By now I am sure you’ve heard the news about Disney’s spectacular Lucasfilm acquisition. Immediately after it broke, the internet was exploding with rage. One of the phrases banded about online was “this is the death of Star Wars”.
Is it really, though? This post is an attempt to give a rational, reasoned and positive argument about the takeover. I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII. I am not saying that it will be a fantastic movie. It may well still end up being terrible. There are, however, reasons to be positive.
First, let’s look at Disney’s recent films. We all know their long-term history of consistently making absolutely fantastic movies. But in the last decade, there have been a number of more action-focused live-action features. We’ve had the Pirates of the Caribbean series, National Treasure, Tron: Legacy, and of course The Avengers.
Marvel’s flagship is the main reason to be optimistic. Disney knows how to treat a franchise with a rabid fanbase. With The Avengers, they were careful not to deviate too far from the canon. They made not only one of the biggest films of this summer, but a film that achieved general acceptance from the original fanbase.
It’s more than just The Avengers, though. Disney has, over the years, shown that they are not afraid to broach adult subject matter in their films. Of course you have the subtleties of the Pixar animations – Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Brave for instance – but even the more ‘meat-headed’ films in their catalogue sometimes move into darker territory. Tron: Legacy appears at first to be nothing more than a neon-coloured thrill-fest, until you realise that the story of the film revolves around the genocide of an entire race.
Speaking briefly of Pixar, they’ve managed to create some brilliant films over the years. One in particular to point out is The Incredibles. Personally, I feel it’s one of the best superhero movies of all time, quite amazing considering that it is an animated children’s film. What is interesting is the way that Disney treats Pixar – and Marvel, for that matter. Pixar have been able to keep their own unique feel, in spite of being taken over. Disney knows that the best way to make money is to create excellent movies. Even John Carter, a huge box-office bomb, was not a bad film – it just happened to do poorly, be it because of a failure to reach a target demographic or simply hitting the market at the wrong time.
Having a consistently good end product is not something that can be said about Lucasfilm, however. Let’s face it: the Star Wars prequels are bad movies. There were strange changes made to the overall feel of the franchise, there was bizarre cinematography in every film, and awkward character tie-ins to the previous trilogy throughout. That’s without even getting into the awful acting and terrible scripts.
The rest of the original Star Wars content is not much better. The Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series was passable, but the following CGI series and feature film were sub-par. The upcoming series Star Wars Detours looks absolutely abysmal. There hasn’t been a decent Star Wars videogame since the end of the Jedi Outcast trilogy.
At least all of the above was original content. Star Wars fans have, alongside new releases, also been subject to constant re-releases of the original trilogy. Each and every time, these ‘remastered editions’ shift more and more from the first three Star Wars films, chopping and changing one of the most loved film series of all time.
So, I’ll be blunt. What exactly can Disney do to make the Star Wars franchise plunge to new depths? Will they add annoying, furry creatures? They’ve been with Star Wars since Return of the Jedi. How about unnecessary CGI that adds nothing to the films? Say hello to Jar Jar Binks and the remastered editions of the original trilogy. Wooden acting and bad scripts? Rewatch any of the prequels. Terrible musical numbers? Have another look at Jabba’s palace in the remasted Return of the Jedi. Ridiculous cash-ins in other media? Try a couple of the Star Wars video games, like Masters of Teras Kasi, Super Bombad Racing or Star Wars: Demolition.
Lucasarts have already made Han Solo take part in a dance number. I don’t think there is much Disney can do to make the Star Wars name seem any shallower.