Benioff & Weiss Depart “Star Wars” Franchise!

What Deadline is reporting as a “Star Wars Setback”, the rest of the world seems to be praising as one of Disney’s greatest business moves in a long time. The bitter war waged against Game Of Thrones screenwriters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss by their enraged ex-fans has now reached a crescendo, with the two men being forced to abandon their newfound place at the helm of an entire Star Wars trilogy. It’s a big win for audience backlash, which is both exciting and a little frightening.

It’s exciting because, in this case, fans really do have a good reason for wanting Benioff & Weiss to exit Star Wars. The duo are pretty much exclusively responsible for the controversial final season of the HBO TV series, Game Of Thrones, that saw character development thrown out the window, expectations subverted in the worst way, plot twists coming out of nowhere – all of it to rush towards a clumsily-structured, badly-written finale that saw the series’ protagonist and most beloved character slain in cold blood. Fans are understandably worried that what happened to Game Of Thrones can happen to Star Wars, and there’s obviously plenty of reason to believe them. I wrote an entire post on this subject yesterday, in which I addressed Benioff & Weiss’ recent interview (which I think must have been a contributing factor in their decision to depart Star Wars), in which they talked about basically scamming HBO into giving them an expensive film school experience while they were supposed to be developing a TV series based off of books they didn’t even try to understand. I’m sure Disney was also more than a little nervous about hiring two men who just unabashedly revealed that they got into a heated argument with a mother who didn’t want them placing her baby fully-naked on a block of ice, both exploiting and endangering the infant.

On the other hand, it’s also a nerve-wracking development: how closely do studios listen to their fanbases, and how much influence and power should audiences exercise over film-making? It’s a question that has been plaguing us for quite some time, but it’s all about context: when fans rioted about the design of Sonic The Hedgehog in Paramount’s Sonic movie, they were justified because the character looked like an asymmetrical weasel rather than a hedgehog; when protesters demanded a boycott of Disney’s Mulan remake because the lead actress expressed her support for the police-state of China, they were definitely coming from the right place, though that story is a very complex one; when heartbroken fans demanded that Johnny Depp’s career be canceled after claims of domestic abuse arose against the actor, well, we still don’t know who’s right or wrong in that case, or if it’s actress Amber Heard who should be canceled instead, or if it’s both of them. Context matters in these situations. So, yes, in my opinion, fans are at least partly justified in wanting Benioff & Weiss to leave Star Wars, because there are many reasons not to trust the two men with a story of that magnitude, so soon after the disastrous finale of Game Of Thrones.

We could also say they deserve a second chance, and that’s true, to some extent: which is why it’s a good thing that Benioff & Weiss already signed a deal with Netflix, which is where they will be headed. If they do a good job over there, with some smaller projects that don’t run the risk of upsetting a franchise that has only just regained its footing to begin with, then maybe they should consider coming back to Star Wars – if Kathleen Kennedy will have them. But in the meantime, Disney is keeping that galaxy far, far away from the divisive duo.

In Benioff & Weiss’ defense, their statement on the matter implies that it was their obligations to Netflix that prevented them from devoting their full time and attention to Star Wars – but while I suppose that could be true, it seems more likely to me that it’s the polite way of flattering Netflix into offering them more job opportunities.

So what do you think? Is this a win for fans – or a loss for Disney? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

“Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker” Final Trailer!

I’m not crying, you’re crying. Okay, well, I’m crying a little, but only a little…*I watch the trailer for the fifteenth time in a row, and get up to Carrie Fisher’s voice-over at the end*…okay, I’m officially sobbing again.

This stuff is pretty emotional. It’s the final trailer for the final movie in a saga that has spanned over forty years – I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. We cried tears over the conclusion to a single decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe…imagine four decades of Star Wars, coming to a close at long last, delivering what may or may not be a satisfying conclusion to one of the most epic and legendary adventures of all time, one of the greatest stories ever told onscreen. Am I expected to hold back my tears when C-3PO, who’s been one of the few constants in this franchise (and has appeared in every single Star Wars film to date) tells his friends that he’s taking one last look at them, in case something happens to him? How about when we catch a fleeting glimpse of what looks to be the Tantive IV, the first starship to ever appear in Star Wars, crash-landing on an alien planet? Am I supposed to simply ignore Daisy Ridley being visibly moved to tears at multiple spots in the trailer? Am I supposed to just forget about – well, actually, I am trying to forget about “Reylo”, but am I supposed to forget about Reylo? No, I don’t think so! *voice cracks*

As you can imagine, I’m emotionally distraught right now. The trailer starts out a bit slow, but quickly builds up to a crescendo, giving us hints of the thrilling action and bittersweet emotions we should expect from the final chapter in this story: Resistance fighters riding horses in a cavalry charge across the shattered wreck of a star destroyer, vast Imperial star cruisers emerging from the ice of a frozen planet, Kylo and Rey dueling amid the ruins of the second Death Star. Palpatine is back, and seated once more on a throne – director J.J. Abrams loves his parallels, you know, so we might want to be prepared for a Vader-esque self-sacrifice moment at the end of the film, whether from Kylo Ren or Rey – is Rey going to be Dark Rey? Is that still a thing? Am I supposed to think about that right now, when I have so many things to cry about? Oh yeah, and for whatever reason Dominic Monaghan of The Lord Of The Rings is in this movie – I’m cool with that. He’ll probably make me cry even more: not for any particular reason, just because…Lord Of The Rings is sad. You know? I mean, that connection makes sense to me: it doesn’t to you?

But nothing makes the tears start flowing like the very ending, when Carrie Fisher’s voice-over delivers the final line in the final trailer for the final film in the final trilogy of this incredible saga, a trailer that “just-so-happened” to drop on what would have been Fisher’s 63rd birthday: just after Mark Hamill’s “The force will be with you”, her voice, soft and comforting, is heard, with a simple but passionate: “always”. The story of Star Wars lives on forever.

So don’t blame me for crying. The blame is solely with you, dear reader, if you are somehow unmoved by this nostalgic sob-fest. *cries dramatically, as the Star Wars theme plays for the twentieth time*

Trailer Rating: Off The Charts.

Kevin Feige Joins “Star Wars” Team!

What is Kevin Feige? What is he, that he can patiently build up 23 films worth of material, mash it all together (successfully, no less!) in the most ambitious crossover event ever, than outdo himself the very next year, wipe the board clean and start all over immediately afterwards, unveiling his genius plans for the next two years and implying that he already has the next five planned out in his head? How is it that this man can expand one of the biggest movie franchises in the world to include as many as 12 new properties (14 if you include Fantastic Four and X-Men, which he hasn’t even begun discussing yet), probably 8 films in total and 8 streaming shows, seemingly without any worry that he could risk over-extending Marvel Studios’ reach? How is it that he can lose one of his company’s most iconic characters to a rival studio in a bitter war between his superiors at Disney and Sony, without breaking a sweat?

How is it even humanly possible that he looks at everything he’s got on his plate right now, calmly, studiously examines everything, nods his head, and says: “You know what, let’s add a Star Wars movie to the mix”.

You heard that right: Star Wars. Kevin Feige, a lifelong fan of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, is joining the troubled franchise to work with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on a new Star Wars movie.

From Kennedy’s point of view, this is probably both relieving and slightly nerve-wracking. Feige, with an entire decade of blockbusters behind him, will be a boost to the franchise, which has been going through some rough patches lately, with studio shakeups and audience backlash dominating the headlines: Star Wars is still a wildly successful property, but Kennedy needs it to outlast the Skywalker family, who will probably make their last appearances in this year’s The Rise Of Skywalker. However, her attempts to do so have been met with resistance, as some fans refuse to let go of the Skywalkers, or aren’t interested in the stories of Rey and Kylo Ren. Kennedy has a huge new wave of films she wants to roll out in the coming years, but so far her picks to produce and direct them have been so shocking, it almost seems like she’s intentionally courting controversy: Game Of Thrones‘ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are working on an entire trilogy for the franchise, even after the disastrous final season of their hit TV show that basically turned an entire fandom against them; and Rian Johnson, who infamously directed The Last Jedi (a film I actually quite liked) and became so hated among the Star Wars fanbase that Kennedy didn’t even keep him around to develop the sequel, is also shaping up his own trilogy.

Feige, then, is a breath of fresh air in this crowded kitchen. The man is beloved by the Marvel fandom, widely recognized as a business-savvy genius with a keen understanding of PR as well as how to craft excellent stories, and has produced many of the highest-grossing films in history. He’s also a die-hard Star Wars fan, which means he’s not just being brought in to rescue the franchise, but actually has a good idea of what he’s getting into.

But while Kennedy has to be happy about all that (what with her current track record of hiring directors, she had better recognize a good thing when she’s got it), there still has to be some doubt in her mind: Kevin Feige is a presence that leaves a mark on whatever he touches – assuming his Star Wars project is a stand-alone, that might not be so bad, but what if he wants to direct more? Apparently, he has already approached a major actor that he’s worked with before to star in his Star Wars film, and that actor has expressed interest (the rumor is that it’s Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, and a huge fan of Star Wars). How much of it will, in fact, be his? Kennedy’s obviously not passing Lucasfilm onto Kevin Feige, but she has to be worried that her own legacy in the company will be overshadowed by Feige, especially if Disney sees that the results are favorable and decides to work with Feige again. Disney CEO Bob Iger has just recently gone on the record criticizing his company’s handling of the Star Wars situation, saying that they tried to do too much at once and rushed the process. Wow, Kennedy’s got to be thrilled about that assessment of her work. The last thing that Star Wars needs right now is more infighting, and Feige’s involvement could be the spark that lights the flames of war.

And as for Feige? Well, I can’t imagine how he’s going to balance all of his new projects, or if his move to Star Wars signifies a shift away from Marvel (something that would undoubtedly only increase Kennedy’s fears). Some are saying this would be the perfect time for Feige to make good on his promise to diversify the Marvel franchise, by putting his current Executive Vice President of Production Victoria Alonso in charge of the studio. Others are begging Feige not to leave Marvel in favor of what they view as a lost cause.

I’m still busy wondering whether Kevin Feige is a cyborg: the man takes multitasking to the next level.

So what are your thoughts? Is this a good move for Feige, Kennedy, or both? Or is this is sign of worse things to come for both Star Wars and Marvel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Mystery Of Dark Rey…

In an otherwise largely uneventful day at the D23 Expo (you know, if you ignore Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt trying to outdo each other with dramatic entrances), Star Wars was the main talking-point: while not even a snippet of the new Rise of Skywalker footage has leaked online, it’s still all that the internet is discussing – specifically, the final shot of this unseen footage, which apparently shows a major protagonist wavering between the Light and the Dark.

I guess I should include a warning for potential spoilers, but all of this footage is expected to officially drop on Monday – so I don’t know if you should be too worried about it. And, yes, that also means that I’m rather premature with this news, but it’s one of the few things we have to talk about that will make for an interesting post today.

So what am I talking about? Well, apparently, the Star Wars presentation at D23 revealed a few things to the audience of several thousand fans: apart from a brand-new poster that looks epic, director J.J. Abrams also showed a brief sizzle reel of footage from the upcoming installment in the franchise, which is expected to be the last in the forty-year long Skywalker Saga. And so it was that those spectators got to witness a shocking reveal: Rey, the unwavering heroine of the franchise’s last two entries, might be reconsidering her values and moral code.

She was apparently seen dressed in a black cloak with a hood, holding a double-bladed red lightsaber that apparently strongly resembles the one carried by Darth Maul, the central antagonist of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. While we can’t yet know for certain what this means, there are already hundreds of theories floating around the internet. Some believe it’s merely a trick: that this scene is probably only part of a vision or nightmare-sequence which will end up having no real impact in the film itself. Others, however, are rather less cynical: Rey could be the daughter of Darth Maul, apparently, or even the daughter of the long-dead Emperor Palpatine, who will be making a comeback in some form for this film. She and her nemesis/possible love interest Kylo Ren might switch sides, with Rey becoming an embittered Sith Lord while Ren joins the Jedi. She could be using this appearance as a disguise, in order to work her way up through the ranks of the First Order. Palpatine could be manipulating her. There’s endless possibilities.

Some of them make sense, some don’t. For instance, the theory that Ren and Rey switch, while very cool, could seem contrived: yes, Rey was obsessed with that weird evil cave on Luke’s island in The Last Jedi, but she hasn’t ever seemed interested in the dark side or the ways of the Sith – she’s been mostly focused on trying to lure Kylo Ren over to the light, in fact. So changing that now could result in an outcry similar to that which followed the decision to randomly turn Game of Thrones‘ heroine, Daenerys, into a psychotic genocidal war criminal for no apparent reason other than that it looked cool and justified her being murdered at the end of the show. And in both cases, it would be a female protagonist who gets retconned to be evil – not a good look for Star Wars, just as it wasn’t a good look for Game of Thrones. As for Kylo: well, he’s stared longingly at the light many times before, and he seems like he might be doubting his lifestyle choices, but making the jump to the Jedi is a big commitment – something that doesn’t seem like it could be adequately covered in a single film.

Me, I’m actually ever so slightly more concerned about another shot from the footage: supposedly, a glimpse of C-3PO with glowing red eyes, implying that the lovable droid is also heading down a dark path. We’ve seen evil droids in Star Wars before, but never one that actively chooses to pursue a career with the Dark Side (correct me if I’m wrong, hardcore Star Wars fans). And if he gets hacked and destroyed by agents of the First Order, I swear to Yoda I will boycott.

So what do you think? What’s Rey doing? Is she Sith or not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Trailer!

In the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s original Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, Star Wars goes dark, gritty and mature, alien mercenaries engage in some brutal space warfare, and, most shockingly, storm troopers finally learn how to fire a gun properly!

There’s not a whole lot to actually discuss, but that’s perhaps the beauty of this trailer: it’s simple, hauntingly so. We’re only treated to two lines of dialogue, but the music and atmosphere are allowed to say more than words ever could. Set in an era between the original Star Wars trilogy and Disney’s series of sequels, the Disney+ show will follow a Mandalorian mercenary (who, apparently, isn’t Boba Fett? I haven’t been paying attention) somewhere on the “outer reaches of the galaxy”, where the war between the New Republic and the First Order is only a distant rumor – yeah, right. Give it a few episodes, watch how fast we start seeing characters from the sequels show up. Not that I’m complaining. Have I mentioned that I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi? It’s a pretty good movie.

As someone who’s still reacquainting myself with the trappings of this topsy-turvy franchise, I have to admit: this catches my interest. Maybe it’s just because I’m still susceptible to stories about space gangsters and pirates. I don’t really know, but it looks good. It gives me hope that this whole Disney+ venture isn’t a disaster: in fact, it might be a worthy competitor to Netflix and HBO Max in the near future.

And as for Pedro Pascal, the show’s lead, well, he doesn’t actually appear from underneath his helmet and armor in the trailer, and he doesn’t even speak either line of dialogue, so…I don’t really know what to expect from him. He looks menacing – or, rather, his armor does. Pascal himself still looks like the lovable, tragically doomed Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones to me.

The first episode of The Mandalorian is set to arrive on Disney+ on release day, November 12th, so that’s something to look forward to. Mark your calendars, folks! How do you feel about the trailer? Do the grittier aspects of Star Wars appeal to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10