Announced just yesterday, Disney has acquired Lucasfilm. This is pretty big news in the nerd universe… but there are a few questions that come to mind. First of all, what does this mean for Star Wars? To begin with, this means that we’re having more Star Wars films. That’s right, it has already been announced that there will be a Star Wars Episode VII to be released (hopefully) sometime in 2015. Traditionally, Star Wars films are released in May, so we can expect a release around that time. Other than this, however, what does it really mean? I think the most important question to answer is: Is this good for Star Wars?
What’s interesting to me about this entire acquisition is that George Lucas has allowed it to happen at all. Historically speaking, GL has been reluctant to release any kind of control over his intellectual Property. Why else would he have been involved in everything released by Lucasfilm from the very beginning? I can’t say as I blame the man, considering his history with film making. However, when I looked further into it, I didn’t expect to see a pretty candid video interview with George and current Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. In this interview, George makes the comment that he wants to retire from film making (I think with the assumption that he wants to do other things). What this seems to tell me is that the man is tired of running a pretty big corporation, tired of making films… maybe the man is tired of all the scrutiny he gets put under? With a franchise as beloved as Star Wars, it’s no wonder he might be fed up with the idea of a million voices crying out in anger every time he does what he feels is right. I mean, it’s his baby after all. This is illustrated very clearly when George talks about why he wants Disney to own his company… he wants the big brother Disney to protect his baby, Lucasfilm. I think it’s rather telling how precious this company, this I.P., these characters, and this universe are to him. He’s willing to do the one thing he never thought he’d do, let someone else take care of it. From watching this interview (which I thoroughly recommend) it seems pretty clear to me that George isn’t completely comfortable with the idea. Take a look at the man’s body language… in a private interview, he’s playing with his hands, he’s fidgeting in his seat, and he’s reluctant to make much eye contact. It looks like the man is uncomfortable. My inference is that it’s about this decision, a huge one for his company. I believe the man wants to see this thing he created continue long after him. The best way he knows to do this is to give it to a company that’s “too big to fail.”
The second question that I will try to discuss… is this good for Star Wars. Ultimately, I think that it is absolutely good for Star Wars. In my world, more Star Wars is always better. Yes, I think that the prequel trilogy falls under this category (this coming from a guy with 3 signed Star Wars novels on his bookshelf, a Star Wars lunch box, and (the coup de grace) Star Wars bed sheets… I’m 28, why do you ask?). To really tackle this question, there are a few different things that I really think I have to address: what kind of films can we expect to come from this; how will this interact with the hundreds of novels that have been written; and what kind of involvement will Disney have?
|Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Pres. of Lucasfilm|
To address the first point, yes we are going to expect more films. With Lucasfilm, any film they produce seems to be gold. Considering that the worst of these films has returned over $50 million (with a $9 million budget), I’d say that’s proof enough. There’s an article here (via Cinema Blend) where the author, Eric Eisenberg, comments that the franchise may be beyond redeeming. This statement is just wrong. In fact, it’s so wrong, that I’m certain it was said just to raise a ruckus. Is this writer somehow shielded from the internet so much that he’s never seen the hordes of people whose fandom is so keen that they cosplay at public events? Or is he so ignorant that he doesn’t know that there’s a thriving TV show out there currently? The statement is so blatantly ignorant, I’m thinking it was said to be deliberately inflammatory, but I digress. The question of what kind of films can we expect… is a really dicey one. I’m not certain that anyone knows the material this next episode will cover. It’s being said in very unreliable sources that it will have to be about the continuation of Luke’s story. Personally, I’m not certain this is the best idea. Originally, the story of Star Wars was about Darth Vader and his growth and change into (and then out of) a Lord of the Sith. However, there is talk already of writers having being hired to work on a new story and script (from the mouth of Kathleen Kennedy herself!). What this means is that George Lucas isn’t writing the story himself, nor is he directing these films. From some of the other places I’ve read, he still retains creative input. This is the best of all possible situations. Where the prequel trilogies were particularly weak was with the minor plots and the dialogue. The hope is that these things issues will be much better in a story written by professional writers. Since George Lucas can focus on storytelling, where he seems to really shine, that means a new movie could be on par with the original trilogy. It’s something to think about.
In my second point, I asked the question of how this will affect the Star Wars Expanded Universe. This is a very sticky situation to really discuss because it is based on several assumptions. For starters, we need to know if the films will be based on any of the novels that are out there, or if it will be all new material. On the one hand, being based on the novels isn’t necessarily a bad idea. In particular, there are the stories written by Timothy Zahn that shine above all others. His trilogy is really what made Star Wars novels a thing. However, the ages of the original actors and those characters in these novels won’t mesh, meaning that we’d have to tolerate new actors. It seems to me that people aren’t really that keen on the thought. However, there is a novel series wherein the actors are much closer to the ages of the characters. The series, called Legacy of the Force, takes place in a time when Leia, Luke, and Han have suffered and experienced so much in their lives that we probably wouldn’t recognize them anymore. What’s more, anyone who hasn’t read any of the novels would have virtually no clue what these people are talking about. I mean… do any of you know who Jacen is and why it’s bad that he’s a new Sith Lord? For the vast majority of you, this doesn’t mean anything. However, this raised the other question: should these movies be made off of new source material? Speaking from a historical standpoint, the new movies have not been based on any of the significant amount of material that was already in existence. Instead, George Lucas has gone and written his own stories completely independent of what’s written in the “Expanded Universe.” This makes any discussion of Star Wars cannon very dicey. In addition, by taking an action such as this, he wipes out tons of work by many people, making it obsolete. While I understand that it’s his universe and he can do with it whatever he damn well pleases, it can make for some frustrating times for those of us that love the universe so much we memorize names of Star Destroyers (those big triangle-ships from the Empire). Seriously, something called the Executor is really quite awesome… I digress. Ultimately, I think it’s a safe assumption that these new movies will be entirely new material. Already we have a historical basis for this happening. Not just that, some of the book material would be difficult to really film. My suspicion is that the original actors will fill in for minor roles, but the movies will be about other people. This could be very interesting. My hope is that they will do something similar to Tron, and make it a legacy story about passing the torch. How exciting!
The final point I made was in raising the question
of what kind of involvement Disney will have. I remember years ago when Disney
acquired another property pretty highly regarded. Some of you may have heard of
it, it’s called Marvel. When this happened, there was a lot of speculation
about various cross-overs…
and it was all great
fun. However, Disney ultimately gave us Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Avengers. I’d say that
they pretty well established that they’re not messing around with the IP. It’s
almost like Disney saw an opportunity in these franchises and gave them plenty
of space to ensure magic happened… huh. Additionally, Disney happens to own
Pixar, another company you may have heard of. All I really need to say is that,
if Disney owns a company like Pixar, where their worst feature is probably
Cars, I’m pretty sure we have nothing to worry about. So why are there still
questions being asked, and comments like “I’d just as soon [Disney] let Star
Wars die off…” by very
intelligent people? I think people are a little heartbroken over the
prequel movies and the various changes that Lucas has made to the originals. It’s
true that some of those changes are a little silly (eye lids… really? That’s something
we should sink $800K into), but the vision that Lucas had isn’t the Star Wars
people remember… I think people will always remember the impact these movies
had in their originally released forms, and how powerful that was. Basically…
get over it, you’re getting more, and it will be better.
|The coolest Disney castle?|
To conclude, I would just like to say that I think this is the best possible situation for the Star Wars name and franchise. In a situation where George Lucas is a creative consultant (maybe even creative lead), not writing the dialogue (where he is probably a little weak), and not in charge of direction, there are only good things that can come from this. When I think about it, it seems to me that this Kathleen Kennedy person is very smart, and knows her trade. She’s smart enough that George has given her his full support. In the end, I’m very excited for what this means. I can assure all of you that I will be paying attention to the coming developments.