Okay, so today’s been a pretty big news day. Those of you not directly affected by strong winds along the East Coast of America will have heard by now about the Disney Corporations purchasing of George Lucas’s production company, Lucasfilm. The deal, revealed today, cost Disney just a little over $4 billion – money they will no doubt make back easily thanks to the copious cash reserves die-hard Star Wars fans have at their disposal. Essentially, Disney now owns Star Wars, with Lucas himself being kept on as a “creative consultant”. While Disney also pick up ownership of Lucasfilm brands such as Skywalker Sound, ILM, and LucasArts (who make all the Star Wars computer games), the most exciting news to come from Disney today is, in my opinion, twofold. Mainly – no more Lucas-directed Star Wars, and second, new creative talent coming on board to expand the Star Wars universe.
Cue the positive dot-points!
- George Lucas now no longer has control over Star Wars to the point where he suffocates it. My feelings about Lucas’s treatment of his beloved franchise aren’t exactly nice, and you can read my previous diatribe here, so this news fills me with excitement. Only three people in all of human history have been able to direct a Star Wars feature film; Lucas himself, Richard Marquand and Irvin Kershner. Now, thanks to this new deal, other filmmakers and artists will be able to dip their toes into the Star Wars pool, bringing with them a new vigor and viewpoint on one of cinemas most successful science fiction sagas. This in itself is cause for celebration. While he might be brought on to ensure things like in-universe continuity and other assorted stuff, new and better writers will be able to have a crack at delivering a script for the franchise – new blood, if you will – and I cannot possibly see the harm in trying that.
- The release of the original trilogy films in their original, pre-’97 Special Edition formats, a long held ideal by purists and die-hard fanboys, could become a possibility in the future. The original Star Wars films were distributed by 20th Century Fox, and from what I’ve been able to determine, Fox holds the rights to Star Wars (A New Hope) in perpetuity (forever), while Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi revert back to Lucasfilm (now Disney) in 2020. Should Disney want to release the original Star Wars film (in any version), they’ll have to do a deal with Fox that suits both studios. Note also that the Clone Wars animated series is handled by Warner Bros, so should Disney want to put together any ultimate, all the bells-and-whistles edition of the saga, there’s going to be some money changing hands behind the scenes.
- Disney’s plan to release a new Star Wars film in 2015 fills me with hope, with further news that Episode VII will be followed by another two films to complete a “sequel trilogy”, if you will. And following that, a new film will be released “every two or three years.” While I was initially skeptical that this time-frame could be achieved while keeping the quality of each successive film high, there’s no reason why a couple of these films couldn’t be in production simultaneously. With plenty of scope for new stories and characters, the Star Wars universe if ripe for mining by new and enthusiastic film-makers, meaning any number of films could be produced within the same few years.
- My personal preference for the franchise beyond the next three films, would be for Disney to approach it like the James Bond series – each film tells a unique and individual story within the umbrella of the Star Wars universe: this way, you could have stories from both before, during and after the previously established films’ timelines. Plus, you’d not have to worry about replacing an actor for a particular character like Bond or Doctor Who; you’d just tell that characters’ story and move on to somebody else. That, to me, is the most mouth watering aspect of the whole thing. What I suspect would be a positive aspect too would be to avoid returning to the Skywalker story once again – after all, isn’t six films already enough to spend on Luke and Annakin’s tragic family?
- Kathleen Kennedy, a name synonymous with big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, is set to helm Lucasfilm going forward, and if we can trust in anything, it’s that she has the balls and clout to make sure things don’t go all pear-shaped. Kennedy’s been the producing partner for major Hollywood players like Spielberg and Zemeckis, Scorsese and Eastwood. Her box office receipts are second only to Spielberg himself. In other words, you have one of the industry’s biggest hitters leading the team on one of the industry’s most successful and lucrative franchises. My question is, how could this not work?
I’m no Star Wars hater, let me be clear on that. I love Star Wars as much as the next person (possibly with the exception of my good mate Pete!), and I was among those so utterly disappointed with the three prequel films that I never bothered with any of the “new” Star Wars product – such as the animated Clone Wars series from Warner Bros. Today’s news actually feels refreshing, like a weight has been lifted from the shoulders of this once-mighty franchise. Disney, who have acquired Pixar and Marvel in recent years as well, are developing a strong portfolio of product in their stable, and while the cynic inside me says there will inevitably be a Mickey vs Darth Vader cross-over at some point (natch, that would be horrible), I hold out hope that the Powers That Be at Disney hold Star Wars in the same reverence as millions of fans around the world – and leave it to the creative team to mold, build and expand. What I, along with many others, fear happening is a diluting of the brand, much as what occurred with the Star Trek franchise over at Paramount. Star Trek had five iterations of the television series, multiple feature films, and goodness knows what else going on at the same time, until saturation had been reached and the franchise needed to be revitalized (thanks to JJ Abrams, that happened!). Should Disney over-saturate the market with their new Golden Egg, they might find things heading south as the public – fickle as they are – will just yawn and say “meh”.
With that, I hold my breath that the next few years – nay, decades – will be filled with enthusiasm for Star Wars once more.