Today I am excited about Star Wars. For the first time since 2005 - when I mustered up the last of my battered hope for one final Star Wars movie - I am filled with a sense of optimism for the universe I once loved so much.
Today Disney has bought Lucasfilm, all of its tech holdings, and has announced it will release Star Wars Episode VII in 2015. Read the press release here.
It's important to say that my sense of optimism comes from seeing how Disney has treated recent acquisition Marvel - allowing it to be a semi-independent production house. I suspect this is what's going to happen with Star Wars, that Disney will allow Kathleen Kennedy - who will be president of Lucasfilm - to shepherd the future of the universe. There will be some who believe that Disney is going to treat Star Wars like Pirates or Alice in Wonderland, but I think the reality is that they're going to let Kennedy keep on minting money for them.
In fact, I think the purchase of Lucasfilm scratches Disney's itch to be in the blockbuster business. Between Lucasfilm and Marvel, they have that territory covered. The company plans to release a new sequel trilogy, with Episode VII hitting in 2015, and then to make more movies from there. Between that and a presumed continued strong showing from Marvel, they're good. They can focus on the core Disney brands now - hell, maybe this means we'll finally see a new, quality Mickey Mouse movie.
The most important aspect of this is that George Lucas is retiring. While he will remain a 'creative consultant,' he's out. He took the money. Lots of money. He's going to go fiddle about, and Kennedy will make the big decisions from here on in. That means that George's presence will be felt, obliquely, during the making of Episode VII, but that he won't be pulling any strings. There's a treatment of some sort for the next trilogy, but it's hard to imagine Lucas, selling his company, convincing Disney to agree to more fucking trade embargoes. We finally got what we wanted: Star Wars out of Lucas' hands.
Oh, and this means we'll be getting the original Star Wars trilogy - unfucked with, old FX - on Blu at some point in 2014/2015. Bank on it.
What's next is this: Lucasfilm will try to find a huge, quality filmmaker to make Episode VII. I would be shocked if Kennedy hadn't already had lunch with Spielberg (I'd bet he turned her right down, but who knows). This is going to be the assignment to get for a whole generation of filmmakers who grew up in the shadows of the original trilogy.
I hope none of them take it. I hope Rian Johnson doesn't make Star Wars: Episode VII. I hope Joe Cornish or Edgar Wright don't take it. I hope Guillermo del Toro doesn't take it. We're too happy to throw our best filmmakers in to the franchise system maw for selfish reasons. I want that to stop - I want great filmmakers to make great movies, not great entries in big corporate franchises. But yeah, I wouldn't hold it against them if they took the payday to play in the sandbox.
The larger point of the whole deal for me is this: Star Wars is dead. Allowing it to fester with the Prequels as the last word will not help. The smart, aggressive new Disney is just about the best possible way to bring the franchise back, to breathe new life into a property that shouldn't have come to that place. A property that was, I believe, cynically ground into pulp by its creator. Yes, Disney will exploit Star Wars in a big way - but no bigger than Lucas ever has. The deluge of bed sheets and toilet paper will be no different. What will be different is that there will be new, hopefully good, stories. Told by people who love the universe in a way Lucas no longer does.
So for me it's a clean slate moving forward. I'm hopeful for Episode VII. I'm trusting that Disney's TV plans will work. I'm open to going back to that galaxy far, far away.