Monday, February 11, 2013

Star Wars Spinoff Movies?

To quote Princess Leia: "I've got a bad feeling about this."

No, I'm not referring to the announcement a couple of weeks ago that JJ Abrams had been chosen to helm Star Wars - Episode VII. Considering that Abrams Star Trek was really a Star Wars movie, and a pretty good Star Wars movie, that's encouraging news.

I'm referring to word that came out just a few days ago that in addition to the new trilogy, Disney's already working on Star Wars spinoff movies, about other characters in the story's universe, that will be released around the same time.

Spinoffs? While there's been a reasonably good track record with expanded universe books and comics over the past 20 years, starting with Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire books, and the Darkhorse Dark Empire comic series, but when it comes to moving pictures, the franchise's quality gets a bit spotty.

Let's wind the clock back to the 70s for first spinoff, the bad start of the trend: The holiday special. Say what you want about whether Lucas disowned it, the thing was made, it's a spinoff, and it sucks. I could stop there, and it's tempting, but there's a more complete case to be made.

Things didn't get much better in the 80s: remember the two Ewok made-for-TV movies? I remember the first being billed as The Ewok Adventure, but some might know it as Caravan of Courage or Cindel and the Ewoks. Whatever you called it, it wasn't very good - even for a made-for-kids flick. The sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor wasn't much better, nor was the Ewoks cartoon (although the Droids cartoon had some cool moments). I'm not one of those haters that tries to claim the Ewoks dragged down Return of the Jedi, but looking back on these two sappy offerings, I almost wish the Empire had won the battle for the green moon.

In the early 2000s the Star Wars machine churned out the first animated Clone Wars series, comprised of a bunch of 5-10 minute shorts that were actually pretty cool. The animated Clone Wars film that assaulted movie theatres a few years later to suck people into watching the new animated series (still currently running, I think) did, in fact, suck. Stinky the Hutt? Really? That takes us to the current Clone Wars TV series, which people seem to enjoy, but I've pointedly ignored because of its poor movie lead-in.

So you can see why I'm looking at this word of new spinoff movies as a possible trick of the Dark Side, rather than welcome additions to the franchise.

Sure, there are plenty of fanboys out there who are probably concentrating as hard as they can, trying to use the Jedi Mind Trick to get The Mouse to make a feature-length Boba Fett movie. Why? So he can stand around looking menacing for a while and then take another nose-dive into an immobile hole in the ground like a punk? Some may be hoping for an adaptation of an expanded universe book or comic. Others may even be crossing their fingers, praying for the Wolfman to get a shot.

I say go for broke. If spinoff movies and shows have a high chance of being lame, then let's wantonly embrace the ridiculousness in the franchise, in hopes of the lame becoming cool. Let's defrost Noa Briqualon from his carbonite slumber in the Lucasfilm vaults, dust the Quaker Oats crumbs from his shirt, and follow the further adventures of Wilford Brimley's character in the sad years after his flight from Endor, when Cindel has grown into an ungrateful and cruel teenager who steals his starcruiser and leaves him penniless on the streets of Tatooine, where he has to sell Teek to an exotic foods restaurant in exchange for passage on a spice freighter, which then is beset by space pirates, which Briqualon has to join, eventually becoming their janitor. How about young Ackmena's adventures as a courtesan on Coruscant before taking over as proprietor of the Cantina on Tatooine? Or the life and times of the droid GNK/Gonk?

Better yet, let's turn the spinoff series over to that mad genius Sean Cullen, who's currently doing a hysterical feature in the closing minutes of recent episodes of his podcast (epis 26-28), the Seanpod, called "Things that are taking place in the Star Wars universe, yet are not in the Star Wars movies" (or variations thereof). You might not see many of the franchise's signature laser blasts or lightsaber battles, but the silly bickering of Cullen's talk-radio hosts on Coruscant or stormtroopers on Tatooine would be worth every penny.

But really, wouldn't the best idea be to shelve the notion of spinoff movies - flicks that would just end up diverting attention from the new trilogy, especially if the spinoffs are bad - and just let the new trilogy do its thing? If it works out, then look at the option of spinoffs for TV, or maybe the movies. But for now, simplicity and focussing just on the trilogy might be the best course if Disney really wants to do a good job with this new hope for the Star Wars franchise.

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