In a move that only seems to hasten the coming of the day when Disney owns everything, the Mouse House announced today that it’s buying Lucasfilm, Ltd. for $4.05 billion. George Lucas has been saying for a while he means to step away from the day-to-day operation of the company, and with this move, he’s clearly stepping far, far away. Disney will have control over the Star Wars franchise, and have already announced a seventh Star Wars film to be released in 2015. They’ll also likely have the rights to Indiana Jones, although Steven Spielberg undoubtedly is involved in anything that happens there.
Honestly, this could the best thing in the world for Lucas and his franchise.
Granted, Disney has the potential to bury us under even more Star Wars merchandise than Lucas has already. This is the company that has had zero qualms about cranking out direct-to-video sequels to their classic films and slapping Mickey Mouse on every product imaginable. And while Disney and Lucas have had a relationship for decades now, it’s going to be Disney calling the shots going forward.
But Lucas has clearly been over Star Wars since the fan reaction to The Phantom Menace came in. That was the prequel he wanted to make, his most undiluted vision, and despite making money hand over fist, most fans hated it. And so a lot of things he set up in that film — midichlorians and Jar-Jar, for example — were suddenly eliminated or pushed aside for the next two films, as Lucas seemed to abandon his original plans and tried to give the fans what they want. You almost get the impression that if it hadn’t meant leaving a gap between Episode I and Episode IV, he would have just walked away in 2000. Follow up the prequel wrap up with the consistent fan furor over his constant tinkering with the original trilogy, and the whole thing has become a headache he really doesn’t need anymore.
And now he’s free. He can walk away from Star Wars and Lucasfilm and do whatever he wants. While he’s probably not pocketing that entire $4 billion (a good chunk of which will be in Disney stock), he’s going to walk away from this deal wealthier than he already is. It’s an ending and a beginning for him. And though he’ll likely have an executive producer credit on any Star Wars films Disney puts out, he’ll probably have as much actual say as Gene Roddenberry did in the later days of his involvement with Star Trek; his name will be there as a sort of blessing on the project, and not much else. Maybe he’ll get around to those small, experimental films he talked about making after Revenge of the Sith. Or maybe he’ll just hide away and enjoy the privacy. In either case, he’s out from under the monster he created, and while there has to be some mixed emotions about it, it’s something that’s ruled his life for over thirty-five years. There has to be a sense of relief.
As for the franchise itself, it finally has the chance for some fresh eyes and minds to go to work on it. Let’s face it, Lucas was never happy with how Irvin Kirshner imprinted so much of himself on The Empire Strikes Back, and has taken great pains to exert full control over the franchise since then. All you have to do is look at the behind-the-scenes material on the prequel DVDs and you can see that Lucas had surrounded himself with people who weren’t going to say no. And he lost the forest for the trees. Disney now has the chance to let the generation who grew up influenced by Star Wars run amok in that universe, and rejuvenate a universe that’s become a little tired and little stretched out. And if they’re smart, they’re meeting with Pixar as I type this, because if anybody can recapture the magic of the original trilogy, it’s John Lasseter and company.
Of course, Disney could easily throw quality to the wind and just start cranking out product. They’re making a huge investment, and if the last thirteen years have proven anything, it’s that bad Star Wars movies don’t keep people from buying Star Wars merchandise. But I’m holding out hope that everyone will see this deal as an opportunity for a new beginning, and that the new film will be a rebirth as opposed to a retread. With this news, being a Star Wars fan just got more interesting than it’s been since Episode I was announced. Let’s just hope the outcome is different this time around.