Star Wars: Episode VII (2015)

Star Wars 7 PosterRelease Date: December 18, 2015

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (characters)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill


A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas

Star Wars Expanded Universe

People really seem to like this Star Wars thing. But originally, there wasn’t that much Star Wars to go around. You saw the movies, you bought a small, cheaply-made Han Solo action figure to play with in the tub, and you called it a day. But for those people who truly loved Star Wars – who loved it like their own mothers, only with robot alien laser swords — plain ol’ Star Wars wasn’t enough. And so, in January of 1978, a mere eight months after the original film was released, the first piece of extraneous Star Wars canon was born: Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #7 (issues one through six, of course, were just the movie in comic book form). And then a hundred billion novels, role-playing games, comics, television shows and radio dramas. Radio dramas. Because once you give Star Wars fans carte blanche to make their own Star Wars, they will never, ever ever stop for any reason. Except that now they have to.


Chewbacca in Star Wars

Just imagine any of the original Star Wars ensemble not making at least a cameo appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII. There’d at least have to be an explanation for why, maybe for what happened to that character. Like if Harrison Ford was on board and reprised his role as Han Solo but there was no Chewbacca, we’d want to know how the Wookie died. And he would have had to have died, because we wouldn’t accept that he and Han went separate ways, for any reason given. After all, Chewie has a sworn debt to protect Han for the rest of his life. Of course, there’d never be such a case with Chewbacca, anyway, because technically anyone (with a height of 7’3″) could play the part underneath the hairy costume. Fortunately, though, that also isn’t necessary because, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Mayhew is returning to play the big furry oaf for the fifth time (excluding the Holiday Special and other non-movie appearances), and thanks to recent surgeries to help the actor with his physical health issues (see details via the upcoming Kickstarter-funded documentary Standing in the Stars), the Wookie won’t be needing either a wheelchair or cane. 


Listen, I know that there’s been a lot of Star Wars apathy lately. J.J. Abrams has kept that damn mystery box shut for close to a year and a half now, and in that year and a half we haven’t gotten a single solid name to attach to Episode VII (at least as far as actors are concerned). It’s put a bit of a damper on the rumor mill, recently. Gary Oldman gets a Star Wars phone call from J.J. Abrams? Shrug. Benedict Cumberbatch rumored for Oldman’s part, with both actors somehow playing the same character? Yawn. Well, allow this sentence to (hopefully) clear away some cobwebs: “Driver, 30, is the first cast member to be revealed for Walt Disney Studios and LucasFilm’s highly-anticipated “Star Wars” installment.”



Spike Jonze‘s Her hasn’t even hit wide release yet, but everyone has been talking about its futurist concepts for months. And not only talking about them, but desiring them. It used to be that we had to dream about flying cars and hoverboards as being decades away, but in the past ten years smart science fiction has given us more plausible tech and production design. Minority Report‘s promise of touch screens and personalized ads came rather quickly, and now our impatient culture will demand the stuff seen in Her immediately. We’ve already got some fashions inspired by the film, but how about the artificial intelligence? And more importantly, the artificial intelligence boyfriends and girlfriends? Well, that may not be right around the corner. It might not even be possible at all, at least not to the degree it’s seen in Her (I’m skeptical about full AI ever existing). But this generation tends to be satisfied with replicas if not the real thing. We’re not only fine with fake self-lacing Nikes like those seen in Back to the Future Part II, but we’ll even pay thousands of dollars for them. Same goes for light-up flux capacitor models that don’t really transport us back in time. So why not a special smartphone that features Scarlett Johansson‘s voice to make us feel like the “Samantha” OS from Her is real? After all, there’s been a HAL 9000 theme available for the iPhone, although it doesn’t really replace the Siri voice or alter the […]



One of my favorite movie series of all time is the Star Wars films. Yes, even the prequels. I’m sure whatever happens with the upcoming sequels, they will make the list, too. I’m an shameless fanboy when it comes to this series, and I can forgive a lot – from Greedo shooting first to Jar Jar Binks. Since I was a child, seeing the original Star Wars at the tender age of five, I have loved the series. My youthful mind always wished I could be a Jedi Knight myself. Now, I know that’s impossible because I certainly don’t have nearly enough midi-chlorians in my blood for that. In fact, it was a relief for me to learn this plot patch when I saw The Phantom Menace because by watching the original trilogy as a child, it seemed so easy to train to be a Jedi Knight. Going back and watching that original trilogy again, it got me thinking: Just how long does it take to complete Jedi Knight training?



All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell pulls back the curtain on the Hollywood conspiracy machine… You may already be a film industry cynic. Maybe you think Hollywood is a barren wasteland, devoid of creativity and originality. Maybe you’re sick of seeing talented people get ignored and vapid hacks get splashed all over the trades. Maybe you’re tired of 3D everything and having to re-buy your movies every five to ten years. I’m not here to dissuade you of any of that. Hell no, I’m here to make it worse. Get ready, because this is some of the rottenest shit of which the film industry is capable. These are the things so terrible that Hollywood has to cover them up, lest God see their sin and smite them accordingly (and keep various government entities and lawyers off their backs, of course). If you still had any kind thoughts toward Hollywood, I suggest you prepare yourself for crushing disappointment. But first, I’d like to give a very huge shout out and thank you to writers C. Coville and Maxwell Yezpitelok for their help on this article. You guys are great! And now back to the shit storm, already in progress:


Bechdel Test

All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell applies the simple, ever-relevant Bechdel Test to a number of high profile movies…  The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter. Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film. In fact, the example Bechdel gave as a film that passed the test was Alien, simply because Ripley and Lambert have a brief conversation about the alien. (Let’s ignore the fact that the alien was a walking penis-monster, as this was before the Xenomorphs had established sexes – the Queens weren’t introduced until 1986’s Aliens.) But it’s still surprising to find out that some of the […]


Star Wars

Yesterday’s official announcement that J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII is set to hit theaters on December 18, 2015 was a long time coming – after months of chatter (not all of it especially heartening), it was high time that Disney and Lucasfilm gave us something official and tangible to chew on. A release date! Line up now! Or probably don’t because that’s actually insane. But like the announcement of any highly anticipated release date, the news that the newest Star Wars will arrive just in time for the 2015 holiday season comes complete with plenty of analysis. Why now? Why then? Why? Here’s your short answer – December 2015 is when the film needs to be ready (at least financially speaking), it’s a target date the film’s creative team thinks they can hit, and it’s perfectly poised to pull in lots of holiday dollars. That’s it – timing and money. In fact, that’s what most release date setting consists of, finding a spot for a film that will guarantee a finished product and the chance to make some return. But that doesn’t mean we can’t just overanalyze this thing to high heaven in the meantime. After all, December 2015 is a long, long way away. (It’s practically in its own galaxy.)


If you’re reading this, chances are pretty high that you’ve got some vested interest in Star Wars. And if that’s the case, than you must have seen the same thing I did this weekend: Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s face plastered across every film news site in the known universe, with the words Star Wars: Episode VII following shortly after. The anticipation swells as you think of Ejiofor and Star Wars as a perfect match; he’s got talent and charisma galore, and Serenity proves he’s no stranger to the space opera action adventure. His name even sounds a little like “Chewie.” That’s got to mean something. And then you actually read beyond the words “Chiwetel Ejiofor” and “Star Wars” and that giddy excitement transforms back into the same dull Star Wars-less banality of everyday life. Here’s the connection The Times discovered between Ejiofor and Episode VII director J. J. Abrams. “The British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, front-runner in this year’s Oscar race, is sitting in the lobby of J. J. Abrams’ office.” Then, when prodded about Ejiofor’s office-lobby involvement, Abrams drops this juicy morsel: “I can’t discuss casting. But he’s a very talented gentleman.”



By the time I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, I had already read a few Harry Potter books and I couldn’t help but think of the earlier sci-fi work initially as “Harry Potter in space.” It’s a comparison that continues for many now that the movie is out. “Harry Potter meets Star Wars,” claims a blurb used in UK ads credited to Sky Movies host Craig Stevens. And if you search Twitter for “Ender’s Game and Harry Potter” the results of both titles mentioned together is aplenty. All this is natural for the lazy way we relate movies to each other. The sad thing is some kids might think of the new movie as a derivative piece of YA fiction modeled after J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard. I don’t know if Potter was at all influenced by Ender’s Game. It’s not like Card’s book was the first messianic tale. The website TV Tropes even labels the relevant trope as “A Child Shall Lead Them,” a Biblical quote that also appears at the top of the New York Times review of the movie, in which critic Manohla Dargis breaks out the ol’ “Christ figure” descriptor for the main character. Still, I wish that I’d both read and seen the Harry Potters after reading/seeing Ender’s Game. If you’ve somehow avoided all the Hogwarts adventures before going to Battle School with the new Ender’s adaptation, consider yourself lucky. Watch the entire series now to see what I’m talking about. And right there I’ve got […]


news kasdan writing episode vii

Remember how excited you were when Disney and Lucasfilm announced their merger and the scheduled arrival of Star Wars Episode VII for 2015? That seems like so long ago that you’d be forgiven for having expected some sort of casting announcement by now beyond the usual rumors (Benedict Cumberbatch!) and threats (Justin Bieber!). Well there’s finally been an official (and rather pompously titled) announcement, and while it has nothing to do with casting it explains why it has nothing to do with casting. Michael Arndt‘s script is off the table, and Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams are drafting a new one. The news has had the expected results online with seemingly the majority of people piling on the negative comments regarding both Abrams and Kasdan. Abrams never stood a chance in the public eye, but Kasdan? A common rejoinder has been the terribly witty rhetorical question, “What has Kasdan done for us lately? That’s right, Dreamcatcher.” This is followed by loud laughter and much sobbing. These people are idiots.


Danny Trejo Sherrybaby

Our official review of Machete Kills is pretty negative. Rightfully so, it’s a major disappointment following the purposefully cheesy yet still politically relevant first film. This time it’s all just silly, kind of like an Austin Powers movie for the Latino audience instead of 13-year-old boys — though the 13-year-old boys may still be the best audience for this. I want to recommend it solely for Demian Bichir, though, because he is a pleasure to watch every second he’s on screen. Maybe it’s just how great he is relative to the rest of the cast and movie, but I’d give him another Oscar nomination for this. If you think that’s ridiculous, you haven’t seen the movie (because that is ridiculous). If you don’t see Machete Kills, no big deal, even if you won’t know what’s going on when Machete Kills Again… In Space arrives. This week’s gateway recommendations have nothing related to any spoilers in the movie. Most are just better films starring parts of the sequel’s ensemble. I also almost thought about including Star Wars, not because I think any of you haven’t seen it but because I think you’d want to clean yourself in the form of a re-watch after seeing all the bad references here. Seriously, even if we’d never had 35 years of parodies, copycats, fan films and other works derived from and informed by Star Wars, the allusions here would still feel stale. The following ten selections are worth checking out whether you bother with Machete […]


Letting go of a loved one is tough, but it’s something we all must do at some point. And George Lucas is no different. He and his son, the twenty year-old Jett Lucas, recently went through a similar experience, of a father releasing his child into the world to grow and develop on its own, without that constant parental influence. The child in question, of course, isn’t Jett Lucas. It’s Star Wars: Episode VII. The younger Lucas described his father as keeping a close eye on his beloved franchise, “as any parent watching their kid going to college would.” But the Star Wars creator seems to have had a tough time staying away, and has, as it turns out, been exerting far more influence over Episode VII than previously thought. Jett Lucas (in an interview with Flicks and the City) had this to say: “He’s constantly talking to J.J. [Abrams]. Obviously J.J. was handpicked. He [Lucas] is there to guide, whenever, he’ll help where he can.” As well, the elder Lucas had actually begun work on Episode VII a year before the franchise was sold to Disney, and has created a set of “guidelines” that Abrams and the rest of the new blood will be following. With luck, it’s the Lucas responsible for the original Star Wars (and not the one responsible for the prequel trilogy) that’s currently helicopter-parenting a few feet above Episode VII.


Mars Attacks Congress

It’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning burnt orange, horror movies are confusingly not being released, and the GOP has threatened to shut down the government because they failed for the 54th time to stop a law that was passed three years ago. Only this time they actually followed through with the threat (go figure), and now none of us can enjoy the leaves at National Parks or watch NASA launch stuff into orbit. Unsurprisingly, the concept of the government shutting down (or at least this version of a shut down) isn’t well represented in movies because of how breathtakingly uncinematic it is. When we want to see a political crisis on screen, we demand that Harrison Ford punch a terrorist off of Air Force One or Denzel Washington get brainwashed. That doesn’t stop films from tiptoeing around the periphery or taking a central role in this current freeze. Whether directly referenced by politicians or symbolically evoked by our collective subconscious, movies are here to help us make sense of it all and/or confuse us even further.


Iron Man Han Solo

When Disney announced that their future, non-trilogy Star Wars movies would be origin stories, two things struck me as funny. One, we already got an origin story of one of the universe’s most iconic characters (he was supposed to be the chosen one!), and pretty much everyone hated it. Maybe the problem was that it took three movies instead of one? Two, Disney wants Han Solo to be their Iron Man. They haven’t concretely confirmed that they’ll be focusing one of their stand-alone movies on Solo, but he seems like an obvious choice alongside Yoda and/or Leia, and regardless of which character they feature, the studio will have pulled a kind of Reverse Marvel by taking a sprawling, established film universe and re-introducing its players as monolithic superheroes.



Forget Weyland-Yutani or Initech; statistically speaking they are fine places to work. Hell, you think Cyberdyne didn’t have a stellar employee benefits package, or at least decent break rooms? Sure – everyone dies, but day-to-day it’s not that terrible. In the movie world, there are far worse jobs out there. These are places that – from one day to the next – level out as the worst possible places to be employed.


silent running drones

If you’re going to see Despicable Me 2 this weekend, there’s a good chance it’s because either you or your children mostly want to see the Minions. Who cares about Gru and the human children let alone whatever the plot is this time around when those little yellow blobs are running around causing trouble? This is just a hurdle until the spin-off movie that’s centered just on the Minions comes out next year. Why do we love them so much? writer Perri Nemiroff gave a few likeminded reasons earlier this week, comparing them to pets and plush toys come to life. She also notes that their gibberish is always “immensely more entertaining than any line of human dialogue.” The lack of intelligible dialogue is the reason I believe they’re so popular, combined with their slapstick antics. They’re Keystone henchmen, basically, characters that continue the tradition of silent comedy well into the era of sound cinema. In fact, they are cinema, almost purely visual treats (without their gibberish and occasional English word they would still be as funny). They’re reportedly modeled after the Jawas from Star Wars and the Oompa Loompas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, while Steve Carrell (the voice of Gru) believes the Minions “are as close to a modern day version of the Marx Brothers as I’ve seen.” One of the Marx Brothers in particular, for me. Harpo was one of the earliest figures in film to maintain the tradition of the dumbshow pantomime once […]


kings of summer malicky

Last weekend I posted a Short Starts column in celebration of the early work of Jordan Vogt-Roberts, a filmmaker who has done a lot of comedy sketches and short films in the past (including the popular award-winning Successful Alcoholics) and now has his debut feature, The Kings of Summer, opening in theaters. One of the pieces that I shared is a video consisting of well-known coming-of-age movie clips with the title “Toy’s House Rip-O-Matic Tone Reel” (The Kings of Summer was formerly titled Toy’s House), and I explained that I was pretty curious about its purpose in the development of the new film. Vogt-Roberts emailed me in response, and later we had a chat on the phone about that, his other works and a lot more. It was a long phone call. We discussed improv, which is something he’s clearly passionate about (see the youth organization Detroit Creativity Project, which he mentions) and the desire for more movies, particularly comedies, to better utilize the visual medium — he’s very passionate about this also. And he expressed his interest in directing a Star Wars movie. We also, of course, talked about The Kings of Summer and how it fits in with those topics. Well, maybe not with Star Wars. But I’ll say this: he’d probably deliver a decent installment of the franchise, especially one with humor and kids and woodsy locations. Are they looking to redo The Battle for Endor? Just kidding. Seriously, he’s one to really watch. And a lot of […]



This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. In a few days, The Kings of Summer opens in theaters. One of our favorites out of Sundance this year (where it was titled Toy’s House), the coming-of-age dramedy is filled with big laughs, a huge amount of heart and great performances from a handful of young actors who are all sure to go places. Also on the rise now is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, a veteran of web and TV work who now enters the big time with this feature directorial debut. In an interview with AFI this year, he declared that this is only the beginning for him with feature filmmaking: “That’s why i’m here. I grew up falling in love with movies and the worlds they created. That’s my priority and that’s where I want to be.” Fortunately for us short subject lovers, he’s not against continuing non-feature stuff on the side. He admits to enjoying all mediums, including commercials, and wants to do a second season of his Comedy Central show with T.J. Miller, Mash Up. Hopefully he also makes more legitimate short films, because he’s shown a terrific grasp for not just concise storytelling but also an awareness for what sort of running time suits a particular story. Thanks to Vogt-Roberts having a well-stocked Vimeo page, we’re able to see a lot of his prior short and sketch work, and this week I’d […]



It’s hard to watch Star Trek Into Darkness and not think about Star Wars. Yes, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and so we have that knowledge on the brain going into this. Maybe we’re even on the lookout for clues hinting at what we should expect from his take on that galaxy. This isn’t the first time the Trek franchise has had to try and prove itself in the shadow of George Lucas’s own series. Even though it originated with a TV show in the 1960s, Trek‘s cinematic resurrection a decade later was in part allowed by and somewhat influenced by the success and quality of the first Star Wars. But even regardless of the fact that Abrams is following the latest Trek with the next Wars, I often otherwise felt like I was watching one of the latter while sitting through Into Darkness. Before getting into the evidence that Abrams is a clear fan of Lucasfilm works (and not just Star Wars) and likes to sample from them, let’s take a moment to think about what all his call back references and allusions to both Wars and Trek might mean for Episode VII. Will there be too much winking and fan-service, unhidden Easter eggs and inside jokes and maybe even outright recycling the way Into Darkness is with certain prior Trek installments? Could Episode VII have a number of allusions to Trek the way Into Darkness pays obvious homage to Wars? Rather than creating new worlds of his […]

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