Star Wars Episode VII Shakeup?
News comes today from the Lucasfilm camp that the writer hired last year to pen the first episode in the new Star Wars trilogy, Michael Arndt, is out, and that Lawrence Kasdan and Episode VII director J.J. Abrams have taken over the screenwriting duties. You can read the release from Lucasfilm HERE.
This situation has been rumored for awhile, but today’s announcement makes it official. It also raises some questions in the world of Star Wars fans (of which I am one. A big one.) Arndt was working from an outline from the Creator himself, George Lucas. It remains to be seen if any of this work will be used, or it the script has been scrapped entirely.
This news also poses some questions about what’s really going on behind the scenes at Disney and Lucasfilm. Replacing a screenwriter (and possibly an entire script) can be quite disruptive to the whole filmmaking process. Are there tensions or creative differences between the various parties involved? And what does this do to the presumed summer 2015 opening of Episode VII?
Filming was supposed to begin in January 2014; today’s announcement says shooting will begin in ‘Spring 2014.’ Disney has been very tight-lipped about the pre-production, and this development will surely add to the rumors. Will this affect any casting decisions?
With all of the unknowns, the announcement today did clarify some things. Many of the technical and production crew was announced today, with names familiar to Star Wars fans as well as people involved in other very successful films.
To me, the news today is a good thing. Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay for what is widely regarded as the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. He also co-wrote the script for Return of the Jedi. He knows his way around the Star Wars universe, and whether he’s working with George Lucas’ outline or starting over from scratch, I feel Episode VII is in good hands.
Other returning Star Wars veterans include sound editor Ben Burtt and composer John Williams. It could be argued, which I will do right now, that without the creative genius of either of these two men, we wouldn’t be here today discussing a brand new Star Wars film.
Look, I am a huge Star Wars fan. Not an obsessive, costume-wearing extended universe book-collecting, message board-trolling fan, but a fan. I was at the sweet spot perfect age of 8 when the original Star Wars film hit the screens in 1977. I immersed myself in the SW universe throughout my youth.
In 1999, when the first of the prequels was released, my first son had just been born. In 2002, when Attack of the Clones came out, my second son had just arrived. Having two young boys gave me the opportunity to see the prequels through THEIR young eyes. Personally, I think the prequels are not that good. They got better as they went along, but they suffered from the horrible scripts, cardboard acting, and over-reliance on CGI effects. That said, my boys loved them. I mean LOVED them. The prequels did the same thing to them as the original trilogy movies did to me: they fired my imagination.
To see my young boys and all of their friends running around the yard having light saber fights, wearing their Star Wars t-shirts, collecting the books and toys, was like looking back at my own childhood. To see my past love of Star Wars reflected back 30 years later in the love my boys had for these prequels (and the OT of course) has been amazing. And it hit home for me a point that many prequel-hating fanboys never understood: these films aren’t made for adults. The original trilogy wasn’t, and neither were the prequels. They’re for the kids. They always have been, and it’s my hope that they always will be. Were the prequels as well-made as the OT? Not even close. But that’s not the point. It was Star Wars for a new generation. Same for the Clone Wars animated series: not perfect, but a weekly escape to a galaxy far, far, away that I got to take with my sons. Sharing the films and spending time with them each week with Clone Wars has been a gift, and has created a bond between us that will always be there. I’ll be grateful to George Lucas and his creative teams for as long as I live.
When it was announced that Disney was taking over the SW universe and planning a new trilogy and other projects, I couldn’t help but feel that Star Wars was in good hands. When J.J. Abrams was announced as the first new director, my feelings solidified. Today’s word that Kasdan would once again be forming a Star Wars script, I became more confident still. The opportunity is there to once again create a Star Wars for a new generation, to build on the glories of past films, and correct mistakes, to do it right. I don’t think any film will ever capture that lightning in a bottle magic that happened in 1977, or ever live up to its own hype, but I feel that this new team is going to swing for the fence trying to get it right. I can’t wait.