Thursday, November 1, 2012

News: Disney Buys Lucasfilm, New Star Wars Movies On The Way - Our Thoughts

I needed a day to collect my brain from the goo puddle on the floor after hearing the news that Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 Billion, and that they were going to be making more movies starting with Episode VII in 2015. Beyond that, after the announcement (which kind of broke the internet for a while) little bits of extra news have trickled out about what this means ect.

So here we are, a day later and we are a little better informed and I needed to get my thoughts out about this since it is a well-known fact that I am and always will be a STAR WARS fan.

Chris and I  both have opinions on this so I've separated them.

Scott's Thoughts:

So, Lucas apparently retains the rights to the Original Trilogy (OT) and the Prequel Trilogy (PT), but otherwise he has sold the rest off to the House Of Mouse and producer Kathleen Kennedy is taking the reigns of the Disney-fied Lucasfilm. Now Kennedy’s resume as a producer since 1981 is basically a list of some of the greatest and most amazingly well-received films in the latter half of the 20th century. She has worked repeatedly with Steven Spielberg, and some of her biggest hits include RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, CAPE FEAR, ALIVE, TWISTER, and PERSEPOLIS. Putting her in charge of the entirety of the STAR WARS universe is probably the biggest and best step that the franchise has seen since EMPIRE was made. She just sees that good films get made. Lucas’ role has become that of “creative consultant”…which I think we all know is a nice title and will mean he has a say…but in the end the final decisions will be made by Kennedy and the House Of Mouse. This means George Lucas, a man much maligned (and some would argue accurately) for his poorly written Prequels and moderately standard Direction, has his fingers pretty much out of the pie. Regardless of what he agrees or disagrees with, Disney now has the clout to say “Well, that’s great George, but we’re going to do this anyways.” And to me that’s music. I maintain that even though I like large sections of the prequels, they are still a narrative mess with lots of wooden dialogue and a poorly crafted, unbelievable love story. They could have been so much better had they been written by someone with the chops, and they could definitely have been directed with more verve. But at the end of the day they were technically Indie films, and it was GL’s call. So we are left with an adored OT, and a rather beleaguered PT.

But what light is this? On the horizon? If you had of told me a week ago that GL would ever let the keys to the STAR WARS universe go, and that it would be tabled that a new set of films were being created…I’d have called you nuts and called the folk in white lab coats. Probably the biggest bomb dropped on the internet in years, this news was totally unexpected, but more often than not I see people cautiously embracing the notion that Disney will be seeing more STAR WARS made. Why? Well because a lot of people’s problems (probably most of them) with the prequels began and ended with GL. The Expanded Universe (books, comics, TV shows) is peppered with other writers and creative entities and they have all been far better received by fans than those GL-written prequels ever could have been. Couple this with the House Of Mouse’s most recent acquisitions. They bought Henson Co. and the result was Jason Segal’s excellent MUPPET film, and then they hit the mother load. They bought Marvel comics, they united Marvel film continuities, and they allowed Fanboy/Girl favourite Joss Whedon to shepherd THE AVENGERS to the big screen. I should not have to tell you how that went. All this info leads me to believe that not only are Disney’s hands the right ones to have the franchise, but that this might lead to a Golden Age of STAR WARS with a set of films that might battle their way back from what was lost with the prequels.

It feels really weird to be speculating about new STAR WARS movies. At the ripe old age of 35, I saw EMPIRE and JEDI in the theatre with my parents, and in the late 90’s I speculated with other STAR WARS nerds about the new prequels that were coming in 1999, and here I am speculating again about a new set of films on the horizon with Episode VII now on the table for 2015. So what follows are some guesses as to what I think will happen with these films.

Firstly, the latest is that in the summertime GL met with both Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill for lunch. At that lunch he dropped the bomb that the plan was on the table to make more films starting with Episode VII. The clear indication there that this is a continuing story and would take place post Episode VI (RETURN OF THE JEDI). Apparently both Hamill and Fisher were like “What?! Are you nuts?” That is an apt reaction to such news.

It’s unthinkable…at least at first.

I think once the shock wore off and it settled in, both Fisher and Hamill would be amenable to reprising their roles. Interestingly enough the timing works on a story level. Like the time distance between the prequels and the originals, the next film could pick the story 30+ years later with Luke, Leia (and possibly Han depending on Ford who swore he was done with Solo…but he’s not doing a lot these days) in generational roles as elderly heralds of a new generation to take hold of their destinies in a galaxy far, far away. In the EU (Expanded Universe) Luke eventually reinstates the Jedi Order, and as he ages becomes a grand master of a whole new generation of Jedi to protect the galaxy.

Would new films be beholden to the EU books and such? Almost certainly not. No more than they would be able to shoot films that took place directly after JEDI. So no Thrawn Trilogy, and probably not even the Yuuzan Vong fron the NJO series. However, I think the chances are high that a new timeline could be established with characters names and personalities in slightly different or new situations. For example, Mara Jade will almost certainly be involved, and I think the Solo kids would be still be Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin and Luke’s son would still be Ben….but I doubt that any of them would be carbon copies of their EU counterparts and the stories they were involved in. I think allowing them to be organically their own entities on screen would honour the EU fans, while blazing its own trail. At any rate, involving Luke and Leia indicates to me that this will HAVE to take place 30+ years in the future and that in turn means we need younger protagonists to be in the story with the older actors taking on Alec Guiness-like roles. I’m more than okay with this and I would welcome actors that I revered as a youth back on the big screen as characters that made them famous. The added sweetness being that if anyone has any issues with GL himself, he’s not really involved enough to cause a problem any longer. I even think that Harrison Ford would reconsider his longstanding “I’m done with Han Solo and Star Wars” Stance with no GL involved, but that might just be speculation or wishful thinking on my part. If Harrison Ford agreed to play an older Han Solo I think Star Wars fandom would crap their pants.

It does seem that in the current pop culture waters that appealing to teens is a goal. HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, HUNGER GAMES ect. prove that you need to pay attention to that demographic over others. That’s where the money is to be made and I think that the older generation would come for Luke and Leia Ect., but would stay with the teens to see a whole new generation of teens growing up in a galaxy far, far away and dealing with new problems and universe-threatening monsters. It’s actually a really big win-win if you look at it like that and a way to please all three of the generations who are STAR WARS fans.

Basically my feelings come down to this. I like STAR WARS, and more STAR WARS is a good thing. Now, had this announcement come as “Lucasfilm and GL were planning more films” I don’t think I would be remotely excited. I’d be interested, but my interest would be hampered by my knowing he’s not the right creative hands to handle his universe. That the company that gave me MUPPETS and AVENGERS are in charge now and a producer who’s films I explicitly enjoy and who’s judgment I trust is leading Lucasfilm now. Well that takes what could have been very “meh” news, coloured it with vibrant excitement and made me 20 years old again and speculating on the internet with friends and fellow fans about just what Episode VII and beyond will bring us.

Chris’ Thoughts:

I think its safe to say that I haven't agreed with (m)any of George Lucas's desicions over the last 15 years or so. Pick a category at random, creatively, business-wise, whatever you can come up with, I'd have to pretty much universally pan them all.

The sole exception would be his (or Lucasfilm's) handling of the Expanded Star Wars Universe.

Star Wars has a fantastic expanded universe. And most importantly it all relates causually to each other between the various mediums. Which means if something happens in the comic books or television shows or prose novels, best efforts will be made to acknowledge that event or characterization throughout their entire lineup.

Its not perfect. There are some inconsistencies, but from my experiences they do the best they can with the tools they've got.

Adding new Star Wars movies to the mix, ones not shepherded by Lucas et al, introduces the very real possibility that these new ventures will touch on parts of established continuity but will not feel beholden to it.

Fair enough, your property, your choice.

Besides, if they do go ahead and try to include some of the original cast into these new movies there's no way they can reconcile the age differences of their lead actors with the post-ROTJ stories.

Thus the scourge of the modern comic book fan raises its head, what is canon, what is not. If something in the nu movies contravenes what's been previously established as 'in continuity' who wins?

(My guess is the multimillion dollar blockbuster film is the final word)

To be truthful the prequels did a lot to wipe the taste of nostalgia from my mouth when it comes to the Star Wars franchise. I still have a warm place in my heart whenever I see the original films, the ones that weren't unnecessarily re-edited to have Greedo shoot first.

But for the rest of it I'm content to drop in and out where I like, a little animated Clone Wars here, a Zahn novel there and a comic or two whenever it suits my fancy. I'll gladly line up to see new Star Wars movies but I won't be frothing at the mouth anymore at the site of Jar Jar Binks, or hearing the incredibly clunky dialogue or Lucas's refusal release the movies in the manner I'd most like to see them.

So kudos to Disney, I wish them the best of luck with their purchase. I have my fingers crossed that they'll be able to recapture some of the magic of the original trilogy, but I certainly don't think they'll do anything to damage the franchise.

Star Wars used to belong to just George Lucas. But as it grew and other creators got to peek into the toy box it was always very apparent that those toys were property of Georgie-Boy. I think its time that someone else got to play with the action figures for awhile and see what they can come up with. I think we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if DisneyCorp has broken ground on a Starwars theme park yet? meantime, I'm too busy changing up the words to 90s Disney princess movie songs to Starwarsify them.

    but seriously, my biggest fear is that future Star Wars movies will be seen as even more of a commodity, and the quality will plummet, a la the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.



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