Walt Disney Co.
According to the House of Mouse, everything is fair game for the remake treatment. With the hugely successful Maleficent just about wrapping up a spellbinding run at the box office, Disney has set its sights on their next live-action remake: Dumbo, the 1941 classic about a baby elephant that miraculously learns to fly thanks to his jumbo-sized ears, is getting remade into a live-action film. Transformers scribe Ehren Kruger is penning the script, and the film will feature an additional human story that will mirror Dumbo's journey in the film. Given the nature of the story, Dumbo will be a tricky film to update for a modern audiences, and some might argue that the flying elephant is better off left in the past. Here are our reasons for and against a Dumbo remake.
WHY IT WILL WORK
It's a good story: Dumbo, at it's purest, is a simple and uplifting parable about being yourself in the face of adversity and letting your freak flag fly. It's a pretty universal story and there's no reason it couldn't work for today's audiences. In a time of revisionist fairy tales and live-action perspective twists, maybe sticking with the bare bones classic narrative would be the best way to handle a Dumbo remake.
The songs are great: We dare you not to cry while a locked up Ms. Jumbo sings "Baby Mine" while cradling Dumbo. It's impossible.
It's in serious need of an update: As well meaning as it was at the time of release, Dumbo is racked with problems, and the story is in need of a fresh coat of paint. The crow characters are obviously the biggest issue to contend with. At best, they're slightly insensitive racial stereotype, and at worst well... Let's just say the leader of the flock is named "Jim Crow" and leave it at that. Besides the film's troubling racial depictions, there are other issues. 1941 was a very different time and place, and having your two main characters getting hammered and going on a bad trip featuring hallucinatory pink elephants probably wouldn't fly with parents in 2014.
Many kids haven't seen the original: Disney fandom is such a generational thing, and the kids that are currently torturing their parents with yet another spirited rendition of "Let It Go" probably haven't seen, or might not even be aware with Disney's golden age of animation. Recreating Dumbo for a new audience will likely introduce the character to a new generation of fans.
WHY IT WON'T
It's controversial: As stated earlier, Dumbo has its fair share of controversy, which is why it's slightly baffling that Disney chose to remake this particular film out of its extensive back log of animated classics. If included at all, the crow characters would need some serious retooling, and we could easily see them being removed altogether. But removal of characters and elements from the classic film would likely draw ire from Disney purists. It's sort of a lose-lose situation.
It's too simple: The original Dumbo clocks in at only about 60 minutes, which is barely a feature length film, and pales in comparison to recent Disney efforts like Maleficent (97 minutes) and Frozen (105 minutes). Stretching another 30 minutes out of a 60-minute story would just make a crappier film. They'd likely need to add additional plot lines, which of course leads to...
The added human story: The original Dumbo feels unique in the way that it focuses almost solely on the circus animals while leaving the human characters, who are often portrayed as cruel and self-serving, in the background. Creating a human family as a side plot seems like an idea that goes against what makes the original film special in the first place. We can't help but think that everything involving the new human characters will feel superfluous. Dumbo is a story about a baby elephant and his mouse friend, not a boy and his pachyderm.
Too many CGI animals: After the first trailer for the live-action Paddington Bear movie turned a formerly lovable anthropomorphic character into the stuff of nightmares, Disney has to be pretty cautious with the new version of Dumbo. Between Dumbo himself, Timothy Q. Mouse, the crows, and all of the other elephant characters, there's going to be a ton of CG animals running around, and the effects would need to be impeccable for all of those digital characters to look convincing in a live-action setting.
One of the first things diehard Star Wars fans thought when news broke that a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi will be made was this: "What will Episodes VII, VIII, and IX mean for the Expanded Universe?"
The timeline after the destruction of the second Death Star and the deaths of Darth Vader and the Emperor has already been heavily explored. Dozens of novels since 1991's Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn have furthered the saga, showing us how the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic — not to mention the marriage of Princess Leia and Han Solo, the birth of their three children, Luke Skywalker's efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order, and eventually his own nuptials to feisty Emperor's Hand-turned-Jedi Mara Jade. The events depicted in these novels have always been considered to be canon. But is it a continuity that will be honored by screenwriter Michael Arndt and director J.J. Abrams when Episode VII hits theaters in 2015?
When you talk to the Expanded Universe authors themselves, however, you find that's not something that overly concerns them. They're such big Star Wars fans the biggest issue for them is the fact we have to wait three long years to see the words "A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...." on the big screen. And, like any fans, they have some major opinions about what they want to see from the new films. We reached out to eight of the most prominent authors in Star Wars publishing — Drew Karpyshyn, Paul S. Kemp, Troy Denning, John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, Michael Reaves, Christie Golden, and Aaron Allston — and asked them what they hope to see from the new films, what supporting or Expanded Universe characters they'd like to see get a bigger role, and how, if they are indeed fated in these movies to become One with the Force, they would like to see Luke, Han, and Leia die. Here's what each had to say.
Drew Karpyshyn, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic — Annihilation
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: I'd like to see films that are directed towards an older, more mature audience. It felt like Episodes I-III were directed at children and a generally younger demographic - which is great for bringing in new fans - but as an adult Star Wars fan I'd like to return to the darker, more serious tone of The Empire Strikes Back.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Obviously I'd love to see the films explore the Old Republic era; I think there's so much potential there, particularly with a character like Darth Bane. (The fact that I wrote three Darth Bane novels in no way makes me biased!)
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: My hope is that they live to ripe old ages before passing away peacefully. I'd prefer to see their role in the later films be more as mentors/advisors in the same way Obi-Wan was in the original trilogy, though I hope they don't all end up having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. These characters have paid their dues, so as a fan I don't want to see them suffer an untimely or violent death.
Paul Kemp, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic—Deceived
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: What I really hope to see is love of the underlying subject matter. I think Star Wars is a phenomenon because it’s more than just a space opera or space fantasy (take your pick). It’s a mythic story and touches at something deep in the human experience. It’s built on a foundation of heroic myth and heroic transformation and that’s what makes it so appealing, generation after generation. I’d just like to see the new stories build off that foundation (because it’s a rich one, and there is lots of room for new and wonderful stories, all while hewing to the mythic structure).
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hmm. That’s a real toughie so I’m just going to weasel a bit. I’d very much like to see a female Jedi in one of the leading roles. In that regard, Jaina Solo would be excellent, but there are many others to choose from.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: If they have to die, Han and Leia should go out together, wrapped in each other’s arms. “I love you,” he says. She smiles and answers, “I know.” And then it’s lights out. Yeah, that’d work. As for Luke, I think Luke has to go out in a grand, self-sacrificing way, with full knowledge of what he’s doing before he does it, and all in service to the greater good of rebuilding the Jedi Order. Ideally, just before he goes out he’d see the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin (thus recalling for the viewer/reader the iconic ending of Return of the Jedi), and in dying Luke would take his place among them.
NEXT: Could Episode VII Finally Put a Woman in the Driver's Seat?
Troy Denning, author of Star Wars: Crucible (Out July 9)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: This time, I think it would be fun to follow the hero’s journey of a young woman, the way we followed Luke’s journey in Episodes IV – VI. And I want the thrilling lightsaber duels and epic starship battles of Episodes I-III. Give me three films that combine great action with mythic themes, and I’ll be a happy fan.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Jaina Solo, without a doubt. Jaina is Han and Leia’s only surviving child, and one of the most capable members of the Jedi Order. She’s emerging as the leader of the next generation, and she’s one of the most popular characters in the novel line. I don’t think there could be a better choice.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: I’d want to see Luke go fairly early, in an incredible display of Jedi power that saves his companions and/or deals the villain a real setback. And I’d want his sacrifice to become a rallying point for the good guys. I’d want him to become more dangerous to the villain in death than he was in life.
Han and Leia should go out as a team, executing a cunning trick that sets the villain up for a hard fall. I wouldn’t want a lot of on-screen sentimentality, just a sense of courageous self-sacrifice from Leia and, from Han, a smug smirk. But as the final moment comes, I'd want to see them together — holding hands or leaning in for a final kiss — because that's who these characters are, two people in love to the last.
John Jackson Miller, author of the upcoming Star Wars: Kenobi (Out Sept. 24)
What I hope to see from Episodes VII-IX: It's something I've speculated about since I first saw them mentioned in Lucas's Time magazine interview back in 1980. My presumption would be that, obviously, it jumps ahead a generation, matching the gap between the other two trilogies — and I would assume that it takes on the larger themes of the ongoing series: power and temptation. My assumption was always that Luke, not Anakin, was really the "chosen one" who brought "balance to the Force" — but as those lines weren't in the original trilogy, they could also take this opportunity to bookend that section by addressing it anew.
Something delving more into Sith philosophy and why it's attractive would be fun to see. I did a deep dive into Sithiness with my Lost Tribe of the Sith stories — their all-for-me-nothing-for-you views are interesting, as are the challenges with achieving power on a galactic stage. You can see why Palpatine had to hijack an existing government — they're not the most attractive bosses to work with!
I would also hope to see something addressing one of the broader issues that I've attempted to take up in stories in other parts of the timeline (in Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant) -- namely, the love-hate relationship between the Jedi and the Republic, which is a far larger organization. The Jedi do a lot for the Republic, yes, but they've also been more trouble than they're worth on more than one occasion. One can imagine the Republic chancellor finally revoking the Jedi Council's parking spaces!
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: From the movies, it'd be a blast to see Lando as Chancellor. The gamblers, smugglers, and criminals have sort of a world of their own, apart from what's going on in the galactic drama between the Jedi and the Sith.
From the Expanded Universe, most of my work has been in the past or distant past, so if we're getting pantheons of blue ghosts, there's a range of folks that would be fun to see, from Arca Jeth to my own Zayne Carrick and Kerra Holt. There are some old villains that could do turns in holographic form, too. And practically every droid from the past has at least a theoretical chance of still being around. If we see a droid that's refusing to do any work, that'd be Elbee from the KOTOR comics. Sitting immobile for 4,000 years would suit him just fine!
How I want to see Luke, Han, or Leia die: I'm certain that I don't want to see that — it's much more fun to imagine them living on. It would be preferable to think that they died while sitting on a beach drinking blue martinis delivered by serving droids — but I imagine that's not very cinematic!
James Luceno, author of Star Wars: Darth Plageuis
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: A new and perilous threat — of the Sith sort, to be certain that the dark and light sides of Force, as well as lightsabers, are heavily featured.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: If for whatever reasons the Sith don't figure into the film plots, I would love to see an appearance by the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong, who battled the Jedi through the twenty-one Expanded Universe novels that comprise The New Jedi Order.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Luke, with lightsaber in hand, in a blaze of glory; Han, Leia and the Millennium Falcon in an act of heroic sacrifice.
NEXT: The Darker Sides of a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Michael Reaves, co-author of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Out Feb. 26)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: The latest estimates for the Milky Way suggest literally billions of Earthlike worlds. With lifeforms like gigantic space slugs that can live in hard vacuum, it's obvious that life in the GFFA is at least as tenacious as it is here, if not more so.
My tendency is to poke around the backwaters and the seedier places of these many and richly varied worlds. There are many other monomyths and archetypes besides the Hero's Journey. One thing I do not want to see is the same storyline with new faces.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hey, I'm not gonna be disingenuous; I'd love for Jax Pavan and I-Five to get a shot.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Saving the galaxy. They're heroes, right? So let 'em die heroically.
Christie Golden, author of Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi—Ascension
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Follow-up adventures with Luke, Han and Leia! I would be amenable to seeing new actors in the old roles if Lucasfilm wants to pick up right where Return of the Jedi left off, but the actors would have to be VERY well cast. I'd actually love to see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise the roles of Luke, Leia and Han...alongside their kids! ;)
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Vestara Khai. *coughs a little* Okay...Pocket the chitlik. No? Seriously, though, the Skywalker and Solo offspring are such terrific characters in their own right, it would be wonderful to see them brought to life.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Oh this question is just cruel! Well...if they HAVE to, Han or Leia would have to die sacrificing him/herself for the other. And I want a "dies in your arms" scene, darn it, if either one has to go. Luke...should die alone, of his own free choice, saving countless lives. It should be set to John Williams' most beautiful music, and I better see Luke become One with the Force pretty much immediately or I will not be responsible for all that Kleenex on the movie theater floor.
Aaron Allston, author of Star Wars: X-Wing—Mercy Kill
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Could I see "Screenplay by Aaron Allston"? No?
Well, barring that, I'd like to see the story move away from the Skywalkers, Solos, even the Jedi a bit, reminding us that there are other people doing important things in the galaxy. I'd like to see a greater proportion of female characters. I want to see more spectacle — Tatooine junkyards and bongo interiors aren't exactly challenges for ILM's skills. And I hope to see a return to the lightheartedness and humor of A New Hope, putting the fatalism of the prequels behind us.
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: This kind of depends on exactly when in the timeline Episodes VII through IX take place. Timothy Zahn's Mara Jade would always be a good choice. The next-generation Solos and Skywalkers, such as Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker, would be welcome. If any sort of espionage is in the offing, some sort of nod to my own Wraith Squadron characters would be a thrill for me.
But what I really hope to see most is any sort of appearance by recognizable EU characters, which would be an acknowledgement that the EU is a significant part of what constitutes Star Wars.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: You know, I actually don't want to see them die in the movies, and it's not just because of affection for the characters.
Action movie characters live pretty tortured lives. There's no chance of them appearing on-screen for 90 minutes of shopping or gossip, so any time we put them in front of the camera, it's for punishment. At a certain point, we recognize there's no way they can keep doing this and survive, so we kill them, an act so common and callous we don't even refer to it as killing them — it's "killing them off." Ellen Ripley. Bernard Quatermass. Hoban "Wash" Washburne. Sometimes characters die because their portrayers can only show up for one or two day's filming, and the director and producer decide to maximize those three minutes of screen time by whacking the character.
Me, I'm all for having Luke, Leia, and Han be in a scene showing them knocking back shots of Corellian brandy while playing cards. Then the screen can go through a 1940s-style wipe and the camera can zoom in on their descendants saving the galaxy for a new generation.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: LucasBooks (5)]
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At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.