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Editorial: Why selling Star Wars to Disney was a good thing
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Sunday, November 4, 2012
It’s hard to believe that less than a week has gone by since we learned George Lucas was selling Star Wars to Disney, and that more Star Wars movies will be made. Until that announcement I had figured that, one day a decade or two from now, we would see Star Wars Episode VII get made. If you had asked me one week ago if we would be planning on watching Episode VII in theaters by 2015, I would have called you crazy.
I’m one of the original old school fans of Star Wars. When I first watched the original Star Wars – and back when it came out in May 1977, there wasn’t any “Episode IV” title in the opening crawl – I was just a seven-year-old kid. True, a seven-year-old boy that was obsessed with everything to do with sci-fi movies and outer space, so watching that first Star Wars movie was a sensory experience unlike any other.
Back then I lived in a different world without the internet, computers or even daily TV shows that would report on news breaking in the world of Hollywood. You got big important showbiz information from the radio, newspapers and the nightly TV news but it had to be sizeable enough to warrant the mention. Everything leading up to Star Wars was practically non-visible except for the Bantam novelization which was released several months before the movie came out. Even then the photos that they showed were definitely interesting but it was still nothing close to the overwhelming sensory experience you had when you watched Star Wars up on the theater screen.
Star Wars was at –- and I still believe is -- its best when it was an ensemble creation. Lucas is a genius in several distinct and important ways, but in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and the prequels, the contributions of other key people involved in the making of those first two Star Wars movies have been marginalized. Star Wars fans who have spent the time digging under the polished Lucasfilm marketing surface will know how very important the input of people like producer Gary Kurtz, special effects master John Dykstra, editor Marsha Lucas, writer John Milius, and the many others who helped Lucas create his universe of aliens, heroes, villains, droids and spaceships were to the DNA of Star Wars.
The prequel trilogy that Lucas made in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s is the vision of Star Wars that he has of it. It’s one that differs substantially from the grittier, more dangerous and less “everyone is a blood relation of everyone else” feel that the 1977 and 1980 Star Wars movies presented. If you time traveled back to 1978 or 1979 and asked a thousand Star Wars fans if Luke’s father could have been the creator of C-3PO, I’m willing to be that no one would have believed it possible. It just doesn’t feel right in the same way that Han shooting first when Greedo has a gun on him feels wrong.
Somehow, the Star Wars universe that George Lucas believes is isn’t the same Star Wars universe that most original fans believe in. I’m wondering if it was that wave of criticism that eventually wore down Lucas and made him come to realize that selling Star Wars off would be the best decision he could make for the property. I wonder how many people are left within Lucas’ circle of old friends where critical observation of Star Wars and its morphing into something different could be voiced to him. Maybe these talks never happened and it was just a decision that Lucas came to by himself.
Whatever the answer is, selling Star Wars to Walt Disney is the best move that could be made to redeem the Star Wars franchise. Disney now own some of the most popular film franchises in the world. In addition to Star Wars they also own the Marvel productions who have produced blockbuster hits such as The Avengers and the soon to be Iron Man trilogy. By allowing someone else to hold the creative reigns, and to allow outside thinkers and dreamers to come up with new Star Wars stories, George Lucas has had his own personal moment to battle the dark side of the Force. Just as Darth Vader had to choose between the love of his son or serving his Master, so too Lucas had to choose between letting someone else play with the toys he helped create and most definitely did own. I believe that he made the best decision, and that by allowing outsiders to now create Episode VII and beyond, we might see the redemption of Star Wars from the disappointment that was the Star Wars prequels.
A lot of things could still go wrong in the making of this new Star Wars movie trilogy, but it’s just as important to remember that things could go better that they did with Episodes I to III. I like that Kathleen Kennedy is now the captain of the ship at Lucasfilm; she’s proven to be an incredibly smart filmmaker and business strategist, and I would like to believe that she will be able to sprinkle in the missing ingredients and return the flavor of the original Star Wars back into the franchise. Surely it won’t be the same experience as it was back in 1977 but it can be made better than what we last experienced.
Speaking as a man who saw nearly everything that he loved about Star Wars get washed away by the prequels, this new direction has given me hope that the things that I love about Star Wars can come back to it. Let’s bring in new blood as well as mend fences with some of the veterans who helped make the original movies. Let’s explore the saga of the Skywalker and Solo families as well as venturing off and telling tales about new characters we haven’t been introduced to yet. Let’s see the richness of the Star Wars universe that the comics, games and novels have demonstrated is creatively possible brought into the realm of movies.
A new hope has been given to Star Wars.