Skywalker rising: Episode IX trailer breakdown and speculation

episode-ixNow that I’m finally recovered/unpacked from Star Wars Celebration (well, mostly), it’s time to dive into that Episode IX teaser trailer! There’s a lot to speculate about in the new two-minute trailer, especially now that we also have an official title: “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Before we get started, this post is just meant to be for fun; when it comes to my expectations/hopes for this movie, I’m trying to keep a pretty open mind. I think it’s fun to come up with theories about what might happen, but I also understand that I could be 100 percent wrong about all of this.

Also, I know some people don’t like to speculate, and they prefer to walk into a movie knowing as little as possible so they can be surprised. That’s totally fine. But if you’re like me and want to geek out about this trailer in (possibly excessive) detail, let’s dive on in!

Every generation has a legend…

The trailer opens with a blank screen and the sound of Rey’s breathing. When the camera cuts to her face, we see her staring across a desert landscape, facing down a screaming TIE silencer. Then, she ignites her lightsaber and flips over the ship.

Of course I squealed the first time I saw this clip, because I loved getting to see one of my favorite female Star Wars characters being a total badass. However, besides just looking cool, there are some potential plot details to unpack here.

The obvious guess as to what’s going on is that Kylo has shown up for a rematch after their showdown in Snoke’s throne room, where they both tried to grab the legacy lightsaber. But I’m not certain that’s what actually happening.

When we first see Rey, she looks nervous and uncertain, which is intriguing. When Rey is prepping for a fight, she normally has this look of intense determination on her face. I think she’s waiting for something but doesn’t know what to expect. Also, if Kylo’s intentions are hostile, why isn’t he firing on her?

It’s possible this scene is actually part of their Forcebond and Kylo isn’t physically there; as we saw in “The Last Jedi,” their connection through the Force is so strong that they can pull elements of their physical surroundings into their conversations, such as the rain on Ahch-To and the hand touch in the hut. Maybe Rey is “seeing” Kylo even though he’s not actually on the planet where she is.

I’ve heard other speculation that they’re actually training together and teaming up to face the movie’s “Big Bad” (more on that later!). Or maybe Kylo isn’t the one piloting the silencer after all.

In any case, any and all of these clips could have been edited and/or digitally altered to prevent us from really guessing the plot, but it’s always fun to guess.

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The saga comes to an end…

Lucasfilm has really been stressing that Episode IX is the end of the Skywalker saga films. Now, of course 5-10 years down the road we could be seeing an Episode X, but I do feel like Episode IX is going to have a definitive ending of some sort.

Not everyone may agree with this interpretation, but I really do believe Kylo is going to get a redemption arc in this movie. I just don’t see them ending this nine-part saga with the final Skywalker dying as a villain. (I do NOT believe Rey is a Skywalker, and I do NOT want them to retcon her parentage reveal in “The Last Jedi.” As you can probably tell, I have strong feelings about this.) 😉

Star Wars is all about hope and redemption, and I want the saga to end on an upbeat note. Of course, Ben Solo does have a lot to atone for, and I’m really curious to see what a potential redemption arc for him would look like. It needs to be handled with gravitas and nuance, but I have full confidence Lucasfilm can pull this off.

Based on some other photos/speculation I’ve seen, I’m guessing something will happen in the first act of the film that motivates/forces Kylo to seek out the Resistance and team up with Rey and Co.

Otherwise, we don’t get a lot of Kylo in the trailer, aside from that super cool clip of him slamming some antagonist with the hilt of his lightsaber in a red-tinted forest (my second-favorite scene from the trailer). Maybe he’s fighting the Knights of Ren? And we see his helmet being repaired, which I think makes sense thematically.

After Kylo’s life pretty much falls apart in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” I can definitely see him scrambling to put things back together, with the broken mask serving as an important metaphor. Or again, maybe Kylo’s not even using the helmet himself, and somebody else is dressing up as him to cover for the fact that he’s left the First Order.

Basically, I could fall into a rabbit hole of discussion here if I allowed myself to. 😉 I know this is one of my more rambling blog posts, but there’s so many details to latch onto here, and any one of them could be expanded into a post of its own. But, let’s move on…

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No one’s ever really gone

The shot of Lando flying the Falcon with Chewie was just wonderful and brought a big smile to my face. And seeing the Yavin medal and watching Leia hugging Rey triggered the waterworks for me, big time. I’m glad they were able to find some usable footage from the past films so that Carrie Fisher can still have a presence in this film.

I also love the clip of Poe, Finn, and C-3PO flying some kind of landspeeder while weapons are firing. I’m thinking part of this film, at least, will have a fun action-adventure vibe, ala “Indiana Jones” and the 1999 Mummy film.

And I got chills seeing the Death Star wreckage sticking out of the ocean. I REALLY did not want to see another Death Star-type super weapon in Episode IX; however, I will make an exception for the wreckage of a past Death Star. Not only does it offer some cool cinematography, it ties in with what I believe will be the movie’s theme, which is healing the rift between the dark and light sides of the Force and making peace with the past.

It also ties into the fact that apparently, Palpatine is back! It’s funny because if you’d asked me before watching this trailer if I would be okay with Palpatine returning, I probably would have said “no.” But that laugh at the end of the trailer was a fantastic twist, and there are actually some cool things they could do with this character’s return.

I’ve heard some people saying that according to canon, Sith cannot manifest as Force ghosts in the same way that light side Jedi can. But I could totally see Palpatine as some sort of malevolent Force spirit/presence lingering on after death and “haunting” the remains of the Death Star. I’d love to see Rey and Kylo team up to defeat Palpatine once and for all, finally healing the troubled Skywalker legacy.

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The Rise of Skywalker

So, about the title — I actually didn’t *love* it at first, partly because I was more attached to some of the other speculated titles like “A Spark of Hope” and “Balance of the Force.”

But “The Rise of Skywalker” is really starting to grow on me, and I’m curious to see how it will fit with the story they’re planning to tell. I definitely don’t think the Skywalker in the title is just referring to the Force ghost of Luke. It’s referring to all the generations of Force-sensitive Skywalkers — Anakin, Leia, Luke, and Ben — finally finding peace in the Force.

And who knows, maybe all Force users will take up the name “Skywalker,” moving away from the word “Jedi,” which at this point comes with a lot of baggage.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this trailer, but those are my initial thoughts. I’d love to hear what your predictions are regarding the trailer. What do you think will happen in Episode IX?

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From Chicago to a galaxy far, far away: Star Wars Celebration 2019

Screen-Shot-2019-04-12-at-1.18.23-PMSomething that people may not know about me is that I like Star Wars just a little. I’m kidding, of course — anyone who talks to me for more than 5 minutes is probably going to hear about how much I love Star Wars, how it’s my favorite franchise, why I love all the movies and books and characters, etc., etc., etc.

So it was probably inevitable that someday I would make my way to Star Wars Celebration, the official Star Wars convention. I actually decided to go to the 2019 Celebration somewhat on a whim last summer. When they announced that the location was going to be Chicago, that definitely grabbed my attention. I live in the Midwest, and that was the closest the con had ever been to me (and, realistically, the closest that it will probably ever get). I started thinking to myself, You know, maybe I can do this.

When tickets went on sale, I believed I would have a while to think it over and maybe find someone to go with me. Then the 5-day passes sold out way sooner than anyone had bargained on and I had a moment of panic where I realized that if I was going to go, I needed to buy individual day tickets and I needed to buy them NOW.

Despite my fears about going to a big con completely alone in a large city, my husband told me that if it was my dream, I should go for it. And I’m super thankful I did.

Star Wars Celebration Chicago was an absolutely incredible experience — worth every penny I spent on it. It was a weekend of fun, excitement, positivity, and camaraderie, and even though I’ve been home for several days now, I’m still buzzing.

I could write way too many words about this experience, if I allowed myself to, but here are my top four (abbreviated) takeaways from the weekend. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I absolutely recommend going to a Celebration someday; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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1. That Episode IX trailer

I’ve been hyped for Episode IX ever since I walked out of “The Last Jedi,” and my anticipation for this movie is part of what motivated to me to go to Celebration this year.

I was hoping to get into the Episode IX panel with the director and cast, and I did (well, sort of). This year, instead of waiting in an overnight line, you had to enter a lottery ahead of time to get into the premier convention panels.

While there was some debate amongst fans about this system, overall I’m a big fan of the lottery concept. Camping overnight on the convention floor to attend a panel was just not viable for me, and the lottery at least gave me a fair chance to get in.

I didn’t win the lottery for the main stage for the Episode IX panel, but I did get into one of the big overflow rooms, where they projected the panel on a giant screen. While not as cool as being in the room, it was so amazing to watch the trailer debut with a huge group of other Star Wars fans.

I could spent the rest of this blog just talking about the trailer, but I loved it and have so many thoughts/theories about what’s going to happen in the film. I’m hoping to write up a more detailed analysis once I’m finally done unpacking all my Star Wars loot from the con.

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2. Meeting my favorite authors

I was excited to see the long list of Star Wars authors who were coming to Celebration this year, and I was able to get two books signed by my favorite Star Wars author, Claudia Gray, as well as attend several of her panels. She’s a great writer and a cool person! I was able to pick up her new novel, “Master and Apprentice,” about Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and I’m looking forward to diving into that to help me get over my post-Celebration blues.

I also got to meet the author of “The Last Jedi” novelization, Jason Fry, and he signed my copy of the book. He was very kind, warm, and friendly, and we got to chat for a couple of minutes. And I managed to snag a convention-exclusive cover of E.K. Johnston’s Padmé book, “Queen’s Shadow.”

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3. The Mandalorian

I lost the lottery for “The Mandalorian” TV show panel, but I was able to watch the panel on one of the big screens on the show floor, which was still a cool experience.

I was already planning to sign up for the Disney+ streaming service so I could watch this show and “The Clone Wars” revival, but this panel made me even more excited. I love that they’re going for a Western/Clint Eastwood vibe with this show, and the few clips/photos we got to see look amazing.

My only complaint is that apparently the people who were at the main stage for “The Mandalorian” panel got to see a full trailer, but the streaming cut to black before then. I really wish they had played this trailer for everybody, and it seems a little odd to hide it, since they’re trying to motivate people to sign up for Disney+. But I heard from people who saw it that the footage looks really great.

I had so many things on my con schedule that I didn’t make it to “The Clone Wars” panel or even watch the live stream, so I’m hoping to catch up on that at some point this week. They replayed the trailer at the closing ceremonies, and that also looks good. There’s so much to look forward to!

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4. Restoring my faith in the fandom

It’s no secret that the Star Wars fandom has appeared a little turbulent of late, at least in terms of online discussion. While I never stopped loving Star Wars, over the past year I did find myself getting burned out on the fandom. All the negativity and unkindness I had experienced online was really bringing me down, and I was a little nervous going to Star Wars Celebration because of what I might encounter.

However, the camaraderie I experienced at Celebration was incredible. I didn’t have a single negative encounter with another fan. People were warm, friendly, and as excited to be there as I was. I felt valued and respected, and I just had a huge grin on my face pretty much every second I was there. I met so many great people and made some new friends. I didn’t feel scared or lonely about being there by myself.

This experience helped remind me that the toxicity we see on the Internet within any fandom is really only a small but vocal minority. I also loved seeing the diversity of the crowds at Star Wars Celebration. People from all over the world, and all ages, came together to have fun.

My actual favorite moment of Star Wars Celebration, even more than the Episode IX trailer, was when the fans at the main stage gave Kelly Marie Tran a standing ovation. “The Last Jedi” actress has been the recipient of cruel Internet bullying, and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she wanted to stay away from Celebration because of that.

The fans at Celebration knew what she had been through, and their standing ovation was designed to let Kelly know that they supported her and loved her as a person. I heard that “The Phantom Menace” actor Ahmed Best received similar treatment at a panel on Monday.

Thanks to Celebration, I’m excited about interacting with other Star Wars fans again. Even if I encounter toxic behavior online, I’m going to remember the way I feel right now and all the great things that happened at Celebration. Love always wins in the end — which is pretty much the entire message of Star Wars.

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Until next time…

After nearly of year of prepping and planning, it feels weird that Star Wars Celebration is over now. Even though I’m already missing it, realistically speaking I probably won’t be able to attend another Celebration for a long time. However, my first Celebration was a great experience with lots of special memories, and I’m so grateful I got a chance to go. I hope to find my way to another Celebration again someday.

And, of course, we’ve got lots of great Star Wars content to look forward to in 2019. As always, may the Force be with you!

Flying Solo: Thoughts on Disney’s upcoming Han Solo spinoff film

solo_teaser_trailer_thumb_native_53989746These days, entertainment news seems to move at the speed of light; after a week, any announcement already feels like “old news.” Yet even though it may be a bit late to share a reaction to the release of the first Han Solo movie trailer, as a diehard Star Wars fan I couldn’t resist. 😉 I’ve actually been mulling over the trailer for the past week and I’ve finally decided how I feel about it. Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic for this film. I really don’t think that Disney *needed* to release a young Han Solo movie, and there are other spinoff topics I would have preferred (Note to Disney: I still REALLY want a quasi-Western solo Obi-Wan film starring Ewan McGregor set in the desert of Tatooine!). However, the “Solo” trailer did make me more excited for this movie, and I do feel a lot more confident about it than I did before, even though I still have some reservations.

The Han Solo spinoff film has been famously troubled behind the scenes, which I think is one of the reasons fans have been skeptical about this film. The original directors — Phil Lord and Chris Miller, of “The Lego Movie” fame — were fired over alleged “creative differences” regarding the project, and Ron Howard was asked to step in. While this firing raised some concerns that Disney was being too controlling or manipulative, in an odd way the news of the firing actually made me more confident about the Han Solo film.

Some fans may disagree, but so far I’ve been very pleased with how Disney has handled Lucasfilm since they acquired the company. They’ve shown they care about the franchise and are willing to take creative risks, but they’re also careful not to damage the brand — at least in my opinion. As much as I loved “The Lego Movie,” if Lord and Miller’s approach wasn’t working for “Solo: A Star Wars” story, I’m glad Disney stepped in and made a change. I’ve heard rumors that Lord and Miller were trying to make “Solo” too much of a comedy and were using a lot of improvisation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach in film; it’s just not necessarily what I want from a Star Wars movie. I think Ron Howard will be able to capture the feel of classic Star Wars a little better.

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That aside, the concern many fans still have is that Disney may have made the change too late. Will “Solo” end up as a cohesive, polished film, or will it feel rushed and choppy after all these shakeups and reshoots? I really wish Disney had pushed this movie back to November or December, instead of moving full speed ahead towards a summer release. However, in the end all the shakeups and skepticism and delayed advertising may work in the film’s favor, because people will probably be curious to see how it will all turn out. If it’s better than people expect, word of mouth is going to do a lot to boost this film.

I almost kinda wish Disney had given us JUST the 45-second Superbowl teaser we got in advance of the full trailer. It’s such a cool little teaser that offers just a hint of what we’re going to be seeing in the film. As many have said, modern trailers tend to reveal a little too much, taking away from some of the mystery of the final film. The teaser gives us just enough to speculate on. Still, there’s also some cool stuff to be seen in the full-length trailer.

I love how gritty and grimy the movie feels, with a similar look to “Rogue One” but with a little “Blade Runner” thrown in. I feel like all the new Disney Star Wars films have had really gorgeous cinematography and a nice blend of digital and practical effects and sets.

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Of course, it’s going to be the characters who make or break this film, and in particular there’s a lot of pressure riding on Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo. Harrison Ford is just so iconic in the role that it’s going to be tough seeing someone else play him. However, I intend to keep an open mind, and I’m rooting for him to succeed. I wanted to share the image above this paragraph because that grin just FEELS like Han Solo to me. I also like the “It’s fine — we’re fine” moment from the trailer. And despite my initial feelings that we don’t *need* to see Han Solo’s origin story, I think this film could be an interesting opportunity to show how Han got to be so cynical and jaded by the time we meet him in “A New Hope.”

Donald Glover immediately feels perfect as Lando, and I can’t wait to see him in this movie. I actually wish this was a Lando spinoff film, with Han Solo as a side character, because we don’t know as much about Lando and there could be lots of opportunities to expand that character. Hopefully he’ll have a sizable role in this film. And I just love Woody Harrelson in whatever he’s in and I am excited to see him join the Star Wars franchise. I’m pretty sure Emilia Clarke’s character is gonna break Han Solo’s heart, either by dying or betraying him. Also, it’s always good to see Chewbacca again.

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So, in the end, I’m looking forward to “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Maybe it will turn out to be a train wreck and Disney will have to do some soul-searching about these spinoff films. But for whatever reason, I’ve got a good feeling about this. I don’t know if I’ll like it as much as “Rogue One” or Episodes VII and VIII, but I think it will be a fun time at the theater.

So, what do you think? Are you excited for “Solo: A Star Wars Story”? Why or why not?

‘This is not going to go the way you think’: Decoding the latest trailer for ‘The Last Jedi’

9ec782340f75ed65a331672fb5d218d2When I heard rumors that the new trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” might contain some spoilers, I really did consider not watching it, just so I could go into the movie with as few expectations and assumptions as possible. However, my resolve lasted all of two seconds when I saw the new trailer pop up on one of my social media newsfeeds. I watched it, squealed so loud I scared my cat, and then watched it again.

There’s a lot to unpack from this trailer, and I’d love to hear all of your theories as well. The first thing that stands out to me is the darker, more ominous tone. I really hope the whole movie has this sort of tone, unlike “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” which had a really cool, dark trailer but then the movie we got wasn’t quite as cool and dark as I hoped. I think this movie could get even darker than “The Empire Strikes Back.”

I love Supreme Leader Snoke’s ominous voiceover at the beginning of the trailer. He very well could be speaking about Kylo Ren, but I think it’s actually Rey. He’s impressed by her raw power, and he wants to recruit her to the dark side. It’s possible he’s looking to dump Kylo Ren as his apprentice just like Palpatine dumped Count Dooku for Anakin in “Revenge of the Sith.”

And speaking of raw power, this line from Luke absolutely gave me chills: “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” Not only is it wonderful to see Mark Hamill returning as an older, more world-weary Luke, I’m now dying to know just who Luke is so afraid of. Again, he could be talking about his failed pupil, Kylo, but I think he’s talking about Rey. We watched how quickly her powers spiked in “The Force Awakens,” and I think Luke is afraid she could turn into another Vader if her power isn’t very carefully molded. Maybe he doesn’t trust himself to do the job, especially after he failed with Kylo.

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I know some aren’t huge fans of Kylo Ren, but I actually really like his character. I think he’s what Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels — what he could have been with better direction and a better script. We see some very emotional acting from Adam Driver in this trailer, particularly as he (apparently) lines up a shot to kill his mother, Princess Leia. This is one of the moments of possible misdirection in the trailer — I think Kylo will decide not to press that trigger, and his choice will have far-reaching repercussions and pull him back to the light (or at least back to the middle, but more on that later). It’s very bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher again as General Leia Organa, and I hope she’s given a meaty role in the story here.

Other random moments that stood out to me: I’m super excited to see the big spaceship battle, as well as the battle on that cool planet with the red dust. The Millennium Falcon flying through that crystal cave is also super cool. And I may regret saying this later, but I think the Porgs are very adorable and I need a stuffed Porg toy right now. I think they’ll be a fun touch, as long as they don’t take over the story (I’m looking at you, Jar Jar Binks). I’m really looking forward to the showdown between Finn and Phasma; I’m not really sure where they’ll be taking Finn’s story in “The Last Jedi,” and at least from the trailers, it looks like his path may not cross with Rey’s a lot. It would be cool if the Resistance sends him undercover to infiltrate the First Order.

Finally, the scene that most had me buzzing was the final few seconds with Rey (possibly) asking Kylo to help her find her way, and Kylo (possibly) reaching out his hand to her. This may be a controversial thought, but I’d really like to see them subvert expectations and send Rey to the dark side and redeem Kylo to the light. I think it would be really fascinating to see a twist like that, or even to have Kylo reject both the light and dark and find balance as a “grey Jedi” who seeks a balanced path in the Force. Whatever happens, I’d love for “The Last Jedi” to end with a really big, shocking moment on the level of Darth Vader’s “I am your father” from “The Empire Strikes Back.” Turning Rey to the dark side would be a powerful, unexpected twist.

So, what do you think? What are your theories about “The Last Jedi”?

 

Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’: To boldly go where no superhero has gone before?

Mystical-Strange-005-EWAfter finding success with films about Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, Marvel Studios has been trying its hand at superheroes who are a little farther outside the mainstream. “Ant-Man” had its skeptics, and while I wondered how well the concept of a man shrinking down to the size of an ant would translate to the big screen, the movie turned out to be hilarious and fun. Although “Guardians of the Galaxy” may have seemed like a tough sell with its walking, talking tree and trigger-happy mutant raccoon, it became a huge hit and is now one of my all-time favorite movies. Now, Marvel is preparing to introduce us to another unconventional hero: the mystical Doctor Strange, who has the power to bend the elements and even reality itself.

Marvel just released the first trailer for the “Doctor Strange” movie, which is coming to theaters in early November. The trailer leaves us with a lot of questions, but I’m not really too worried. By this point, I pretty much just trust Marvel; if they could make “Guardians of the Galaxy” work, they can make anything work. The only Marvel film that really disappointed me was “Age of Ultron,” because I felt it introduced some interesting ideas but didn’t push them far enough. In order for “Doctor Strange” to work, I think Marvel needs to fully embrace the, well, “stranger” aspects of this character and not shy away from the weird or supernatural elements of this story.

Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a top neurosurgeon who is injured in devastating car crash that ends his career. While on a desperate quest for healing, he meets a mythical being called the Ancient One, who trains him to use magic. Doctor Strange rises from the ashes of his former life to become a superhero protecting the world from evil forces.

I’m a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, and I’m excited to see him take on this role (his American accent did throw me a bit at first, though). 😉 While I love him as the title character in the BBC show “Sherlock,” it’s also nice to see him take on different and potentially challenging roles, like this one. The rest of the cast is good, too: Chiwetel Ejiofor as the maybe good-guy or maybe bad-guy Karl Mordo, another pupil of the Ancient One, and the always intriguing Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One herself.

However, as good as this cast is, what really grabbed my attention in the trailer were the gorgeously weird visuals (and I do mean “weird” as a compliment). It reminded me a little of “Inception,” with the way the magical characters could manipulate landscapes and reality. While I’m hoping it won’t be too much like “Inception” and will find its own voice, I think we’ve only seen a small taste of what will be in the final film, and hopefully it will be genuinely mind-blowing.

I’m also intrigued to see how Marvel handles the use of magic in this film. We’ve seen superhuman powers in Marvel movies before, but according to producers this one is supposed to serve as the official “doorway” to the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We could be seeing alternate dimensions and a blend of science and magic. I hope Marvel doesn’t play it too safe here, because I think they could bring us something really exciting and different. I think Marvel is saving the best elements for the film itself.

So, what do you think? Are you feeling excited or skeptical about “Doctor Strange”? What do you hope to see in the film?

“Age of Ultron”: Trailer kicks off speculation about Avengers sequel

avengers-age-of-ultron-concept-posterWell, let the speculation begin.

The first trailer for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” arrived earlier than expected, thanks to a leak (Marvel proved to be a good sport, claiming — tongue-in-cheek — the work of pesky “Hydra” agents). At any rate, the trailer is here, and fans have quickly begun dissecting the two and a half minute video.

And there’s certainly a lot going on in those two and a half minutes. We catch a glimpse of the team of superheroes, looking weary and war-torn. We witness streets covered with ashes and rubble. The tone is grimmer, darker than the first Avengers movie, veering closer to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. We get a sense that this battle is going to cost the Avengers — as a team and as individuals. And unlike its predecessor, this movie may not have a happy ending.

Marvel tends to not give away the best bits of their movies in their trailers, a fact I’ve always appreciated. The trailer for “Age of Ultron” teases far more than it reveals, but it’s given us plenty to speculate about.

In the movie, Ultron is a robot created by Tony Stark that develops a mind of its own and becomes a threat to humanity. I really liked the look of the robot in the film, and James Spader voices the character with an eerie menace. At first I was wondering how they would top the villain from the first Avengers movie, and I worried a robot might make a less dynamic villain. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the most colorful and arguably the best of the Marvel movie villains, but I think Ultron has the potential to be an intriguing and menacing villain. Although the idea of technology turning on humanity isn’t a new concept in science fiction, it’s interesting that one of the Avengers ends up creating the team’s enemy. This will undoubtedly develop tension amongst the team members.

Another major factor I noticed in the trailer is how surprisingly dark it feels, at least for a Marvel film. There’s no banter between the characters, no snarky one-liners from Tony Stark. I’m sure there will be some of this in the final movie; director/writer Joss Whedon is known for his dialogue, and the banter and bickering between the superheroes was part of what made the first Avengers movie so fun. However, I do think the second Avengers film will be much more serious, and it will be interesting to see how this goes over with movie audiences. Marvel has developed a winning formula of humor and heart, with lovable but sometimes dysfunctional characters. Audiences seem to love — and trust — the Marvel formula so much that they made a blockbuster of Marvel’s once obscure round-up of characters “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The movie was quirky, fast-paced and funny. Will audiences like seeing favorite characters in a more serious setting?

I don’t mind if Joss Whedon takes the second Avengers movie a little darker, especially since it could help the sequel from feeling like a rehash of the original. However, I hope he doesn’t make the movie TOO serious or take out too much of the witty banter between characters. Whedon has shown, through projects like his Western-flavored sci-fi series “Firefly,” that he can balance darker themes and rapid-fire humor.

I’ve also heard some speculation that one of the major characters could die in this movie. It would be a way to surprise audiences, and is a move Marvel hasn’t really made before. Several Marvel characters have gone to the brink of death and come back (Nick Fury, Steve Rogers, Phil Coulson, etc.), but a major character death would be a game changer — if they actually stayed dead. While I think as a storyteller, Whedon is gutsy enough to kill off a member of the Avengers team, Marvel won’t kill one of the “big three” — the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America solo franchises make too much money. I don’t think it will be Black Widow; I still hope to see a solo movie for her character, and there’s too much fun chemistry between her and Captain America to kill her off. I can’t see them killing Hulk either, and Nick Fury has already “died” once. Hawkeye could be a possibility, especially since he’s probably the least likely to get a solo film.

As the sequel to the all-time highest grossing superhero movie, there’s a lot of pressure riding on this film. I think Joss Whedon will pull it off, and the trailer already has fans excited about the sequel.

There and back again: Thoughts on what’s in store for Peter Jackson’s next two ‘Hobbit’ films

Bilbo-wordpress“Hobbit” fans received a special treat this week: the first released trailer for the second part of Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” film trilogy. Although “The Desolation of Smaug” doesn’t hit theaters until December, it’s arguably one of the year’s most anticipated films, and the trailer offers fans a sneak peek at what will be coming.

Fans had been hoping Peter Jackson would return to Middle-earth ever since he wrapped up his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which was well-received by both fans and critics. It took a decade to bring the first Hobbit film to the screen, a process mired by legal battles and the departure of one-time director Guillermo del Toro. The planned two-film project was expanded to a trilogy, and Jackson announced he’d be pulling in additional material from fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings.

After the release of the first Hobbit film, “An Unexpected Journey,” last December, Jackson finds himself in an interesting position. While the film was an undisputed blockbuster, taking in more than $1 billion worldwide, it wasn’t as well received by critics as his “Rings” trilogy. Reviews were far more mixed, and the film proved unexpectedly divisive among fans.

Personally, I quite enjoyed the first “Hobbit” film. It captured the original book’s more lighthearted tone, and it was great to see familiar faces, such as Ian McKellen’s “Gandalf.” With his spot-on comic timing, BBC “Sherlock” star Martin Freeman was the perfect choice for Bilbo, and I liked the fact Middle-earth’s Dwarven culture was given more attention this time around.

You could argue the “Hobbit” film didn’t quite project the same sense of epic grandeur as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and I think “An Unexpected Journey” could have been trimmed down to a leaner running time, heightening its impact. However, it was still a very fun film, and I believe Jackson has an opportunity to give us an even better movie the second time around.

The new trailer for “The Desolation of Smaug” includes clips from what will likely be the film’s two big action set pieces (scenes also featured in the book): a battle with giant spiders in the forest of Mirkwood and the harrowing escape from the dungeons of the Wood-elves.

I’m curious to see what Jackson has done with the character Thranduil. I think this character, an Elven king, will offer a different perspective on the Elves of Middle-earth. We’re used to seeing proud and noble (if somewhat detached) Elves like Galadriel and Elrond. But Thranduil is perhaps a little more conniving, and he isn’t as trustworthy.

HBT2-fs-140204.DNGThe trailer also introduces a new character, an Elf named Tauriel, who doesn’t appear in Tolkien’s writings. Fans have been somewhat skeptical of her character so far. While I do have mixed feelings about adding in a major character who wasn’t a part of the original story (especially when you have so many main characters already), I’m willing to give Tauriel a chance. And — as WordPress blogger RA Frenzy brings up in her blog about the trailer  — the addition of Tauriel and some of Jackson’s other changes add a sense of mystery to the plot. Even if you’ve read the book, you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen in the film. I’m not as much of a stickler as I used to be about book-to-film adaptations. I want a movie based on a book to capture the spirit of the original story, but sometimes it’s nice to throw in a few surprises too.

The trailer is pretty action-packed, and we actually catch relatively few glimpses of Bilbo. I’m hoping in the actual film, with all the battles and new characters, Bilbo doesn’t get lost in the action. Martin Freeman’s performance was the best part of the first film for me, and his character is the heart of the story. I’m also hoping to see more character development for Thorin (Richard Armitage), the leader of the Dwarves. I’ve been a fan of Armitage’s ever since I saw him on the BBC series “Robin Hood,” and I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes the character in the next film.

So, what did you think of the trailer for the next Hobbit movie? Are you excited? What did you like/not like about it?

Preview: Tim Burton’s ‘Dark Shadows’

Think of it as “Downton Abbey” with a touch of the supernatural — the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” which featured vampires, ghosts, zombies and werewolves, gained a cult following after it aired on ABC in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The show followed the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, Maine, who were troubled by strange and unfortunate events.

One of the show’s main characters was Barnabas Collins, whose tragic history formed one of the most well-known plot lines of the show. After he rejected the love of the witch Angelique Bouchard, she killed him, and he subsequently was resurrected as a vampire.

Although the series ended more about 40 years ago, the show now is being turned into a feature film by Tim Burton. The film stars Johnny Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins; Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard; Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch; Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s brother; and Chloë Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard, Elizabeth’s teenage daughter. Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee also will be making appearances in the film, and several members of the cast from the original TV show reportedly will have cameos.

According to the Internet Movie Database, the new movie picks up after Angelique buries Barnabas alive, and he is inadvertently freed from his tomb two centuries later, plunged into the shock of emerging — unprepared — in 1972. He returns to his family’s once magnificent manor, only to find the estate has fallen into ruin.

Although I haven’t seen any episodes of the original TV show, I initially was pretty excited about the film’s concept. However, after seeing the first trailer, I was admittedly a little less so.

The original TV show was fairly serious in tone, and I was hoping the film would be somewhat similar: a quirky, gothic drama with a touch of witty humor (I was envisioning Michelle Pfeiffer’s family matriarch as the supernatural counterpart of Downton Abbey’s “Dowager Countess,” a character played by Maggie Smith).

The preview had a lot more campy humor than I was anticipating, and the goofy 70s music was a little bit of a turn-off. Still, I’m definitely not giving up on the movie yet. A trailer is not always an indicator of how good a film will be. For example, the trailer for “Hugo” didn’t immediately grab my attention, but when I actually sat down to watch the movie, I was blown away by how magical and enchanting the film was.

“Dark Shadows” has a strong cast; Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors, and I think Jonny Lee Miller (who played Mr. Knightley in the recent BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma”) and Eva Green (who appeared in “Casino Royale” opposite Daniel Craig) will perform nicely in their roles. One of the film’s screenwriters also is Seth Grahame-Smith, who penned the popular books “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.”

According to the website Screen Rant, Smith said “the Dark Shadows movie actually has ‘a very straightforward, dour, gothic feeling’ at times, but is overall meant to be more of a whimsical viewing experience.” He said film makers wanted to create a movie that captured the essence of the original show but also appealed to a wide, mainstream movie audience.

The film is slated for release on May 11. For more information about the movie and to view the trailer, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368.