Nov 01 2012

Five Worrisome Things about the Disney Takeover of Star Wars

Published by at 11:00 am under Editorials,Movies

The end no longer…

Since you’re on the internet, I assume you’ve heard the news. Our fearless leader took a rather optimistic view of the matter yesterday, and now it’s up to me to come in and spoil all the fun.

Well, maybe not entirely.

Though my immediate reaction yesterday was pretty much entirely negative, I’ve since shifted over into cautious skepticism. While the concept of Star Wars finding a way to stay relevant is an exciting one, I’m not sure that the merger with Disney’s gonna provide the solution I’d want.

Here are five things I’m worried about losing with Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

Aside: The heart and soul of the Star Wars universe resides in the feature-length numbered films. As such, today I am only talking about the Episodes.

THE LUCAS TOUCH

Yeah, yeah, I know that this is what a lot of people are most EXCITED about. The promise of the Star Wars universe, freed from the constraint of being under Lucas’s control.

But Star Wars, as we know it today, IS Lucas. Even when he wasn’t sitting in the director’s chair, the series hewed close to his passions, preferences, and peculiarities.

The main issue with the new trilogy, for me, is that the artistic and cultural achievement that is Star Wars remains intact. Again, fully aware of my minority stance, I find the tableau presented across the six current episodes to be possibly the greatest achievement American cinema has seen to date. It’s an epic mishmash of genre, mythology, and world history, realized in music, light, and sound.

Even accounting for differences between the trilogies, there’s something rather pure about the six-film saga, and I’d hate to see that tarnished by someone who doesn’t understand the series’s core.

Star Wars is a $4 billion franchise for a reason, and it isn’t just lightsabers and the Force. It’s not action and adventure. It’s not even just good and evil. Movies like The Last Starfighter, Dune, and even the newest Star Trek have tried and failed to resonate with audiences on the same level as Lucas’s magnum opus. I would contend that it is Lucas the man, in all his eccentric and polarizing glory, that has been the key to this franchise’s continuing success.

On the other hand…

This IS Lucas’s call. If he sets a clear course for the future of the series, he may well choose just the one it needs.

AMBITION

The original Star Wars might be the most ambitious film project of all time. From the unprecedented spaceship battles, to the realistic sound design, to the nontraditional structure… many barriers were shattered forever in 1977.

With the Prequels, Lucas dashed and subverted people’s expectations yet again. The noble Jedi became elitist warriors. Vader turned out to be a wayward teenager. The clones fought on the side of the Republic. For good or ill, I think we can all agree that bold choices were made in each and every movie.

Not to mention the astonishing number of technical boundaries that were shattered across both trilogies

“None of the films I’ve done was designed for a mass audience, except for Indiana Jones. Nobody in their right mind thought American Graffiti or Star Wars would work.” — George Lucas

And sure, it’s not a requirement that a movie be pushing the envelope to be good; however, innovation and risk-taking are part and parcel of Star Wars. Now, Disney the man would have understood this — what with films like Snow White to Fantasia, that man reached for the sky every time — but Disney the company? I don’t know.

This is the company that financed the wild, loopy Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, but then got cold feet and neutered the fourth entry into the realm of forgettable mediocrity.

In other words, I’m not sure that the new Star Wars is going to be capable of something as grueling as the conclusions of Revenge of the Sith and The Empire Strikes Back.

On the other hand…

It’s unclear to me at this point where the balance of power is between Disney and Kathleen Kennedy. It’s even less clear what Kennedy’s approach to this material will be. She might do a great job honoring the passion Lucas infused into this saga. Or maybe somebody will simply step up to the plate and deliver the goods.

JOHN WILLIAMS

Not that he won’t be involved as long as he can be, but there’s now a very high likelihood of Disney releasing an official episode of Star Wars that isn’t backed by a John Williams score. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but that thought really just makes me sad.

On the other hand…

No bright side to this one. If and when he needs to be replaced, all I can hope for is that they hire somebody willing to try to live up to his standard.

FRANCHISE INTEGRITY

One encouraging thing I’m hearing is that the next trilogy will be based on story treatments by Lucas himself. Assuming the new filmmakers honor them, there’s a reasonably good chance we’ll at least get some good flicks out of this. But after that?

(Again, remember that I’m strictly speaking of the feature films here. I won’t act like I don’t think the Star Wars licensing has been lax to say the least.)

If the weight of running the franchise falls on the House of Mouse, I’m just not sure that they can handle something this big. Their recent success with Marvel’s Avengers Initiative has been often cited as a positive comparison. Two things about that:

One: Marvel and George Lucas are not interchangeable. Star Wars is a very odd, entirely unique entry into film history, springing entirely from the mind of one visionary filmmaker. Plus Marvel has had a couple of big letdowns anyway. Just because The Avengers turned out well doesn’t mean Iron Man 2 wasn’t a huge waste of time.

But, two: The list of franchises that have continued to diminishing financial and artistic returns under Disney’s influence — if they continued at all. Two of the most obvious: Tron and Pirates of the Caribbean (oh, and any number of franchises stemming from their original classics).

On the other hand…

They DO seem to let their directors have a lot of say. Perhaps part of the problem with Pirates 4 was Rob Marshall (in fact, I should say “probably). Put the right guy behind it, and we might get something cool.

REBELLION

Pretty simple. Part of the appeal of Star Wars as an institution is that it came about outside the Hollywood system. Not only is that rebel appeal gone now, it’s gone in the most flagrant way imaginable — what with Disney being the megaconglomerate that it is.

Has the Star Wars franchise, like so many characters within it, joined the evil empire?

On the other hand…

Or is this merely the Rebellion finding a way to flourish despite all the odds? At this point, there’s no way to know. What’s that you always say, Master?

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

I think there was something about fear leading to suffering in there, too. Probably good to keep in mind.





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19 responses so far

19 Responses to “Five Worrisome Things about the Disney Takeover of Star Wars”

  1. Michaelon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:30 am

    Agree. Except Episodes 1,2,3 were a disgrace

  2. jediguyon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:36 am

    Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. The future is in motion finally. I was of the belief that Lucas was gonna die before we got more Star Wars movies or at least someone else was going to get a chance to make them. I liked the prequels were they perfect, nope but it was more Star Wars and I love me some Star Wars. Anything new is good news as far as I’m concerned. Instead of discussing whether or not this is a good or a bad thing I’d rather discuss what direction they might take with the stories. What characters they might use. Who might write and direct. I for one am all for more Star Wars movies and tv shows and video games and books and comics.

    Haters gonna hate.

  3. jediguyon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:38 am

    Also did I miss something cause I thought Iron Man 2 was pretty awesome. Can someone point out what was so bad about that movie?

  4. XenoIrishon 01 Nov 2012 at 12:03 pm

    You speak of the Lucas touch like it’s a good thing, when it was his complete control over the prequels that made them pretty awful, from a story telling stand point. Bad dialogue, unbelievable plots, and Jar Jar Binks were all on him. Empire Strikes Back was the best movie and it wasn’t directed by him, he took back over for Return of the Jedi and we got Ewoks.

    There was a video put out last year that was linked on Unreality, it was a film student acting like a producer making changes to Episode 1 in a mock pre production meeting, and his simple ideas would have made the original trilogy much better, from and entertainment and common sense standpoint.

  5. Bad Acidon 01 Nov 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Visually, IM2 was okay.

    Plotwise, it could have been so much more. It has too many side plots running alongside the revenge story. Whiplash is kept relevantly idle for most of the film, and is thus a shallow, underdeveloped villain. The solutions to the side plots were silly and cliche deus ex machinas (he synthesized a new element? With a collider? In his living room? Maybe in the 1950s people still thought this was possible.)

  6. PrivateEyes141on 01 Nov 2012 at 1:11 pm

    XenoIrish,

    Couldn’t have said it any better. The less Lucas, the better. It’s sad to say, but oh so very true.

    Look at The Clone Wars TV show. Yes, it’s geared towards the kiddies, but it’s lasted quite a while and still going strong. That show basically started as a “story treatment” from Lucas. He said the Clone Wars TV show should take place between Episodes 2 and 3, and it flourished from there in the hands of creatively capable hands. I see no reason why Episodes 7, 8, and 9 wouldn’t take the same path.

    And I’m DYING to see that video you’re talking about, XenoIrish. Anybody got the link?

  7. Caleb Kon 01 Nov 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Everybody rips the prequels and I mostly agree with 1 and 2, but I will fight to the bitter end for Ep 3 . Also Lucas is still on hand as an advisor so don’t be too worried about losing the Star Wars feel as far the stories are concerned.

    There are 2 Major players in Star Wars that everyone should be worried about having around. The first being John Williams (as David pointed out earlier). Seriously without this guy, what do you have? Music is the soul of these movies and I’d argue that before Star Wars no one even really knew how to score an action/adventure movie. Lose him as part of the franchise and everybody would notice that something is off. No one can fill those shoes. On a side note unlike the quality of the movies, I thought the music got better with every new episode of Star Wars.

    The other major player that Star Wars can’t afford to lose is the man behind the sound of the Star Wars universe Ben Burtt. This guy is the master, and since the beginning he and Williams have worked closely with all the directors, and Lucas.

    Without Williams and Burtt you have squat. I’ve heard many a bitch about Star Wars. Especially the prequels, but I don’t think one complaint has ever been directed at these two perfectionists of their craft.

  8. Steve2on 01 Nov 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I’m actually optimistic towards a new trilogy because it’ll be fun to see the rebellion continuing to fight the empire while the rest of the universe/galaxy is trying to rebuild now that’s it’s no longer under the empire’s rule….I just hope episode 9 doesn’t look and feel like the prequels do. When everything is rebuilt again. I hope the world of SW is done completely different. It would make sense for the world to look different after the empire’s rule, rather than rebuild it the old way.

  9. GrandWazooon 01 Nov 2012 at 1:32 pm

    The main reason I DON’T want Disney to get Star Wars is specifically because of the Avengers movies. Yes, those movies are awesome, and yes I have seen them all many many times. However, the REASON those movies are awesome is different from the reason why Star Wars is awesome. Star Wars isn’t splashy special effects with loud explosions and colorful lights, or at least the original trilogy that everyone likes isn’t. The Avengers movies are all style, and that honestly works really well for comic book movies. It won’t work so well for Star Wars, and I have zero confidence in Disney to tone it down.

    They bought another huge franchise; they are going to treat it the same as they treated The Avengers, and that is the only problem I have with the scenario. If I had any confidence that Disney could step back, see that Star Wars isn’t the same type of beast as The Avengers, and treat it differently one realizing that, then I would be absolutely pumped up to hear about Disney taking the reins.

  10. johncon 01 Nov 2012 at 2:04 pm

    GrandWazoo, I have a suspicion that you failed to realize the building of the team dynamic. Those slow 40 or so minutes allowed for the cacophony that followed. Sure, the rest of the film was ‘splosions and bright colors for days, but it would’ve been all for naught if they didn’t build the relationships at the beginning.
    That’s pretty much the core of Star Wars.

    You are right for doubting Disney. You can’t replicate the original trilogy. Hell, I refuse to watch them because I know I’ll hate them. I wish they would stop trying to mine nostalgia for all it’s worth, given that it defeats the very purpose of what Disney and Co are going to attempt. It will come across as cheap, no matter how deep the budget is.

  11. Weson 01 Nov 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I think it’s just trendy to say Iron Man 2 sucked. I think people who didn’t like it were just stupid and are the kind of people who fear change. Also, I don’t really give a shit about Star Wars. Episodes 1-3 blew (aside from Darth Maul) and the other ones are becoming dated.

  12. trashcanmanon 01 Nov 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I agree with this article on most counts, but here’s something else I’d point out. If Disney was capable of putting together a decent creative team of their own, they’d be knocking films out of the park like in the old days instead of crapping out mediocrity and buying superior film studio to stay relevant. Pixar and Marvel Studios had their shit well together before they were bought so Disney just had to slap their logo on somebody else’s hard work and rake in the cash.

    Without the creative mind responsible for the quality and vision behind Star Wars, Disney is likely going to fall back on the lowest common denominator and they have a history of making terrible decisions in that capacity. Personally, I think they should let Andrew Stanton have a go. John Carter was not bad at all and failed because Disney dropped the ball on promotion by making stupid corporate decisions (shortening the title because they thought people hate the word “mars”, for instance).

    I hope I’m wrong because I’d love to see a new trilogy that rivals the old one, but I’ll still laugh myself silly when the new film comes out and realization dawns on all the fans who thought divorcing the brand from Lucas was the only thing necessary to restore it to glory. Look, guys, if making a series as great as the original Star Wars trilogy was easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? Exactly. Selling out to Disney puts the franchise out of the frying pan and into the fire.

  13. XenoIrishon 01 Nov 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Ask and ye shall receive:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgICnbC2-_Y

    I’m almost positive that Paul originally posted this and I saw it on Unreality first.

  14. GrandWazooon 01 Nov 2012 at 4:54 pm

    @Wes

    Thanks SO much for weighing in just to say that you couldn’t care less about anything that was written. Who joins this conversation just to defend Iron Man 2? It was a good movie, but worse than the first one. It certainly wasn’t good enough to deserve you championing it.

  15. GrandWazooon 01 Nov 2012 at 4:59 pm

    @johnc

    I didn’t miss the attempt at building the team dynamic at the beginning. I just didn’t think it was overly effective beyond putting up a facade of teamwork. They had characters ready to go to blows with each other at the beginning, then the only catalyst they had for them fighting together is that they got their asses kicked. Yes, that facilitates the need for a team dynamic, but instead of them begrudgingly joining forces like people who hated each other yesterday but are forced to work together today would act, they immediately become best friends with inside jokes and an innate understanding of each other’s quirks and foibles. Did that take away from the film at all? No. Would I like to see something like that happen in Star Wars? Again, no.

  16. danielrandkaion 01 Nov 2012 at 5:09 pm

    You said “franchise integrity” in regards to George Lucas? GTFO. That totally invalidates any arguments you could possibly make. Franchise integrity? Seriously? Ugh. No, just no. Stop being a fanboy, and realize that 1,2, and 3 were awful, at best, and that it all started with the GD ewoks in VI. Thank god that Lucas will be out of the picture. The man was surrounded by nothing but yes men, and that worked out the way it did, so no. No more Lucas is a good thing that could go bad, but I’m glad we’ll get to find out.

  17. Charlie Wardon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Iron Man 2 was a really good movie. Why does everyone dislike it so much, anyway? Is it a hive mind thing?

  18. Penny Marie Sautereauon 02 Nov 2012 at 5:02 am

    Er…. no,. Star Wars is NOT either a wholly unique entity in film, (almost every single facet of Star Wars was “borrowed” from other stuff, there was nary an original idea in it, just a new way of mashing it all up into a story), and Lucas is not solely responsible for it’s high points, as a great deal of what worked is the result of other wiser people reigning him in. The Prequel Trilogy and Return of the Jedi are what happens when Lucas has full control to do as he likes. The Empire Strikes Back had Irv Kershner making the final decisions, vetoing George’s stupider ideas. And a New Hope had Lucas’ fellow USC film grad, Gary Kurtz as a producer, and he was VERY hands-on in reigning George’s stupider ideas in.

    Quoting from an article about pop culture geniuses who get more credit than they deserve; “Kurtz did more than an ordinary producer, however: Beyond running the day-to-day operations of the films, Kurtz also ended up coaching the actors (which is, technically speaking, the director’s job). Even minor characters like C-3PO weren’t the juice of Lucas’ mindgrapes. Lucas originally wanted 3PO to be an “oily, car salesman type” rather than our lovably gay robot butler friend. If that character archetype sounds familiar, that’s because Lucas would later get his sleazy salesman in The Phantom Menace, in the shape of the flying anti-Semitic stereotype, Watto. The actually likeable, not-racist version of C-3PO that we know today was largely thanks to Anthony Daniels. Daniels was originally hired as just a mime inside the gold suit, with someone else providing the voice-over. But actor Stan Freberg convinced Lucas to not use a different voice and stick with Daniels — which is particularly remarkable since Freberg was one of the actors considered to replace Daniels’ voice. That’s right: A struggling actor actually had to step up and sacrifice his own livelihood just to kill one of Lucas’ terrible ideas.”

    I dislike the idea of Disney owning Star Wars for very different reasons, but George Lucas being a wholly unique genius isn’t among them. Just like Bob Kane gets all the credit for BatMan because he came up with the name and drew the first comics but Bill Finger did almost all the actual creative legwork, Lucas is the name on a package made by the smarts and creativity of better men that history forgot.

  19. Carstenon 03 Nov 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Good post! These are exactly the points that came to my mind when I heard the news. It’s very hard to imagina a Star Wars Film without Lucas’ boldness.

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