Disney issues "2015-or-bust" ultimatum on Star Wars Episode VII

It's looking more and more like the Force is not with J.J. Abrams' relaunch into a galaxy far, far away.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and several members of the filmmaking team went to corporate parent Disney recently and asked to push the movie's release back to 2016. 

With screenwriter Michael Arndt departing the project and Abrams having to start from scratch on the script (with Lawrence Kasdan's help), there were concerns that the movie would not be ready for cameras to roll in early 2014.

The Mouse House's answer: a resounding no. 

Disney CEO Robert Iger was "adamant" that the film come out in 2015, probably to meet the demands of Disney stockholders, merchandising partners and quarterly profit targets. 

As a result, the pressure is now on. The start of shooting has already been bumped from January 2014 to the spring, which will leave barely a year for post-production if the movie wants to meet a summer 2015 release date. If they at least move it to December -- which has been heavily rumored -- that gives Abrams and his team a little breathing room. But Iger's entire marketing strategy is apparently based on the movie coming out in the summer, so he won't even compromise on that.

Either way, this is a classic Hollywood example of setting a release date before you have many pivotal elements of the film -- including a satisfactory script and a solid cast -- in place. And to do that with the Star Wars franchise, which has already been damaged by the prequels, is taking an enormous risk.

The Reporter notes that Abrams seems to think he can make a 2015 date, while Kennedy was the one pushing to move the film back a year. How that bodes for their relationship remains to be seen. And what about the rollout of Episodes VIII and IX, as well as those spinoff films? Will those be hurried to the screen as well? No one knows yet.

Our takeaway is this: Rushing a project with such enormous expectations cannot be a good thing. Do you think Abrams, Kennedy and company can pull it together and make the Star Wars movie we all want to see. or has Disney doomed the franchise?

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