Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Part II of A Look Back on The Force Awakens Speculation: darthmaz314 Repost: Part II of "Episode VII: Can It 'Bring Back Star Wars?"

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is less than eight months from release, so darthmaz314 thought it would be fun to look back on two blogs posted over two years ago speculating in the ability of the film to revitalize the Star Wars franchise. Here is Part II of our repost of "Episode VII: Can It 'Bring Back Star Wars?"

A Long Time Ago…There Was a Great Story  

So what will make Episode VII a success?

The Archetypal Characters
of Star Wars 
The same thing that has captivated audiences since the tribal elders spun yarns around the fire, eons ago will make Episode VII a success…a good story filled with interesting characters. Sure there are successful films with scripts not worth the paper that they were printed on, but crammed full of stars and special effects that make big money and are beloved by moviegoers, but they are rare. The true powerhouses of modern cinema history are all driven by a good story. Star Wars was a compelling tale told in theclassic mythological tradition and chock full of classic (archetypal) characters (the idealistic, adventure seeking youth, the wise old wizard, the swashbuckling pirate, etc.). Star Wars was unlike any film people had seen before 1977, but the special effects alone would not have made it the legend that it became. It was a very basic story that we could all relate to that drew us in and hooked us forever. What kid didn’t dream of being Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia? What dad didn’t secretly dream of being Han Solo, or for those with a darker soul, Darth Vader? It sounds simple, but it works…a good story filled with interesting characters. 

Great Performances 
Even the best story can crash and burn when told through weak performances. In my humble opinion, the casting of Anakin Skywalker doomed the prequel trilogy from realizing its true potential. We could have overlooked Jar Jar. We could have overlooked Darth Vader’s tragic wail of “Noooooooooooooooo” at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

 We could have overlooked some of the weak and cheesy dialog that peppers the prequels. Yet it is hard to overlook a subpar performance delivered by the principal character in all three films. To be fair, I have never seen Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen in any other films. They may be the best actors since Greek tragedy first debuted in Athens, but they are difficult to watch at times in Episodes I – III.

Hayden Christensen May Not Have
Been the Best Choice
True, Jake Lloyd was only a young child and he is not the worst child actor ever captured on film, but asking him to carry one of the most anticipated films of all time, may have been a burden too heavy for his little shoulders. Yet the blame shouldn’t fall on him. It is impossible to imagine that there were not better actors that tested for the part of Anakin (at both ages.) The performances are more glaring when held up against costars like Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman, all three of whom are among the best actors working today.

In retrospect, good casting makes you unable to comprehend anyone portraying the characters other than those that appear in the movie. Could anyone else have played Han Solo? In 1976, you could probably have made a case for several other actors. But after the legend of Han Solo was enshrined in the hearts and minds (and action figures) of the world, we couldn’t even fathom Christopher Walken as the Corellian smuggler in anything other than an SNL skit. Who else but Ewan McGregor could have played young Obi Wan Kenobi? After watching Revenge of the Sith recently, I almost felt as though McGregor had been in the original trilogy and had pulled a Benjamin Button on us all. 

Ewan McGregor is Brilliant as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Prequel Films

Episode VII will have the benefit of familiar (and legendary) faces to bolster the cast. Recent reports all but confirm that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have been secured to reprise their iconic roles as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia for Episode VII. Whether or not Han Solo lives through the new trilogy will remain to be seen. Harrison Ford tried talking George Lucas into killing Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. As if the ending of that film was not dark enough for my (at the time) seven year old mind!

Harrison Ford Thought Han Solo Should
Die in The Empire Strikes Back
Luckily, Lucas was stubborn back then too and having complete autonomy in the Star Wars universe, he got his way. The difference was that we all agreed with his point of view and there was no internet, so no one called for his head in 1980. Although the original trilogy principal actors will return, they will most likely be relegated to supporting roles. This means that the plot will be driven by a crop of newly cast, younger actors, in whose hands the Force, and the success of this next trilogy will be placed. All we can hope for is that the casting folks will, take a cue from the knight guarding the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and will “choose wisely” when filing the key roles for Episode VII. 

No Soap Opera Miracles
A sure fire way to doom the franchise would be to attempt to somehow resurrect Darth Vader, although one can’t imagine how when we all watched him die and saw his body incinerated on a funeral pyre. Oh, and we also saw him appear as a “force ghost” at the end of Return of the Jedi. Actually, we saw this twice, with two different actors, so one could assume, aside from a soap opera style resurrection, that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is dead.

The Circle is Now Complete
The Emperor, although less conclusive in terms of evidence, should also be dead based on what we saw in Return of the Jedi. Could he be brought back in some possible way? He could, but he would be ridiculously old and it would be a real stretch to believe that he made it out of the Death Star after essentially being in the middle of a nuclear meltdown. 
The point is that a new trilogy can be very successful with a new crop of villains. Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and General Grievous were all interesting and intriguing characters, all newly imagined for the prequel trilogy. The Star Wars audience is an intelligent and extremely invested group that takes the “universe” of Lucas’ creation very seriously. Bringing back Vader like Bobby Ewing in the shower on Dallas would insult their intelligence and be a monumental mistake. 
The Prequel Villains Held Their Own - They Should Not Try to Resurrect Darth Vader

Don’t Mess with the Force 

Although, I was a fan of JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot, there were many Star Trek fans that were twisted by his disregard for the decades-old Star Trek timeline. In the film, Abrams essentially creates a new alternate reality that Star Trek fans now have to deal with if they wish to continue following the movies. His tampering with the backstory and history of Star Trek is astounding considering the near biblical reverence and attention that was previously afforded to the Star Trek legacy before the new film. This history was preserved and guarded by so many people, across decades of time, five television series, and almost a dozen films, that it was near blasphemy to even consider changing a syllable of the Trek gospel. Yet, it was done. 

Episode VII Director
JJ Abrams 
How is it possible for this to happen? The answer is simple. Abrams was allowed to do it. The owners of the franchise were most likely desperate to reinvigorate Star Trek, as it has been dead since (and essentially during) the Enterprise television series. So how do they bring back a “brand” that has been in existence in popular culture since the 1960s? Obviously, you change what was has existed and endured for forty years, how else? New fans will never know anything was changed and you can hopefully lure them and their future kids, in for the next forty years. The risk is that you alienate the fans from the previous forty years. Luckily, the Star Trek reboot was faithful to much of the franchise’s classic lore, so previous fans can still follow if they can swallow the deviations. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Abrams made one hell of a movie. 
Longtime Collaborators & Friends
Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy
The fact that Episode VII will be a continuation of the Star Wars tale should eliminate the option of Disney taking too many liberties with the history. Also, the fact that George Lucas is still drawing breath on planet Earth assures me that no one is going to screw around with his story. He may have been given four billion dollars be Disney, but something tells me that there is a creative consultant clause buried under all that money as well. Another safeguard may be Kathleen Kennedy, the new queen of Lucasfilm. Being a lifelong collaborator with Lucas’ buddy Steven Spielberg, and I’m pretty sure fairly tight with George himself, it is hard to imagine that she will desecrate the gospel of Star Wars while the brand is under her stewardship.
All in all, the future appears to be bright for Episode VII. darthmaz314 is optimistic that Episode VII will reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise and bring back the glory days of the Force. So for those who heard about Episode VII and said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” darthmaz314 understands your trepidation, but offers another tidbit from the Star Wars universe, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”    

 darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...


A Look Back on The Force Awakens Speculation: darthmaz314 Repost: Episode VII: Can It "Bring Back Star Wars?"

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is less than eight months from release, so darthmaz314 thought it would be fun to look back on two blogs posted over two years ago speculating on the ability of the film to revitalize the Star Wars franchise. So let's take a trip to the past to speculate about the future which is now almost the present. Wheew! I need to sit down. I even made myself dizzy with that sentence.

You Won't Have George Lucas to
Kick Around Anymore
Ever since it was announced that Disney/Lucasfilm would release a Star Wars: Episode VII, everyone in the galaxy has put forth their opinions about who should write it, direct it, star in it, provide the catering, supply the port-a-potties on set, and so on and so on. Being a lifelong Star Wars fan and publisher of this modest little blog, darthmaz314 figured why not throw his two cents (or Republic credits) out there into the blogosphere?

The debate over the impact that the prequel trilogy had on the Star Wars legacy may never end. How good (or bad) those three movies are is a topic for a future post, or series of posts, or a series of Congressional hearings. Some say that only George Lucas could have ruined the Star Wars franchise. Whether you believe that he succeeded or not is yet another topic for debate. But one thing is clear now that Disney has acquired Lucasfilm. Someone other than George Lucas will now have their crack at ruining Star Wars.
Episode VII Screenwriter Michael
Arndt Won an Oscar for Little Miss

The detractors are already lining up the scapegoats. They’re already blaming Disney, director J.J. Abrams, screenwriter Michael Arndt, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny…you get the picture. All this before a frame of footage has been shot or a special effect has been storyboarded. The fact remains that certain things are untouchable in the hearts and minds of the public, particularly the fanatical public. By the time there was rumor of another trilogy in the late 90’s, it had been over fifteen years since the release of a Star Wars movie, and even that last movie (Jedi) was already being criticized as the weakest of the franchise. The Star Wars films had already been cast as three mystical stone tablets in the church of science fiction, which, in my opinion, is no less credible than the Church of Scientology. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to live up to the expectations of the enumerable masses of Star Wars fans.

A Beatles Reunion Would Have Been Destined to Dissapoint...
Just Like the Prequels
You can compare it to a hypothetical Beatles reunion in 1980 before John Lennon’s death. Sure, it would have been the most anticipated musical happening since the first caveman smashed his stick against the cave wall. But once it had been done, there would have been tons of people lamenting how “they just don’t have the chemistry anymore,” or John and Paul can’t harmonize as well as they used to,” or “this new song is crap compared to A Day in the Life!”

Jar Jar Was the Scapegoat, But Not Totally
to Blame for Disenchanting Star Wars Fans
A cultural phenomenon like Star Wars (or the Beatles) eventually elevates to a point where it becomes unmatchable, particularly after the passage of enough time. Any attempt to duplicate its legend is futile. Does that mean that George Lucas hit the bulls eye with the prequel films and it was everyone else’s unrealistic expectations that were the problem? Not so much. There are problems with the prequel films and they extend beyond the long floppy ears of Jar Jar Binks, although it is hard to navigate around him in any defense of the prequels. But if we were to hop in our time machine and travel back to 1977 and not be influenced by the fact that Star Wars (I can’t bring myself to refer to it as Episode IV) was groundbreaking and unlike anything folks had ever seen in up to that time, AND were truly honest with ourselves, wouldn’t we all think that C-3PO was annoying? I think so. Did the character work? Absolutely!

C-3PO was Annoying, But the Character
Worked and We Loved Him
Did he have better dialog to work with than Jar Jar? Absolutely! Is Anthony Daniels a better actor than Ahmad Best? Absolutely! Was Jar Jar an over the top attempt at connecting to kids and selling action figures and Halloween costumes? Absolutely! Were both characters written to be annoying? Absolutely! The difference is that Jar Jar also annoyed the people on the other side of the movie screen. Simply put, C-3PO worked and Jar Jar didn’t, regardless of the reasons. Did many people think that some of Mark Hammil’s performance was corny and not his best work? Absolutely! But it wasn’t enough to destroy the movie. There was too much good about Star Wars to allow it the imperfections to tarnish our view of it. AND Star Wars was not trying to fill the shoes of three larger than life older brothers who were prom king, won every sports trophy, got straight As, and dated the head cheerleader throughout high school. 
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker 
So can a new trilogy be embraced by the fans? This fan thinks it can. As with the last trilogy, the first film will be crucial. Let’s be realistic. The true fanboys will go see Episode VII, despite their claims on the net of wanting to encase Lucas in carbonite or toss him in the Sarlacc Pit. Sure, they pound firmly on the keys as they post their bitter attacks in cyberland, but the diehards will be there when Episode VII hits the screen. The audience that will determine the fate of Star Wars’ next trilogy will be young adults or as I have dubbed them…the children of the prequel trilogy generation.

The children of the prequel trilogy generation, are now young adults. If you were ten when Phantom Menace was released, you will have been on the planet for about a quarter-century by the time Episode VII opens in theaters. Chances are that if you became a Star Wars fan and were baptized into Lucas’ Church of the Force during the release of the prequel trilogy, you are willing to give a new trilogy a chance. But if your parent was a Star Wars fan, you grew up hearing about how great Star Wars was and how much of a genius George Lucas was, and were dragged to three movies that you felt didn’t live up to the hype, you are probably not salivating for another trip to the galaxy far, far, away. If the Force is not strong among the entire prequel trilogy generation, the box office receipts will not be strong either. Considering how important the 18-34 crowd is in the entertainment economy today, it is hard to underestimate the power of the prequel generation in the success of Episode VII.  

George, Carrie, Mark, & Friends
The other category that will be crucial is the casual moviegoer. Will Episode VII be a movie event? Will the average multiplex-dweller feel compelled to pluck down their dollars to be part of the hype or will they be kept away by fifteen years of whining about how the prequels destroyed Star Wars. It is hard to say. The criticality of the opening weekend can’t be understated these days, so Episode VII may not have the luxury of waiting for word of mouth (or word of blog) to get around that Star Wars is back to entice the casual moviegoer. If the world doesn’t flock out to see this film at midnight screenings and the first few days of release, the word on the street (net) will be that it must be just like the prequels.

However, before Disney/Lucasfilm can woo the right demographics, they have to make a good film. So what will make Episode VII a success?

For our opinions, check back for Part II of this post coming soon.......

darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Disney Snapshot of the Day - Gargoyle from the Be Our Guest Pedestrian Bridge

darthmaz314 returns with a Disney Snapshot of the Day after a long hiatus. Today we feature a close-up of one of the lampost gargoyles from the pedestrian bridge that leads to the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Be Our Guest is a truly special dining experience at The Magic Kingdom. It has been insanely popular since the opening of New Fantasyland and for the most part, is only available through a Disney Advance Reservation (ADR.) Most Disney restaurants will take walk-ins and during off-season periods, will accommodate them with reasonable wait times. However, Be Our Guest is so overwhelmingly popular that walk-ins are currently not even an option. So, if you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World and want to enjoy Be Our Guest, be sure to make your reservation as soon as the ADR window opens (180 days in advance.)
Gargoyle from the Be Our Guest Pedestrian Bridge 

darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...