You can tell how slow a news week it is in the realm of geeky fandom by looking at offhand insider comments about a superhero or sci-fi franchise, then measuring how big they blown up in the endless echo chamber of the Internet.
The slower the week, the larger the exaggeration.
Like, say, a producer on one of Kevin Smith’s podcasts telling movie site Collider that Fox and Marvel are interested in seeing their characters cross over in films. What the guy actually said was that according his sources, Fox and Marvel have “kind of talked, but not really” and that “we’re years away from that ever possibly happening.” Yet that didn’t stop fans (or fan-focused websites) from suggesting imminent team-ups between the X-Men and Avengers.
Or Mark Hamill reportedly telling a charity event in London this week that he’ll be out of a job after finishing Star Wars: Episode VIII, leading many to speculate that Luke Skywalker will bite the dust in the movie. Hamill immediately tweeted that he meant he’ll be out of work because the film is wrapping soon, using the hashtag #DontOverThinkEVERYTHING. Still, “LUKE SKYWALKER WILL DIE!” seemed to be the general tone of stories that sprouted from his casual remark.
So we should tread carefully when we hear that Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron has been “throwing shade” or “dissing” or “laying sick burns” on J. J. Abrams and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, based on an interview that was discovered on YouTube this week.
(Incidentally, the interview, with a young family acquaintance of Cameron’s named Hannah Litchfield, was apparently part of a school project. She’s adorably nervous throughout, and I don’t blame her – I’ve interviewed Cameron before, and even though he was very pleasant, I was crapping my pants the entire time.)
What Cameron actually said is he feels George Lucas’s six Star Wars films – yes, he’s including the prequels – “had more innovative visual imagination” than The Force Awakens, which he said “was more of a retrenchment to things you had seen before and characters you had seen before.”
And he’s right. Of course he’s right!
Now that we’ve had several months to come down from the high of The Force Awakens and its $2 billion global box office haul, it’s easier to cast a critical eye. (Twitter celebrity Film Crit Hulk’s essay on The Force Awakens, published just this week, might be one of the best deconstructions of the movie yet. If you can get past his trademark all-caps shouting.)
The original trilogy was something messy and magical that can never be duplicated. And like Cameron says, The Force Awakens is a movie that Abrams and company deliberately designed to be a big, thick rope of connective tissue tying the original Star Wars movies to these new films. I understand why Abrams and Disney did it this way, and – to echo Cameron – I want to see where they’re taking it next. Episode VIII, and this year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will be Disney’s chance to show what it can do with brand new stories, characters and beats.
The Force Awakens is not flawless, and nobody should take umbrage with Cameron for pointing that out. Of course, if Cameron’s going to throw stones (or, more accurately, gently lob pinecones) at The Force Awakens for its lack of visual imagination, he’d better make sure his upcoming Avatar sequels bring something brand new to the table.
In completely unrelated news, did you see those leaked set photos from Spider-Man: Homecoming? Tom Holland’s webslinger costume looks bunched-up and wrinkly and kind of bad. In other words, MARVEL HAS RUINED SPIDER-MAN. You read it here first.