First, some background on some apprehensions I carried with me into the theater when I saw “Solo: A Star Wars Story” last night.
My excitement for “Solo” dropped to near zero when Lucasfilm fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, two of the weirdest and most inventive filmmakers working today, and brought on Ron Howard, a talented guy without a shred of Lord and Miller’s oddball charm. All of the trailers make it look like Opie gave them just what they wanted, something workmanlike and safe and ordinary, utterly lacking the spark of insanity a Lord and Miller version would have promised.
There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
There are broad “Star Wars” parodies, and then there are insider-y “Star Wars” parodies, and then there’s a near-perfect mix of the two: The “Family Guy” episode “Blue Harvest,” which aired 10 years ago today. According to the DVD’s bonus features, the project came about when Lucasfilm approved all of “Family Guy’s” “Star Wars” parodies and Seth MacFarlane and company figured why not ask if they could do a whole episode?
Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is getting a lot of buzz, an odd contrast to the last time a “Star Wars” film outside of the numbered episodes premiered. In August 2008, I mentioned “The Clone Wars” movie to friends, and they responded with “There’s a new ‘Star Wars’ movie out?” Although it was a wide-release film, there wasn’t much of a marketing push behind it, because George Lucas decided fairly late in the game to release the first four-episode arc of the new TV series as a “movie.”
Now in its third season, “Star Wars Rebels” (8:30 p.m. Saturdays on Disney XD) has almost entirely caught up to “The Clone Wars” in production value. Even though Disney is spending less money than Lucasfilm did, the animated library of elements is now vast enough to give “Rebels” a more vibrant look, while still retaining the concept that the Ghost crew is operating on the fringes. Also, with the excellent character work done in the back half of Season 2, I like the crew of the Ghost and I care what happens to them. In the first three episodes of Season 3 (“Steps into Shadow” Parts 1 and 2 and “Holocrons of Fate”), “Rebels” keeps the momentum going.
As longtime fans are well aware, the “Star Wars” films as we know them from the 2011 Blu-ray release are different in several small but noticeable ways from the 1977-83 releases – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. And even “Episode I” is different from its 1999 release. Sometimes George Lucas made changes because technology had caught up with the vision in his head; sometimes he just changed his mind.
When George Lucas replaced Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen in the Force ghost scene for the 2004 DVD of “Return of the Jedi” (and therefore the 2011 Blu-ray release), many people criticized it as overkill: just another way to get prequel stuff into the original trilogy, like adding the Dug in Jabba’s palace.
To round out the “Star Wars” movie reviews on my blog, here’s a look back at my 30th anniversary essay for “Episode IV: A New Hope,” published in the Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch on May 24, 2007, one day short of the 30th anniversary of the film’s premiere. Although my views haven’t changed much as we approach the 40th anniversary, I’ve included a few footnotes to expand on this column, which was aimed at a wide daily newspaper audience.
To round out the “Star Wars” film reviews on my blog, I thought it would be fun to look back at my review of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” from May 20, 2005, in the Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch. This was my first “Star Wars” movie review for a professional daily paper, so it’s written for a broad audience.