Welcome back to the "Star Wars News Roundup"! Back when "Revenge of the Sith" hit theaters in 2005, ComingSoon.net would round up all of the news and rumors for the week for your viewing in one convenient location. Now that there have been a few minor news items in the world of "Star Wars," it seemed appropriate to resurrect the feature like the ghost of Obi-Wan.
Just to give you a little background, I'm Scott Chitwood, one of the feature writers and reviewers for ComingSoon.net and SuperHeroHype.com. Besides being a lifelong "Star Wars" fan, I was co-founder of TheForce.Net. I helped guide fans through the first rumors of Jar Jar Binks (sorry about that one), Jango Fett, Clone Troopers, and other assorted spoilers and rumors from around 1996 to 2005. Now, 'meesa back' to guide you through this new and exciting era for Star Wars fans.
So without further ado, let's review what's new this week in a galaxy far, far away...
Farewell to Stuart Freeborn
First up is a bit of sad news. The legendary Stuart Freeborn passed away this week at the age of 98. If you don't know his name, you still know his work. He did the apes in "2001: A Space Odyssey" as well as the costume for Chewbacca and the Yoda puppet. In fact, Yoda was partially designed to look like Freeborn.
Reached by phone, Oz recalled the series of meetings that took place with Freeborn at Elstree Studios.
"He was a legend already. He was brilliant and he was a sweet man," Oz said. "I remember going into that first meeting in this small workshop. I remember looking up and seeing masks of Chewbacca and everything else."
There is also a vintage interview with Freeborn which can be seen on YouTube.
While Freeborn has passed on, his work will last for ages.
Star Wars Solo Movies - Yoda, Han Solo, and Boba Fett
The week got off to a lively start with Ain't It Cool News starting a rumor that Disney was working on a movie featuring Yoda. Then, in a surprise move, Disney confirmed that they were, in fact, working on stand-alone "Star Wars" movies featuring characters from the previous films. In fact, they additionally confirmed that Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinsberg were working on them. Entertainment Weekly then added fuel to the rumor fire by stating that Disney was developing films based on Boba Fett and Han Solo.
My take? There's probably some truth to all of the Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Yoda rumors. At this early stage, they're probably all being discussed. It will be interesting to see which one ends up being the frontrunner. But the question remains - can any of these characters carry a movie themselves? Over the next few weeks I'll be exploring that question. First up, let's talk about the Yoda rumor.
The problem with doing a movie based on any of the existing characters is the same problem that you had with the prequels - you already know how it will end before it begins. Any movie starring Yoda (or young Han Solo or Boba Fett) is not going to end with them dying. There's not a lot of suspense there since you know the character will not be in serious jeopardy. So how do you deal with that? The same way you deal with Batman or James Bond or Iron Man who also won't die during their films. You go back to their origin, you throw them in situations that take them outside of their comfort zone, and you give them a great cast of supporting characters.
For a Yoda film, you would want to take him back to his early years. Show him when he's young and not wrinkly. Show him before he's mastered his power. Show Yoda as young and stupid and not the calm, wise, confident Grand Master that he is in the films. Show a bit of his mischievous side that we saw in "The Empire Strikes Back." Have a "Yoda Begins" type of story. Now the interesting thing about this is the fact that while Lucasfilm has allowed the books and comics to cover the origins of pretty much every other character in the films, they have NOT allowed Yoda's origin to be explored in depth. If you look at StarWars.com, Yoda's species is labeled as "unknown." If you look on the Star Wars Wiki page, there's almost nothing about his origin (at least nothing that can't be overwritten by a film). It's very unusual to have a character's background to be so thoroughly cordoned off in the Expanded Universe that it lends credibility to the idea that Lucas was saving it for something later on. But that hasn't stopped fans from offering their own takes on what young Yoda was like.
Back in 1999, Aaron McGruder (creator of the comic Boondocks) submitted to TheForce.Net his own take on what a young Yoda might look like. It's interesting to see a young, strong, elf-like Yoda rather than the elderly version we are so familiar with. Josh Diffey back in 2003 at TFN created a comic entitled Padawan Yoda. While the art isn't quite as polished as you might like, the fan comic does demonstrate that it is possible to do a young Yoda story.
But if fan art and fan fiction isn't enough to convince you that a Yoda story can work, then check out "Yoda - Dark Rendezvous" by Sean Stewart. I reviewed this novel set in the Clone Wars era for TFN Books a long time ago on a website far, far away. Here was my synopsis:
Six months before Revenge of the Sith, the Clone Wars continue to rage. As Dooku reflects on the carnage he has caused across the galaxy, he begins to have regrets about turning to the Dark Side. Old age and fear of Darth Sidious begin to catch up with him. Amid these doubts, he secretly contacts his old master Yoda for a rendezvous. Is there still a glimmer of light in Dooku or is this another trap?
Yoda receives the message and decides to accept Dooku’s invitation. But in order to keep their meeting private, he must have a good cover story for leaving the Jedi Temple. He recruits Jedi Masters Jai Maruk and Maks Leem to help sneak him out. Along with them are Padawans Tallisibeth Enwandung-Esterhazy, or Scout, and Whie. Scout is a young Padawan who isn’t as strong in the Force as her fellow students. However, perseverance, courage, and determination have kept her within the Temple. Whie is just the opposite. He’s strong in the Force, honorable, and highly skilled. But he also suffers from dreams and visions of the future. His latest vision shows him and Scout in the clutches of Asajj Ventress on the brink of death. Will their mission with Yoda end in disaster?
This book was really excellent and is a prime example of my point that you need a strong supporting cast behind your established Star Wars character. You need characters like Scout and Whie who play off of Yoda well and who, more importantly, are expendable. They are the characters in the story who are in jeopardy and who the audience becomes emotionally invested in. They are like Agent Coulson in "The Avengers" or Rachel Dawes in "The Dark Knight" or Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royal." Their actions and possibly their deaths drive the lead characters to grow or change. I think with these ingredients, you have a workable Yoda movie.
So that's what I'd love to see - a young Yoda movie that brings new characters to the table and is made by Pixar. Make it happen, Disney!
Star Wars Comics
The rumor around the comics world and Blue Sky Disney is that when Dark Horse Comics has their Star Wars license end soon, Disney will not renew it and instead take the Star Wars comics back to Marvel. This actually makes sense and probably isn't unexpected by anyone at Dark Horse, Marvel, or Disney. After all, George Lucas pushed hard to get the original Star Wars comics licensed by Marvel in the first place, as told in an interesting story by Jim Shooter:
There was a lot of opposition to Star Wars. Even Stan (Lee) wasn’t keen on the idea.
Even I wasn’t. I had no prejudice against science fiction, but wasting time on an adaptation of a movie with a dumb title described as an "outer space western?"
I was told—don’t know for sure—that George Lucas himself came to Marvels offices to meet with Stan and help convince him that we should license Star Wars. I was told that Stan kept him waiting for 45 minutes in the reception room.
The first two issues of our six (?) issue adaptation came out in advance of the movie. Driven by the advance marketing for the movie, sales were very good. Then about the time the third issue shipped, the movie was released. Sales made the jump to hyperspace.
Star Wars the movie stayed in theaters forever, it seemed. Not since the Beatles had I seen a cultural phenomenon of such power. The comics sold and sold and sold. We reprinted the adaptation in every possible format. They all sold and sold and sold.
In the most conservative terms, it is inarguable that the success of the Star Wars comics was a significant factor in Marvel’s survival through a couple of very difficult years, 1977 and 1978.
Interesting how the history of Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney have been so intertwined over the years.
Despite all this, Dark Horse Comics isn't rolling over and letting the Star Wars license go lightly. They've just published Star Wars #1 by Brian Wood and it has sold out two printings. The comic features beautiful art by Carlos D'Anda, covers by Alex Ross, and a strong Princess Leia character written by Wood. Despite the comic being completed sold out, Midtown Comics still has copies, as well as signed copies. And as an added bonus, if you buy one the proceeds go to charities to help victims or Hurricane Sandy. Go buy it!
Star Wars Around The Web
StarWars.com - Star Wars Pinball Video Game - Are you a pinball wizard? Then check out the new Star Wars pinball game which is released by Zen Studios later this month. This will be a downloadable app as well as a game on all consoles.
RebelScum.com - Jedi Junkies Fan Film - JEDI JUNKIES features Star Wars fans from all over the world and interviews with celebrity insiders, including Olivia Munn (Attack of the Show, Iron Man 2), director Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project), and actors from the Star Wars films, including Ray Park (Darth Maul), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Orli Shoshan (Shaak Ti) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett).
RebelScum.com - New Topps Star Wars Cards - Fresh off the amazing Star Wars: Galactic Files card series, Topps is producing the next big thing in trading cards with the Star Wars: Jedi Legacy set due out this coming May.
The best Hits ever offered in Topps Star Wars Trading Cards including REAL Star Wars Relics!
REAL Chewbacca Hair: Chewbacca hair from the original Star Wars trilogy
REAL Ewok Fur: Swatches from Logray, Teebo, Wicket, and other Return of the Jedi Ewoks
REAL Jabba’s Barge Sail: Swatches from Jabba the Hutt’s barge sail in Return of the Jedi
Star Wars Celebration - Europe - Break out your Stormtrooper costume! The official Star Wars convention will be in Germany July 26-28, 2013 and will be hosted by Warwick Davis. They should have plenty to discuss!
Sci-Fi Expo - Star Wars artist Cynthia Martin and Darth Maul's cartoon voice Sam Witwer will be in Dallas Feb 9-10, 2013 (this weekend!).