Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Film News

Creative Coup d'etat...Maybe?

Star Wars Font

      Like all great, or once-great properties that have come before it, Star Wars has been seized by the mechanisms of commerce and vicissitudes of time. Disney, the ubiquitous merchant of magic, which for some is now an unbecoming title—well, the magic part at least—is the new owner of that cherished timespace. While its current profile inspires neither uniform applause nor outright derision, Disney's capacity for magnificence is uncontested. With a catalog of films that stretches as far back as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length traditional animated feature in motion picture history, Disney has demonstrated time-and-again an ability to sustain feelings of wonder and awe, and a primal adeptness in the management of story and fantasy. These statements spotlight a reputation that is owed primarily to its founder, Walt Disney, a brilliant visionary who carved a lineage that is steeped in fantastical ambition. Well, what is more fantastical and ambitious than a continuation of the original Star Wars Trilogy? How about an actual continuation of the Star Wars Trilogy!?
      In an swift, calculated motion, Disney has purchased Lucasfilm, doling out a reported $4,050,000,000 (that's $4 billion folks, which, for dramatic effect, I wrote numerically to underline the fact that this is an enormous expenditure). For those keeping count, Marvel, Pixar, the Muppets Studio, and now Lucasfilm all seek capital refuge under the corporate umbrella of the media industry's largest conglomerate. Do I really need to illuminate its other holdings?
      This sudden acquisition surprises virtually everyone. Lucasfilm's co-chair Kathleen Kennedy, who some may recognize as a frequent producer on Spielberg's many blockbusters (Jurassic Park for instance), will transition as President of Lucasfilm, surprising no one. She has been Lucas' heir apparent for quite some time. The biggest surprise; however, is reserved for the company's flagship property. Yep, Star Wars. 
      According to most media accounts, including The Hollywood Reporter and Slashfilm, preparations for a Star Wars: Episode VII have begun in earnest with a slated release date for 2015. Holy Han Solo that's some exciting news! Ms. Kennedy is identified as an executive producer while the pinata of fanboy derision himself, George Lucas, will be relegated perhaps wittingly to a "creative" consultancy role. 

      The depths of indignation that have surrounded Mr. Lucas in the second-half of his career will likely never dissipate. And while I would argue that the degree of antipathy of which his name has been associated has been in many cases mere irrational contempt, just another instance of an important figure of yesteryear unduly maligned, the root of criticism directed at him has been perfectly warranted; the prequels were an abomination, almost uniformly terrible in fact, and poorly executed changes to the original trilogy have justifiably sustained fans' appetites for Lucas' head on a platter. The revelation, therefore, that Lucas' role in the sequels will sufficiently disintegrate is extreme cause for celebration. But what form this celebration takes and to what degree it grows is subject to the next stage of development. Who dares direct this holy grail of cinematic properties? One thing is certain: Whoever carries the mantle will inherit untold mountains of expectations, but even Lucas himself can acknowledge that a trajectory keenly less reliant upon his megalomania is most advantageous for the franchise: "It's now time for me [Lucas] to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers." I agree. Yes, I emphatically agree, sir.  
      From what I've been able to divulge in my preliminary investigation, Disney has actually acquired "extensive treatments for the next three movies (Episodes VII-IX)." The deal also includes every morsel of Star Wars-related content from comic books to novels. Now no one outside the hierarchical sphere of Disney can attest to what direction Episode VII ultimately takes. I doubt even Disney's corporate brain trust even knows at this point. Deductive reasoning though does allow us to pinpoint a chronology that commences some time after Return of the Jedi
      The Internet has erupted with extensive discussions concerning this most scrutinized of acquisitions. But obligations have curtailed my participation. Details that I have been able to grasp suggest a timeline for Episode VII that continues a few decades after the climactic events of Return of the Jedi. This route preserves a recognizable continuity to the original story. My presumption is that one need not consume every infinitesimal parcel of Star Wars paraphernalia or be an aficionado to understand the rudimentary functions of the universe. Every man, woman, and child has likely seen the original trilogy. If not, off with your heads.
      Within this logistical framework, the reconstruction phase in the post-Empire world has undergone its course. The Jedis have reassimilated; the wisdom of the central characters having been successfully imparted onto the successive generation. Luke, it is widely presumed, morphs into an Obi-Wan-like figure, which is Lucas vernacular for a premier Jedi knight. Han's leadership capacity, we suspect, grows more significant while the fates of R2-D2 and C-3PO likely resume unperturbed. Conflict almost invariably necessitates moral and philosophical disputes. As underpinnings of any dramatic narrative, I expect these dimensions to be integrated shrewdly. With most principle actors still enjoying the fruits of mortality, character reprisals can also be expected. The mythology of Darth Vader must persist in some fashion. And I for one can never diminish the likelihood of a love interest. Romance is a frequent dramatic catalyst even within the galactic confines of a space opera. 
      Star Wars Episode VII, now finally usurped from the waning creative grip of Mr. Lucas, is an enterprise I can wholly endorse. But I have one major directive aimed squarely at the creators. Forgo an unseemly reliance upon CGI and exorbitant, tertiary special effects, which has effectively bankrupt the creative potency of the franchise and instead steer a commitment to good old-fashioned storytelling. Eschewing CGI altogether is not smart, but prudence is a virtue. The galaxy I fell in love with as a kid depicted an environment that was enchanting, visceral, and above all, flawed. Digital perfection dilutes some of this primordial appeal. If nothing else the godawful prequels affirm this message. 
      I hold strongly to a belief that I realize is entirely impractical. Executives and their handsome investments which galvanize the film industry are not exclusively beholden to the bottom-line—of course commerce dictates they ought to be, but to individuals across the world whose imaginations are nurtured, and in many cases derived from the creative bursts of inspiration that George Lucas himself once harnessed in the making of Star Wars during a time, long, long ago. And apparently, in a galaxy, far, far away. Yep, that's a pedestrian way of saying that the corporate, automaton Lucas-of-today is a shell of the scruffy Lucas-of-1970's lore. Cinema is art. Lucas once championed this notion. If commercial solvency is the only objective nourishing the industry, what hope is there for the next generation of young moviegoers who desperately yearn for their own seminal Star Wars experience? Well, that time is now firmly affixed on the calendar and the opportunity for magic once again within reach. 
      Finally, plans call for Episodes VIII and IX as well as new incarnations to be completed every two-to-three years. In other words, this could be the beginning of a beautiful new relationship, motivated by shared pleasures and responsibilities, or it could be a tainted reminder of a terrible ex, stifled by selfish needs. Don't fuck it up, Mouse Men. 

P.S. For the sanctity of the original trilogy and for proof that the corporate world is still capable of good, please I urge those in the influential channels of power at Disney to release, unedited and devoid of unnecessary cosmetic enhancement, the original Trilogy. Hooray for common sense if Disney makes this happen! 


  1. Could go either way. I agree the last trilogy was awful and if we just keep Lucas away from the next three movies, they might have a chance.
    I still have the original trilogy on VHS and I'm hanging on to them!

    1. My thoughts exactly. I tend to hew closer to the glass half full mentality. But of course anything is possible as nothing concrete has really been established. What talent is corralled to make this new trilogy a reality is most important. Studio interference or lack thereof is also significant. Art thrives when it's cultivated honestly without needless distraction.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. How I missed this, I haven't a clue. So I apologize for being late to the party as it were. I am not happy that Princess Leia is now a Disney Princess, but somebody for the love of God, has to atone for the unholy mess that compromised the prequels. I have hated that Lucas could not be bothered to turn those films over to a director protege of his that had a hungrier, less fat cat vision. Imagine if he had let Robert Rodriguez direct. There would not have been an Uncle Tom er Jar Jar character nor would the repugnant and lifeless Hayden C been cast as Anakin. I mean Darth Vader, the most feared villain in the galaxy is nothing more than a whiney teenaged brat who knocked up his girlfriend? Give me a big effing break. And finally, Lucas would not have been allowed to eff with his own mythology. According to Jedi, Leia remembers her mother, how can that be if Padme dies in childbirth as so ridiculously portrayed by Portman in Sith? Worst death scene ever and she, of the Academy Award for Best Actress.

    But do I want a nightmare of oversaturation to rival the toys and other junk? Hell no. Sorry to rant but I feel like Lucas has utterly laid waste to my childhood, first with the unending tinkering of the original films, then with these odious prequels. You know, I still own the original VHS and in the victory scene on Yavin, Luke calls Leia Carrie when he hugs her.

    Okay, rant over. I feel like I've left a blazing, blackened trail across your blog. :)

    1. One more thing, LOL, how do you put Sam L in THREE films and not once let him do his thing? Are you kidding me?

    2. Wow! Now I know how to unleash the vixen of vitriol :)

      Mention Lucas or Star Wars and what will follow is a spectacular condemnation of all that was very, very wrong about Lucas' despicable handling of a property that even common sense assured us was immune from criticism. Well, as we know common sense lost. In the era forever known to us as "Lucas the megalomaniac and spendthrift savage of CGI," we were cruelly dealt a hard lesson in the affairs of overindulgence, obstinance, egotism, and arrogance. The prequels were a failure on virtually every level. Our opinions on this matter coincide beautifully.

      But where we diverge ever so slightly is in our optimism for a future incarnation of Star Wars that, far from being a life-sucking demon, actually impresses. The prequels already destroyed the sacrosanct mythology of the original trilogy. Logic promises us a scenario in which the new trilogy out-classes the godawful Prequels. That is precisely when our viewing experience hit rock bottom and there is no way said level can be revisited. I think.

      Now, I do not for one second predict that Episode VII delivers on a level consistent with the original trilogy. That is impossible. But I do at least harbor some hope for a rekindling of that galactic magic.

      And we both wholeheartedly agree that a merchandising bonanza is completely amateur. But if it ensures less interference with actual filming, I'll happily concede the trade-off. Well, maybe begrudgingly.

      Thanks for your excellent rant :)

    3. Haha! Restraining Sam Jackson, who is the most badass MOFO on the planet, has to be about the dumbest decision a director can make. Well, at least in the context of Star Wars. We're not talking about hard-hitting dramas here, Lucas.

    4. LMAO! You know how to take vitriol very well on here. It's great that you provide the environment for such passionate discussion. I keep telling you, you need to teach. You would do wonders for the future generations. Heck, whatever you turn your passions to, we will benefit.

      "Not talking about hard-hitting dramas here, Lucas." How true. I should not have held my expectations that high. ;)

      When you say it like that, merchandising in exchange for less intereference on filming would work.

    5. I'm a tough shell to crack, lol. In all fairness, your rant grew from such an honest and thoughtful reservoir of emotion and intellect that I simply could not dismiss the veracity of your sentiments. Your Star Wars fandom is genuine. I trust your insights unconditionally.

      And thanks for such a resounding endorsement. I'll cherish your approval :)

    6. My God, what a narrow minded person you we're. Have you wondered if perphaps if the so called god-awful prequels could inspire any new generation of filmmakers and moviegoers into the franchise? Your comment is nothing more that typical old fart whinery, and a lack of respect to the people who worked in these films. Lucas didn't ruined you anything, he didn't went into your house and destroyed your VHS copies of the original trilogy.

    7. @ Yonathan

      Before you let the incendiaries fly, you may want to actually read what I have written. I clearly dismissed the notion that treating Lucas as some kind of Antichrist is "irrational contempt." In the world of criticism, reading is fundamental.

  3. I'm hoping this works out well. A director is about to be announced. I immediately threw out Sam Raimi, JJ Abrams, Martin Campbell, and Kenneth Branagh as names I wouldn't mind seeing announced. Brad Bird would have been okay, too. I do not care to see Anthony Hemingway's name in there. I know Anthony - great guy - but not a Star Wars director.
    I also hate the prequels much less than you guys. Phantom Menace was pretty meh, and the other two had cringe moments, but parts II and III also had some cool stuff. I've worked directly for George Lucas AS A DIRECTOR - not an easy task to accumulate on your resume if you aren't native to England - and I've never subscribed to the "how many ways can we bash him today?" mode of thinking. Case in point - fans SCREAM for years for him to turn Star Wars over to someone else. The SECOND he does he's bashed brutally both for doing it; and for turning it over to Disney. The man literally cannot win. At least he has all those stacks of money to absorb the tears. Ha!

    1. I share your optimism, Craig. And I quite enjoyed your initial speculations. I think Raimi and Abrams would be excellent stewards responsible for jumpstarting the new generation of Star Wars. They both proved as much with Spiderman and Star Trek respectively. Campbell is a wise pick, too. I love the way he's shaped the modern trajectory of the Bond franchise, particularly Casino Royale, which I hold in great esteem (enjoyed a recent rewatch, too!). I would be less inspired by Branagh's participation, but I do not doubt that he would engineer something of a heightened dramatic bent. Hemingway ought to be removed from consideration, this much we agree. Bird would also be a terrific candidate. In terms of directing inspired work, he's four for four.

      You're one of the few who values the prequels more appreciably than I, but I don't begrudge you. They're not unadulterated trainwrecks.

      So you've worked with George? That's amazing. Do share your stories. I'm struck with infinite curiosity :)

      And I tend to agree with your final assessment of the galactic curator, Mr. Lucas. He is not a villain. He is not responsible for "raping childhoods" or mass extermination. He's not a tyrant. He's simply an ordinary man who channeled his myriad inspirations into something extraordinary. It lead to something momentous. Untold wealth and power befell him. From there, his career devolved into a relentless quest to recapture an ostensibly impossible magic. He failed. And the effort, far from being heroic, was mostly commercial (perhaps that's a big reason for the venomous tenor of the rampant criticism). Essentially he couldn't manage the Empire. But he deserves considerable praise for his formative work. Star Wars remains a treasure trove of science fiction and fantasy. That much is owed to Lucas.

      Thanks for the response!