Hollywood is in a real space race. Juan Antonio Bayona has been set to helm the untitled space pic that Forrest Gump scribe Eric Roth has written for Warner Bros, with Kevin McCormick producing. This comes amidst other space pic developments: JJ Abrams switching off from Star Trek to an attempt to place defibrilator paddles on what is left of Star Wars; and as Marvel Studios prepares to launch the space-set Guardians of the Galaxy as its next superhero franchise. That latter movie is still in the casting stage for the lead character of Starlord, and Marvel is still searching after Joseph Gordon-Levitt said no. I gave you a short list of actors last year who were meeting, and they’ve widened the search.
Separately, a space-set version of The Odyssey just got launched at Warner Bros, and the studio has dated for fall the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney-starrer Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. This is 3D and should be great.
Personally, I find it easier to get excited about the combination of the imagination of a great writer like Roth (The Good Shepherd and The Insider) and Bayona, who helmed The Orphanage and just directed the tsunami movie The Impossible, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, than the attempt to bring back Star Wars. A lot of people drool slavishly over the memory of the original first two films and how groundbreaking they were. All I recall when George Lucas launched the second trilogy, is how quickly he exhausted all my good will with an effort that was soooo disappointing (that runty kid who turned into Darth Vader engaged in flying scooter races, and Jar Jar Binks and other nonsense that seemed contrived to sell toys). That film came out around the same time as the first installment of The Matrix, and I remember seeing that movie and thinking, this was what the second cycle of Star Wars should have been.
It was disruptive, groundbreaking, and the plot and the special effects were mind blowing and wholly original. Yeah, so the Wachowskis got smug and totally screwed up the next two films and then Speed Racer too, but that first one was a zeitgeist movie moment similar to the one we felt with the original Star Wars, when Lucas was light years ahead of everybody else. Maybe Abrams can bring some of the magic back–I thought he crushed it on the first Star Trek reboot–but even he will be hard pressed to make me care about a universe that has been irrelevant since the era of disco.
I am as big a fan of The Lord of the Rings as anyone you’ll ever meet (except maybe Harry Knowles, probably), but when I watched The Hobbit with the anticipation that many will bring to Star Wars, it just wasn’t the same as LOTR even as it heads toward the billion dollar mark in worldwide gross. The stakes weren’t as high, and it felt a bit tedious and I couldn’t help feel they were milking the plot of one JRR Tolkien book and some appendices to span three instead of two movies. Not to please audiences as much as bring another billion in box office revenue to the coffers of Warner Bros and MGM. It happens all too often (I’m sure The Hunger Games won’t be immune as Lionsgate stretches three books into four movies).
Not that it was remotely in this hallowed ground territory of films in this discussion, but did anyone who saw the third installment of Twilight Saga not feel fully aware the filmmakers were milking a decent final book into two movies solely for an extra billion dollar payday? We were forced to sit there through an interminably long stretch where a pregnant Bella (Kristen Stewart) turned into Skeletor (as Edward and Jacob mooned over her). And then there were a bunch of dull werewolf-vampire fights where nobody got killed or even hurt, it was just a lot of jumping and running. All the good stuff got pushed to the final movie. It got to the point I leaned over to my sister, sitting next to me and said, “please, kill me now.” Enough geek ranting for a Saturday night. Good luck on Star Wars, JJ.