Image via Geek.com
“It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror…”
For fans of the beloved Star Wars series, the emotional fallout of Disney’s $4 billion dollar purchase of LucasFilm on Tuesday has been fraught with more angst than a middle schooler’s fanfiction.
After all, we’ve been here before. We fed our childhood hopes with the promise of Episodes I, II and III, and were rewarded with a prequel series so mired down in gimmicks and concerned by effects that the story, when there was story at all, seemed but a tangent to marketing strategy.
But, as terrible as those films were, Lucas followed the announcement with a press release that dares to give us hope once more. In his statement, Lucas said:
“I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come.”
It’s easy to jump on the announcement with the animosity of a Rancor in Jabba’s dungeon, but as with the Force itself, there are two ways to regard this deal. In the spirit of this duality, let’s consider both. First, a few reasons that Star Wars could be awesome in the hands of Disney:
Finally, a new director
George Lucas stories are at their absolute best when they are not being told by George Lucas. End of song. Face it, the man has the ability to just destroy the heart and soul of a story. Let’s be honest, this is a creator who can, with the ease that the Falcon can do the Kessel Run, micromanage the fun out of his projects. He did it with the Return of the Jedi, and to an even worse extend with the prequels.
His writing can be flat out terrible (“But Uncle Owen!”) and his directing record is hit or miss at BEST. Natalie Portman is a talented actress, but some of the worst acting she’s ever done was in the hands of George Lucas. He’s best as a creator, and his characters and their universes can be excellent. Lucas as a creative consultant under the leadership of any one of the names that are floating around in the rumor-sphere could be the exact recipe for these movies to succeed.
Marvel and Pixar
Whether or not you’re a fan of the genre or not, Disney has handled the Marvel universe with aplomb. Particular aplomb, people. The mouse house brought the superhero movie studio under its wing in 2009, and has gone on to make bank with each of the film released since. This summer’s The Avengers grossed more than $1.5 billion, making it a model worth replicating. What’s more, Disney did it while staying true to the previously-established Marvel universe, where lead-up movies focusing on individual characters paved the way for an ensemble flick. Their payoff has been huge. And Pixar! Acquiring the animation giant in 2006 for $7 billion has been enormously successful.
There’s a whole galaxy out there
We caught of a glimpse of other planets and cities in the Star Wars Galaxy during Episodes I, II, and III, and there’s unlimited potential for expansion on the Star Wars universe that we know. Let’s see more! This is a whole galaxy we’re talking about! There’s is literally no limit to what we can see and do. What does the Mon Calmari homeworld look like? The hell if I know, but let’s see it! And Corellia, and more rogue planets of the Outer Rim! And while we’re at it, let’s see some more diversity in development this time. Ladies with blasters! Aliens that serve a higher purpose than vaguely racist comic relief. Consider yourself challenged, new creative Powers That Be.
Of course we have reason to exercise EXTREME caution as well. Some cases in point:
“Multi platform potential”
Plaintive Luke voice: “Nooooooooooo!”
Abandoning the Expanded Universe
Lucas has been adamant that the new trilogy will depart from the planned episodes 7, 8, and 9 from waaaay back when, and that the expanded universe won’t have much, if anything, to do with the new “original” story. Which sucks, because the Heir to the Empire trilogy is awesome. Grand Admiral Thrawn makes a great villain, and there are excellent new characters to contend with, like smuggler Talon Karrde and former assassin Mara Jade. Other parts of the expanded universe detail the continuance of the Solo and Skywalker clans, as well as the gradual fall of the Galactic New Republic to an powerful alien race of religious zealots from beyond the Outer Rim. It remains to be seen when the new creators will decide to set the sequels, but it a generation or more from the events of the original films seem to make the most sense.
All the money and good intentions in the galaxy don’t guarantee anything.
Disney spent millions developing, producing and distributing John Carter. But in spite of the $250 million dollar budget and director Andrew Stanton, who had previously helmed major animated hits Finding Nemo and WALL-E, the project was one colossal failure for the studio. All the rumors flying around about Damon Lindloff, Brad Bird, JJ Abrams, and Joss Whedon taking part in the project feed hope that it’s in the right hands, but let’s not overlook how a really big, really bad movie can happen under the watch of a seemingly strong creative team.
Jar Jar Binks. It happened. Never forget.
The bottom line is this: Disney knows the business it is in, and that business is making movies that people want to see. Have they screwed up to an epic degree before? Yes, but they’ve also been incredibly savvy with their recent franchise acquisitions. Proceed with cautious optimism!