The Empire Strikes: Another Nerd’s Thoughts on Disney’s Lucasfilm

Here is yet another nerd’s thoughts on the recent news of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. Feel free to skip. Main body will be beyond the jump (to lightspeed).

My first reaction upon reading the news was: This is a joke that someone didn’t check. Maybe it was denial. Star Wars was the first live-action movie I saw, back in 1981/82 in a rerelease. This was soon followed by a rerelease of The Empire Strikes Back. Return of the Jedi was the first I saw when it actually came out. I remember the big to-do about it. Maybe it was the simple denial of a fanboy, the kid who grew into a man watching (and rewatching) the movies, the young man who went to each prequel movie and enjoyed them and was happy to prolong his childhood through the films.

After a little digging, I realized it was true. And my reaction was: Good.

I did, indeed, see each of the Prequel Trilogy in the theaters multiple times (the last two I saw at midnight showings first). To me, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were as good as—albeit different than—the Original Trilogy. This feeling lasted well past 2005 when the last movie came out. Yet, that feeling began to disappear in the last few years. The charm I was once convinced was in the prequels was missing when I rewatched them one year. And—

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Indiana Jones was another huge part of my childhood. George Lucas became a person I wanted to be like, a guy who came up with these cool ideas and saw them through and did it his way. Doing it his way was (and is) huge for me. Coming up with the stories for each Star Wars and each Indiana Jones movie meant that the creator had his hands in the mix and, damnit, I am a creator!

Yet, I cannot deny that something has happened to George Lucas in the last fifteen years. Hell, in the last thirty years. I understand the reasoning for selling the toys and merchandise of the movies: they help finance the films. Total independence. Yet…there’ve been so many missteps. And who’s to blame? Lucas seems like the topmost guy. His desire for control over his movies is legend.

Look, I won’t go and say he ruined my childhood, because he hasn’t. And the Star Wars prequels are very popular amongst the next generation of kids, which is what they’re supposed be. Star Wars is a kids’ story. Indiana Jones is as well.

So, what about the news? Some people think Disney will ruin Star Wars. Some people think Lucas already did that. Star Wars isn’t ruined, it’s there. Even if you don’t like the digital effects in the older movies (I do), the movie is still there in between the newer effects. The Disney acquisition and the news of a new Star Wars movie means that someone else will take it on. Fresh eyes will come in and show us new things. Maybe it’ll open the world up beyond the Skywalkers and their friends and enemies.

When Disney bought Marvel a few years back, fanboys/-girls moaned and groaned that the Marvel characters would become Disney characters. That didn’t happen. Granted, I’m more of a DC kid than a Marvel kid, but from this outsider’s point-of-view, Marvel has flourished under Disney’s ownership. The comic books haven’t seemed to change much. Marvel is still Marvel, only now it’s got Disney’s seemingly unlimited pocketbook behind it. Under Disney, Marvel has gone from a comic book empire dipping into movies to a full-on media empire. And it looks only to get better.

So why would anything different happen to Lucasfilm properties? Disney’s box office-failure John Carter smacked of Star Wars (and was every bit as fun as the original Star Wars, if you ask me). Here, Disney gets the most famous franchise in movie history and the second-most famous franchise in movie history to play with. And bitch all you want about the Disneyfying of classic fairy tales, their animated movies are all classics. The new direction Lucasfilm is under, with Lucas taking more of a backseat, should be interesting in terms of storytelling.

Let’s play a nerd game. Disney wants to do a new Star Wars. Lucasfilm is behind them with Lucas on as an executive producer. Who can Disney go to? Well…they’ve already worked with Joss Whedon. J.J. Abram is busy with Star Trek, but he’s a known Star Wars fan, as is Damon Lindelof. And Disney owns ABC which put out Lost, and is producing the series Once Upon a Time…, which is created by two Lost alumni who are also Star Wars fans. Not to mention the various other fanboys-turned-filmmakers who’ve wanted to have a chance at Star Wars. Disney and Lucasfilm can now go there. From a creative standpoint, it could be very exciting. I mean, has Disney ever acquired a company and ruined it?

Yeah. I know. The Jim Henson Company. But, in all seriousness, the Jim Henson Company hasn’t been ruined. It’s had some missteps since Mr. Henson’s passing, sure. The Muppet variety show of the 1990s. The Muppet adaptations of classics. Muppets in Space or whatever that turkey was. But last year’s The Muppets brought the Muppets back, right? Well…almost. The jury is out whether the Muppets will ever return to their former glory without Jim Henson in charge.

So, I’ve spent 900 words so far pontificating and if you’ve followed me this far, either you have less of a life than I do or you are as passionate about this bullshit as I am. Either way, I’m thankful. I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan who has begun to finally see them for what they are: a series of entertainments meant for kids that accidentally became more than that for a period of time between 1977 and 1983 (three months before my birth through the time I turned 6). Yes, they were my salvation as a kid. Yes, they got me on the road to becoming a storyteller and writer. When it’s all said and done, though, Star Wars is a series of B movies done at A movie cost. Which is exactly what Disney does best.

So am I concerned? No. Do I care? At over 1,000 words, I guess I do, but I don’t feel it. It’s interesting to me, in the same way watching squirrels frolic or birds fly is interesting. At the end of the day, if Disney makes a hundred Star Wars movies doesn’t really affect me. My childhood is in my heart, as are the memories of what Mr. Lucas’s entertainments did for me. I’m going to leave the caring to the next generation, who can decide for themselves. For now, at least I know what the next John Carter movie will be called: Star Wars.

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About Bill Gauthier

Bill Gauthier is a writer. His books include the collection CATALYSTS (2007), ALICE ON THE SHELF (2011), and SHADOWED (2011).

Posted on October 30, 2012, in Memoir, Movies, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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