Movies used to be a mystery. Stars were considered untouchable by mere mortals swathed in opulence only dreamt of by the average person. Information was scarce and magazines represented the only reliable means of learning about these silver screen icons. Studios would nurture, protect and invest sums of money to develop talent, much the same way football clubs still do. Acting, singing, elocution and dancing lessons were attended and stars produced. This was much more civilised and cost effective for studio heads, who controlled every aspect of a film in-house. Scandals if there were any had a limited impact or were eradicated completely. How times have changed.
The film 'business' is slowly being stripped of its mystique. Due in part to internet smart phones and the widespread over saturation of information, movies are becoming mundane. This has nothing to do with the amount of original ideas but merely the amount of unscrupulous individuals prepared to burst the bubble. It is now a fact that anybody with half a brain can tweet images, footage or film set stills around the globe in seconds. For those who have witnessed filming on any scale can testify, it is without doubt one of the slowest procedures on earth. There are lights, cameras, fifty plus people standing around watching and until recently filming itself only occurred in ten minute bursts. Every film fan knows this however and chooses to suspend disbelief for their own benefit.
What this proliferation of information has done is allow us access to these boring elements blurring the line permanently. I have two examples which destroyed the film making experience for me and ultimately sullied my opinion, perhaps unfairly, of the finished product. Firstly there is 'The Dark Knight Rises'. Internet junkies went mad over fuzzy footage from crowd scenes that got released early on, combined with conjecture as to context, character motivation and so on. Stills of Joseph Gordon Levitt on a snowy street were captured and more gossip was generated along with other members of the cast. This raised awareness but also managed to bullet point its plot to the detriment of those paying attention. The Dark Knight's final coffin nail came with the leaking of Nolan's prologue featuring Tom Hardy as Bane. At the time there were issues with the sound mix leading to people complaining that Hardy was unintelligible. Unfortunately this negative response combined with internet leaks made my initial response to 'The Dark Knight Rises' lukewarm at best. For this reason I own the film but have yet to watch it through more than once, irrespective of critical reaction or financial success. Now we come to the other thorn in my side; 'Star Wars: Episode VII'.
Three days ago some idiot in an installation not far from Pinewood studios leaked a few images. He or she is hopefully no longer employed, but it matters not for the damage has been done. These pictures were of the Millennium Falcon in pieces together with a smaller fighter in the background. People looked of course they did; myself included. While Abrams and company carry on their shooting in Abu Dhabi, which similarly had a picture leaked ten days ago, newspapers and other on-line media are baying for blood. I wrote a post on George Lucas in 2012 when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for big money, in which I was less than complimentary. As a writer I stand by what was written and the perceived motive behind the venture. Two years on, that I come out in defence of 'Star Wars' will only surprise those who fail to read between the lines. 'Episode VII' is still a bad idea demonstrating Hollywood's desire to reboot proven properties rather than seek out original ideas. By the time of release there will be screenplay drafts, costume stills, accumulated set pieces captured by some imbecile with access to a defence satellite, as well as props changing hands for thousands. 'Episode VII' will suffer the same fate as Nolan's threequel, except on this occasion it will break the heart of my generation for a second time. We got hung out to dry last time by prequels rarely watched and never discussed except to mock. This time round J J Abrams is co-writing and directing with Lawrence Kasdan meaning fans can breathe easy. Kasdan has a proven track record having helped pen 'The Empire Strikes Back', recently voted number one by readers of an international film magazine.
Hopes are high and justifiable so. However my biggest fear this time round is not the film makers but the general public. Unless someone inside Disney fails to act quickly there will be no more mystery or magic left. As for that galaxy far far away, people will come to realise the rebel base exists not in the Degobah or Alderaan systems, but somewhere west of London just off the M25. Let us hope that day never comes.