Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucas Sells Star Wars: What Does It Mean?

I know this is supposed to be a Kings blog, but as long as this lockout is ongoing there is not much Kings-related to write about so since I'm also a Star Wars fan and I had nowhere else to post this, I decided I'd just put it here.

    October 30, 2012: George Lucas has sold his film company Lucasfilm, Ltd. and all of the intellectual property that goes along with that to the Walt Disney Company. That includes what has been for over three decades probably the single most valuable copyright in the world, Star Wars. Disney has already promised the fabled "Third Trilogy", i.e., Episodes VII-IX, beginning in 2015, as well as more TV shows and other products.
    But to me, this raises a multitude of questions.

    1) Is Geore Lucas Dying?
    I should note that this is pure speculation on my part, but after how protective he has been of the Star Wars franchise since its creation, one has to wonder how he could just turn his baby over to someone else after all this time. Lucas has long let authors write pretty much whatever they wanted to in the myriad Star Wars novels and comic book series within certain boundaries of course, but when it has come to where the franchise was born – the cinema – he has always been the man in charge. Even when he handed over directing reins to Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand for Empire and Jedi, he still executive produced them and used his own money to finance them precisely because he did not want anyone else to have control over his movies. He wrote, directed, and produced all three prequels between 1999 and 2005 rather than give authority to people who might not share entirely in his vision. Even when it has come to the Clone Wars TV series, he has taken a lot more creative interest than he ever initially seemed like he would.
    And yet after all that, today he has handed the keys to the kingdom to a Mouse.
    Now I will grant you that he is supposedly still going to be a consultant on the Third Trilogy, but consulting on a product that you just accepted $4 billion to give up control over is a whole lot different than writing, directing, and financing the series, holding it strictly to your vision and making every last decision. Now he is really just going to be a guy who can say, "Wouldn't it be neat if the space ships were more chrome?"
    It makes me wonder if something is wrong with Mr. Lucas and he felt he had to do this now rather than leave the franchise for his kids to fight over and determine its fate.

    2) Where Will Future Movies Go?
    I suppose we have all wondered at one point or another just where Episodes VII-IX would take the series. The six movies we have wrap the story up pretty well. It begins with Anakin Skywalker's discovery by the Jedi and ends with his death as Darth Vader. It begins with Senator Palpatine manipulating the Republic into making him its leader, then duplicitously leading both sides in a civil war, becoming Emperor, and finally having his empire brought down by Anakin's son, Luke. We've seen the hero's journeys of both Skywalkers. The two trilogies have all their stories wrapped up pretty darn well by the end. A new trilogy would basically be pressing the reset button because there aren't really any story threads left after Return of the Jedi that need resolving.
    Will we see Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford in the next film? How about Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams? I think it would be nice to see them reprise their roles, but they're all in their 60s and 70s now, so clearly this trilogy is going to have to follow new characters in entirely new adventures. How much will it be tied to the originals? Are we just going to see more Skywalkers fighting their temptations to the Dark Side? Because in all honesty, Lucas made the galaxy small enough in Episodes I-III (Oh look, even though there are trillions of beings in the galaxy, Darth Vader just happened to build C-3PO and Yoda knew Chewbacca!), so I'd rather see some fresh characters involved with the classic characters we know and love from the originals.
    Also, will the Expanded Universe be respected? Because a lot of that stuff was garbage and shouldn't be kept around. If there was ever a time to truly hit the reset button and wipe the slate clean, it's now. I know that Lucas had a penchant for ignoring EU stuff with the prequels, but the vast majority of the novels have dealt with the post-Jedi world so there is a lot of established "history" there. Just how much of it will the new filmmakers stick with? It will be interesting to see.
    Speaking of the EU, while it's been revealed that we're getting original stories for Episodes VII, VII, and IX, there is no question the series will continue beyond there and I hope we will continue to get new stories instead of rehashed EU tales. I know a lot of people have long petitioned for the Zahn novels of the early '90s to be made into movies, but how about giving us something a little fresher? Those books were never of the same quality as any of the movies anyway, so I hope they will avoid using them.

    3) Who Is Going to Be Making These New Movies?
    With the next movie planned for 2015 they must have someone in mind for directing the first sequel. There are a lot of potential directors who grew up huge Star Wars fans and would love to make this movie. Joss Whedon obviously just worked with Disney on The Avengers and would of course be a prime candidate were in not for his involvement on that movie's sequel. J.J. Abrams has basically been making new Star Wars movies with his rebooted Star Trek series, and I imagine his involvement there will keep him from joining up. James Cameron is probably too much of a snob to agree to work in someone else's toy box, and will probably be working on those Avatar sequels anyway.
    Christopher Nolan has also expressed his love for Star Wars and the influence it has had on him as a filmmaker. Now that he has finished his revolutionary Batman trilogy maybe he would wanna take on the Star Wars universe. That could actually be something very special.
    I for one really hope there is Pixar involvement. Andrew Stanton has said on many occasions what a huge Star Wars fan he is and I feel confident that the other talented filmmakers at Pixar are likewise fans of the saga. I know that John Carter was a disappointment but I would still love to see what the Pixar brain trust could come up with to put into a Star Wars movie. It might be just the property to get them back on their game after a couple of whiffs their last two times out (Cars 2 and Brave). And how interesting is it that Pixar and Star Wars both started out as property of George Lucas but have now found themselves at Disney?
    And what role will Lucas really have? How closely will Disney stick to the treatments he wrote? Is he going to executive produce? Did he get anything language in the sales contract that he can approve or shoot down ideas for films? Or is he just going to collect a paycheck? Even though I think he is pretty much creatively bankrupt at this point I still feel like he should have some role, but I can't say what I think it should be.

    4) Original Trilogy Blu-Rays
    The Holy Grail for old school Star Wars fans would be to have restored, high definition versions of Episodes IV-VI as they initially screened in theaters in the '70s and '80s. George Lucas has basically told those fans "too bad, they're my movies and I can do what I want with them" time and again. The best we ever got was non-anamorphic, unrestored DVDs back in 2004 that looked muddy and don't fill up the screen on a modern 16x9 TV.
    Well, now the movies aren't George's. They're Disney's and George (presumably) can't stand in the way of that anymore. Will the Mouse House cave to long-time fan demand and restore the original prints? How long will it be before we see the original Original Trilogy on Blu-Ray the best they could possibly look?

    5) Star Wars Land
    In addition to movies, Disney is of course well known for its theme parks around the world. Star Tours has been a fixture at Disneyland for over 20 years now. I've long thought Star Wars could support its own park anyway. Maybe Disney are just the people to bring it to life somewhere. How cool would it be to have a drink at the Mos Eisley Cantina? Or to tour a life-size Millennium Falcon? If anyone can do this right it would be Disney.

    6) The Long-Rumored Live Action TV Show
    If there really are a bunch of scripts lying around for this, I guarantee ABC is premiers this program in fall 2014. And if there aren't any scripts yet, there will be very soon. A company of Disney's size will have a much easier time putting this together than Lucas. They will also have lots of executives eager to be a part of it and they're not going to be as controlling over the IP as Lucas was, so that lone will make it easier to get on the air.
    Fall 2014 will probably have a two-hour block of programming one night with the Avengers series on at 8 and Star Wars at 9.

    6) George Lucas Is a Fraud
    Nothing this man says is ever true. In the late '70s and early '80s he claimed he wanted to keep making Star Wars movies every few years and he had ideas for something like 12 of them. He claims that he always knew Darth Vader was Luke's father (he didn't until the second draft of Empire). In the '90s he no longer wanted to make these movies forever so he committed to a prequel trilogy and said that would be it. He stuck to his guns for seven whole years, saying there would be TV Sar Wars, but we'd never see another big screen Star Wars adventure (I'll give him a pass on the Clone Wars movie since it wasn't supposed to be a theatrical release at first). Ever since around the middle of the prequel trilogy's production cycle, he kept saying he wanted to finish them so he could get on to making the small personal movies he'd had in mind for decades. Instead, he made Star Wars cartoons and a terrible fourth Indiana Jones movie. Now, here we are, seven years removed from Episode III, which we were told wrapped up the Star Wars cinematic experience forever, and he has sold the rights to the Star Wars universe so that Disney can continue the franchise in perpetuity. By 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out, he told us there would never ever be a sequel trilogy.
    I don't think George Lucas ruined my childhood by having Han shoot first and making mediocre prequels. But I do think he is a huckster who will say pretty much whatever strikes him as potentially profitable at the moment.

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