October 30, 2012: a date that will live in infamy. I keep re-reading the title to this post. I had to double check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t […]
October 30, 2012: a date that will live in infamy. I keep re-reading the title to this post. I had to double check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. I can’t believe this has actually happened. I never thought I’d live to see the day where George Lucas willingly relinquished control over Star Wars.
In a deal that has reportedly been in the works since last summer, Disney will buy Lucasfilm and its valuable San Francisco-based subsidiaries (including the best visual effects company on Earth, Industrial Light & Magic, and the best post-production audio facility in the industry, Skywalker Sound) for a reported $4.05 billion, all of it going to Lucas, who owned 100% of the company. You know, because George Lucas didn’t have enough money already. Actually, to be fair, Lucas is apparently pledging most of this windfall to various education initiatives he’s backing, which is pretty cool.
The current plan (announced by the Disney CEO himself, Bob Iger) is to release Star Wars: Episodes 7, 8 and 9 beginning in 2015, as well as continuing to develop that TV show (which has been in the works for what, 10 years?). It’s looking like these new movies will NOT be based on any of the multitude of storylines introduced in various Star Wars books, comics or video games released over the years, as many fans had hoped. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, personally, I didn’t want that anyway. I want a new story, new characters, and for fans to not know what will happen next as they go into these new movies. I think I’m in the minority with that opinion, but it is what it is.
George Lucas will not be writing or directing these new movies (WOO!), though he will act as a “creative consultant”, whatever the hell that means. I hope it means that when he tries to give his input, someone points their finger at him sternly and says, “Thanks George, but we’ll take it from here. Go swim in your ocean of money or somethin.” Lucasfilm will be headed by producer Kathleen Kennedy (a longtime Lucas/Spielberg collaborator), who will get the title of President. As such, she’ll be heavily involved in the development of the story, and the hiring of the writer(s) and director(s) that will create the next chapter of the Star Wars universe. No pressure.
UPDATE: I started writing this post before a writer was announced, but as of right now, Lucasfilm has officially announced that Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt will be writing the script to Episode VII. I approve of this. He is reportedly a huge Star Wars fan, and most of us fanboys would say these new movies should be written by people who are actually fans of the original movies, not just some writer-for-hire. I look forward to Arndt’s passion to make its way onto the page as he crafts this new story. Arndt won the Original Screenplay Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, and was nominated again 2 years ago for Adapted Screenplay as one of the several writers on Toy Story 3. So he already has a relationship with Disney, and is certainly a damn good storyteller. Now we’ll see just what kind of imagination he has. Coincidentally enough, he also just did the script for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, so he’s got experience writing for franchises with massive built-in audiences. This is all very encouraging. It’ll be interesting to see if they line up a director soon to work with Arndt during the process, or if they wait until the script is finished to try and lock down a director then.
And yes, this means that summer 2015 will bring us The Avengers 2 and a new Star Wars movie. Keep your cineboners in your pants!
This news wakes the sleeping giant that is the diehard Star Wars fanbase, of which I am a card-carrying member. We have been dormant since the 2005 release of Episode III- Revenge of the Sith, which mercifully brought to a close the severely disappointing prequel trilogy. We’ve since finally gotten the movies on Blu-ray, but Georgie Boy couldn’t resist punching us all in the nuts one more time, refusing to release the original, non “Special Edition” versions of the first 3 films, and doing THIS to one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s safe to say that most of us assumed Lucas would be grasping hold of this property on his death bed, and we wouldn’t find out who would have creative control after him until he died, probably 25-30 years from now. Of course, I didn’t want Lucas dead, but I also didn’t want to have to wait until I was 50 or 60 to learn what might happen with the movie franchise that defined my childhood. Now we know, and there’s going to be a chance for us to see real results in just a few years. This. Is. Awesome. Let’s call this era Star Wars, A.L. (After Lucas).
I actually think Lucasfilm-Disney is a very good pairing. They seem to be doing a fantastic job with Marvel, and hopefully they won’t be too controlling over the creative process with Star Wars and turn it into this supersafe, PG-rated, stale, moneymaking machine. It’ll continue to be a moneymaking machine without studio interference, and I hope they understand that. Disney certainly knows how to sell some merchandise, and that’s what Star Wars has been all about for the better part of 30 years. That said, with Disney’s moviemaking arm now being run by longtime former Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn, I think the studio is in much better hands than it was just a year ago. I’ve seen calls for Disney-owned Pixar to take over creative control of Star Wars. I’m against that, and it doesn’t look like it’ll happen anyway. As I said, Kathleen Kennedy will have most of the decision-making power with Lucasfilm properties, and she will report directly to Horn at the studio.
The only major concern I have with the Disney connection is the repeated use of the term “family entertainment” in relation to Star Wars. I don’t want the future of Star Wars on the big screen being cheesy and PG-rated. Of course, it’s never going to be super violent and R-rated, but I believe PG-13 is where Star Wars should live. Disney ought to let Pixar specialize in the family entertainment. Star Wars should be for teenagers and above.
I like film critic Todd McCarthy‘s list of 7 Suggestions for the New Star Wars Trilogy.
THE SPECULATION SECTION!
Just for shiggles (that’s shits and giggles to you), the most fun part about this news is pondering and discussing who might direct Star Wars: Episode VII and set the tone of the franchise going forward. Here’s my list of possibilities, and I’ll also tell you why many fanboys’ picks are probably not gonna happen.
Joss Whedon – His name seemed to be the most popular one thrown out there in the hours after the announcement. Umm, cool idea guys, but one minor hiccup in that scenario…Whedon is busy supervising the Marvel movie universe and making Avengers 2 until 2015, the year Episode VII is due to be released. So sorry, but it ain’t happenin. He can’t control EVERY geek movie franchise. Nor will he have time to do a pass on the script like many have suggested. Also, why would he want to? [CHANCES OF IT HAPPENING: 0%]
Christopher Nolan – Another fine idea, and who doesn’t want to see a super dark, super serious, Nolan-ized Star Wars? I’d love to. However, there are several large obstacles here. One, after just finishing 3 massive Batman movies, and supervising the story on the next Superman movie, I’m fairly certain Nolan wants to go back to creating his own original stories, which is how he made a name for himself in the first place. Two, Nolan has been working happily and exclusively at Warner Bros. since 2002, and WB will do anything they have to to keep him in-house for his next movie, something they’ve been very successful at with other filmmakers for a long time. Third, I just have a difficult time seeing Nolan making a pure fantasy movie, especially one based on someone else’s characters. It doesn’t seem to fit his tastes. He loves keeping his characters grounded in reality, even if they are doing ridiculous things (ahem, ala Dark Knight Rises). I even said in my TDKR review that Nolan’s dialogue often sounds Star Wars-y, but that doesn’t mean he actually wants to make a Star Wars movie. Sorry, folks, this is not happening. [CHANCS: 0%]
Peter Jackson – Here’s a guy that understands epic scope, old world dialogue and fantasy characters. Unfortunately though, he won’t be done with the three Hobbit movies until early 2015, the year Episode VII will supposedly be released. Also, he’d probably quibble with ILM doing the visual effects since he runs one of its chief competitors in the CGI biz, Weta Digital. If I could have had anyone do it, it might have been Jackson. [CHANCES: 0%]
David Fincher – Eager fans are quick to point out Fincher got his start working at ILM before becoming a music video and commercial director. I don’t quite see how that translates into him wanting to potentially spend 5-8 years making 3 Star Wars movies, but whatever you wanna think to convince yourself there’s a chance! (There’s no chance.) [CHANCES: 0%]
James Cameron – Anything to stop him from spending the next 10 years making Avatar sequels. Plus, as one of my buddies pointed out, he’d have to find a way for Star Wars to take place at the bottom of the ocean for this to work. Unfortunately, Cameron is almost as lost a cause as George Lucas at this point. [CHANCES: 0%]
Ridley Scott – This would be awesome, but seems more like fanboy daydreaming. He’s busy finishing The Counselor, and seems genuinely interested in either making another Blade Runner movie or a followup to Prometheus next. Also, Scott is based at Fox, and since Fox just lost the right to distribute future Star Wars movies, they’re not gonna wanna lose one of their most important filmmakers to this project, which would add insult to injury. [CHANCES: 0%]
Steven Spielberg – I’ve always wanted to see a Spielberg-directed Star Wars movie, but if for no other reason than loyalty to his friend, I suspect he’d never be the one to follow Lucas in the Star Wars director’s chair. Plus, he’s busy with Robopocalypse until 2014. But in case I’m wrong, I’m not gonna completely rule it out. [CHANCES: 5%]
The Wachowskis – They have the vision and the ambition, and they sure as hell know how to do sci-fi action. The last hour of Matrix Revolutions basically is a Star Wars movie. I would be all-in for a Star Wars movie from the Wachowski Starship (seriously, that’s what they want to be called now). I just seriously doubt it’ll happen. I seriously doubt it’s even being considered, actually, which is a shame. [CHANCES: 1.5%]
Guillermo del Toro – A lot of fanboys wish del Toro would direct every geek project, but of course that’s not realistic. He’s got the imagination for it, but I wanna see Pacific Rim before I decide if he has the directorial skill for something of this size. Also, he’s attached to like 50 different projects, and it’s safe to assume he’s more interested in doing one of those first. [CHANCES: 8%]
Brad Bird – This is both interesting and potentially realistic. Bird isn’t committed to his next film yet, and like most others, I enjoyed his first foray into live-action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, in which he showed competence with big action and effects sequences. It also helps that he’s called Disney home for most of his career while at Pixar. He wouldn’t be my top choice, but I certainly wouldn’t complain if it were him. [CHANCES: 30%]
Gore Verbinski – Here’s another fascinating possibility that I could get behind if it came to pass. He’s made 4 megabudget action/effects movies (the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean flicks and next summer’s Lone Ranger), all of them for Disney. Despite his immense success, I still think he’s one of the most underrated directors working today. They’d be dumb if they didn’t at least gauge his interest. [CHANCES: 30%]
J.J. Abrams – Wouldn’t the universe implode if the same guy who directed the two most recent Star Trek movies then went and directed Star Wars? I feel this would create some kind of earth-devouring wormhole. Also, I’ll take my Star Wars sans lens flares, please. [CHANCES: 2%]
Alfonso Cuaron – Another fanboy dream scenario, with most people pointing to how well he handled Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I would also point to Children of Men, one of the best sci-fi movies of the past 10 years, and the fact that his next movie, Gravity, is a “space movie”. Clearly, he has the skill for the job. It’s easy to connect the dots and say “this makes sense”, but I suspect Disney isn’t as forward-thinking as Warner Bros. was when they hired him for Harry Potter. If it did happen though, I would wholeheartedly approve. [CHANCES: 6%]
Roland Emmerich – If you think the guy who directed Stargate and Independence Day couldn’t handle a Star Wars movie, you’re out of your mind. I would enthusiastically endorse Emmerich taking this on, so long as he doesn’t write a word of the script. In fact, of all the people who might realistically say yes, he’s probably my #1 choice. [CHANCES: 20%]
Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans) – This wouldn’t be a popular choice amongst the fanboys, but I’m one of the few people who really enjoyed both Battle: LA and Wrath of the Titans (which was far superior to Clash of the Titans). I think he has a real knack for visual effects, large-scale action, and fantasy. I say he’s talented enough to do it, and do it well. The only major obstacle here is that he’s just about to start shooting the new Ninja Turtles movie, which I say is a complete waste of his time and talents. [CHANCES: 3%]
Peter Weir – It doesn’t seem like he’d be interested, but goddamn would Episode VII be great under this guy’s direction. Have you seen Master and Commander? The Truman Show? Amiright? Plus, he could use a hit, and don’t underestimate how much that might factor into some of these prestige guys’ thinking if Disney approached them about it. A boy can dream. [CHANCES: 1%]
David Yates – I’m not seeing his name brought up nearly enough in these discussions. Yates, the director of the final 4 Harry Potter movies, has shown real skill with these tentpole movies, despite originally coming from a TV background. Seriously, he needs to be on Disney’s shortlist. Like, in the top 5. [CHANCES: 20%]
Update: Dammit, Yates just signed on to do this Tarzan reboot for WB as his next film. Ugh. See, Warner Bros. knows how to keep their directors in the fold.
Matthew Vaughn – As much as I enjoyed Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class, the direction wasn’t the strongest aspect of either of those movies, and I’m not cool with Vaughn being a go-to director now for high-profile projects. I for one was quite pleased to learn this week that Bryan Singer would be returning to the X-Men fold and taking over for Vaughn on the First Class sequel. If rumors are to be believed, Vaughn is on the shortlist for Star Wars, but my excitement for the project will diminish significantly if he’s the choice. [CHANCES: 35%]
Michael Bay!!! …just kidding
I suspect, in the end, it may not be any of these established, big name directors. At this point, I just don’t think a lot of established filmmakers are interested in spending 3-4 years playing in George Lucas’ sandbox, because it means first cleaning up the massive shit Lucas took in it before he left. The only thing that might sway someone is the fact that Episode VII is a guaranteed smash hit, and could give their post-Star Wars career a big boost. THAT might be an enticing reason, and it’s why you can’t count out some of the big names listed above. I’m betting the studio will be more interested in guys who already have some experience in sci-fi, but who they can assert more control over creatively as they look to restart this franchise. If that’s the case, we’re talking about people like Neill Blomkamp (District 9, the upcoming Elysium), Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, the upcoming Oblivion) or perhaps a Carl Rinsch.
All this speculation is fun and nice, but remember, neither Irvin Kirshner (Empire Strikes Back) nor Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi) had done anything before their Star Wars gigs that made it obvious they could handle big sci-fi or epic space battles, yet they both turned out just fine, didn’t they? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the studio brought in someone that NOBODY predicted and the movie still turned out great. Stranger things have happened. In the end, it very well may be the selection of the writer that’s the most important step going forward. Story, story, story. It doesn’t matter who the director is if the script is a turd. And that’s a fact, Jack.
END SPECULATION SECTION
A lot of people are equally excited about the possibilities of Disney opening a Star Wars theme park, or adding Star Wars attractions to existing parks. Not me. I don’t give a shit about that stuff. If I’m on a rollercoaster, I don’t care if the sign outside says Superman: Ride of Steel or X-Wing Adventure, as long as it’s a fun ride. My interest in this news is solely in Star Wars: Episode VII and the potential of future movies thereafter. The original Star Wars trilogy is #1 on my favorite movies of all-time list, and I want/need Star Wars to make a huge comeback after the disappointment of Lucas’ prequels. I want the excitement I had in 1999 for The Phantom Menace (the first new Star Wars movie in 16 years!) to finally be validated this time around. Cautious optimism, friends. Cautious optimism.
WILL WE FINALLY GET THE ORIGINAL VERSIONS OF THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY ON BLU-RAY? That remains to be seen. Fox still has distribution rights to the 6 existing movies, and Disney would have to work out a deal with Fox to get this done. However, with massive fan demand and Lucas now unable to stop it from happening, there’s a real good chance of this dream becoming reality, kids. Unless Lucas is right now destroying all copies of the original movies as one final “fuck you!” to the fans. I can picture him releasing a video of himself dressed up in a Jar Jar Binks costume, with all remaining copies of the originals in a bonfire in the background while he sticks out his two middle fingers at us. Does this seem unrealistic to you? It shouldn’t.
–Walt Disney Company Official Press Release (includes an awesome photo of Lucas literally signing away his control over Star Wars)
P.S. It should be noted that the acquisition of Lucasfilm also gives Disney control over future Indiana Jones projects. If you’re interested in that sort of thing.