I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
That sentiment Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi had in response to the planet Alderaan being obliterated by the Empire’s new deadly moon-sized weapon was not far removed from my own feelings when I first heard in 2012 of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and all of it’s piping hot properties.
Last week brought us the first piece of concrete news regarding next years Star Wars spin off, the first of many, if Disney gets its way. The newly titled ‘Rogue One’, which is to be helmed by the director of the marvellous low budget indie flick, Monsters and the extremely underwhelming 2014 remake of Godzilla, Gareth Edwards. The film, which if rumours are to be believed, will be a classic space heist movie focusing on the stolen Death Star plans from the beginning of Episode IV starring Oscar nominee Felicity Jones and the fantastic Ben Mendelhson. This will be the second film to be released in conjunction with Disney’s plans for a yearly Star Wars cinematic adventure, starting with this years highly anticipated The Force Awakens.
I’m a Star Wars nerd. There, I said it. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I know my B-wing’s from my AT-ST’s and names like Salacious Crumb and Lobot may mean nothing to you, but to me, they are symbolic of a childhood either well spent or completely wasted (most likely the latter). While it may be melodramatic and pitiful to declare how significant and fundamental a simple piece of broad science fiction entertainment can be to one’s life, for the purposes of this article, it is something I must wholeheartedly admit from the outset. George Lucas’ Original Trilogy or ‘Oridge Tridge’ if you want to be hip and slightly abbreviate, has very much shaped my life and the very person who sits writing this somewhat pointless article in this moment in time. These films were the foundations of my lifelong ambition to want to become a filmmaker. When I was very young I had no real understanding of what movie making was or what I wanted to do but simply watching films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones over and over again, installed in me a desire to be a part of this world, telling stories and taking people on adventures. For better or worse George Lucas is a hero of mine.
Now, fear not, this isn’t a petition to try and get Mr Lucas reinstated as writer or director of the upcoming third Star Wars trilogy. Far from it, if you’re a Star Wars fan like me, then you already know the gut wrenching pain and heartbreak caused by the undeniable and notorious creative failure of the prequel trilogy. When news hit the web that George Lucas was selling his illustrious toy box to the Walt Disney Company for four billion dollars and with it his galaxy far, far away, I too felt the same as most diehard Star Wars fans. ‘Good riddance! So long! Adios!’ It was as if we had transported back to medieval Europe and we the people, who had once worshipped at his feet, were now casting him out into exile in fear of him inflicting misery on our offspring like a homeless leper (albeit with a hefty paycheck). This was a man who had become synonymous with the brash phrase ‘raping my childhood’.
A man who would spit in our faces time and time again and we would always pay for the privilege without question, a man whose reality would infamously imitate art. George Lucas, the Darth Vader of Hollywood, a young, talented idealistic filmmaker who was prophesised to bring down the tyrannical powers of the Hollywood system and restore creativity and freedom to the auteur. However, with the monumental success of Star Wars, Lucas would find himself becoming the very evil he fought to destroy. The domineering corporate figurehead who helped turned Hollywood into the greedy, blockbuster and franchise obsessed system we know today.
However, after the initial shock wore off that the man who created this universe we all treasured would no longer have a hand in its future, the prospect of a Lucas-free, Disney-owned Lucasfilm began to set in. In 2009, Disney also purchased another modest company that you may have heard of, Marvel Entertainment, for another four billion dollars, which secured 5,000 of Marvel’s beloved characters. In recent years, we have seen the effects of Marvel Studios’ domination of Hollywood with the golden era of the cinematic superhero in full swing. While there is no shortage of devoted fans and the lines for their movies are queuing around city blocks, I for one have begun to grow extremely sceptical and tired of these movies, which at their heart contain recycled plots and characterisations. However, with no sign of slowing down, Marvel recently announced their slate for the next eight years, which had fans cheering in their masses like the return of Christ himself. Whilst many spectators commented that this marked the beginning of the next glorious stage of Mavel’s cinematic takeover, I predict this will mark the beginning of its end.
Now that the studio has exploited most of their top-tier brand names they have now begun to turn to their lesser-known superheroes in hopes of making yet even more money. Marvel has revealed plans to release three to four superhero films each year, as well as numerous TV shows and I believe this extreme over-saturation will eventually reach a breaking point with audiences. Just as it did in Classic Hollywood toward the end of the 1960’s, when the mainstream audience grew extremely weary of the major studios decision to only produce dozens of grand epics, war movies and westerns all with a growing sense of familiarity and diminishing financial returns. Many of its own purveyors felt Hollywood had been dragged to a creative low point. This resulted in the short-lived New Hollywood era, which gave power and creativity back to the filmmakers, which was brought to an end by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and their blockbuster movement. Signs of a possible loss of interest have already begun to appear as is evident from the tepid ratings of Marvel’s first television outings, Agent Carter and Agents of Shield.
George Lucas has become (or as I should put it became) notorious with milking his cash cow. Churning out endless merchandise, promotional products, re-releases and tie-in animated series and novels. However, if we thought Star Wars as a name, were far too oversaturated for it’s own good when Lucas was running things, oh boy we haven’t seen anything yet. In fact, with the reveal of Disney’s plans for Star Wars and other Lucasfilm products, it appears that Lucas may have had a lot more restraint and integrity than we gave him credit for. There was absolutely nothing ever standing in the way of Lucas producing annual Star Wars or Indiana Jones flicks. If he really wanted to, he could have rammed Star Wars down our throats until we choked and died but he didn’t. He kept to his six-film saga and a few animated series. That may prove to be Lucasfilm’s most moderate era. I foresee Lucasfilm becoming like Marvel Studios, a company with an expiration date. I fear they will run Star Wars and Indiana Jones into the ground and milk every single ounce out of it they can. How long until we start seeing three to four Star Wars related movies released each year. How long until we are forced to sit through ‘A Slug’s Life’, the Jabba the Hutt origin story because ‘what the hell!’, he’s one of the last popular characters that hasn’t had his own movie yet!
The curse of Marvel and its celebrated (and dreaded) ‘cinematic universe’ has begun to transform the industry itself. Many other studios are following suit and craving a piece of that Marvel success. It appears that every major film that gets released now is being produced with the hope and intent of sparking a cinematic universe of it’s own, in which the studios can whip up endless films and TV series, so long as it has the key branding. There is already talk of multiple live action television Star Wars series in the works. So whilst we celebrated the departure of Lucas, as a fan of his galaxy, I for one am concerned that in years to come the devil we knew, may prove to have been better than the one we didn’t.
I hope I will be proved wrong and that Lucas leaving was the best thing to happen and that these exciting new Hollywood filmmakers who grew up with Star Wars, will take the brand and transcend it for audiences and fans across the world. I just pray that Star Wars doesn’t become like the ill-fated reign of the superhero genre or classic Hollywood and that our last memory of it doesn’t leave a sour taste in people’s mouths (far more so than the prequel trilogy). After Revenge of the Sith, I would have preferred a respite from Star Wars for a few more years. ‘Just leave it alone!’ I cried when news of Episode VII was in the works, in an outburst mirroring Darth Vader’s reaction to killing his wife. However, like the possible fool I am, I’m extremely excited for JJ’s first venture into a galaxy far, far away and from the trailer, odds appear to look surprisingly optimistic. I just hope that when I look back on December 18th 2015, I see it as the beginning of a new dawn, rather than the beginning of the end of Star Wars.
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