Thursday, November 8, 2012

Disney and Lucasfilm

Just a quick post on this, since it's been a topic of discussion on the internet and amongst the geekier of my friends (Sean Fewster, an Adelaide journalist, wrote about for The Punch), and I want to jump on the bandwagon before it gets all the way out of town and into a galaxy far, far away.

Basically – if you haven't already heard – Disney Pictures have bought Lucasfilm and everything that goes with it (i.e. the rights to Star Wars and Indiana Jones; they may be other 'brands' as well, but I haven't heard any mentioned) for the rather astonishing total of $4.05 billion.

The new relationship has generated a few rather good caption memes:

And, while some people are unhappy about this, I am not one of them.

Some background: I am someone who was once a huge Star Wars fan. I distinctly remember seeing both The Empire Strikes Back (at the drive-in, second in a double-feature with Flash Gordon1) and Return of the Jedi (at the Summergarden theatre in Bowen, having stolen money – at age 10 mind you – to buy a ticket after being forbidden to go by my parents; I don't actually recall why) for the first time.

Admittedly, even as a ten year old (and a badass ten year old at that), I did not appreciate the Ewoks; that said, I still liked the film, and went away happy.

Jump forward ten years or so to when the announcement that the prequels were to be made, and I was a happy man. I was sure that George Lucas would have spent the intervening years putting together an amazing backstory; this, combined with the advances in film-making technology, would mean that we could expect to something absolutely mindblowing.

So when what we good was the piece of shit that was The Phantom Menace – I was excited enough to got to a midnight screening – to say I was disappointed is a bit like saying World War II was a bit of unpleasantness2.

I think part of me knew; the name alone should have told me - when it was first announced I fully believed that was the fake name they were using (like A New Hope was called Blue Harvest) because it was so bad, but when it was revealed that was the actual title I still didn't let it get in the way of my excitement.

"But", I said, "the second one will be better. Yeah."


Sure, it didn't have Jar Jar fucking Binks, but it was most certainly not better - in some ways it was much worse, like the awful dialogue given to one of cinema's greatest living legends, Christopher Lee. I could go into detail why, exactly, but I think that would take way too long; I'll save it for another blog post – maybe I'll watch it with the Rifftrax commentary for a laugh.

I saw Revenge of the Sith, which I consider to be the least awful of the three - but still awful in so many ways, not the least of which was the utterly boneheaded decision to put Hayden Christensen into the Darth Vader suit at the end - rather than, say, someone of a similar size (and way of moving) to David Prowse, who played him in episodes IV-VI.

Anyway, enough about how much I hated the prequels and why. My point is that I lost interest in the Star Wars stories after that succession of disappointments. I didn't go to see the Clone Wars film on the big screen, nor have I watched the tv series. There was pretty much no way I'd even consider dropping even the smallest amount of my money into Lucas's coffers after what he'd done.

Now, though, I'm entertaining the concept. Because, despite the nonsense that people are spouting about how Disney is synonymous with 'schmaltzy crap for kids', it's being missed that it's a huge company with a number of different brands under its belt - the most significant to my mind, of course, being Marvel; The Avengers is almost certainly my number two film of 20123.

They also own the US television network ABC, home to shows such as Castle (probably my favourite television show), Revenge, Once Upon a Time and Suburgatory (another of my favourites).

So, Disney is about more than Mickey fucking Mouse and cheesy animated films. Admittedly, the recent failure of Tron: Legacy (which I didn't think was that bad, though I'm in a minority, apparently) and the even bigger failure of John Carter (which I heard enough about to decide I didn't want to see) means that they most certainly aren't infallible.

But it really depends on the direction they want to go. If they just want to keep appealing to existing Star Wars fans who'll see pretty much anything that's got a guy with a lightsaber in it (and, believe it or not, there are enough of them to make Lucasfilm a few hundred million dollars a year) then they probably won't do anything different from what Lucas has been doing for the last few years.

However, if they want to try and reach a wider audience then they're going to have to try something a little different. Really, can you honestly say that anyone could do worse things to the Star Wars stories that what's already been done to them?

When it comes down to it, it's going to be about choosing the right people. If they can get some clever, creative types involved and let them do their thing, I'd like to think it's possible that they'll be able to produce something along the lines of what most of us were hoping we'd have seen when we set foot in the cinema to see Episode I, rather than the piece of shit we did see.

You can call that stupidly optimistic if you like. But despite everything George Lucas has done, I reckon that little boy whose mind was blown as he looked up at the screen and watched those words scrolling upwards for the very first time is still inside me somewhere.

He may even still believe in the Force...

1Yeah, I love this film – as terrible and campy as it is – too. I suspect it's also what made me a huge Queen fan.
2I don't usually go in this kind of metaphor, but this seemed appropriate.
3Number one, of course, is Moonrise Kingdom, which I wrote about here.

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