George Lucas has decided to retire, and to help fund his retirement he decided to sell Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for $4 billion and change. The deal not only should provide Lucas with a comfortable retirement, it also means that more Star Wars movies will be made. Disney has announced that the next Star Wars movie, episode 7, is scheduled for release in 2015.
Many fans have expressed concern about the sale to Disney, how it will affect the Star Wars franchise, and whether the movies will stay true to Lucas’ vision. I’m not one of them. I loved the original Star Wars films — I remember watching the first movie, with awe and wonder, in the old University Flick theater on the Ohio State campus, and then promptly watching it again — but I eagerly anticipate a fresh look at the characters and the Star Wars universe.
Beloved film franchises can become creaky and rote over time; they get to the point where only diehard fans can watch them. Those franchises are injected with new energy when the characters are re-imagined by new creative minds. The Star Trek and Batman movies are good examples. Does anyone object that Heath Ledger had the opportunity to give his dazzling interpretation of the Joker?
I don’t understand the concerns, anyway. It’s silly to worry that Disney is going to produce dross. It just paid $4 billion, in significant part, to buy the Star Wars franchise and the right to produce new movies. It’s safe to assume the company isn’t going to run its huge investment into the ground by bringing junk to the big screen. If anything, the Disney approach might avoid some of the excesses of the later Star Wars movies, which could mean we won’t see annoying “comic” characters like Jar-Jar Binks, leaden, embarrassing, and unbelievable romances, and another exploding Death Star to provide a big finish. And it’s not as if Disney could over-commercialize the Star Wars characters, either. This is the franchise that led the way with action figures, comic books, and made-for-marketing characters like the Ewoks.
Lucas always said that he envisioned the Star Wars saga as a nine-movie tale, with the final three movies following the stories of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo and their children. That’s apparently what Disney is planning for the next installment of movies. I’ll be interested in seeing what happens to those now-iconic characters. The Star Wars universe is sweeping, and there are lots of good stories yet to be told. Bring on the next Star Wars movie!