To say that last week’s announcement that Disney was acquiring George Lucas’s Lucasfilm empire for the price of $4 billion rocked movie fandom and their corner of the internet would be an understatement. But amidst the excitement of the announcement, there were some voices that were dubious if not downright negative about the news. To those we offer the following reasons why
1. – We are getting new Star Wars films. Kind of obvious, but let’s face it, after the battering that he took from fans over the infamous changing of the Han/Greedo confrontation for the Star Wars: Special Edition and over the course of creating the prequel films, Lucas was never going to make another live action Star Wars film. He just did not want to put himself through that ringer again and I can’t say that I would blame him. True, he did waffle back and forth as to whether he had a six or nine film series planned, but by the time Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith came out, he was done. And his adamant statement that he is stopping at six and that the franchise was always going to be the story of Anakin’s fall and eventual redemption at the hands of his son Luke , had more than a tinge of weariness to it.
2. – George Lucas will not be too involved with these movies. One of the major complaints that have been leveled at the prequel trilogy is that while Lucas may have a great imagination for creating these worlds in a galaxy far, far away, he is not that strong a storyteller and that while his best work had come in collaboration with others, he was surrounded by people who were afraid to voice a dissenting opinion to anything he proposed. That may or may not be an accurate read of the situation, but as pretty much the sole writer and the director of the prequel trilogy, ultimately the responsibility for the prequel films’ deficiencies must be laid at his feet. With Lucas only contributing a story treatment that will get further developed by outside writers, much in the way the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi were written by others from an outline by Lucas, I think we stand a good chance to have strong storytelling returning to the franchise.
Furthermore, look at much of the Expanded Universe material that has come out that fans have liked more than the prequels – The Clone Wars animated series, many of the novels and comics and the Knights Of The Old Republic video game series. This was all created with very minimal to no input from Lucas, so perhaps him just hanging back with the honorific title of “Creative Consultant” isn’t such a bad idea. And that leads to –
3. – The possibilities fresh blood has to offer. How many filmmakers working today were inspired in their career choice by seeing the Star Wars films in their youth? And how many of them probably have a Star Wars story that they would love to tell? Granted, there is a certain tier of director that would probably pass on doing a Star Wars film for whatever reason. I can appreciate that taking one on could seem very daunting.
But let your imagination run riot for a moment and think about what a Star Wars film from the likes of Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Gore Verbinski (Pirates Of The Caribbean), Jon Favreau (Iron Man) or Rupert Wyatt (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) could be like. How about a Star Wars film from someone like Attack The Block director Joe Cornish? Maybe Joss Whedon could do one after he finishes off overseeing the next couple of years of Marvel’s films. How about one from Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, who has stated that his work has been influenced heavily by the original Star Wars films? A friend of mine has always wanted to see a Boba Fett film directed by John Woo, and now, why not? The possibilities are endless.
4. – Disney knows how to manage their companies and knows when to leave well enough alone. Take a look at Disney’s handling of Marvel Entertainment and Pixar, or perhaps I should say non-handling. Outside of Disney pulling back very comics licensing agreements from other publishers and reassigning them to Marvel, it appears as if they have been hands off since they bought the company in 2009. The result – a billion dollar franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Likewise, Disney has pretty much allowed Pixar to continue working in the same way that they always have. They recognize that the animation studio’s unique corporate culture has produced some amazing results and have let them continue as they have always worked.
While it is yet to be seen how much latitude Disney will give Lucasfilm, the company’s new president Kathleen Kennedy has an incredible track record as a producer for Steven Spielberg and others with ET, the Jurassic Park and the Back To The Future trilogies on her resume, so I think that they’ll leave her to her own devices for the time being.
5. – Maybe one last really good Indiana Jones film. Disney has been very vocal about the fact that the reason they were acquiring Lucasfilm was for the Star Wars brand and that everything else in the deal was a nice extra. But one of nicer extras is the Indiana Jones franchise. And while the franchise does come with some legal ties to distributor Paramount Pictures that would need to be addressed, there is some room for Disney to negotiate some sort of deal that would be beneficial to all. But would director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford want to come back for a fifth installment? Given that in their post-Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull interviews they expressed some dissatisfaction with portions of the film that were derived from Lucas’s input, I would think that they would be interested in coming back to close out the franchise on their own terms.