Hollywood Minute: May the Fourth be with you!

Posted at 4:48 AM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 04:48:27-04

(RNN) – May the Fourth be with you! Once again, it's that special day to celebrate the franchise that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy (of modern pop culture) together.

It was fans who set the annual "Star Wars Day" on May 4, or "May the Fourth," inspired by a pun on "May the force be with you," one of the saga's many, many famous lines.

Lucasfilm – and therefore Disney, which owns Lucasfilm – fully supports the holiday, encouraging fans to showcase their Star Wars love on official website and on official Star Wars social media channels.

The site's a good place to look for ways to celebrate, although there are events going on all around the country today, so there's probably a good chance of forming an alliance with fans in your community.

There are plenty of discounts on merchandise today, which is probably just as welcome to Disney as to consumers, considering how Star Wars toys have seen a sales slump lately.

And if you’re planning on seeing "Solo: A Star Wars Story," the newest standalone film in the franchise, advance tickets went on sale starting at midnight EST.

Or you can catch up on all the classic films on a multitude of platforms – although you’ll likely have to purchase, rather than rent, the movies.

Which brings us to the real reason for Star Wars Day: not toys, games or comics, but the movies themselves. And the franchise gave us plenty of news since the last Star Wars Day, starting with the troubled production of "Solo."

The "Solo" saga

Lucasfilm hired Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the team behind "21 Jump Street" and "The Lego Movie," to direct "Solo" in 2015. But two years later, production reportedly wasn’t going too smoothly under the directors, but more like sand, which fans know is "coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere."

But not so with director Ron Howard, who piloted "Solo" after Lucasfilm fired Lord and Miller over creative differences in the summer of 2017, well into production. After that, everything apparently went smoothly on set, with a bit of thanks from Star Wars godfather George Lucas, who stopped by to offer his old Padawan some guidance.

Harrison Ford also stepped in to teach his successor how to pull off a big-screen scoundrel.

"Solo" did, however, have a small marketing issue when a French artist accused Disney of stealing his work for a poster design.

In recent days, though, Lucasfilm got some good notices with quirky advertisements for "Solo," one from Howard...

...and another from star Donald Glover, who plays a young Lando Calrissian:

But it all comes down to the May 25 release date, when fans learn whether they were unwise to lower their defenses, or if she's got it where it counts, kid.

Certain points of view on "The Last Jedi"

Although it was hugely profitable – and popular with critics – "Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi" divided the fanbase. Many moviegoers liked it well enough, but it also spurred considerable online backlash, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and predictably were not suddenly silenced.

Some disgruntled fans even turned to the dark side of online petitions to strike the film from the official canon. It hasn’t yet reached the goal of 150,000 signatures.

Even Mark Hamill voiced reservations over how director Rian Johnson handled his iconic character Luke Skywalker.

Johnson shrugged off the backlash with Yoda-like calm and understanding:

I'm aware through my own experience that, first of all, the fans are so passionate, they care so deeply — sometimes they care very violently at me on Twitter. But it's because they care about these things, and it hurts when you're expecting something specific and you don't get it from something that you love. It always hurts, so I don't take it personally if a fan reacts negatively and lashes out on me on Twitter. That's fine. It's my job to be there for that.

Johnson added that most fan reactions he saw on Twitter were positive. Either way, the new trilogy of Star Wars films that Disney hired him to produce will give him plenty of opportunity to make it up to diehard fans (or to annoy them three more times).

The ever-expanding universe

Johnson won't be alone in developing a new batch of Star Wars films. "Game of Thrones" showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also will be making their own series, Lucasfilm announced in February.

And Obi-Wan Kenobi could get his own standalone adventure. Variety reported in August that Disney was in the early development stages for a Kenobi film. The Variety article also teased possible Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett standalones.

"Iron Man" director Jon Favreau also is getting his own live-action Star Wars series, Lucasfilm announced in March.

Disney CEO Bob Iger even told investors that Disney is "developing not just one, but a few ‘Star Wars’ series specifically for the Disney direct-to-consumer app."

And with Disney announcing in December that it will buy 21st Century Fox, who knows how far the franchise could go in the coming years?

Episode IX: (Insert Title)

As with "Solo," Lucasfilm had a few setbacks over the past year with its final installment of the current trilogy. Colin Trevorrow, the slated writer-director for "Episode IX," got the boot last September due to squabbles over his script and clashes with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy.

J.J. Abrams, who directed and co-wrote "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens," took over for Trevorrow in the role of writer-director.

Now it's up to Abrams to figure out how to satisfactorily conclude the trilogy – and figure out how to handle Princess Leia’s absence; she was rumored to have a large role in the film, but Carrie Fisher died in December 2016 (after she wrapped on "Episode VIII"). 

The finale is scheduled for release in December 2019. Along with concluding the trilogy, it'll also be the last time composer John Williams scores music for a Star Wars film, according to Williams.

So, there’s a whole lot of Star Wars out there. And even if, like Mark Hamill, you’re worried that an oversaturation of Star Wars properties could dilute the franchise, today's not the day to share that dark fear because, as Master Yoda says in everyone's favorite installment: "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering."

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