The Download: 'Star Wars: Episode VII', 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', and 'Gravity'

Posted 6:49 PM October 11th, 2013 by Binh Ngo

This week, the MWB gang talks about George Lucas still not letting go of Star Wars, Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan, and Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. Come and join them on The Download.

Binh: According to Jett Lucas, George Lucas' son, his father is "constantly talking" with J.J. Abrams about the Episode VII. You know what my reaction was when I heard that?

Jeff: Let me guess...this?

Binh: You are correct, sir! He had his chance with Episode I-III. Just let it go, George. I concede he's a good storyteller, but the man needs an editor who can say no to him.

Jeff: I'm cautiously optimistic. I know Abrams is still in hot water with Star Trek fans because of the way he raided the franchise's past glories for Into Darkness, but I think his tendency to regurgitate might actually serve him well here.

Binh: Well, I optimistic because Lucas is not the one writing the script, so we wouldn't have these painful dialogs. And I think better actors will be cast – at least that's the hope. I wouldn't mind if they decide to reboot the whole thing, actually. With exception of Episode IV and V, the rest are so-so. Just my opinion, of course.

Sara: If you listen to what Coppola says about Lucas, from the early days until today, it's a wonder the man can do anything. And yet he's one of the most successful filmmakers this century -- rather, he's made one of the most culturally powerful products this last century.

It's hard not to feel sad that the world he created with Star Wars became important to so many people that now he can't even be allowed to touch his own invention -- somehow he's not good enough to be in charge anymore. He's a permanent grandfather. Maybe that's what you get for exploiting your successes for all the money they're worth.

Did we ever get a female warrior like he promised so long ago, or did that only happen in the cartoon? I have a hard time paying attention.

Binh: You have to inform us what Coppola said about Lucas.

Sara: I want to say it was in StarZ documentary Fog City Mavericks that Coppola sits with Lucas and explains his reaction when Lucas showed him the script for Star Wars. He talked about how much work it needed and how he wasn't a very strong storyteller. I remember thinking he was joking with him a little, as if to suggest some professional jealousy, but when he said something about hiring other people to do like everything, I started to think he was being serious.

Binh: Coppola must have read the dialogs. Remember, Alec Guinness had to convince Lucas to have his character killed off early so he wouldn't have to be involved with it any longer than he had been. Lucas has good ideas, just don't let him write the screenplay. Or direct it.

I think you might get that strong female warrior in Episode VII in Han and Leia's daughter, if the rumors are true.

Sara: That's a great rumor! I totally expected her to have head tentacles so an actual human is promising stuff.

Binh: Let's move on to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I hope by now you've both seen the trailer. What's your impression of Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan? I thought Pine walked into the wrong movie and they happened to captured it on film.

Jeff: We just don't have very many viable action heroes left, Binh. Chris Hemsworth can't do 'em all.

Binh: You certainly are right there, Jeff. Who would you cast in that role besides Hemsworth?

Jeff: Well, I want a young Harrison Ford, right? I'm not sure there's a "name" actor in Hollywood who fits that description right now. There's a real dearth of interesting young leading men. Sara may disagree.

Binh: We know who is Lee Daniels' choice: Alex Pettyfer!

Jeff: Yes, the news is out (or Out) -- Daniels wants Pettyfer to be one-half of the starring duo in a very unique action movie he's got planned. Bully for Daniels, I say -- but I also say Pettyfer is just as blandly pretty as Pine or Tatum or Efron. I'm not sure there's a bankable young actor with enough rough edges to make me believe he's a hero worth watching. Who would you cast, Binh?

Binh: But haven't you heard? He's hot!

Can't say I've seen enough to make an informed decision, but Stephen Amell, the guy who plays Oliver Queen in CW's Arrow?

Sara: The young men are a problem, for me. You cast a kid, only Tweens want to see him, and since most up and coming leading men have done that -- who knows if Pattinson will ever run from an exploding building -- pickings feel slim. Liam Hemsworth, Chris's brother, is in a similar boat. You know who I miss? The Aussies. Where's Sam Worthington?

See if they weren't bent on putting a heartthrob in Jack Ryan, someone like Noah Taylor or Ed Norton could make it really interesting and menacing. Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood, Last House on the Left) would also rock that. But maybe the mainstream choice is someone like Charlie Hunnam?

Jeff: Somewhere, Taylor Kitsch softly weeps.

Sara: Haha! Maybe he and Taylor Lautner can start a feel good foundation.

You know who I love? Josh Duhammel. Not "man's man" enough?

Binh: Duhamel definitely has the look.

Sara: I agree! He's a great romantic lead but I can't imagine him with a gun and not laugh.

Jeff: He's like a prettier Justin Kirk -- plenty of charm, but horrible at picking scripts. I flinch when I see his name in the credits.

Binh: Blame his agent? Moving on... You've both seen Gravity. Are the Oscar talks warranted?

Sara: OSCAR TALK WARRANTED. On every level.

Binh: For those who haven't read your reviews or haven't seen the movie, what's so awesome about it?

Sara: Bullock is outstanding and mostly obscured. How she performed when she's largely either offscreen or in profile in a giant suit is remarkable. And Cuaron is always a master with a long take but in this case it's not an impressive long take in the fashion only film school grads can grasp. We're floating through SPACE in a sustained take. It's the visual equivalent of holding your breath. Seriously incredible visuals -- that's why I'm hoping for big things for the Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki.

Also, worth noting that there's almost no script for this. I mean...there's no dialogue and the action is near indescribable.

Jeff: I agree with all of Sara's points, and I'd also add that I love the rather subtle way the movie makes its broader points -- about dealing with your past regrets, letting go of your pain, and accepting the possibility of new beginnings -- without beating the viewer over the head about it. You can see it purely as a whizbang action movie or as a meditation on grief and rebirth, and it works beautifully either way.

Cuaron has to be getting a blank check for his passion project after this. I wonder what it is.

Sara: You mean you think this wasn't the thing he had a blank check for?!

Jeff: Given the four and a half years' worth of notes he got from the studio, I'd say no.

Sara: Makes me respect him more. Years of studio notes and still have that film to show for it? Inspiring!

Binh: Well, that's a wrap for this week's Download. If you haven't already, take it from Sara and Jeff, go see Gravity.

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