Welcome to 2013! Only last month the merger between Lucasfilm and Disney became official. From this day forward, STAR WARS will never be the same again. Sometime this month we should be getting the first real announcements on who’ll be directing and producing Episode 7 with pre-production beginning quickly.
I think a large number of fans, like myself, are somewhat still in a state of disbelief and shock at the merger. We had pretty much put the idea of ever seeing new STAR WARS movies out of our minds. Having to suddenly shift gears is difficult, but I’m ready to learn more about the next phase in my beloved franchise’s history.
Am I worried about the next films? I guess it depends on who they get as a director, but for the most part they’ve already been smart with their initial choices for the first film so I’m not going to get myself in a panic.
The truth of the matter is that Lucasfilm has cranked out original, new stories for decades – they’ve been available in the forms of novels, comic books, role-playing games, and video games. The new era will simply become a film extension of the vast universe of new stories from Lucasfilm.
All over the web people keep saying “well thank GOD that Lucas isn’t going to be making these films.” Yeah…OK, honestly it’s the fact that he’s NOT going to be much involved that bothers me more than anything. Somewhere along the way it became “cool” to trash the creator of our GFFA. Most of the reasons revolve around people online who vehemently despise the prequels. I’ve never understood this animosity, I LOVE the prequels. The detractors say that they hate the CGI in the films, that it’s too slick and distracting. At the time that the prequels were made, NOBODY used CGI on the scale that was used for making the prequels, so yeah the first time that we saw the movies they looked different than any other film made at the time. I wonder if the prequels were made today if people would think differently about them. People now are used to CGI – heck full CGI is even used for TV series, people expect it in all big budget films. Yet for some reason for the films that paved the path for a new era in filmmaking – they get trashed for their cinematic achievement.
The prequels were supposed to be set in a “more civilized age” one filled with Democracy, a world without war, darkness, and The Empire. This was a fact that I understood going into the prequels and quite honestly, I expected visual opulence, I would’ve been disappointed if we didn’t have the rich, cultured beauty of Naboo, the slick claustrophobic city world of Coruscant, and all of the other amazing locations that we were introduced to during the prequels. Tatooine bound the two trilogies together and other than the pod race, much of it still felt like the original films.
Why do I mention all of this? I bring all of this up because if people are expecting the world for the sequels to be made and to look like episodes IV-VI, they’re going to be disappointed – again. Disney has already announced that they plan for the first film to be ready for release in 2015 – that’s only 2 years for them to make it. The only way to make a huge film like STAR WARS in that short of time is to load it with CGI. I’ll be curious over people’s reaction to seeing their favorite characters from the classic trilogy in an environment similar to the prequels that they despised so much.
Whoever the new producers and directors are who are chosen for these projects and all future STAR WARS films will need to have thick skin. The “fans” of these films are ruthless. I’ve been involved in many fandoms over the years but I’ve never seen one where the fans so bitterly enjoy ripping each other, the creator of the series, and anyone who doesn’t agree with their own views to shreds as those in the STAR WARS community. Someone asked George when he was on his publicity tour for RED TAILS if he’d consider making new STAR WARS films and he said, “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” He further continued, “On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie,” complained Lucas, referring to online video recuts of his films. “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.‘” I can almost bet you that this is not lost on most of the directors in Hollywood. Favreau & Abrams both immediately came out saying that they would really only love to watch the new films, not make them. Of course they would, they’re both young and know that to direct a STAR WARS film means entering into the hornets nest, no one wants to get repeatedly stung.
The vicious constant assaults on the films and against George’s character caused him to prematurely retire and leave his beloved franchise and company. Granted there were likely other circumstances that caused him to leave – tax hikes would make Lucasfilm a very costly company to continue running as an independent company, in order for it to survive, Lucas would need to commit to making new films, his children weren’t interested in taking over the company, and he never wanted to be a businessman in the first place and wanted to get back to making smaller projects. Selling Lucasfilm to Disney was the perfect way for him to take all of those concerns, bundle them into a box, and neatly get on with his life.
When George set about to make the prequels he was a father of three kids, his youngest boy Jett was still very young. The prequels, particularly The Phantom Menace had a youthful slant that would be enjoyable to kids. Kids, especially little boys, love fart jokes, they like things that are goofy, and cars that go fast. Whenever I look at Jake Lloyd and I think of the few pictures that I’ve ever seen of George’s son when he was young, I know why he selected Jake, because he reminded him of his own kid. George had kept his movies from his children for many years, yet he made these films for them. All of the Lucas children eventually showed up in the films and at the time his two daughters roamed the sets experiencing this magical world that their father created. George himself never wanted to be a businessman growing up, it was a dream that his father had for him. Life likes to throw cruel jokes at you sometime George discovered. In his rebellious attempt to become an artist he ended up becoming the largest independent filmmaker in film-making’s history. If none of his children wanted his company or to follow in his footsteps, it’s 100% understandable why George would seek out a solution to rid his heirs of the burden of being forced to not follow their own dreams – because frankly Lucasfilm was never his dream, it was a necessity that he spent years fostering.
STAR WARS has always been about people following their dreams and the struggles that go along the way of achieving them. The films are about finding strength within yourself to understand that sometimes you need to put your own personal desires aside in order to eventually achieve full happiness. My only hope for the new films is that they contain depth to them and that they’re not just action films.
There are lots of opportunities for expanding the universe from many eras. I keep thinking to myself that a great new film era opportunity would be to explore “The Birth of the Republic” – not only could we see the Jedi/Sith wars, but Yoda would be young and in his prime. We could see planets making alliances and see how the Republic was formed. This era explored would be a nice tie-in with the Prequels, the earlier stories would show us how fresh and optimistic the Galaxy was with their new Government, then you fast forward to the prequels and get to see what happens when it’s overgrown, bogged down with special interests, and has grown so stagnant that it’s easy for someone to slip in and take away liberty. If they want Darth Vader in films, there’s a 20 year gap between REVENGE OF THE SITH and A NEW HOPE where they could explore Vader hunting down hidden Jedi. For all that there’s huge opportunities for films after RETURN OF THE JEDI, there are thousands of years that can be explored before THE PHANTOM MENACE as well. This more than anything is what gives me hope that the future of STAR WARS could be a very bright place indeed. The key to future films success will be good stories, great castings, and a broad understanding and love of George Lucas’s original vision. So long as Disney gives Lucasfilm enough time between films to devote their full attention to making each one unique and rich, we should have a great new era of films to come before us. Time will only tell how this will all go down, bur for now I’m going to plop myself down on the optimistic side of the bench.
Always remember, just because Walt Disney passed away, that didn’t mean that his studio stopped producing quality, amazing animated films. This may not have happened overnight and it took years for the studio to become the mega-house that it is today, but Walt’s spirit endures in each of their new films. Lucasfilm just like Disney bears the name of its creator, there’s no way in hell that they’ll ever be allowed to forget who founded the studio and why it became such an important part of film history.