Let’s face it: before the Walt Disney Company shocked the world and acquired Lucasfilm for the paltry sum of $4.05 billion, the Star Wars movie franchise was on ice.
Heartbroken by the critical reception of his prequels, George Lucas decided to simply pack up his light saber and go home. Early in 2012 he said it in no uncertain terms: there will be no Episode VII. “Why would I make any more Star Wars movies,” Lucas said, “when everyone yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
In our darkest hour, Obi Wan Kenobi was nowhere to be found…but thankfully, the Mouse House came to the rescue with blasters blazing. Paired with the blockbuster announcement of the Lucasfilm purchase, Disney dropped yet another bombshell: an all-new Star Wars movie would be released in 2015, and more films would follow.
We’re getting our sequels after all. And knowing Disney, we’ll be getting much, much more.
The reaction from keyboard warriors worldwide has been mixed – but the most vocal, as always, are those furious about the change in ownership. But I don’t think purists need to worry. Here are 5 reasons why I believe with every metachlorian of my being that the purchase was a good thing:
1. The Marvel Factor
As an avid comic book fan, I was more than a little nervous when Disney purchased Marvel. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were all big hits, and it seemed like Marvel Studios was hitting its stride. These weren’t just cash-grabs that appealed to the widest possible audience; they were movies for comic book fans, and they were unapologetic about staying true to the source material.
Then Disney takes over and does the unthinkable: they put Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon at the helm of 2012’s biggest film The Avengers, and it subsequently blows everyone’s socks off. It was a critical darling, amassing a whopping 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes (nearly unheard of for a comic book themed movie) and it hulk-smashed international box office records. Easily the highest grossing superhero movie of all time (raking in over $1.5 billion), it was also the biggest theatrical release ever that didn’t have the name ‘James Cameron’ appearing in the credits.
Undeniably, this put Marvel fans at ease. We now trust Disney to put the right people in charge of a beloved franchise, and to ensure the target audience isn’t alienated…something that you-know-who has failed to do on more than one occasion.
2. Han Solo could, once again, shoot first
For reasons no one completely understands, George Lucas has been continually tinkering with the original trilogy. He’s made a couple good changes (like improving explosions and removing unsightly blue boxes from around TIE Fighters) but he’s made many, many bad ones (the most glaring being Greedo shooting at Han Solo first in the famous Mos Eisley Cantina scene.)
Seemingly forever, Star Wars enthusiasts have been clamoring to purchase the unedited trilogy, and finally own a high-definition version of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as they appeared in the theaters(the only digital format the untouched originals are available on: the long deceased Laserdisc. I’m not kidding.) As it sits right now, if you want to see the classics without Lucas’ growing list of changes and edits, your best bet is to dig through the boxes in your basement and dust off your old VHS tapes.
With the Lucasfilm sale there is now some optimism for their release, because Disney never misses an opportunity to cash in on a financial opportunity. They know they can make money by releasing the originals, so I expect an announcement sooner than later; I’d be surprised if we didn’t have the option to buy the uncut trilogy before the holiday season next year.
3. Some new pilots will be in the driver’s seat
Rumors are already circulating like wildfire about who might direct the 2015 Star Wars film, and the first name being floated is Matthew Vaughn.
Vaughn is best known for helming popular comic book adaptations Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, and is widely respected within the geek community. It’s not 100% confirmed that he will be taking a seat in the director’s chair, but just the fact that he’s being considered (or courted?) for the role is a big step in the right direction.
What the franchise has desperately needed since 1999 are some new writers and directors. Creative people who are not handcuffed by Lucas’ own vision for the franchise. With the change in ownership, we can hopefully see future movies and television shows take on a life of their own, and with any luck, break some new ground.
4. No more waiting around
After Return of the Jedi, it took 16 years for Lucasfilm to release their next installment of the franchise, The Phantom Menace. George likes to take his sweet time when it comes to projects, and the chances of him ever releasing another Star Wars film were slim-to-none. He has been talking about a live action television series since 2005, and in that time not even a title has been confirmed. No cast, no network, no estimated debut date.
The days of waiting are over.
With Disney steering the ship, you can bet things won’t be moving slower than a wounded Bantha. They’ve already confirmed films, mentioned interest in a television series during a recent conference call, and will no doubt be fast-tracking Star Wars into other mediums (anyone interested in seeing a Pixar-quality animated film?)
5. Disney listens to their fans
George, on the other hand, has spent the last twenty years being almost spiteful of the people who made him a multi-billionaire. Every time Star Wars fanatics spoke their minds, he thwarted them faster than the Millennium Falcon could make the Kessel run.
“We want sequels!” Not interested.
“We want the original trilogy on DVD and Blu-Ray!” Nope. They’re gone forever.
“We hate Jar Jar Binks!” I don’t care. He’s going to be in every movie, and the cartoon. Deal with it.
If nothing else, Disney gives people what they want, which was evident by their immediate announcement that Episode VII would be released. They put out sequels, special editions, spin-offs and theme park rides. That’s what Disney does best: they deliver more of what people want (and often charge a premium for it…but still, we get stuff.)
The bottom line is that whether you love the original trilogy, the new prequels or both, there was a good chance you weren’t going to get any more live action Star Wars – not with Lucasfilm the way it was.
Leaving the most beloved sci-fi franchise of all time trapped in carbonite was never what fans wanted; with new ownership there’s finally a chance for something fresh and creative to happen in the Star Wars galaxy. And if you think that Disney can’t pull it off, I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle). You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.