Why the House of Mouse's acquisition of Lucasfilm spells good news for the sci-fi franchise.
A very rich man with a beard has just sold his movie company to a massive American corporation. Nothing too strange about that. Until you realise the bearded guy is George Lucas and the studio is Disney. Mickey Mouse just bought Star Wars.
Cue the jokes: Star Wars has been a Mickey Mouse franchise since Lucas started trashing it in the late '90s, first with the special editions and then, of course, with the most ill-conceived trilogy of all time.
If anything, the resultant hysteria on Twitter was a blast from the past, an echo of a time when people still actually cared about Star Wars, before they lapsed into anger, resentment and sullen indifference.
The overwhelming reaction is surprise. Why now? And why Disney? It’s not like Lucas needs the money and it’s not like Disney – home of Pixar and Marvel – lacks blockbuster franchises. But beneath the knee-jerk shock is an undercurrent of something else, something unexpected, something that hasn’t been associated with Star Wars since 1977: a new hope.
This could be the best thing to happen to the franchise since Lucas allowed Irvin Kershner to take the reins on The Empire Strikes Back. Fans have been calling for Lucas to stand aside for decades. And although you have to respect him for building a universe and believing in it during the early, uncertain years of development, it’s long been obvious that his dictatorial dominance of the films has become a creative death grip. Ewoks, Jar-Jar, candy bars and Christmas specials – all missteps attributable to a man who thinks like a mogul not a moviemaker.
Now he’s gone. Impossible. But true. And when you think about what that means, it’s amazing. He leaves behind a rich, sprawling, microscopically detailed universe of intersecting narratives, dramas, character and histories. It’s one of the grandest tapestries in film history and it’s just sitting there waiting for somebody – anybody – to come and pick up the threads.
Forget about The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Forget about A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, too. It’s time for new stories and new visions. A fresh start inspired by the books, comics, videogames and animations – many of which are, still, genuinely brilliant – rather than Lucas' discredited trilogies.
There’d be a queue of filmmakers wanting to take a crack at the movies that inspired them. What would James Cameron make of it? Or Joseph Kosinski? Or Neill Blomkamp?
Of course, there are no guarantees. And it’s worth quoting in full the statement that CEO Bob Iger released last night: "This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value." That’s not exactly a cinephile talking.
But still… Just for now, just for today, let’s give everyone involved – even Lucas, the beard-flapping embodiment of corporate Hollywood – the benefit of the doubt. Remember: once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars used to matter. Maybe it will again.