Creative Coup d'etat...Maybe?
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!