Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thinking: Star Wars: The Empire Consolidates its Investments

So, Disney have bought LucasFilm, and everything contained within it except George Lucas himself. The internet has resounded to the sound of knees jerking, especially with the news that a new movie is planned for 2015, and so on every few years after. But what does it mean? Will Star Wars now become a soul-less, over-commercialized merchandising platform, with beloved characters hawked out to sell Washing Machines and Mobile Phone contracts?

Oh, wait.

Here's the thing - we don't really know what Disney are going to do with the franchise yet. The film doesn't even a title beyond "Episode VII" and certainly no script, director or cast. We don't know when its set, or what it's about, or anything at all, other than a rough date and a statement of intent from the new owners. Remember how excited everyone was about The Phantom Menace being announced? And how that turned out? This feels a little like that in reverse.

The Phantom Menace is a good thing to keep in mind, of course. Not because it's a poor film (although it is, if not as toxic as often claimed) but because as adult fans we wanted it to be made and we wanted to know that story, and we wanted a whole generation of kids to fall for Star Wars just like we did. And the thing is, a whole generation of kids did fall for Star Wars just like we did. You may not like seeing all that Prequel crap in the shops but it's there because it's popular and it sells.

In some respects, it can't actually get much worse for the franchise anyway. Aside from The Clone Wars, it does feel creatively bankrupt, the recent recycling of the movies in to 3D and repeated tinkering with the films replacing any sense of drive to do anything interesting or new with the universe. Even Clone Wars pushes up against the films that bracket it like a narrative straight-jacket, when I can't help but think it would benefit from some freedom in where its stories could go. Lucas himself clearly ran out of anything he wanted to say some time ago, given the padding across the prequels that only serves to expose their weaker elements.

And in terms of commercialisation - well Yoda is still selling Vodaphone and that should tell you a lot about how the brand is being diluted out. If Disney are smart they'll cut back down on that a bit, and try and correct some of the over-exposure that they've had, whilst allowing creative heads a bit of a free reign like they have done at Marvel and Pixar. Releasing a "restoration cut" of the Original Trilogy would bring a lot of fans onside, too, so that would be a good move, and I expect a decent money-maker for an early return on investment.

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty reserved about the whole thing. It could be good news for Star Wars fans, it could be a opportunity for something interesting and new to come out of the franchise. Deep down though, I really can't see Disney doing anything negative that LucasFilm hasn't already done.