Why Disney's Money is the Only Thing That Can Fix 'Star Wars'


Star Wars is a broken franchise. Any hard-core fan knows it’s true (or else what have we been ranting about since Episode 1?). But with yesterday’s news that Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion dollars, it’s easy for us to explode all over again. Starting in 2015, Disney is planning to release a new trilogy, Episodes 7 to 9. And at first, we might want to defend our favourite film series from further attack.

Consider, however, the mistakes made over the past decade with Star Wars, and the reputation Disney has built with the brands it buys. We shouldn't be worried about Star Wars’ creative integrity. If anything, we should be glad that Disney came along to straighten out the series. Now, George Lucas can make a clean break from Star Wars, and there’s room at the top for new, more invested talent to take over. Just like Darth Vader, there’s hope for redemption here, and it’s clear that Disney is uniquely capable of making movies we can admire.

I doubt many of us need a refresher about why the Star Wars franchise needs new life. There are six existing movies that seem stuck in a cycle of restoring, re-editing and re-releasing. There are hundreds of authors and artists creating novels, comic books, video games and other additions to the “Expanded Universe” to satisfy a desire for new stories. And running the show was Lucas, a man many believe hasn’t been all that interested in his creation for a long time.

Lucas’ reasons for selling Lucasfilm are likely far more complex than we’ll ever know. As he makes his exit, I’m left with the image of a politician who has served for too many terms, who is finally handing over control. He’s both respected and reviled, and there’s a strange cult that’s sprung up online around trying to dissect him as a person and as a filmmaker. Now Disney can step in and offer some new ideas, and whether they be good or bad, they will probably be better than the stagnant approach of the past.

The political metaphor is useful again here: when you look at the number of problems that fans have with Star Wars, they resemble the issues in an election campaign. Obviously, it’s nowhere near as important as a real election, but the amount of vitriol and debate devoted to Star Wars over the years could very well match that of some political discussions. First we fight about whether Han shot first, then we object to Jar Jar Binks, then we moan when Vader screams, “Nooooo!” So why not let Disney hire some creative people to push all that to the side?

Just consider Disney’s past acquisitions. They bought Pixar, but let the studio have a considerable amount of creative control – most of us agree that Pixar’s films still impress audiences like they did before the takeover. Disney also folded in Marvel Entertainment in 2009, and while the resulting Marvel films may have their detractors, they certainly didn’t suffer either critically or commercially.

As for Lucasfilm, it looks like Disney will manage them in the same way:  give the creative people the flexibility they need, and be the ultimate business partner – taking care of the hype and industry foolishness that can distract companies from making good creative decisions.

Who will lead the creative side of things? That’s probably the most exciting part. The promise of big Disney-funded budgets will attract all kinds of talent to the new Star Wars films, people who wouldn’t have a place in a Lucas-driven production company. It’s all wild speculation at this point, but pick your favourite directors, writers and designers. Imagine them making a Star Wars movie. Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Duncan Jones, or even currently-unknown directors. People who actually care about story, characters and acting.

You might worry that the resulting movies would deviate from Lucas’ original vision. The question is, do we even know what that is at this point? Maybe the six Star Wars movies are supposed to be about Anakin Skywalker – his upbringing, fall and renewal. So why not make three movies about his legacy? Expand it to cover the rest of the character’s family. No matter how many dollar signs get tossed around by studio heads, there’s always creative possibilities in an announcement like this – the ideas just need to be properly developed.

It’s unfortunate that all we can do at this point is wait and see. And when real information about stories, directors and casting is announced, the shouting match will start all over again. For now, at least, it’s comforting to know that something progressive is happening with Star Wars (except for The Clone Wars, which is doing just fine).

Let’s face it, some fans still believed that Lucas would have eventually made a new trilogy if he stuck around. And it probably would have been about Jar Jar’s grandson becoming a “bombad” Jedi.


What did you think of the Disney-Lucasfilm deal? Is there hope for a reinvigorated series? Or do you feel like burning down Skywalker Ranch? Join the discussion in the comments section. If you liked this article, share it with your friends and followers, and check out some of my related posts about movies here:


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