Editorial: Star Wars Musings From Atop Mt. Misinfo.
“To spoil or not to spoil, that is the question?” I wonder aloud as Shakespeare must have done once upon a time, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the blasters and laserbolts of outrageous rumors, Or to take lightsaber against a starfield of troubles And by opposing, end them . . .” Or not. Will probably didn’t worry about spoilers much in his day and age, co-workers leaking pages of his unfinished scripts to the rabble of merry ol’ England before the ink even dried. Even if his co-workers did betray the bard it wasn’t likely the peasants who most beloved his plays could read them. My how far we’ve evolved . . .
As I sit here atop magnificent Mt. Misinfo, or is it mounting misinformation?, I look around at the picturesque emerald landscape that affords us such a wide and clear view of Episode VII’s Principal Photography, which officially wrapped on November 6th, 2014. “Sense the sarcasm, do you?” Master Yoda would say. In the 174 days of principal we experienced TMZ’s “leaks,” consisting largely of unknown desert sets purported to be Tatooine, but not exactly, complete with bedraggled extras less exotic aliens, that is unless you count a very large hog that isn’t of the Gamorrean persuasion. Essentially we saw a lot of nothing too spoilerific – no BIG 3 or other main characters – exciting nonetheless, but not very clear at all.
In fact, I have my doubts about TMZ’s “leaks,” in quotation marks, because it is clear that JJ’s “Mystery Box” philosophy to story-telling is always very well conceived, which renders any random “leaks” inconceivable to me. No. JJ’s mystery box was so well thought-out that the production invested in drone shields for their outdoors shoots. Alas, the company Drone Shield was unable to export their advanced warning system to England and drones accidentally stumbled upon the rolling leas of Greenham Common and some very exciting sets which held the Millennium Falcon, or at least half of it, as well as a couple new-fangled X-Wing fighters. This “leak” smacks much more credible as a breach as there appears to have been an effort to plug it.
Pretty much since the inception of filming we’ve received report after report of concept art descriptions, like this one first posted on this very site, scene descriptions, and/or character descriptions. All these leaks culminated in the infamous concept art leak of October. Again, like the TMZ controlled leak, we were afforded 30 pieces of artwork none of which featured the BIG 3. However, unlike the TMZ leak, we did see some bits of seemingly main character concepts highlighted by a young female that pretty much everyone presumes to be Daisy Ridley’s character whose name may or may not be Kira, Sera, or Fawn. A Chewie pic with a cybernetic arm. Some really cool ships. Oh, and the uber iconic and equally unmistakable burned-up helmet of Darth Vader which we first reported about in July.
Then there’s this mysterious figure known as “The Grave Robber” who proved to be one of the most controversial concepts of the entire production thus far. This figure was characterized by some as a cyborg, or more accurately a Luke Skywalker cyborg, or could be Adam Driver . . . maybe. Some fans have even proposed the theory that Mark Hamill grew his beard to throw us off and he is actually wearing a mask that obscures said beard. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that I’m not the only one that thinks there’s some chicanery going on. Next, throw in a couple random Han Solo concepts that show us nothing new, we’ve seen his Hoth gear and trench-coat before. New stormtrooper helmets though and a figure that looks almost EXACTLY like Darth Revan. Give us “Grave Robbers” and “Dark Knights,” “carousels,” and “wampa swords.” Real descriptions or code names galore? Whatever the case may be it has loosed a tidal wave of speculation based on these fractured pieces of this larger-than-life jigsaw puzzle.
You’d have to be a brave Jedi indeed, slogging through the harried world of speculative Star Wars Blogging. Maybe like Obi-Wan Kenobi-brave as, yes, even he has been the center of Episode VII rumors that allegedly have his grand-daughter making an appearance to save the galaxy. What the what?! But wait, we’ve seen wild speculation run rampant before, yeah? This article on Cinelinx recounts some of the crazier rumors and totally 100% legit storylines that existed prior to the release of the Prequel Trilogy movies. (Psst, there’s a whole website-that-shall-not-be-named full of them if you catch my drift.) My personal favorite is that Obi-Wan Kenobi was really a clone and that his name was actually “Oh-Bee One” as in the first in his line of OB clones:
EVERYONE is a Clone
No lies here, according to rumors that spanned the entire Prequel trilogy, everyone and their dog is a damn clone. Kenobi is actually killed by Anakin and his clone is the person we see in the Original trilogy (accounting for why he seemed to be wrong about certain facts, and the age difference). We already talked about Palpatine being a clone of Sidious, but there’s more! Sidious himself was rumored to be a clone of another Sith Lord who has managed to keep himself alive for a millennia. This would tie into other crazy rumors about Exar Kun (a Sith Lord who mastered time and what not in the EU).
So the concept art “leak” spurred a torrent of likewise speculation. Again, I question if this was a true breach of security or a controlled leak? I ask this because as I research this article I discovered, according to IMDB which we all know can be edited by anyone, that there are about ten main concept artists currently credited as working on Episode VII. They include:
* Iain McCaig
* Matt Allsop
* Tim Browning
* Keith Christiansen
* David Hobbins
* Seth Engstrom
* Matthew Savage
* Dan Walker
* Andree Wallin
* Doug Chiang
So, obviously, we didn’t even see the tip of the iceberg of concept art produced for Episode VII since we merely saw a scant 30 pieces by only some of these ten artists. We’ve seen Chiang and McCaig’s artwork before, so rich, refined and polished. It seems their art has been withheld from the leak; withheld perhaps because their work is surely to be instrumental in the production’s design. This and the fact that we didn’t see any concept art of the Big 3 – Han, Luke, and Leia – or the droids for that matter, suggests to me that this was yet another controlled leak. Perhaps some used concepts mixed in with long-discarded ideas. These were leaked to Making Star Wars which did the understandable job of trying to decipher the works without any context. Hence a lot of strange concepts were born such as a Cyborg Luke Skywalker or maybe Adam Driver’s character. But IF this was a controlled leak then that confirms the larger point of this article – a purposeful misinformation campaign by Bad Robot.
Google defines the concept accordingly:
- false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.
And this mysterious “insider,” and Cantina member, known as Gabriel Gray seems to think likewise according to this Tweet:
The problem with a lot of #StarWarsEpisodeVII speculation and rumors, is the brilliance of Bad Robot and that mystery box.
— G@BRIELGR@Y (@GBRIELGRY) November 9, 2014
Conspiratorially or coincidentally, “Gabriel Gray” was the real name of the Heroes character “Sylar” who was played by the Star Trek reboot’s “Spock” (well, one of them), Zachary Quinto. At any rate this Gabriel Gray seems to know stuff or at least acts like he does, which makes his insinuation that the mystery box is trolling us fans very, very interesting.
After all, deception is integral to magic even if it’s movie magic and deception is a Star Wars tradition. Leia disguised as Boushh, anyone? Return of the Jedi disguised as “Blue Harvest” – “Horror beyond imagination” – its working title. JJ employed the technique while he was directing his Star Trek reboot by calling that film “Corporate Headquarters.” And variously during pre and principal production Episode VII has been referred to as “AVCO” and “Foodles.”
You might be asking yourself, Why would Disney/LFL/Bad Robot go to such great lengths? Like in the shadowy world of industrial espionage they take these great lengths to protect the product. And it seems JJ and co. have thought of everything. Case in point, when drones accidentally discovered the outdoors set at Greenham Common information came out that Disney attempted to order a drone shield which would have given the production advanced warning of the drone invasion. The company by the same name – Drone Shield – failed epically to deliver the goods and thus the pics were taken and subsequently leaked to the net. While the drone invasion occurred, through no fault of the production, despite the anticipation, could some of these leaks be controlled leaks? With at least ten artists working on the project does it seem so far-fetched that one or two of them are producing completely false artwork just to be leaked in order to throw us off the real track? Given the thought that JJ put into the Greenham Common shoot I for one would not put it past him.
Then there’s the curious case of the Star Wars: Rebels “Easter Egg” in the new episode entitled “Empire Day.” What started out as a keen observation from one of our Cantina patrons known as “Mike” has evolved into a rather interesting mystery. Mike observed that there was some aurebesh writing which he deciphered. But above the writing were numbers tantalizingly arranged like a date. After doing a little more digging he discovered that the date was significant in Star Wars history because a certain Dark Horse comic book — Star Wars Legacy Vol. 2 Issue #9 — was released on that day. Big whoop, right? It’s just a comic book. OR is it? See the comic book in question revolved around the story of a young girl named “Ania Solo” who is stranded on a backwater world without any prospects. She is just minding her own business minding the local junkyard when lo and behold a lightsaber drops into her life, propelling her on her own heroe’s journey. Sound familiar? It should since these are basically the same exact elements that we’ve been hearing about Daisy’s character.
This event in the making of Episode VII brings up wayyy more questions than it answers. Firstly, why would Disney allow Dark Horse to publish a comic book that had so many of Episode VII’s elements in it? Disney knew back in 2012 that it was making the Sequel Trilogy, had George’s treatments in hand and was, in fact, already working on the script. Secondly, why would anyone working on Star Wars in any capacity drop an Easter Egg into an episode that points to this particular comic book? Why attract attention to something that seemingly spoils the plot, especially when it would have otherwise been largely ignored? The only thing that makes sense is that this information — these “insider” leaks — is really misinformation coming from this comic book and has absolutely nothing to do with the true plot of Episode VII. The only thing that makes sense is that Dave Filoni and company are nodding to the fact that we’ve all been had by the misinformation that has been fed to us regarding the characters and plot.
Obviously, we fans are easy targets, rabid for every little tidbit of information we can get from the production and in a news vacuum it will be filled by someone and something. This isn’t really new, or even news. It’s been this way for well over forty years with tabloid rags being the seminal sources of Hollywood gossip. This turned into television tabloids like “Entertainment Tonight” or “Access Hollywood.” And in today’s information saturation age there are virtually countless sources to disseminate and receive said leaks. But leaks, controlled or otherwise, or even misinformation campaigns, aren’t really the problem are they?
Well, according to Merrill Barr, writing for Forbes.com, the recent leak of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer was worse than World War III, it was the end of the world:
“However, all those plans went up in a puff a smoke when the trailer (in low-quality form) was stolen and uploaded online for the world to see, effectively destroying any pull ABC was going to have next week (made worse by Disney uploading the trailer officially to lessen the blow), and possibly any future cross-platform marketing plans Disney might have had in the works for some of its other major properties […] However, Marvel Television isn’t the only entity hurt by the leak. Had the Age of Ultron reveal gone off without a hitch, chances are high it would have paved the way for a game-changing marketing strategy for Disney’s other mega-franchise, Star Wars. With the release of Episode 7 a year and change away, Disney had an opportunity to launch the first trailer for the J.J. Abrams film across all its platforms including ABC, ABC Family, ESPN, ABC.com, Disney.com, StarWars.com and a host of others. But now, having seen the potential for major breaches in security, the cross-platform strategy could be tossed out the window in favor of a more traditional, less accessible approach.”
Over-react much? Barr belongs on the internet, the natural home for knee-jerk over-reactionaries. He paints a bleak picture of despair and epic failure all because of one Hydra-employed leaker. Now, IF Disney really feels like their company was hurt by the leak then it is their responsibility to enforce their NDA’s (Non-Disclosure Agreements.) Perhaps if they sued these leakers, these traitors to their trust, and ran them out of Hollywood careers, it would serve as a prime example of what happens to the trust betrayers and perhaps deter future leaks. However, one could argue that if Disney needs to use the Avengers trailer to lure people to watch “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a show that isn’t very popular, then there’s probably no saving the show anyway. A temporary bump in viewers can’t save it. A better show, more integrated with the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, might.
But I argue that Disney was NOT hurt in any way by this or any of the leaks we’ve seen with Star Wars, TMZ, concept art et al. Hollywood has an old saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” And there isn’t. Period. Having a Disney project, whatever it may be, in the public consciousness accomplishes the exact same purpose as if the trailer had been released as planned. In fact, according to International Business Times, the trailer gained 34.3 million viewers in it’s first 24 hours on YouTube breaking Marvel’s old Iron Man 3 record. Also, the early release of the trailer boosted viewers to watch “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” anyway in order to view the HD trailer with new footage. And to think all this would somehow harm Star Wars is just a shade above ridiculous. Star Wars is already the most anticipated movie in the history of the planet – any release of news, or leaks, or trailers will do nothing to alleviate that interest only feed it and it’s really kind of laughable to think that now Disney can’t use all its platforms to do so — TV, movies, internet — because Age of Ultron leaked early.
As we saw in the documentary Starwoids, during the Prequel Trilogy, Star Wars-starved fans bought tickets to certain movies just to see the trailers in all their epic, big screen glory and then left the theaters. The movies received a bump in revenue just by a minute long trailer and Star Wars remained in the public’s consciousness. And of course, hardcore fans camped out in lines some six months before the movie’s opening just to assure themselves as being the very first to see it.
This all brings us back to my main question — “To spoil or not to spoil?” That is of course an individual answer. Caveat emptor — buyer beware — some would warn. Wild rumors and speculations from “inside sources” like Luke Skywalker, the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, being captured from anywhere between 10-30 years, Adam Driver playing Han’s son who falls to the Dark Side a la Darth Caedus, or the introduction of Han’s long lost twin “Dan Solo,” are attention grabbers to be sure. Determining what is a “spoiler” from what is just wild rumor and pure speculation, or outright misinformation, is a difficult trick at best. But does it really matter? I can only answer for myself when I say, “Bring it on!” Bring on the mysterious “I know this guy who has an uncle that works for . . .” I say bring on the concept art leaks. I say bring on the Actor X is playing Character Y in a flashback rumors because THIS IS STAR WARS! George Lucas, and many fans, may want to disavow the “Star Wars Holiday Special” or the two cringe-worthy Ewoks movies. There are those that don’t acknowledge the Special Editions or the Prequel Trilogy as well. But, to me, all of this stuff, all of these things, these rumors and speculations and minutia are all the constituent parts that make up this grand tapestry, this awesome phenomenon, that is the experience of being a Star Wars fan and, suffice it to say, I’m extremely glad I’m along for the ride!