Artwork courtesy of Joshua Stolte
Welcome back to the Star Wars HoloNet Digest, a weekly feature where I bring you a recap of the latest news from the world of Star Wars. Whether it’s an Episode VII rumor or a noteworthy author interview, you’ll find it here. Let’s check the HoloNet and see what happened in the past two weeks.
The biggest Star Wars rumor making waves this week is that Disney may be planning to delay Episode VII’s release until December 2015. The rumor started with a report from the blog Badass Digest, where Devin Faraci wrote, “Multiple sources have told me that right now Disney and Lucasfilm have December circled on their calendars, with a mid-month release –– the 15th –– being most likely.” Faraci’s sources, like so many others these days, are unnamed, and Disney hasn’t yet commented on this rumor to anyone, including me. Just a week earlier, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn told attendees at the company’s D23 Expo that Episode VII was scheduled for Summer 2015.
While it’s true that, as Faraci writes, a delay to December “would take Star Wars out of the crowded summer and, more importantly, give JJ Abrams and company a couple more months to work on a movie that’s already running a tighter schedule than most of the other Star Wars films,” I still think that this rumor is false. My friend Bryan Young has a great post at Big Shiny Robot listing the reasons to be skeptical of a delay. I won’t rehash all of his points, but it is worth reiterating that a delay would run contrary to Disney’s very public and very clear statements about Episode VII’s target release window. Horn’s comments at D23 were not the first time the company has mentioned the summer of 2015 for the film. Disney is aware of the expectations surrounding Episode VII and they aren’t going to overpromise or mislead audiences about something as important and straightforward as the release timeframe. As Bryan points out in his post, “Sure. It could happen. … But looking at the evidence we have, there’s no reason to believe it.”
While I was away on vacation, two other Episode VII rumors popped up, each involving a different beloved character from the six existing movies. Fan site Jedi News kicked things off on August 11th with their report about Ian McDiarmid returning to play Emperor Palpatine in the first sequel. They didn’t offer any details, such as whether Palpatine would appear as a clone of his former self, and while McDiarmid has expressed an interest in returning, this rumor came fairly out of the blue. A few days later, pop culture site and veritable rumor-monger Latino Review followed up on the initial Palpatine rumor by adding two interesting tidbits: Palpatine will return in the form of a Force ghost, and he had a secret apprentice at the time of his death (the implication being that this apprentice will somehow factor into the story).
I know and respect the folks at Jedi News, so it’s hard to cast aspersions about their sources. That being said, I worry that, if this rumor is true, bringing back Palpatine would make him the primary villain of Episode VII (given his stature as an epic character), and that strikes me as an odd way to launch a fresh new era of Star Wars. Putting the Big Three on screen to guide the next generation of Jedi is one thing; exhuming Palpatine for another round of cackling galactic machinations is something else entirely. To be fair, the rumor doesn’t explicitly state that Palpatine will be the central villain of Episode VII, but even so, I would prefer new villains in the sequel trilogy. Bring back Ian McDiarmid for a Palpatine spinoff film and I’ll pre-order my tickets right now.
Rumors about Palpatine’s return would be enough to keep the Star Wars blogosphere churning for several weeks on their own, but Latino Review wasn’t done yet. Two days after their imperial rumor report, they posted another “exclusive”: McDiarmid’s fellow Prequel star Ewan McGregor will also return for Episode VII, playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in Force ghost form. McGregor, according to Latino Review’s source, was also interested in playing Kenobi in a spinoff movie. I’m more okay with this rumor than I was with the one about Palpatine. It’s easier to bring back heroes for a brief cameo (which is what I suspect they’ll do with Luke, Han, and Leia) than to bring back villains and avoid them stealing the spotlight. I would love it if Obi-Wan appeared to Luke as a Force ghost and gave him advice about starting a new Jedi Order. I’m similarly excited about an Obi-Wan standalone film. Even Prequel critics –– of which I am decidedly not one –– agree that Ewan McGregor was great in Episodes I-III. If Disney wants to devote one of its spinoff movie slots to a heretofore-untold story from Obi-Wan’s past, I am all for it.
Speaking of great stories about Obi-Wan Kenobi, next week will see the release of John Jackson Miller’s novel Star Wars: Kenobi. I’m not going to mince words: This book is fantastic. It’s only the second Star Wars novel that Miller has authored (after 2011’s Knight Errant), in addition to Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories, and he has truly hit it out of the park. If you can’t wait to read the book, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a wealth of free excerpt material online. Del Rey’s Star Wars Books Facebook page kicked things off with two micro-excerpts, and then posted a lengthier preview for its 50 Page Fridays series. The novel will be published by Del Rey Books on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.
In other book news, Hollywood.com revealed the cover for the Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual a few week ago. This is the second book released by Del Rey in collaboration with U.K. car manual publisher Haynes, and it’s a must-buy if, like me, you’re considering building a Death Star. No word yet on whether the thermal exhaust port received a special chapter, but you can check for yourself when the book comes out on November 5, 2013.
While Disney didn’t reveal its Star Wars theme park plans at D23, there were a couple of new developments leading into the event that hinted at what fans can expect. Disney fan blog MiceChat reported that new Star Wars additions to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland area included “a new Star Wars 3D movie,” “new destinations programmed into Star Tours based on the seventh Star Wars movie,” and “a Star Wars speeder bike coaster” to replace the area’s PeopleMover system. These reports track with some of what we’ve previously heard about the Star Wars expansion planned for Disney’s California venue. That 3D movie tidbit, though, is new and very intriguing. As we’ve previously heard, however, Disney’s board still has to approve these plans, so nothing is set in stone yet.
Meanwhile, D23 was news-free but not tease-free when it came to Star Wars. One corner of Walt Disney Imagineering’s area at D23 was filled with crates labeled “Orange Harvest: Speculation Beyond Imagination.” This was an obvious reference to the codename and fake slogan for Return of the Jedi, and it was coupled with other Star Wars-themed labels adorning these crates, including one that purportedly contained lightsabers of several colors. Unfortunately for interested fans, Disney didn’t officially acknowledge these crates or their mystery contents (including, in one case, an escaped R2 unit) at any D23 panel or event. We are left to wonder what the crates’ purpose was. Might we see the “Orange Harvest” theme pop up at future Disney events? Will this be the start of a long-term viral marketing campaign for an as-yet-unannounced Star Wars theme park attraction? Your guess is as good as mine. I just wish Disney hadn’t left us hanging with this D23 tease.
Lastly, congratulations are in order as George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson welcomed a daughter into the world on Friday, August 9. The baby was conceived via surrogate and is the couple’s first child. Congratulations to the proud parents from all of us here at Unbound Worlds!
Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He reviews The Clone Wars TV series and manages social media for Star Wars fan site TheForce.Net. He also co-hosts The ForceCast podcast. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.