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Am I the only one who senses a disturbance in The Force?
Twice now in a four-week span, Walt Disney Studios has had opportunities to ease the minds of Star Wars fans around the globe by revealing even the slightest inkling of information regarding J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII: The As-Yet-Unnamed Sequel. And twice, the studio opted to remain silent.
Most believed that when Disney left Star Wars out of Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, it was because they wanted to make the biggest splash at its own fan event: The D23 Expo in Anaheim. But as Eric live-blogged, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn revealed basically what we already knew heading into the weekend. Abrams is directing. John Williams will score the sequel. And it will open in 2015 (though your guess is as good as mine as to when that summer we’re destined to see Episode VII, and Horn wasn’t spilling the beans on a release date, either).
Why the veil of secrecy? Why waste a golden opportunity at D23 to send tidal waves of glee through the Star Wars fan community by giving them something -- anything -- over the weekend? A title. A release date. Confirmation that original stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are on board. ANYTHING would have been better than the soulless void of nothingness that was provided. Because in this case, a lack of answers only raises more questions. And the theories we’re coming up with don’t sound great.
The first reason I think Disney refrained from sharing any concrete information on Episode VII is that there isn’t any concrete information to share. The title wasn’t revealed because the movie doesn’t have one yet. No actors were confirmed because the roles in Michael Arndt’s screenplay aren’t firm yet. And that sounds like trouble.
Abrams was brought onto Episode VII back in January. JANUARY! It was reported last November that Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt was tackling the next chapter in the Star Wars saga. Are you trying to tell me that he and Abrams don’t have enough of an outline that they can at least share the sequel’s title, and maybe a few of the classic Star Wars characters that might be returning to movie theaters in 2015?
An absence of details, however, now starts to feel like Star Wars is succumbing to more of Abrams’ Mystery Box bullshit. Remember all the smoke, mirrors and misdirection surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch’s Star Trek Into Darkness villain? Yeah, it ended up being Khan … the character Abrams and his entire crew swore it wouldn’t be. They were lying. It was exactly who we thought it would be the entire time.
This is different, however. Abrams and Team Star Wars aren’t telling us one thing and hoping we’ll believe them. They’re saying nothing, and hoping we’ll still care. That leads me to my final theory as to why Disney told us nothing new about Star Wars: Episode VII at D23: They don’t feel like they have to.
And in a way, I agree with them.
Maybe Disney is sick and tired of leaping through every marketing hoop that has been established in our current “show us everything in advance” movie-tracking society. Very few properties exist today that could open in theaters sight unseen and still break box-office records. Star Wars remains one of those franchises. Could Disney and Abrams maintain radio silence from now until 2015? Absolutely. Would they piss their fanbase off? You better believe it. But would those same people still turn out to see what Abrams has concocted? Let’s put it this way: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith earned $380 million in the U.S. and $848 million worldwide, and that was AFTER George Lucas already proved through Phantom Menace and Clones that the prequel films were going to be hollow, cold, digital exercises with little emotional pull. Fans were unfazed. It’s Star Wars. They are going to watch.
I think Disney realizes this. I think they whole-heartedly believe it. There might be pre-production issues. There could be legitimacy to the persistent rumors that Abrams is poised to walk away from the Star Wars director’s chair. But with Horn swearing at D23 that Episode VII will be in theaters in 2015, I’m leaning toward the belief that Disney just doesn’t feel that it needs to tell us anything specific about the sequel … and while I admire that gumption, I’m not sure yet if it’s going to help or hurt the film in the long run.