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It was the news we had been waiting for, but not the news we were expecting to get. After months of speculation about who might direct the Star Wars Episode VII that Disney and Lucasfilm have been promising for months, word came down that Man of Steel and 300's Zack Snyder was directing a Star Wars movie-- but a totally different one.
Said to be inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Snyder's Star Wars film would be totally separate from the previous movies, and possibly Disney's first step toward making Star Wars not just a series of films, but a giant universe in which all kinds of stories can play out. It was a lot of news to process, and as usual, we found ourselves divided around here. Katey saw potential in the idea, while Sean saw nothing but gloom. Who's right? Watch us duke it out in the Great Debate, then let us know your own thoughts in the poll at the end of the post.
NOTE: THR has spoken with one of Snyder’s representatives and they have denied the reports that the director is working on something in the Star Wars universe, but that doesn't mean that the story isn't real (remember, Snyder also said he wasn't doing Superman and then signed on for Man of Steel)
KATEY:We finally have a director for a Star Wars movie! But I don't think it's what any of us were expecting. Instead of news about Episode VII, we've got Zack Snyder off directing this whole other parallel story, which may have something to do with Seven Samurai-- that is, if the project works out at all. It's a surprise, but is this a case where a surprise is actually a good thing? I'm as indifferent toward Star Wars as a person can possibly be, but I have to admit, this is exciting to me.
SEAN: Really? See, this is where I fear the Star Wars movie universe is tipping into Fan Fiction. George Lucas removes his vice grip off of the Star Wars story (and the rights that surround it), and now any yahoo with a hankering for a new Star Wars story can hammer out a story that's "connected" to the universe. Mind you, we'd need to hear more about what Snyder actually has planned beyond, "It might be like Seven Samurai because Lucas really likes that film." But my immediate reaction is, "This is getting out of hand."
KATEY: It's getting out of hand? it hasn't even started yet! There have been alternate stories told in the Star Wars universe for decades, in books and in the animated series. Now we have a chance to see it on film, and with the budget to go with it. The problem with the prequels a lot of the time is that they were trying to establish this universe and cram in so much detail the story got lost.
Now there's a chance to flesh out the universe in totally different, self-contained stories, under no pressure to be giant blockbusters or to continue some epic stories. It's getting rid of Lucas's vise grip and making room for more actual storytelling.
SEAN: You don't feel like it's the classic "too much of a good thing" syndrome? I like the original Star Wars films. I never wanted 10 movies in the franchise (which we'll have, if Lucasfilm and Fox ever hire a director for the new trilogy). And an additional series of movies that run parallel? That's what I mean about too much. Can you imagine ANY series offering fans up to two movies a year? We could be getting to that point simply because Hollywood thinks Star Wars fans want more and more and more. I'm already feeling like less is more.
KATEY: I think we're getting more Star Wars no matter what-- Disney did not buy Lucasfilm to make one movie every 5 years and then take 20 years off between installments. And if we're going to be doubling down on Star Wars, I'm much more interested in a potentially smaller, original samurai story than something gigantic that has to Continue The Epic Saga.
It sounds like Snyder is doing something that's the exact opposite of Man of Steel-- breaking away from mythology and continuity and telling a single, solid story.
SEAN: I agree with that ... sort of. Here's another big issue I have with more Jedi tales. The Jedi turned out to be extremely boring in the prequel trilogies. In the original, we had Obi Wan, a bad ass loner Jedi banished to exile who spoke of a powerful race of protectors. We had Darth Vader, who'd shunned the Jedi and embraced the Dark Side. Even with Yoda in Empire, it was a hint of the originality of the amazing Jedi people. Then we met them in the prequel trilogy, and characters like Mace Windu were talking head politicians. Even young Obi Wan was a snooze. There's a chance Snyder paints the Jedi as cowboys, and makes a Space Western. But even typing that makes me think of John Carter of Mars ... and no one wants to see that again.
If they are going to do standalone Jedi stories (which it sounds like they are going to do), I sincerely hope they find more interesting Jedi characters than Lucas rolled out in the prequel trilogy, and in the animated series. I'm not familiar with the books. Hopefully there are great stories to be told there. Right now, I'm not getting excited.
KATEY: I think the key to getting excited about the Jedi is the Seven Samurai connection. If this story turns out to be true, Snyder is basing it on that Kurosawa classic, which also became one of the best-ever Westerns, The Magnificent Seven. Those versions of Jedi characters are a million years away from Mace Windu-- and, quite honestly, can be whatever Snyder wants to make them. If we're having the Seven Samurai of Star Wars movies, it's going to get entirely away from parliament and trade embargoes, and back into action. Honestly, that makes me way more interested in this-- despite Snyder's huge drawbacks as a filmmaker-- than any "official" Star Wars movie.
SEAN: Ah, and that's where I think you nail the one thing that's buzzing in the back of my head about this whole announcement. Snyder. Because if this story broke with Jon Favreau or J.A. Bayona saying, "I'm going to do The Magnificent Seven with Jedi!" I'd be crapping my sweat pants. But it's not. It's Snyder. And I think that's why I'm having a hard time getting worked up. You have to agree, no?
KATEY: Oh, absolutely-- I wish it were pretty much anyone else. But right now I'm trying to focus on how much I like the basic idea behind it, and maybe hoping against hope that with source material as strong as Seven Samurai, even Snyder might not be able to screw it up. And given how successful Snyder's movies tend to be regardless of how good they are, maybe it will clear the way for another standalone Star Wars with more promising talent behind it.
SEAN: Which, at this rate, would hit theaters in the summer of 2017.
KATEY: I plan to live that long. And by then, your kids might be old enough that you don't have to go to the theaters to see it with them if it looks awful!
SEAN: Silver lining! Truthfully, I want to get excited by this news. I'm all for strong storytelling, even if the idea of a potential 15-20 Star Wars movie -- hell, 15-20 movies in ANY franchise -- is too much. But I fear that the success of Marvel's standalone superhero movies feeding into a larger ensemble story now has every studio with a tentpole trying to connect every franchise, from D.C. Comic to Stars Wars, into a patchwork quilt of interconnected narratives, and I'd just rather see the industry put their time and effort into films like Beasts of the Southern WIld. Original. Passionate. Something with a voice, instead of a cape or a lightsaber. Pie in the sky thinking, I know.
KATEY: Think of this Star Wars movie as a step in that direction-- a story within a familiar universe with no ties to an overarching mythology (so far as we know). That actually makes it very different from all of those interconnected superhero movies, and a potentially interesting step toward stories set in familiar worlds that are still, in their own way, original.
SEAN: That's fine. I'll keep an open mind, if only because it could one day lead to one-off Star Wars movies by gifted filmmakers who have fantastic Star Wars ideas, or who maybe couldn't do Episode VII because of prior commitments. Yes, Joss Whedon, I'm looking at you. With all of this movement on the Star Wars front, and announcements of spinoff films, you'd think a director for Episode VII would be on the horizon. It's one of the many Star Wars bits we'll have to keep anticipating as this already busy year rolls along.
Are you looking forward to Zack Snyder's Star Wars?