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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

The Force is Strong...with Disney?

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:40 PM

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

OBI-WAN: That boy is our last hope.

YODA: No..there is another...

The Empire Strikes Back

If you have any geek cred whatsoever, then you will already know that yesterday a momentous, universe-altering event happened; an event that has been met with joy, fear, anger, surprise and – dare we allow ourselves to feel it? – hope.

Yesterday, George Lucas finalized a deal selling his Lucasfilm empire lock, stock and barrel to The Walt Disney Company for $4.05 Billion. (As a Disney shareholder, I approve!) Beyond the obvious crown jewel of Star Wars, the purchase also includes Industrial Light & Magic (ILM, the special effects division), Skywalker Sound (the audio mixing/production wing), LucasArts (the gaming division) as well as the rights to the Indiana Jones franchise.

The biggest news to come out of this – besides, you know the fact that DISNEY BOUGHT STAR WARS! – was that there are *immediate* plans to begin working on three new Star Wars films; films that will take place following Jedi and be Episodes VII, VIII and IX in the Star Wars canon. The first film is planned for a 2015 release, and Disney promises a new Star Wars movie every 2-3 years following. (These final three, “lost episodes” are like the Holy Grail from way-back old school fans of the films. It is like Urban Legend that Lucas originally intended for the films to be done in nine parts, and that the story was written.)


I mean…WOW!

Prior to yesterday, fans had been told pretty adamantly that there would be no more Star Wars films. Ever. "Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?" Lucas told the New York Times earlier this year.

There’s definitely been *a lot* of anger directed towards Lucas since Episode I came out in 1997. (Read my blog titled “George did not rape your childhood” for more on this.)

I think that in many ways George probably felt trapped by the immense success of Star Wars. Surely he profited – greatly – from them, but I think he wanted to be able to make artistic movies of his own design. But Star Wars instantly became this powerful genie that escaped the bottle and then couldn’t be put back. Star Wars consumed and defined Lucas’ life -- twisted him like Anakin and the Dark Side -- and I think it possibly destroyed him creatively. Or at least probably felt like it did. Everything that he would ever do since 1977 was going to be held up and compared to Star Wars and that was an immense level of pressure to survive under for 35 years.

And clearly at some point he developed a love/hate relationship with the franchise and its rabid, insatiable, impossible-to-please fans.

I think that George clearly made the second batch of Star Wars films as the films the HE wanted to make and see. He wrote them in a bubble, took total control of the writing and direction and had a cavalier, “To hell with you!” attitude towards that fans that so dearly loved his movies. They were his movies, and by God, he was going to ram that point down our throats. Ultimately, George forgot that the movies were no longer for him, they were for us.

On the one hand, Star Wars fans were *dying* for these prequel movies to not only answer all of the questions we’d had for years but to just have an opportunity to revisit the world and characters we loved and cared about SO much. It was a trip back to our youth for many. And we loved George for giving us that opportunity.

On the other hand, we hated George for the films that he gave us. (To be fair, it probably wasn’t possible to make a film that could have lived up to the 16 years of hype and pent up expectations.) We hated that he took this thing of ours and ruined it. Episode I was basically viewed as a giant slap in the face from a dirty middle finger.

For my generation – I saw the original theatrically when I was 7 – Star Wars was far more than a movie; it was a defining event. We grew up with Star Wars. We loved it. We loved the story, the characters, the mythos… We made it into something far bigger than just a movie.

Honestly, I think that the sale to Disney is probably the best thing that could have possibly happened to the Star Wars franchise. Lucas seems ready to wash his hands of Star Wars and move on and the creative talent at Disney right now is pretty stunning, with both Pixar and Marvel in their stable. They’ve got the writing, directing and movie making talent to pull off an amazing story and hopefully make some terrific films. And they don’t have the lifelong “hang ups” and history with the films that Lucas does.

Further, Disney already has a long term relationship with Star Wars, dating back to 1987 and the opening of the original Star Tours attraction at Disneyland, California. For years Disney has hosted a multi-day Star Wars Celebration event.  Also  look at all of the great Star Wars references that Lasseter included in Toy Story 2. These guys are fans of the films; they love the franchise and that is exactly the kind of lifeblood infusion that Star Wars’ needs. Also, Disney has proved they know how to release and re-release films; a concept which should please George immensely.  

Beyond the movies, the possibilities of a Disney-owned Star Wars are pretty awesome. Imagine a whole area/land at Disney World based on the Star Wars universe, similar to what Universal Studios did with the Harry Potter franchise… A dark, indoor coaster based on the Death Star trench run. A harrowing speeder bike chase through Endor. A snowspeeder attack on Hoth. Lunch with the scum and villianey at the Mos Eisley cantina. Or just a really cool area where you could go and ogle original Star Wars props, art, costumes and other memorabilia.

There’s also no shortage of great Star Wars material out there. For one, I’d love to see them make the LucasArts “The Force Unleashed” into a film, covering the tumultuous and exciting periods between Episodes III and IV where Vader goes around hunting down the Jedi and the Empire starts consolidating power throughout the galaxy. Or how about turning “Knights of the Old Republic” into a film, relaunching Star Wars thousands of years before Episode I? There are also hundreds of books.

And, honestly, what could Disney possibly do to damage the Star Wars franchise that Lucas hasn’t already done? Over merchandise it? I hardly think that’s possible. Create terrible characters that ruin the story and speak in a space Rasta accent? Turn it into a cartoon farce? Yeah, Lucas pretty much has that covered as well. (If you haven’t seen the trailer to Star Wars Detours, you can click here. I watched about 45 seconds of it and then uttered a slow, “Oh…my…GOD! What have they done?!before quickly turning it off in total disgust.)

I think one of the things that most of us fans really hated about the prequel Trilogies was that they ultimately meant it was over. I remember leaving Episode III thinking, “Well…that’s it. There’s no more Star Wars to look forward to now.” Far more than the films, that was the let-down. At least before the films were made, there was always the excitement about the *possibility* of there being new Star Wars. There was always the next one to look forward to.

And just as we wanted more Star Wars back in the late ‘90s, I think, we still DO want more Star Wars. Not only for ourselves, but for the original generation of fans to be able to share with our children. (I’ve already started my daugther, Lauryn, on her path; here are her thoughts on seeing Star Wars for the very first time.)

And now, Disney is putting that excitement back on the table. And I for one plan on being in line in 2015. Will you be with me?

Here is a clip of Lucas discussing the future of the Star Wars franchise with Disney execs:

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Categories: October 2012, Movies

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