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Science-Fiction Weekly – Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

by Andrew Reiner on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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A vibrant star in a galaxy far, far away has gone dark. Kenny Baker, the British actor who brought R2-D2 to life on the silver screen, passed away last Saturday at the age of 81.

For all of the Star Wars fans out there, take a moment to remember Baker. Although we rarely saw his face, he was a hell of an actor, skillfully giving a loving, adventurous spirit to one of Star Wars' most iconic characters. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars who worked with Baker on six films, offered his condolences on Star Wars' official website: “A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him.”

Baker was also a part of Time Bandits, one of my favorite movies from my childhood. I was such a big fan of his character, that I named my first band after his character, Fidgit. If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend you make time for it. It's a wonderful time-traveling adventure from Terry Gilliam that'll make your heart race, rise, and sink. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it's one of those films I never get sick of, and is unique anything else out there.

Transitioning to anything else after this news is certainly difficult, but bear with me. In honor of Baker, we'll keep the focus on Star Wars for the remainder of this column.

The marketing for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which opens in just 121 days, is ramping up and likely won't slow until the film hits theaters. Along with a second trailer, Lucasfilm released an international trailer for Rogue One that reveals a little more of the story, mostly pertaining to the involvement of Jyn Erso's father. The trailer also features a few new shots and additional dialogue. The more I see of Rogue One, the more I like it. The tone is certainly different than that in the other Star Wars films, but that's exactly what we need from these side stories – a degree of separation.

We're also starting to see more of the merchandise that will be launching in advance of the film. The latest toy gives us a look at the newest addition to the "Wing" family of starships: the U-Wing. This Hasbro vehicle comes packaged with Captain Cassian Andor, which implies that it might be his vessel in the film. Andor is an Alliance intelligence officer, who is said to be capable of completing missions with little need of resources. I wasn't crazy about the ship's design when I first saw it in the trailer, but the toy definitely has a Ralph McQuarrie inspiration to it. You can see a little bit of the snowspeeder design in its cockpit.

Rian Johnson, the director of the forthcoming and yet-to-be-titled Star Wars: Episode VIII, shared an image on Instagram that indicates post-production work is underway. John Williams also said he will begin working on the film in the next couple of weeks. Part of me will never get over having to wait years (and decades) for new Star Wars films, but I still can't believe we have numerous Star Wars films in development at once. Rogue One, Episode VIII, and the Han Solo film are all being worked on as you read this. Crazy!

Yes, I worry Lucasfilm is moving too fast and franchise fatigue could set in, but so far, the ship is sailing in the right direction. I'm not a fan of recasting Han Solo, and I would much rather see more films in the new timeline than prequels, but I have faith in the leadership at Lucasfilm right now, and until they screw up, I can't help but be excited for the future. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a great start.

Let me know your thoughts on the current Star Wars developments, and also your favorite Kenny Baker moments in the comments section below. That's it for this week; I'll see you again in seven days!