But slipping in just behind it while the door was opened was what was, for me anyway, far less impressive news. Seeing the headline, Star Wars 7 coming, just made me roll my eyes. Then I saw it was part of a bigger story.
Nope. Still not impressed.
The bullet points: Disney has bought LucasFilm for $4.05 bil. That's "billion." As in, "billllllyuns and billllllllyuns." Disney is planning to make Star Wars sort of their own James Bond, with new movies every few years.
Poster on the channel: "Disney's going to screw up Star Wars!"
Me: It'll be a more entertaining screw up than what Lucas did.
Other posters: giving me lots of internets.
My statement, by the way, is pretty much all I can really muster the interest to say. There was a time when I thought Star Wars was Pure Awesome, written by God's hand and beamed into George Lucas' skull, a grand epic that united people and generations (now, the "God beamed Pure Awesome into someone's head" goes to Axe Cop). I remember consuming minute details gleaned from the movies and other fans and behind the scenes specials and so on. I remember the outrage I felt at the Star Wars Remixes and the first two prequels. I remember writing long screeds about how the Star Wars saga no longer belonged to Lucas, it belonged to all of us, the fandom, and how dare he dick with it so shamelessly.
And then, it just stopped for me.
I didn't care one way or the other anymore. Maybe it was the awareness that it is ultimately Lucas' toy. Maybe it was the awareness that I was getting excited over what was ultimately an artistic fluke (more on this in a minute). Maybe it was, like so many things in life, the concept had captured my imagination until there were other things more interesting at the time competing for my attention and I didn't abandon Star Wars consciously so much as I just found other stuff to do (looking at the various pop culture trappings I've collected over the years, you can see the changes, from my fannish enjoyment of Pac-Man to Q*bert to Star Trek to Sonic The Hedgehog to Pokemon to, yes, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic with dozens of stopovers along the way. This is why I hesitate to buy lots of fan items -- I'm aware they very likely have a short shelf life and I'll be moving on before too long). Either way, the continued outrage expressed by various fans over Lucas is no longer my own, and hasn't been in a while.
Lucas did great with the immediacy of his directorial approach to the original Star Wars. It has a real "you are there" feel to it. And he kept the ball rolling with Empire, one of the biggest cinematic risks in history. Think about it -- the movie shows all the Big Happies from the first movie are momentary. The Empire has decided to get tough and has been breaking down the Rebellion, forcing them to run and survive. It ends with the characters looking at an uncertain future and very likely defeat and loss. Movies are feelgood epics. People want to see the bad guys lose and get punished, and this movie basically showed Evil triumphing. But those are the only real standouts on his resume. Return Of The Jedi was a mess, showing Lucas was more interested in being merchandising instead of storytelling, whether for the general public (the Ewoks are never identified as Ewoks once in the course of the movie) or movie producers (his ILM shop). And I will defend until the day I die that Han and Luke were meant to be siblings, not Luke and Leia. Likewise, Lucas and Spielberg hit it out of the park with the first two Indiana Jones movies before losing it with the third (and am I the only one that had to remind himself there was a fourth Indiana Jones movie made?).
The problem with Lucas is that he needs structure to be at his best. He needs restrictions. With his Hollywood clout and yes men, he no longer has anyone keeping him focused. His re-release of THX-1138 has special effects added that not only add nothing to the proceedings, but actually detract when compared to the unaltered film around it. THX-1138 was actually a mediocre film anyway, made when people were trying to make science fiction too literary for its own good (see Zardoz and the David Lynch Dune for more of this). The only film he had a hand in that I really enjoyed was Twice Upon A Time, and his studio just handled the production and tried to stay out of the way of the feuding producer and director. When Lucas completely missed the point of Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck and made that movie, that was the bottom of the bag of tricks. Radioland Murders, Willow (a.k.a. Star Wars Goes To The Ren Faire), and the recent Red Tails ($60 mil to make, $35 mil for distribution, all came from Lucas' own pocket) shows a guy who has big ideas that are better as ideas than fully realized artistic visions. His ambitions are personal and he doesn't realize his movies can't just impress himself, they have to impress an audience with plenty of options competing for their entertainment dollars. He's not justifying why anyone should get excited over his stuff anymore. Even Star Wars no longer has that, "Guess what's coming up?!?" factor, relying on market conditioned responses instead of fresh takes and new approaches.
As a result, I'm completely apathetic about new Star Wars movies. Lots of people, though, apparently still care. It's like Before Watchmen on steroids out there. So, in the interest of establishing some order to the discussion, here's the details of the deal:
First order of business -- Fox retains distribution rights to the currently existing Star Wars output, Disney gets everything after this (including, yes, the Holiday Special). The next movie is targeted for summer 2015 (along with the next Avengers movie and the Justice League movie), with movies every two to three years, and have already bought treatments for 7, 8, and 9. Not commissioned, bought, so they already existed at the time of the deal, so it's still Lucas' vision, for better or worse (incorporating some elements from but not based on the games or the Timothy Zahn books or anything like that, although I think we can put that in the "for better" camp), and at the conference call about the deal, suggested it would cap off the original movies, so a new direction after this. Lucas is still the boss of the Fox films, so the Remixes (Han shooting second) are what will remain until someone else is running things. I'll bet Fox is REALLY pissed at the deal they gave Lucas all those years ago now.
Disney has now acquired four major entertainment brands and brought them in house -- Jim Henson, Pixar (although that was Pixar's doing, Disney was looking at stockholder revolt if they didn't give Pixar what they wanted), Marvel, and now Lucasfilm. Disney is usually a bargain hunter, so they are clearly figuring this is worth the deal, as the success of Avengers and Cars and such prove. Lots of studios are seeing problems with cash flow, especially Sony, which is putting Ghostbusters 3 into turnaround after everyone finally decided to move on without Bill Murray. Disney is looking to become the 500 lb. gorilla of movies.
Dark Horse has the Star Wars license for comics and has paid Big Time for those rights. They are the most stable sellers on their slate and have managed to keep Viacom interested in acquiring them without actually going for it. Disney already pulled everything away from BOOM! after the Marvel acquisition, so what happens to Dark Horse? And please, let this mean a better deal for Star Wars novelists. Writers of the books get paid a flat rate, they don't get royalties on sales or anything else. Lord hear our prayer.
Lucas is retiring from active duty (he's been thinking about it for the last five years, but only started putting things in motion last year), but will consult on the new projects. Co-chair Kathleen Kennedy is the new president of LucasFilm and will report directly to Alan Horn, the chair of Walt Disney Studios.
Indiana Jones is dead because part of the rights to those are tied up with Paramount. Paramount, you will recall, was distributing Marvel movies like Iron Man until Disney bought the company and tossed a sack of loot at Paramount for the future distribution rights. Someone saw the $1.5 bil haul of the Avengers and gave someone an ass chewing. Paramount will play hardball if Indiana Jones pops up on the radar, and Disney knows it. So better to let it stagnate.
Lucas had a little meeting this summer with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. I doubt it was just to catch up.
Have fun, I think I'll sit these out.