When You Wish Upon a Death Star
December 10, 2012
The biggest news in the entertainment industry this year is that the Walt Disney Corporation has acquired Lucasfilm, and thus the Star Wars franchise. George Lucas has ceded control of his greatest creation, although he will remain active as a consultant. I think that any reader of this blog is aware that I might just be a bit of a Star Wars fanboy. However, I was surprised to find that some of my fellow Star Wars fans think that this news is somehow a very bad thing. I believe the exact opposite. I think this is a match made by the Force.
I wonder what exactly the naysayers think is going to happen to the franchise under the reign of Disney? That it will be focus-marketed to small children? That it will be used as a vehicle to sell toys? That dialog and character development will take a back seat to gee-whiz CGI? All of these supposedly terrible things happened under the reign of George Lucas. Does no one remember the Ewoks, millions of Star Wars action figures, and the stilted pillow talk between Anakin and Padme? And then there's a certain Gungan who will remain nameless...
Let’s face it: with the original trilogy, George Lucas created masterpieces of popular film-making with Episodes IV and V, but the cracks were starting to show by Episode VI. The prequels were a huge disappointment for many of us. After being underwhelmed by Episode I, I went to see the films at the theater, mostly out of a sense of duty. Episode II had some amazing action sequences, but was otherwise a mess. By Episode III, I was frankly relieved to be done with the prequels. I bought the original (albeit revised) trilogy on Blu-Ray, but the prequel trilogy I have no interest in revisiting. While I have been given hope by the animated Clone Wars series, clearly the franchise was getting a bit…stale.
I would point to the recent reboot of Star Trek for a prime example of the benefits of letting a new group of creative minds into a franchise that’s floundering. Fortunately, the universe of Star Wars is big enough that a reboot is not necessary. Disney plans to release at least a Star Wars film per year, starting with Episode VII in 2015 as part of the planned third trilogy, as well as stand-alone films, and I think the franchise can support it. The Star Wars expanded universe of the novels, comics, role-playing games, and videogames contains a galaxy’s worth of stories: the origin of the Sith, the exploits of the Rogue Squadron, and of course, the 501st Legion.
So why do I think Disney is up to the task? Two words: Avengers and Pixar. In the former, Disney’s Marvel Films subsidiary (and Joss Whedon) proved that they could make an exciting SF/action blockbuster that was more than just eye candy. As for Pixar, there Disney has combined technical mastery with compelling stories and characters in such massively popular and critically-acclaimed films as Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Up. Disney has exactly the clout to pull in the great writers, directors, and actors to give the Star Wars franchise the kind of creative, respectful treatment that its fans deserve.
And let’s face it: some part of me is still that kid from 1977 who was absolutely hooked for life after seeing the first Star Wars film. Disney isn’t just a film studio...it also has theme parks. I think you can see where this is going…STAR WARS THEME PARK. I would be camped out in line for opening day. Yes, the Disney Corporation stands to make giant piles of money off the franchise. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I wonder how much Disney stock is going for right now…
May the Mouse be with you,