If you are a fan of this blog, you might have already heard the news from places like this. If not, you should be aware that Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd, giving them control of the Star Wars franchise. I thought this might just be rights to the movies, current and future, with Lucas retaining ownership of merchandise and his support companies like ILM and Skywalker Sound, but according to this press release from Disney, they are getting everything. Lucas will be retained as a creative consultant with his second in command elevated to president of Lucasfilm and reporting to Disney upper management.
People are wondering what the motivations are. To me, it is simple. Lucas was offered a lot of money (~$4 billion of which ~$2 billion will be cash) and it relieved him of the headaches of his franchises. He basically has been able to do no right since Empire in the eyes of the world and now he is completely free of that burden. He got to do what he wanted and now it is someone else’s problem. This is obvious to me because he didn’t just sell SW. He sold Lucasfilm outright. This includes Indiana Jones which, the article I linked to above points out, Disney doesn’t care about at all. Besides the nice simplicity, why give it all away unless you don’t want the responsibility anymore?
None of this is completely surprising news but it is interesting to think about what might happen now. The future of SW could go two ways in my book:
Disney says, “There is so much backstory and, whew, are we lucky to have people whose job it is to keep all this stuff straight. People who are experts in the minutia of the products, the universe, and all things Star Wars. We’ll do new stories in this existing universe. Maybe occasionally we’ll have to tweak the movie cannon and almost certainly there will be movement in the expanded universe, but the core stuff will remain the same and mostly we will just have glancing references in our new stuff. We have a huge interesting universe that still inspires people to this day. Let’s go see other parts of it and meet new characters!”
How cool would it be to have a TV miniseries show us what it is like to be selected as a padawan and then take us through to Jedi knighthood? What about live-action movies based on the Republic Commando novels? Maybe we focus on the empire vs. rebel struggle from the perspective of a group of pro-empire people and why they think the empire is so great and how it will improve humanity.
Disney says, “What a nightmare of backstory! There is so much infrastructure just to keep track of it all – entire departments, wikis, forums, etc. Not all of the fans mutinied when they streamlined and altered some key elements in the Star Trek reboot. It made a lot of money and received favorable reviews. Let’s wipe the slate clean and try that here. Now we can get rid of Luke’s incestuous thoughts and anything else we deem problematic.”
While I’m all in favor of a nice cohesive story, major changes to the SW universe will really screw it up. While you can get away with this in Star Trek, I don’t think it will work well in SW. Trek is a very character driven show, but in SW the setting is probably its strongest attribute. As an example, the Han didn’t shoot first change really bothered me but it didn’t fundamentally alter things the way midi-chlorians did. Disney option #2 has the opportunity to change things much more drastically than how the Force works and that is probably a very bad thing.
My hope is that they leave the existing SW stories alone and that they also realize they have two avenues to approach new SW stories. The kid-oriented cartoons can be simple straightforward stories of heroism and pure evil. The movies and live-action TV shows can appeal to teens and adults. New characters can be more ambiguous. Storylines can be more complex. They can run the gamut of Smallville-esque young hero soap operas to Avengers-style popcorn chompers all the way to Saving Private Ryan-ish war movies. The SW universe is huge and stories can be tailored to all age groups and tastes without being paradoxical or wiping the slate clean first. If SW is big enough for custom cookie cutters, then it is big enough for multiple sagas.
Also, don’t let that announcement of a new SW movie in 2015 slip by. Just when it seems things are at an end, there is another.