Hopefully, you’ve read Part One which explores the Dark Side of Disney buying Lucasfilm. However, there is a vast light side to this merger, and a great many things to look forward to.
The Light Side
2. No other studio is better equipped to do justice to Star Wars.
While Fox has traditionally distributed Star Wars, and owns part of the distribution rights to the previous installments, Disney and Lucasfilm have long been partners. When thinking of the magical world of Disneyland, Star Tours and the Indiana Jones ride are integral parts.
In addition, Disney knows how to build experiences and bring you into a place of magic and adventure. Despite the occasional bomb or mediocre project, Disney has recently treated its franchises very well. Yes, there are the cash-grab straight to DVD sequels, John Carter, Cars 2, and all three inessential Pirates of The Caribbean sequels. However, there’s Pixar, Tron: Legacy, and The Avengers, just to name a few.
As Mark Hamill said in a recent interview, “I have mixed feelings about [this], but they haven’t done badly by Marvel and the Muppets and Pixar. It’s one of those big decisions that at first seems unusual but then the more you look at it, the more it makes sense.”
Imagine if Episode VII were the quality of Toy Story 2 or 3.
This is now what’s possible.
While Tron: Legacy has its detractors, it and the new Star Trek, are what a modern Star Wars film should look and feel like.
In this scene, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) lands all Jedi-like in Castor’s dance club and uses a Tron-version of the force to rescue his son. The moment he arrives, the lights dim, the music builds, and Flynn appears powerful while doing very little. That’s how to be a Jedi. Contrast that to the scene in Attack of the Clones when the calvary/Jedi arrive in Count Dooku’s arena. They stand and swirl their lightsabers as all fans do when they get ahold of a Force FX lightsaber. Such posing is fun and cool when hanging out with friends. Not so much in a professional film.
Imagine if Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu had entered like Flynn?
Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson, The Avengers is also an example of what Episode VII could be. Joss Whedon built a film that is true to the canon, true to the characters, while still having changes, development, and pulling together a myriad of disparate elements and giving the overall film weight and depth. He accomplished the impossible. (We’ll get to potential directors in a moment).
3. Quality Control
In the previous post, I discussed the tortured relationship between fans and new announcements with Star Wars. We are cautious to get our hopes up.
George Lucas is a “consultant,” so he’s allowing other writers to build the script. Hopefully, this will prevent dialogue such as, “Ani, you’re breaking my heart,” “Noooooooo!”, and “Are you an angel?”
Look at what happened when George Lucas turned the directing over to Irvin Kershner for Episode V (Empire Strikes Back). Something of this greatness is now possible with fresh minds and fresh ideas. Episode VII has a lot of expectation on it: Will it redeem the Prequel Trilogy, can it smoothly continue the story, will its style fit with the other films? The expectation is nearly impossible to match, but, once again, look at Star Trek and The Avengers. Both films had a rich pedigree, avid fan base of the original material, and impossible expectations to meet. Both films met those expectations. Even if the films are on the level of Prometheus and Tron: Legacy (solid films, match world, but aren’t the greatest films ever,) it will have achieved the impossible.
Storywise, Episode VII, VIII, and IX have always existed in the mystical outline within George Lucas’ head, and now, whether good or not, we will get the whole story as he envisioned it during the mid 1970’s. He always said Episode IV-VI were the most interesting and were possible to tell with 1970’s technology. Taken alone, the Prequel Trilogy has a good story. However, it is weighed down by tangential characters, plodding plot points, and then trying to jam-pack two-thirds of the story into Revenge of the Sith.
I don’t know what they’ll do about actors. It will be interesting to see if Carrie Fischer, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill would want to play older versions of their iconic characters. It would be incredibly dangerous to recast them, but it is possible. It’ll be interesting to see.
As a sequel, Episode VII has six films to build from, and a rich extended universe to explore. While this can be a challenge, moving forward is also an opportunity. We don’t know what will happen. In the Prequel Trilogy, we knew Anakin Skywalker would become Darth Vader. We don’t even know how far after Return of the Jedi it takes place. Whatever the story entails, it will create a fresh source of material for the novels, comic books, and video games.
It is clear Episode VII is not based off of Timothy Zahn’s excellent Thrawn trilogy that jump-started the popularity of Star Wars spin off novels. While disappointing, we can hope there will be a nod to Mara Jade. In an interview on EW.com, Zahn does suggest Luke as an Obi-Wan style mentor. I’d be interested to see what Mark Hamill would bring to the role.
Here’s an interview from Rolling Stone with Damon Lindelof, a co-creator of Lost and producer of the new Star Trek. He pretty much sums up the excitement.
5. A New Director!
Most important is the question of who will direct it. Lucas has said, “I’ve turned [the choice] over to a wonderful producer, Kathy Kennedy, and I’ve known her for years. She’s more than capable of taking it and making it better than I did.”
I was going to write in more detail, but then Entertainment Weekly (yes, I do go on this website too much) released this article speculating on the potential directors. They list exactly who I thought of: Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron. They also include Catherine Hardwicke, which could be interesting, and I’m glad to see a female director on the list. A commenter suggested Kathryn Bigelow. While I don’t see her doing a straight blockbuster film, I think she’s a better contender. I’d also like to add Kenneth Branagh. He took Thor, a potentially super-cheese movie and made an enjoyable epic.
While I’d be interested in del Toro or Cuaron’s vision, my favorites are Abrams and Whedon. How many times have Iisted Star Trek and The Avengers in this post? Both have made excellent character-based action films from impossibly complex mythologies. I watched Abrams’ Star Trek thinking, “I wish this is what the Prequel Trilogy had been like.” As for Whedon, if you combine Firefly and Serenity with The Avengers, you have a new Star Wars movie.
Here’s a sample of Whedon’s potential cover letter:
Dear Disney Executives,
I directed The Avengers. Box office receipts so far: $1.5 billion.
Imagine how much more money you can make if I direct Star Wars Episode VII,
Joss Whedon, Champion of Nerds.
It would be interesting if they handed the film to a relatively unknown director and saw what he or she could do with it, or pulled from one of the producers of The Clone Wars TV series. Whoever the director is, it’s going to be fun just speculating about it until the person is announced.
The ABC show Once Upon A Time already benefits from Disney’s deep catalogue of films, magic, and copyrights. Darth Vader could duel the young, hot Captain Hook. Imagine how excited the writers are as they discuss possibilities.
There could be more rides or events at the Disney theme parks, or even an entire Star Wars land or park. Who doesn’t want a Death Star Escape obstacle course?
As seen in the meme above, Princess Leia is now a Disney Princess. “Snow White, go get a blaster and stop waiting for your prince to come. Pocahontas, get that flowing carpet out of my face. I’m going to paint with all the colors of my fist.”
The Kingdom Hearts franchise can now venture into a Star Wars world. Who doesn’t want to wield a keyblade against Darth Vader’s lightsaber? Sephiroth and the Emperor could work together, as could Cloud and Han Solo, or Indiana Jones.
Regardless of copyrights, Star Wars and Indiana Jones are owned by the fans. While both franchises have captured our imagination, it is the imagination of fans which has developed Star Wars into the cultural icon it is today. In the end, we will be loyal. And, if Episode VII is terrible, we the fans will cry out for justice, and, someday, a good movie will be made.
UPDATE: My brother showed me this video introducing Princess Leia to the Disney Princesses. I think Leia should be a little tougher, but it’s still fun.
AWESOME UPDATE: Michael Arndt, Oscar winning author of Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3, and the upcoming Hunger Games: Catching Fire has officially been hired to write Star Wars Episode VII. EPIC! And a Pixar-Star Wars Crossover!
And confession: I have yet to see Toy Story 3. This must be corrected immediately.