Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
Find out how here
Feature
Star Wars Episode VII: What It Means
We run the rule over Disney and the future of the Force

submit to reddit

WORDS HELEN O'HARA
1
  1 of 1  

George Luacs and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Revenge Of The Sith

THE LAST FEW YEARS HAVE BEEN AN UNCERTAIN TIME FOR STAR WARS. Revenge Of The Sith finished the prequel trilogy in style but without the triumphant flourish and lingering high that many had longed for. For seven years we lived in a world where Star Wars as a movie property had been left behind, abandoned like a once-beloved childhood toy whose colours have faded. The franchise lived on through games, toys and the (admittedly good) Clone Wars animated series but the saga had come to a close and we were the poorer for it. That all changed today, however, with the news that Disney has bought Lucasfilm and plans on releasing Episode VII in 2015.

George Lucas made it clear after Sith that, whatever he may have said in the past, he had no intention of starting work on a new cinematic trilogy to follow on from Return Of The Jedi – nor would he abandon the series into someone else’s hands. That was probably the right decision for the time: overblown accusations of childhood-rape and money-grabbing were already rife from entitled fanboys, and had Lucas handed over the reins he would have faced further accusations of cashing in. Now, however, we’ve had a little time to miss the franchise, and things look a little different. There is no cause to think that every future Star Wars film should underwhelm, or just whelm, as the prequels did. There is, in fact, every reason to hope that Episode VII – and whatever follows it – could be not only good but truly great. The success of Avatar surely demonstrated a hunger for space opera that’s currently being ignored by studios chasing after fantasy dollars. We can argue about whether superhero movies like Thor and The Avengers qualify as sci-fi (they probably do, just) but they’re not Star Wars. That gap in the market is in the same place it ever was, and while studios cast about for “the next Harry Potter” Disney may end up looking extremely smart for turning back to the one proven space franchise.

The input of new blood could be exactly what this franchise needs.
Those fanboys who have – rather unfairly– become rabidly anti-Lucas can take comfort from the fact that the director has stepped back from the reins of power, handing Lucasfilm first to Kathleen Kennedy and now to Disney. There should be no question that Lucas can make great movies (stop carping at the back: if he hadn’t made two or three great Star Wars films you wouldn’t be so angry at him now), but his very best efforts on Star Wars have seen him collaborate with other people. Lawrence Kasdan in particular, as screenwriter on Episodes V and VI, and director Irvin Kershner on Episode V, improved the dialogue and tightened the character scenes. The input of new blood could be exactly what this franchise needs. It’s one of those cases where the retirement of the original creator need not derail the franchise as a whole, and should make the fans happier rather than discontent.

WHAT'S ALSO INTERESTING IS WHERE LUCAS HAS CHOSEN TO PLACE HIS BABY. Disney has gone on something of a spending spree in the past few years, buying Pixar for $7bn and Marvel for about the same price as this Lucasfilm deal, $4bn. It’s easy to make a kneejerk assumption that this big business is up to no good, but the evidence simply doesn’t support it. Disney are big, no question, but the fit is a pretty logical one. Disney has had dealings with Lucas for years – see the theme park rides, for instance – and has recently been focusing on exactly the same sort of family audience that the original films catered to. Disney’s not just a place for cutesy cartoons these days; their meat and potatoes are films like Pirates Of The Caribbean and, lest we forget, Avengers. Those films show a mix of comedy, action, peril and adventure that could have come straight from the Star Wars playbook.

But far more significant is this: Disney has emphatically not tried to fit its new acquisitions into a corporate model of doing business. If anything, in the case of Pixar, the influence has gone quite the other way, with Disney bringing Pixar’s John Lasseter back to the Mouse House to revive their struggling animation department (and head their Imagineers, and develop their direct-to-DVD franchises) while leaving Pixar’s culture more or less untouched. With Marvel, too, there’s no sense that Kevin Feige is being second guessed as he crafts out Phase Two of the Avengers’ joint and individual adventures. When a culture has been working, Disney has left it to work. The worst you can say about the studio is that they place quite a bit of emphasis on ancillary rights, by which measure Cars is a more successful Pixar movie than Up, but as long as the toy selling and theme parks don’t materially affect the content of films, if you don’t like that stuff just don’t buy it and you’ll be fine. Besides which Star Wars fans, of all people, can hardly complain about over-commercialisation or toylines inspired by their films.

Whether Lucasfilm can be said to be a culture that is working right now is up for debate, but the signs today are that there’s a sense of purpose and movement that were lacking in the stagnant years since Sith, when the TV show was stalled for budgetary reasons and only the Clone Wars cartoon continued to fly the flag. Kathleen Kennedy took over as co-chair of Lucasfilm in June, and now becomes its president. Judging by her CV to date, and her long history of collaborating with Lucas on the Indiana Jones if not the Star Wars franchise, she should have a pretty clear idea where she’s headed. She’s also a woman with a passionate commitment to storytelling, which should rule out much talk of trade embargoes and taxes.

Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, and George Lucas, chairman and founder, Lucasfilm sign the agreement for The Walt Disney Company to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd.

FIRST UP FOR DISNEY-LUCASFILM, OF COURSE, IS EPISODE VII. Lucas said last night that he had mapped out a treatment for three more films, but didn’t claim that he was writing the screenplays. Kennedy now has to assemble a creative team to get those moving forward – and we suspect she’ll have her pick of Hollywood’s best screenwriters and directors. After all, virtually every director and screenwriter currently at the height of their career grew up on Star Wars, because the vast majority of successful filmmakers overlap precisely with Lucas’s fanbase: geeks in their thirties and forties. Star Wars was seismic in its influence, formative in its effects on filmmakers, and we doubt there can be more than two or three directors in the whole of town who wouldn’t start drooling at the prospect of playing in that universe (the arthouse guys might not admit it, but come on! Everyone secretly wants a lightsaber). If Orson Welles called RKO Studios “the biggest electric train set a boy could have”, Disney just bought the biggest, most mouth-watering collection of classic action figures ever assembled.

The great strength of the Star Wars films was their strong sense of good vs. evil, and that needs to stay in place.
Immediately after the announcement, Twitter went mental with directorial suggestions. The most popular name, Joss Whedon, has the small matter of Avengers 2 due the same year, so barring an attempt to get himself fired so he can take over Star Wars instead (a risky strategy, given that they’re both at the same studio) he’s out of the running. Brad Bird’s name has been bandied about (Kennedy’s story-focus would certainly gel well with Pixar alums), and Andrew Stanton’s (whether he’d want to tackle sci-fi for Disney again so soon is up for debate), but why stop there? At the risk of blowing the internet’s collective mind, consider this: Christopher Nolan has a gap in his schedule right now. David Fincher hasn’t got anything listed for 2015. Sam Mendes is on a post-Skyfall break. Danny Boyle’s probably nearly recovered from the Olympics by now. Name a director, and the chances are Disney can at least sit down and discuss the prospect with him. Steven Spielberg should’ve finished Robopocalypse before 2015, right? (For the record, we don’t think that’s likely.)

The same goes for writers – and if you get a great writer and director lined up, the cast will follow. Which brings us to thornier questions of plot and setting. We suspect that any attempt to recast Han, Luke and Leia (particularly Han) would be fraught. While Nathan Fillion is an acceptable Solo substitute, he is not actually Han Solo. Nor is Ryan Reynolds, or Aaron Eckhart, or anyone else we can think of.

But failing to recast that trio means that you face issues of setting. Without them, you either move to the outskirts of the fallen Empire and tell a smaller story set around the same time, or you have to move into the future. The past is right out because a) the word “prequel” is still franchise poison for this series and b) calling it Episode VII and setting it in the past would really upset the OCD among us. So we’re talking a good 30 to 40 years later as a minimum, which could mean that the original cast appear in smaller roles, or not at all if it’s set much further into the future than that. Either way, the new film will have a bit of a job of world-building to do in order to re-establish this new time period or setting, so it will need a great script. Or, at the very least, a killer opening crawl.

Were it up to us (and unaccountably, Disney is yet to call) we’d ground these new films around a Jedi / Sith clash – albeit not necessarily with only Jedi and Sith leads. The great strength of the Star Wars films was not their moral ambiguity but their strong sense of good vs. evil, and that needs to stay in place. There’s still a wealth of story that can be built around such a monumental conflict, and there’s still room for Han Solo-like unaligned figures in-between the goody-two-shoes Jedi and their dark foes, but if there were no Jedi or Sith we might as well be in any old space opera.

THE FILM ALSO NEEDS TO DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM AVATAR, FROM JOHN CARTER, AND FROM ITS OWN PREQUELS. Our suggestion would be that one way to do that is to keep CG to a minimum and try to use as many practical effects as possible. For one, it will distinguish Episode VII from the sometimes CG-slap happy prequels. For another, it will recall the original films. For a third, the fans will love that stuff; look at the Nolan Batman films.

At this stage, of course, such questions are entirely speculative and are likely to remain so for a good few months to come. But there can be no question that this is a big day for Star Wars, for Lucasfilm, and for Disney, which has cemented its status as a studio built to cater for huge franchises along without necessarily churning them all out in its own image. As discussed here, Disney is focusing its business plan on a few huge films a year rather than a slate of mid-level contenders, and to do that it needs exactly this sort of mega- franchise to build upon. It’s a high risk (John Carter), high reward (Avengers) tactic, but as long as they pursue this plan by focusing on making great films, it should be of basically no interest to those outside the business. Admittedly, inside the business it’s pretty seismic. Warners, having wrapped up its big earner with the end of Harry Potter and facing a Batman reboot on Justice League, suddenly faces a challenger as the biggest franchise producer in town; the other studios will be looking closely at Disney’s plan and, we suspect, largely fitting in their own releases to fit in around these behemoths rather than trying to grab the same turf.

Because let’s face it: everyone’s going to be interested in a new Star Wars movie. You can be as cynical as you want about the chances of it matching up to what’s gone before; you can doubt Lucas’s continued involvement, however minor, if you like; you can swear you’ll boycott it and that Jar-Jar Binks shot JR before ruining your childhood. But you’re still going to want it to succeed. It’s Star Wars, people, and it’s coming back.

Today is a good day.
 

1
 
1 of 1
 

Have Your Say
Register or login now to let us know what you think.

Your Comments

21 RE: well said
L: Dr Science I'm going to hijack this conversation back from whoever common41 is, because it's a rare privilege to get a direct response from HoH. Firstly I'm going to reject the term fanboys - I'm in my late 30's as are most of the more vocal Lucas objectors - I'm just a fan, with a broadly eclectic and balanced appreciation for cinema, and I have a very negative opinion of Lucas on purely creative terms. I really don't think it's fair to conflate the criticisms of the films themselves and Lucas's decline as a film-maker, with the endless griping about money-grubbing. I agree with you on that point: showbusiness is a business and we can always vote with our wallets - Lucas can hawk his wares in whatever way he deems fit. But my point is that there wouldn't be a mass market for the Star Wars franchise if it wasn't for the original generation of fans who maintained the passion into the late 90s - so to that end, if we say that we feel betrayed by the direction that More

Posted by Helen OHara on Thursday November 1, 2012, 16:06

22 RE: well said
I'm going to hijack this conversation back from whoever common41 is, because it's a rare privilege to get a direct response from HoH. Firstly I'm going to reject the term fanboys - I'm in my late 30's as are most of the more vocal Lucas objectors - I'm just a fan, with a broadly eclectic and balanced appreciation for cinema, and I have a very negative opinion of Lucas on purely creative terms. I really don't think it's fair to conflate the criticisms of the films themselves and Lucas's decline as a film-maker, with the endless griping about money-grubbing. I agree with you on that point: showbusiness is a business and we can always vote with our wallets - Lucas can hawk his wares in whatever way he deems fit. But my point is that there wouldn't be a mass market for the Star Wars franchise if it wasn't for the original generation of fans who maintained the passion into the late 90s - so to that end, if we say that we feel betrayed by the direction that Lucas took with the preMore

Posted by Dr Science on Thursday November 1, 2012, 14:53

23 all well and good Buuuut....
Please don't bring back the Ewoks. ;-) More

Posted by Moronifighter on Thursday November 1, 2012, 14:48

24
i was right there with you until you mentioned Nolan. More

Posted by Dannybohy on Thursday November 1, 2012, 13:02

25 Bring it on
I for one welcome the transition - Lucas showed he's not lost the reputation for awful dialogue with the prequels and I totally agree with dialling back the CGI a bit. If Disney get this right there is a huge amount of scope for a myriad of storylines across the SW universe - Bond has shown that franchises don't have to run out of steam if you keep involving talented directors/writers. I'd love to see people like Neill Blomkamp and Doug Jones have a go at mixing their intelligent sci-fi with a big budget. The possibilities are endless! More

Posted by Circumnambulator on Thursday November 1, 2012, 12:53

26 RE: http://commonprosperity.org/
L: common41 well said Great summary Helen. Mirrors my own conclusions entirely. Just one complaint - do you have to be so snotty about "entitled fanboys"? I know sci-fi geeks are generally a repulsive and abrasive internet presence, but if there is one franchise that they (we) truly own, it's Star Wars. Star Wars doesn't exist in some high culture vacuum - it's pure genre pulp of the lowest brow style and while it may owe its original success to our childhoods, it owes its longevity to the fanboys ommon, to be clear, I don't think all fanboys are "entitled", but I do think there's a subset who are, and they're the ones who get all unreasonable about Lucas, about Star Wars and froth about money-grubbing. The fact is that all films are made with the hope that people will pay to see them, and ultimately show business depends on people doing so. The overblown criticism of Lucas on those grounds (which essentially boils down to, "How dare he make things for a mass audience rMore

Posted by Helen OHara on Thursday November 1, 2012, 12:36

27 Infinity Switchblade
Awesome article Helen. I am definitely intrigued. I have a cunning idea too for part 7 that I've always wanted to see. But I doubt any one will listen to little old me. (It involves the training of a particular kind of Jedi... One we haven't seen before... I get excited just thinking about my own idea within this saga. Am I sad? Am I a geek? No... I believe in the power of the force! More

Posted by ApotheosisX on Thursday November 1, 2012, 12:32

28 Infinity Switchblade
Awesome article Helen. I am definitely intrigued. I have a cunning idea too for part 7 that I've always wanted to see. But I doubt any one will listen to little old me. (It involves the training of a particular kind of Jedi... One we haven't seen before... I get excited just thinking about my own idea within this saga. Am I sad? Am I a geek? No... I believe in the power of the force! More

Posted by ApotheosisX on Thursday November 1, 2012, 12:12

29 It's a franchise. It's not supposed to end...
... that's the whole point of a franchise, surely? I think this is all great. Remember Star Wars is only 35 years old. If the businessmen and artists involved with Marvel and DC hadn't found new ways to bring their ageing superheroes to the ever-changing, evolving audience then we wouldn't have had Avengers this summer, right? Or The Dark Knight Rises ... both of which made my summer a little bit sweeter. I think Disney have their heads screwed on straight and want Star Wars to last for many decades to come ... and to expand ... which is what I want. I want to see more of the grimey fringe characters. I'd really love to see under the surface more, especially the criminal underworlds on Coruscant and Tattoine. Be honest, there is literally a galaxy of stories to be told. I'm not ashamed to say this is the first time I've been excited about Star Wars in quite a while. More

Posted by Nicky C on Thursday November 1, 2012, 12:03

30 http://commonprosperity.org/
well said Great summary Helen. Mirrors my own conclusions entirely. Just one complaint - do you have to be so snotty about "entitled fanboys"? I know sci-fi geeks are generally a repulsive and abrasive internet presence, but if there is one franchise that they (we) truly own, it's Star Wars. Star Wars doesn't exist in some high culture vacuum - it's pure genre pulp of the lowest brow style and while it may owe its original success to our childhoods, it owes its longevity to the fanboys More

Posted by common41 on Thursday November 1, 2012, 09:18

31 well said
Great summary Helen. Mirrors my own conclusions entirely. Just one complaint - do you have to be so snotty about "entitled fanboys"? I know sci-fi geeks are generally a repulsive and abrasive internet presence, but if there is one franchise that they (we) truly own, it's Star Wars. Star Wars doesn't exist in some high culture vacuum - it's pure genre pulp of the lowest brow style and while it may owe its original success to our childhoods, it owes its longevity to the fanboys. More

Posted by Dr Science on Thursday November 1, 2012, 09:10

32
Agree Jedi vs Sith will no doubt feature (this is the spine of Star Wars after all), but can we make it more subtle than Episodes I-III. You could barely move for lightsabres in the prequels which somewhat destroyed the mystique of the weapon. They're no longer cool if everyone has one. More

Posted by Old_Pyrate on Thursday November 1, 2012, 09:03

33 Great Article
Completely agree with you Helen. Fantastic read! Some people like to slag off Disney for the sake of it but they deserve the benefit of the doubt. As you point out, they have left Pixar and Marvel to their own devices to do what they do best. Certainly it seems that Kathleen Kennedy can be to Star Wars what Kevin Feige is to Marvel and shepherd the project and get the best people in to make the best movie possible. And, ultimately, you sum it up best in your final line, "It’s Star Wars, people, and it’s coming back. Today is a good day." More

Posted by JonathanGray1989 on Thursday November 1, 2012, 08:47

34 Great Article
Completely agree with you Helen. Fantastic read! Some people like to slag off Disney for the sake of it but they deserve the benefit of the doubt. As you point out, they have left Pixar and Marvel to their own devices to do what they do best. Certainly it seems that Kathleen Kennedy can be to Star Wars what Kevin Feige is to Marvel and shepherd the project and get the best people in to make the best movie possible. And, ultimately, you sum it up best in your final line, "It’s Star Wars, people, and it’s coming back. Today is a good day." More

Posted by JonathanGray1989 on Thursday November 1, 2012, 08:26

35 The best that could have happened to Star Wars to finish its cinematic run with a golden close!
Precisely, Today is a good day for film history! I like the way you talk to that cynical people and Lucas-Haters, they say boo to Disney and Lucas but they´ll surely go to watch the movie in 2015, and like /color] wrote, Disney is not going to ruin it. They have respect for Pixar, they have respect for Marvel and sure they have a tremendous respect for Star Wars, like you said it, every person in the movie business right now grew up watching and loving Star Wars, I would love to see Christopher Nolan take a bite in that universe, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Zack Snyder, JJ Abrahams More

Posted by Reiban on Thursday November 1, 2012, 05:37

36 Fully agree
Thanks Helen, best, most balanced article I've read on it. Disney aren't going to spend $4.5 billion of Star Wars, then ruin it. They've a history of buying properties/studios and allowing them to flourish whilst retaining their independence (Pixar, Marvel, The Muppets, hell they owned Miramax when Pulp Fiction came out, that's hardly traditional Disney). Kennedy's the perfect person to head it. It's the right time for Lucas to pass it on. Star Wars is in safe hands. I, for one am very happy More

Posted by iain99 on Wednesday October 31, 2012, 20:50

Previous Page

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: The Streaming Services Will Be Major Studios
(Or how Hollywood will have to start worrying about Netflix)

The Empire Podcast #129: Liam Neeson Interview
Plus Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger and Jessica Brown Findlay drop by to talk The Riot Club

The Future Of Film: We'll Be Watching Films In Virtual Reality
Immerse cinema aims to become the must-have experience for the filmgoers of the future

The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)