Giant pigs, Tatooine dwellers and THE MILLENIUM FALCON! [UPDATE: JJ Abrams officially responds!]
When we last got a peek behind the Star Wars: Ep 7 curtain, we all got to breathe a sigh of relief over what looked to be Double J’s production going the classic route with a living, moving creature. “A practical effect, wowzers!” said a Lucas-scorned nation, perhaps following an oddly-timed viewing of Inspector Gadget. But you cant stop the signal, and in the last few days, we’ve seen a flurry of leaked footage from the Episode VII set, and yeah, today’s is probably the biggest and the bestest. Let’s see that again:
Oh yes, that looks to be a full scale Millennium Falcon! Or at least, the part of one required to be in frame. This is all extremely cool, and in absolute honesty, a truly exciting time to be alive. I am not joking. However, there’re two interesting things that got me thinking here, and I have a website so you pretty much have to hear them. For one, it feels incredibly surreal to see these images, doesn’t it? Why do you think that is?
Well, here’s a dumb, thoroughly unresearched theory: The internet has been largely denied leaked or behind-the-scenes pics from any Star Wars set. Obviously, the web didn’t exist concurrently with the shooting of the Original Trilogy, but it hasn’t stopped it from playing catch up! Almost once a week, I feel like a new and recently unearthed images of Carrie Fisher smoking a cigarette, or Harrison Ford knitting a ham radio (bad, theoretical examples, but bear with me!) They’re always delightful to see, and they get shared far and wide thanks the net’s perfected methods of JPG distribution.
But the internet was around when the prequels were being shot, right? Yes, but almost every image, leaked or otherwise, had nothing of note to rev the geek engines. Ewan McGregor on a soundstage. Jake Lloyd in a green screen cocoon! You couldn’t even snap a pic of Frank Oz post-Phantom Menace once Yoda no longer required a human fisting thanks and went full CG. Even the scant few pictures of actors on Star Wars sets, almost exclusively Liam Neeson cowering under a canopy in the desert next to some guy that would eventually become Jar Jar, where of an official variety, and usually only dispersed anywhere but the then-mighty medium of Print! Yes, actual magazines, who were once so powerful they could handily scare internet types into removing their images from unsanctioned domains, relegating even officially released assets to forums, private chats, and other underbellies of the web most dare not tread.
Either way, as the prequel trilogy went on, these pictures because more and more boring. Hayden Christensen in front what ILM would eventually turn into a set after a lengthy post production. They weren’t even set pics, they were studio pics, and offered nothing for dorks to really latch onto and/or build any expectation for.
These recent images are different, and it’s really quite amazing. This is the closest many of us will ever get to (feeling like we were alive while Empire Strikes Back was being filmed, and I’m loving every second of it… except for one aspect, which is my second point.
Leaked set pics are as synonymous with internet as pornography and cats farting. Somebody on the inside, or a bystander on the outside, snaps a pic with their phone and uploads it to their Facebook, or one of their favorite sites. What’s bizarre here is that instead of getting revealed through a site of cinephile miscreants, like Ain’t It Cool News, these have come from one place and one place only: TMZ.com. It can’t be argued that Star Wars set pics, leaked or otherwise, are officially mainstream news, but it’s both odd and incredibly unnerving to me that they hail from an icky, celebrity gossip rag like TMZ.
I recently read that TMZ paid the hotel security person $250K for the surveillance tape of Jaz-Z getting his ass kicked by Beyonce’s sister. From the perspective of someone who was long worked, and continues to work, on the internet… that is just an unfathomably enormous sum of money. Unless it’s solely to establish a precedent, I can’t even imagine a website that could handle the traffic required to make a quarter of that money back.
I like the idea of photographers being reimbursed for good work. You could even call it one of the few remaining cornerstones of actual, pre-AOL journalism, and I understand that exciting images will go to the highest bidder. Otherwise, how could I continue to accept Peter Parker’s canonically quaint employ in the new Spider-man movies? But what legitimate movie site – nay, any website – could possibly outbid what TMZ is reportedly paying?
Huffington Post? Amazon.com? PORN HUB?! Nothing against those sites, in all honesty. I don’t visit or even think about TMZ enough to have an opinion of it, other than the general knowledge that it appeals to the worst parts of humanity and is probably making a generation stupider. It’s not for me. So what I hate on a personal level is this: If TMZ establishes enough precedent as the highest-paying bidder for Star Wars set pics, they’ll also set a precedent for people to go there expecting them. Yes, I despise the idea of sifting through upskirt pictures of Rosie O’Donnell or Lil’ Wayne’s arrest record just to see Muppets walking around on Tatooine.
And if I may continue fear mongering, what’s next?! Will TMZ trifle in NeoGAF’s territory and start leaking video game sequels? Do you want to struggle to make out Smash Bros characters from beneath one of the gaudiest watermarks on the planet? Are we gonna read unreleased iPhone specs in the same place people go to see how fat Jessica Simpson’s gotten or admire Jon Hamm’s penis?!
Not if I’m elected President! Until then, head to TMZ for more Star Wars set photos
UPDATE: Via the Bad Robot Twitter, JJ Abrams has officially responded to the leaked photos and the resulting rumors. It’s really hard not to like this guy.]
— Bad Robot (@bad_robot) June 4, 2014