LETTING IT RIDE ON THE LAST JEDI

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Final one-sheet key art for The Last Jedi

“Whenever you gamble, my friend, eventually you’ll lose.”

So said Liam Neeson’s wizened Jedi knight, Qui-Gon Jinn, in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Gambling runs rampant in the galaxy far far away. And never more so it seems than in the film franchise’s newest installment — Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Trailers for the movie, which opens in December, feature an entire planet dedicated to wagering. It’s the latest and largest example of gambling and gaming in the Star Wars mythos, but it’s far from the first.

Episode IV: A New Hope offered audiences their first taste of George Lucas’ version of betting in the form of Dejarik, AKA the holographic game where C-3PO warns R2-D2 to “let the Wookiee win” before the Wookiee pulls the droids’ limbs off. Played on a hologame table with holomonsters (generated by a hologram generator of course), Dejarik comes across as Chess… iiiiiiin spaaaaaace! (Said à la the Pigs in Space segment from The Muppet Show.) Installed in the Millennium Falcon as a way to pass time in between asteroid chases and Kessel runs, Dejarik is later glimpsed in Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Speaking of the Falcon…

We learn in The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V for those keeping score) that “the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” was originally owned by Lando Calrissian. Lando bet the starship in a game of Sabacc against Han Solo… and he lost. No one knows exactly what Sabacc is, but it seems to involve cards and dice, the latter of which can be seen hanging in the Corellian freighter’s cockpit as a souvenir of Han’s victory (as well as an homage to fuzzy dice hanging from rearview mirrors of fast cars in Lucas’ American Graffiti). Chances are good that we’ll see this back story depicted in the upcoming young Han Solo film much like we saw the legendary Kobayashi Maru back story in J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film.

Speaking of the J.J…

It wasn’t a big risk to hire Abrams to direct The Force Awakens. He has big budget experience (Mission: Impossible III) and big-time sci-fi cred (the aforementioned Trek reboot and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness). It is, however, a risk to hire Rian Johnson to direct The Last Jedi.

The casino planet -- Canto Bight

The casino planet — Canto Bight

Johnson has only directed three features, including the low-budget film The Brothers Bloom and the even lower-budgeted Brick, neither of which come close to the scope and breath of a Star Wars flick. And the only entry in his filmography of a sci-fi-ish nature is Looper, which – despite its time travel premise – was grounded, literally, on Earth.

So Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy took a big risk in hiring Johnson. The good news is she’s double downed on that risk before with other new-to-the-big-leagues directors. The bad news is none of them have fully paid off. Gareth Edwards was replaced by the much more experienced Tony Gilroy on the Rogue One reshoots. Lord and Miller were replaced by Hollywood veteran Ron Howard during production of Solo. (Is that really the best title they could come up with?) Poor Colin Trevorrow didn’t even make it beyond pre-production on the upcoming unnamed Episode IX before being switched out for Abrams.

Kathleen Kennedy definitely likes to roll the dice, much in the same way as high rollers on the Vegas strip, or armchair gamblers testing their luck via online betting such as at the popular William Hill website, where you can view all TV/Specials betting markets at William Hill. Kennedy’s recent track record leads one to believe that the odds are stacked against Johnson succeeding. However, as Han once told 3PO, “Never tell me the odds.” Johnson hasn’t been swapped out as either writer or director on The Last Jedi. He’s made it through production and post-production unscathed. All that remains now is to see if he’s made a good movie.

We know little about the casino world in Episode VIII, but we do know that producing a sequel to arguably the most lucrative, most scrutinized franchise in film history is a gamble. One wrong move and you end up with another Jar Jar Binks — and no one wants that. So whether it’s high-stakes filmmaking or limb-pulling space Chess, one thing is perfectly clear — let the Wookiee win.

 

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2 Responses to “LETTING IT RIDE ON THE LAST JEDI”

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