Its old news now, but in an extraordinary mega-deal, Disney has acquired LucasFilm, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound from George Lucas . . . And with it, the rights to (amongst others) the Star Wars franchise. Social media was alight with the news, it’s been the talk of parts of the genre community and its been clear that, overall, we’re feeling pretty positive about the deal.
We have hope again.
For a long as I can remember I’ve known the original trilogy. Darth Vader has always been Luke’s father, Luke has always had a sister and Han Solo has always come through at the last moment to save the day. I have always adored the Dagoba scenes with the x-wing vanishing into the swamp – and, more, with R2D2 stuck outside in the rain, trying to look through the window into Yoda’s hut. For better or worse, Star Wars is part of the culture I grew up with – just like Disney, in fact. Although Star Wars is rather less trippy than Dumbo or Winnie the Pooh (Heffalumps and Woozles Disney. I had nightmares) . . .
Star Wars was and is part of my life, along with a lot of Spielberg movies (Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, ET, Jurassic Park, Innerspace (!)), Disney movies, the Bond franchise and more . . . So the news that we would see a prequel trilogy was genuinely exciting. This would be great: the return of a great story and universe, the backstory of characters I loved, a new wise-cracking set of heroes.
It didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped. Aspects of the prequels are great – costumes, special effects, some great fight scenes. There is a huge amount of innovation, inspiration and dedication in those films . . . but I know I’m not alone in feeling that they missed something. Despite the big budgets and the big expectations, the magic wasn’t there and the twists in the story didn’t pack the same punch. The creation of Darth Vader isn’t a patch on discovering that he’s Luke’s father, with a dangerously tempting offer, that Luke is maimed and Solo is encased in carbonite. I mean: damn. It’s a great story. The prequel trilogy simply didn’t match it. Worse, I felt that with more work, with more time and innovation, perhaps it could have been better, stronger. The source material could have been reworked to show us more powerful story arcs, or a more interesting angle on the events. To bring out their dark side, and to challenge and surprise viewers.
So I admit it: I may have lost faith. Had LucasFilm announced three new Star Wars movies I might not have been pleased. In fact, I think I’d have been very worried that the franchise I’ve always enjoyed (I say this, realising that to my mind the prequel movies somehow ‘don’t count’, because they’re not Proper Star Wars) would be devalued even further.
But in the hands of Disney? I think I might have new hope.
They know how to handle a huge fan base and a long tradition of storytelling. They know how to handle the balance between viewers wanting the same, and wanting something different. They know how to have a light, comic touch on their live action, even in darker films, and they seem to understand the importance of a great script to hold everything else together. They also appear to have recognised the importance of using real sets and the advantages they offer over green screen work.
We’ve had some great reinventions recently: Avengers has booted new life into the superhero franchises, Star Trek has rediscovered it’s boldness, Bond is back and better than ever . . . I really hope (and am genuinely hopeful) that Star Wars will join this list.
In the meantime, I leave you with this: