, some of the folks over at Vimeo made this hilarious video of what The Rocketeer would look like if it had been made into a Pixar movie. I can’t help but wonder if they have the right idea here. Seriously, when was the last time Disney ever did anything great that was live action?

http://vimeo.com/user4835392/rocketeer-pilote

And just to poke fun at Disney, here’s a musical clip from Family Guy where The Rocketeer didn’t do so well (at 1:24), not to mention Michael Jackson. Geez, MacFarlane, talk about kicking a dead horse!