When scriptwriter Michael Arndt (of Toy Story 3 fame) left Star Wars: Episode VII last week — it remains to be seen whether he jumped ship or was pushed — I was more than a little concerned, but with word this week that Disney executives will not allow the highly-anticipated project to be pushed from its previously announced May 2015 release date, I’m starting to stare nervously at the panic button.
Arndt’s departure paved the way for director J.J. Abrams to take a hand in penning the screenplay (not a strength of his), and he had the sense to upgrade “consultant” Lawrence Kasdan to co-screenwriter. Kasdan, of course, wrote the shooting script for The Empire Strikes Back (as well as Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark), so that bodes well for the project. However, the new screenwriters are not going to be building off Arndt’s script, but rather starting from scratch!
A whole new script will take time to come together, so Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy reportedly went to Disney and asked for more time to make the movie — suggesting the release be pushed back to 2016, or at the very least December 2015. But the Mouse House refused to budge. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney CEO Robert Iger was “adamant” that the movie come out in 2015.
The start of production was already forced to move from January to February 2014, and now it’s slated to begin in “spring 2014.” Assuming they do being before May, that will leave less than one year for postproduction of a movie expected to be very heavy in visual effects. That is not enough time. To meet that unrealistic release date, Abrams will be forced to spread the CGI over even more effects houses. And let’s face it, not all SPFX joints are created equal; the best ones are going to be already committed to projects like The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Antman and Man of Steel: Batman vs. Superman and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Whatever and Cthulhu knows what else.
Cut-rate visual effects will doom the franchise — which is already on shaky ground after three substandard prequel films. How many inferior SW flicks will fans spend their money on before deciding to stay home and watch their Original Trilogy Blu-rays and play the video games?
I think we can kiss the Boba Fett and Han Solo spin-off films goodbye for a good five years or so. And also forget about Disney’s rumored plan to start churning out one Star Wars film a year from 2015 on out.
This appears to be yet another case of Hollywood setting an unrealistic release date before having a movie — or even a coherent plan to make one. And this time the blunder (and an insistence on trying to save face by hitting the mark no matter what) may just kill a golden goose.