SPOILER ALERT: The following contains plot details about Star Wars: Episode VII, which you may want to avoid if you’re looking to go into the film completely blind. In that case, good luck being on the Internet for the next year and a half.
Emily Yoshida: In the past few days, the Star Wars universe has been positively abuzz with a bunch of new intel about Episode VII from director/writer J.J. Abrams himself, Devin Faraci at Badass Digest, and a brave little toaster droid. There were simply too many juicy deets for me to sort through on my own, so I summoned Grantland’s Senior Galactic correspondent, Dan Silver, to help out. With our combined strength, we will bring order to the Star Wars rumor galaxy.
The film will open on a severed hand holding a light saber falling through space and landing on a desert planet.
Dan Silver: I love this. It’s so iconic, it so immediately connects this new Star Wars trilogy back to the original “holy trilogy.” But more than this, to the best film in the original trilogy. This is the cinematic equivalent of Abrams signaling to the bereaved fans of the pre-logy that shall not be named that the torch has been passed, and these new films are in capable hands.
But this does bring up a few questions: What does the handle of the light saber look like? Does it have the same button layout as Luke’s light saber from Empire? Should we just simply assume that this IS Luke’s hand from Episode V? Maybe? I’d like to think so.
To get a little Neil deGrasse Tyson about it: If the hand has been in space for 30 years, how is it not frozen? And frozen or not, why does it not burn up and disintegrate upon atmospheric reentry to the desert planet? You know what? Scratch that. We’re talking about a universe that has Ewoks. I’m good with this (To clarify: I’m good with the floating light saber, not the Ewoks.)
Emily Yoshida: You know what, I’m going on record to say there’s nothing wrong with the Ewoks. They are terrifying warriors and lethal foes and it’s an accident of evolution that they are also adorable and lovable. Don’t be cutist, Silver.
Anyway, I must say that the idea of the hand floating through space as our FIRST IMAGE of the new trilogy is pretty boldly weird. Usually we pan down from the opening title crawl and see some cool ship, or the glowing curve of a planet. Even if it’s a battle sequence, there’s something triumphant about that, even after the John Williams fanfare. It’s Star Wars being all “Yo look, SPACE!!” There’s not much that’s triumphant about a floating severed body part, even if we know the origin of said body part. That said, I’m not sure I want the film to be so directly connected to the original trilogy in the opening seconds. I’d like it to have a chance to find its own feet first.
Anyway, weirdness good, slavish fealty to original Star Wars bad. Maybe we smash from the hand to a ship! Maybe we smash cut from a ship to a bone! Maybe the entire plot of Episode VII will be told via smash cuts of different objects floating past a dark background, scored by Suzanne Vega.
The desert planet is NOT Tatooine.
Silver: This I don’t buy for a second. It’s absolutely Tatooine, in all of its binary sunset glory. Do you want to know how I know this? I know this because it’s been heavily rumored that it’s NOT Tatooine. And this news comes via the same group of celluloid jockeys that swore up and down that Benedict Cumberbatch was not Khan. Now there’s no comparison between the significance of the reveal of Khan versus a planet. But all I’m saying is that misdirection, or flat-out lying, is a well-worn tool with the Bad Robot folks.
Yoshida: Yo, Abrams: Why do you think we care whether this is Tatooine? The only way I see this affecting my enjoyment of the movie is when someone identifies the desert planet as Tatooine and 17 nerds in the theater laugh smugly to themselves. To be clear, that is not a good thing.
Our heroes will be played by the most relatively unknown among the announced cast: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.
Silver: The talking point I keep hearing the most about Episode VII is that it’s going to not only tie-in, but pay heavy homage to Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope), Empire, and Jedi. I’m sure this was meant to refer to the narrative, tone, and themes, but I suspect it has to do with the characters as well.
At the time of its release, Alec Guinness was Star Wars’s biggest star. I’d even go so far as to say that Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) was more known to 1977 audiences than Mark Hamill was. And I don’t want to hear about how Harrison Ford had been in American Graffiti and The Conversation — when Star Wars was released, Ford was just “that guy from that movie.” So why not carry on the tradition with Episode VII, and use this bully pulpit of a movie to create some new stars in Boyega and Ridley?
Sidenote: Check it. For those of you who don’t know Boyega: Attack the Block. Believe it. He’s a straight-up alien killer. For reals, cuz.
Boyega plays an ex-Stormtrooper.
Yoshida: This is the first bit that really made my eyes go all big and geeky. I like this idea a lot.
Silver: This is cool. This could have a little Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead vibe to it. It’ll be fascinating to hear the alternate points of view of the events from Episodes IV, V, and VI. Especially if Boyega is a so-called “reformed” Stormtrooper, regretful of his past. This little detail is the juice that makes having Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan rewrite the script worth the squeeze. There are endless narrative possibilities of where an arc could take a character with such a conflicted past.
Yoshida: I don’t think we can necessarily attribute this to Abrams/Kasdan, unless you know something I don’t know, which — damn it, you probably do, don’t you? But I will keep hammering this one note and say these dudes are not the only people on earth, or even in the film industry, capable of dreaming up the idea of Boyega playing an ex-Stormtrooper. Those dudes will have to do some impressive time magic gymnastics, though, because …
Silver: Question: Boyega is 22. Is he playing older? He can’t play that much older. It’s been acknowledged that the events in Episode VII take place 30 years after Jedi. So are we to assume Stormtoopers have been around for 30 years? What does that mean about the so-called destruction of the Empire?
I’m just going to stop before this prognostication rabbit hole completely engulfs me.
Yoshida: Nah, I got this. Carbonite. Everything can be explained with carbonite.
The movie will focus on a quest to find the missing Luke Skywalker.
Silver: Not just this. It’s been rumored that the missing Luke Skywalker will be hiding out on an ice planet. Only second to stranding a few castaways on an island (or were they in a bottle filled with wine, and the island was the cork? I can’t remember.) is Abrams’s love of dropping his heroes into subzero temperatures. (Remember Kirk?)
As a story point, this seems like another nod to the original trilogy. You know, “Well, I don’t know anyone named Obi-Wan, but old Ben lives out beyond the dune sea. He’s kind of a strange, old hermit …”
Yoshida: Yeah, as piqued as I was about Boyegatrooper, this sounds pretty lame. I already think it’s overly fan service–y to bring back the original cast for this trilogy (not to mention hazardous to their health), and current-day Hamill always makes me uncomfortable and sad. If he’s going to be that integral to the plot, I’m a little worried.
Silver: I’d be surprised if this is the primary plot of the film. I can see Abrams getting the search for Luke out of the way in the first act, because the much more believable narrative anchor to the film seems to be …
There are “nefarious forces” who are building a super-weapon that can destroy entire systems.
Silver: This is the one plot point that seems to be a direct symptom of sequelitis. The Death Star destroyed planets, but in this new series, there’s a weapon being created that destroys entire systems. It’s bigger and better, of course.
So what is this, really? Didn’t Abrams already employ this weapon in Star Trek? In that film it was called red matter. And per the Internet, red matter is a substance capable of forming a black hole when ignited. One drop was sufficient to collapse a star or consume an entire planet (thanks, Wikipedia).
Is this Abrams’s way of directly linking his Star Trek universe with the Star Wars universe? (That’s a joke. Don’t kill me.) Or are he and Kasdan just being lazy? Will we see another giant, red solar system–eating ball that looks surprisingly like the Horizon from Alias?
Yoshida: If there’s going to be a new big bad enemy unrelated to the Empire (and likely tied to the Sith) that wants to blow up stuff and generally make people unhappy, I feel like they’re going to need to explain their motives pretty convincingly. Everyone knows how being a nefarious force worked out for the Empire. That should be seared in everyone’s mind.
On the other hand, nobody in the Star Wars universe has watched Star Wars as many times as we have, so maybe they just don’t know any better.
“Again and again I’m hearing that John Boyega owns this movie.”
Yoshida: Do you think Boyega’s character will end up having the Force? Stormtroopers have a rather poor track record with that kind of thing. Plus, the prequels were so Jedi-heavy, and it took a lot of mystique out of the order, so I wouldn’t be at all opposed to a new trilogy focused on a non-Force-wielding hero who gets by with blasters and cynical wit. And no, I don’t mean —
Silver: Let’s not delude ourselves here. Han Solo is in Episode VII. This is Han’s movie. End of comment.
Yoshida: You are saying crazy-person words, Silver. I don’t even think Ford wants this to be Han’s movie. Go Johnny B!
This is what the X-wings will look like.
Silver: OK, it’s blue. Not red. What does that mean? (I’m sure someone will tell me.) This may sound blasphemous, but to me, this is just an X-wing. And it looks like an X-wing should. So I’m cool with it.
Yoshida: A thought: Peacekeeping X-wings get a blue paint job. Red is for combat X-wings. Is that a thing? I made that up. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know if I actually care. Carry on.
Silver: What I love about this X-wing is that it actually EXISTS! It’s not just some cockpit wrapped in green screen so the rest of the ship can be digitally inserted later. It’s physically there. To be seen, touched, and interacted with. Between this video and the one showcasing a creature that looked like it was right off the truck from the Jim Henson shop, it’s clear Abrams is truly embracing the spirit of the original trilogy. Practical is better after all.
Yoshida: Agree 100 percent. I’m pretty stunned and pleased that they’re going so analogue on this.
Silver: And nice bit with the mouse droid. That little bugger hasn’t seen this much screen time since Chewie nearly hollered at it in Episode IV.
Yoshida: I probably think about tech development and advancement in the Star Wars universe more than I should, but I’m glad the toasters aren’t obsolete, 30 years on. Even after the fall of the Empire, we still need Roombas.