The surprise announcement that the Game of Thrones showrunners were developing new Star Wars movies was like an anti-Alderaan moment — it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out … in an explosion of happiness!
This is one of the rare times where hype around a creative partnership is actually deserved. The closer you look at this pairing between Lucasfilm and GoT Emmy winners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the more sense it makes. Here’s why:
— They’ve already done it. The success of Game of Thrones is due to Benioff and Weiss taking a highly complex magical fantasy world created by a bearded visionary named George (in this case, George R.R. Martin and his terrific novels) and turning it into accessible mass entertainment and a worldwide phenomenon (sound familiar?). Nowadays it’s easy to forget how impossible-seeming and daunting adapting A Song of Ice and Fire was in 2011; Martin literally wrote the books to be unfilmable with a sprawling scope and convention-busting narrative. By comparison, Star Wars was born in the world of cinema. If anything, creating an innovative and exciting new Star Wars trilogy from scratch is easier than what the GoT producers have already accomplished. And along the way, they proved they are terrific at picking key talent — from director Miguel Sapochnik to composer Ramin Djawadi to actress Maisie Williams … GoT‘s success is driven by the collective talents of a massive team the producers’ put together.
— They’re devoted to practical effects and visual realism. Thrones embraces practical sets, effects (example: any time you see fire on screen it’s almost always real) and on-location scenery whenever possible. Not every shot in every episode is 100 percent photo-realistic, of course, but the producers strive to make everything as grounded-looking as possible. The Star Wars films were already re-embracing their practical effects roots starting with J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, and you can expect any films made by the GoT duo to make practical filmmaking a top priority.
— Their action sequences are already better than what’s in theaters. The Battle of Castle Black and The Battle of the Bastards blew away chaotic summer tentpole films with visual cohesiveness, engaging character-driven moments, and huge suspense. While the new Star Wars films have had several rousing sequences (The Last Jedi’s throne room fight, The Force Awakens’ Millennium Falcon escape), it’s debatable whether anything in the next generation of films has yet topped the nail-biting thrill of the original Star Wars Death Star trench scene, or the nightmarish dread of Luke and Vader’s lightsaber fight in The Empire Strikes Back. Benioff and Weiss have made epic-looking action with “only” $15 million per hour … so imagine what they could do with $200 million.
— Their storytelling is “bold,” yet also on brand. Right there in Disney’s release is Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy predicting the producers would “boldly push Star Wars” and “break new ground.” Some are already wondering if the producers known for such envelope-pushing TV will be able to transition from HBO — where a talented showrunner is king — to Lucasfilm — where the studio is firmly in charge (as the original directors of Rogue One and Solo found out). But Benioff and Weiss aren’t impulsive auteur mavericks; their narratives on GoT are dark and bold and shocking because that is the world that George R.R. Martin created. Their original twists and turns to the saga since largely leaving Martin’s narrative behind have been debated by fans, but they’re on brand for the story they’re adapting. On the other side of the partnership, the ending of Rogue One — which killed off all the film’s protagonists — showed Disney is open to Red Wedding moments of their own.
— Their characters and dialogue are strong. Benioff and Weiss don’t get enough credit for this amid all the spectacle. But GoT juggles upward of 30 series-regular characters sharing a relatively paltry (for TV) 10 hours of screen time per season, yet every character feels iconic and pops off the screen during their scenes — from Arya to The Hound to Jaime to Brienne to a couple dozen others. Lucasfilm clearly already took notice, snatching up members of the show’s cast (with Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma and Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra in Solo). Sure there’s a line or two along the way that Twitter can snark about (the Tyene Sand one, I know). But GoT‘s typically riveting two-person dialogue scenes (like Tyrion and Cersei’s argument near the end of season 7) are as great as any on TV. And if the characters and dialogue didn’t work, the show wouldn’t work, and Game of Thrones certainly wouldn’t be the biggest drama series Emmy winner in history.