Photo: Star Wars Resistance, including Donald Faison, Executive Producer Athena Yvette Portillo, Suzie Mcgrath, Executive Producer Justin Ridge, Christopher Sean, BB-8, Executive Producer Brandon Auman, and Bobby Moynihan. (Disney Channel/Kyusung Gong)

TRANSMISSIONS FROM A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY:

EPISODE XVIII

This is the 18th column in a weekly series from The Rock Father James Zahn. Check back Fridays for the latest in what’s happening in the galaxy far, far away, or read them all here.

As we enter into fall, I caught myself about to slip in conversation and call this “an off movie year” when thinking ahead to December. After all, the month of holidays has had a flag planted firmly at the center of it for a new Star Wars film since 2015.

But it is a movie year. And largely, I still think the timing of placing Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story in May was a bad idea, arriving in theaters less than six months after Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Now that it’s come home on Blu-ray and Digital HD, I’ve had a chance to re-watch the film along with all of the bonus features (the director’s roundtable is pretty great) and I stand behind what I said on release day: it’s fantastic. Here’s hoping that the availability of Solo at home brings the film the audience that it so very much deserves.

While we won’t have a Star Wars film this fall, we do have a new animated series to look forward to: Star Wars Resistance. Set to premiere at 10 p.m. on Sunday, October 7 via Disney Channel and the Disney Now App, Resistance looks at groups of pilots who assist the growing Resistance (hence the title) in the days prior to The Force Awakens, while spending their time racing tricked-out ships in-between.

This week, the cast and creatives met for their first press conference in Burbank, where details on the first five episodes of the series were laid out. One surprise: A familiar voice from another fandom (Lord of the Rings) will appear, as Elijah Wood takes on the guest role of Jace Rucklin, first appearing in the series’ fourth episode, “Fuel For the Fire” on October 21.

There was some sad news this week as legendary producer Gary Kurtz lost his battle with cancer. Kurtz was a guiding figure in shaping the original Star Wars Saga, working with George Lucas on 1977’s A New Hope and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back (which he titled). Kurtz’s study of religion in his younger years has long-been cited as a major influence on Lucas in terms of crafting the powers of The Force. From his work with Lucas on American Graffiti to his contributions to The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz, Kurtz was regarded for his commitment to story first – a principle that largely led to his exit from the Star Wars Saga ahead of production on Return of the Jedi. Aside from major story changes and a conflict about a second Death Star (“derivative,” he said), it was the influence of the toy business—an industry that Star Wars and Kenner revolutionized—where Kurtz had the most issues.

“The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire,” he famously recalled to the LA Times,  back in 2010. “It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business but that’s not the best thing for making quality films. The first film and ‘Empire’ were about story and character but I could see that George’s priorities were changing.”

Likewise, he wasn’t a fan of the Prequel Trilogy, something he discussed at length with IGN some years ago.

Still, he would eventually revisit Star Wars in another way, coming on to produce Patrick Read Johnson’s 5-25-77, a semi-autobiographical tale that involved the true-life story of a kid who stumbled onto the set of Star Wars and would one day grow up to direct movies like Angus and Baby’s Day Out.

“Gary Kurtz was a challenging mentor, dedicated collaborator, and dear friend. The most gentle of souls who managed to create wonders in the most soulless of industries. We should all TRY to be as GOOD as Gary was. May the Force be with him… Always. — Patrick Read Johnson

In a statement issued via starwars.com, the team at Lucasfilm said: “A man of immense talent and intelligence, Kurtz will be missed greatly by Lucasfilm, and we’ll remember his many contributions to Star Wars and film.”


Further Transmissions

  • Vader Immortal? Debuted on The Star Wars Show this week, the first trailer for this new, three-episode VR experience has arrived. It comes from writer David S. Goyer and is set in the timeline between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. It will require the newly-announced Oculus Quest to play at launch in 2019.
  • As reported here on The Pop Insider, Disney has acknowledged that the live-action Star Wars films may have been “too much, too fast” in recent years. While Lucasfilm continues focusing on the conclusion of the episodic Skywalker Saga, announcements of further cinematic adventures will be more spaced out.