The Flickering Myth Reaction to Disney’s takeover of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise

The Flickering Myth writing team trade opinions on the future of Star Wars following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the announcement of Episode VII…

How much would you pay for exclusive ownership of your very own film franchise? If you’re a lifelong fan of said franchise a precise figure is probably impossible to calculate. For example, surely the James Bond series is priceless? Skyfall has smashed box office records in the UK, proving the enduring commercial potential of Ian Fleming’s suave super spy. The cultural legacy of Bond is impossible to quantify. Who could put a price to the 007 brand? For us fans a favourite film series is simply priceless. But someone, somewhere, presumably with a good head for numbers, has to work out the worth of cinema’s most treasured properties.

Last week Disney shocked the entertainment world by acquiring yet another movie gem to add to its increasingly extravagant collection of crown jewels. The figure plucked out of the air for ownership of Lucasfilm, and by extension the Star Wars franchise, was roughly $4 billion. How much of that figure was for Darth Vader’s helmet or Luke Skywalker’s light sabre?

The numbers are mind boggling. Focus on them for too long and only madness will follow. Much better to gasp instead at the possibility of a new Star Wars trilogy, piloted by the company behind a very successful Marvel revival in recent years.

We decided to ask our writers what they make of Disney’s takeover, given the eclectic range of reactions already doing the rounds online. Some venomous fan boys find the idea of Disney doing Star Wars an abomination. Others prefer to point out that these fan boys haven’t been paying attention to what Disney has achieved with Marvel’s rich archive of superhero stories. Just how big a factor is the success of Joss Whedon’s Avengers film in the reaction to this news? Would Star Wars loyalists be far more hostile if Disney hadn’t already proved it could do good source material justice, without resorting to childish song and dance routines?

In general initial shock appears to have morphed into tremendous excitement and anticipation. As Luke Owen wittily said in the title of his article for Flickering Myth on the news, Disney’s involvement and George Lucas’ long awaited departure gives Star Wars a much needed dose of ‘New Hope‘ following the crushing disappointment of the modern prequels. Elsewhere on the web, Simon Kinnear has come up with a list of ’40 Star Wars Stories That Should Be Movies’  for Total Film, which is well worth a look (let us know which stories you’d like to see filmed in the comments section below).

Let’s find out what the Flickering Myth writing team think…

Chris Cooper: I’m excited. Legitimately excited. What news!! Out of the blue like force lightning to the chest!

Star Wars has been, I believe, stifled by Lucas for years now. The Prequel Trilogy was disappointing overall (Attack of the Clones still makes me shudder), but Disney have proven themselves more than capable with Marvel. They didn’t just stick their nose in, and helped to elevate it with the MCU. Of course it could go badly, but there is plenty of scope for them to create new stories. Until I see different I’ll remain positive.

Gary Collinson: Like everyone, I was completely surprised by the news, but with George Lucas announcing his retirement back in January, maybe we should have seen something coming. Personally, I thought by retirement, he meant he’d just sit back and squeeze every last drop from the existing movies with the 3D re-releases etc., but now suddenly Star Wars has a whole new future ahead of it, and regardless of peoples’ views on the Prequel Trilogy, I think that can only be a good thing.

Unlike some long-time fans, I wasn’t completely put off by the prequels. It wasn’t until this latest round of 3D reissues and Blu-ray releases that I finally started to give up on Star Wars. But now it’s like the mid-90s all over again, and regardless of how this new Disney Trilogy turns out, I’m excited about Star Wars once more.

Liam Trim: In my book it’s very refreshing to be caught completely off guard by a news story like this. Admittedly it’s one big company buying out another, for control of a story that has perhaps run out of steam. But given the success of The Avengers, and the sheer scope of the Star Wars universe, there is potential for a well executed, quality revival of the franchise. Only time will tell and it will certainly be fascinating to watch the project for Episode VII develop. Clearly Star Wars could attract the best actors and directors. Oh wait or it could attract wooden puppets like Hayden Christensen…

Martin Deer: This was the kind of news that leaves you in shock – barely able to conjure up a reaction. Am I excited? Apathetic? Worried? Who knew? However waking up this morning I’m extremely excited for this. Episodes IIII were, despite Revenge of the Sith pulling some credit back to the franchise, a disappointment. There’s an enormous wealth of material for them to use as inspiration for this new trilogy, and the possibilities at this time are endless; will we see an older, wiser Luke? Will it be set in the far flung future? Will it be a prequel to the prequel and show us the origins of a time in the Jedi’s infancy? Lots to look forward to I think, and it’s in good hands now I believe. Disney have handled Marvel well, I see no reason to doubt them on this, I think they’ll bring in the right people who know the franchise and have a passion for it, to make this as successful, if not more so, than the Marvel Universe has been. Exciting times!

Gary Collinson: Between Star Wars and The Avengers 2, Disney are going to dominate the box office in 2015. Now… do Disney bump The Avengers from May 1st, or do they risk upsetting Star Wars fans by ditching the May release date for Episode VII?

Simon Columb: In hindsight, it was inevitable. So much potential money is hardly going to be ignored. Disney will soon own every franchise.

Matt Smith: When I heard about it, my first reaction was of unrelenting terror. How much control will Disney have over the industry? It has the fourth largest navy in the world as well. Unstoppable power… but once I’d had my panic attack, I thought it might be a good thing.

A friend of mine was pretty accurate, I think, when he said the problems with the prequels may well have been the fact George Lucas was unrestrained. He seems to have a habit of concentrating on the elements people don’t care about, and forgetting the ones people do want focus on.

Handing over the franchise to a completely new team might bring a fresh focus. Ultimately, it’s the same as any franchise changing hands. Disney just have to pick the right creative team to bring the best out of the universe that is Star Wars. We’ll just have to wait and see who is chosen to be the driving force behind it all.

Urgh, just realised I said ‘driving force’. No pun intended. I feel dirty.

Kirsty Capes: I think that if Avengers hadn’t come out this year I would be a lot more worried about the Disney buyout. But I think recently Disney has proven itself to be a far more capable and mature company than just kids’ cartoons. I think Disney is going to do great things for Star Wars.

Oliver Davis: I can’t wait for the direct-to-DVD Star Wars Episode 11: Obi and Darth Take Miami.

Jake Peffer: At first I really hated the idea of Disney buying Lucasfilm but then I thought about it and this might not be a bad thing. Disney has already done extremely well with Marvel so why couldn’t they do the same for Lucas? I do have to say that I really don’t think we need another Star Wars movie. After the prequels were underwhelming and Lucas changing things around for the Blu-rays they just need to put the franchise to rest.

Simon Moore: Star Wars was exciting, groundbreaking cinema way back when. Today it just seems exhausted. Between prequels, comics, books and cartoons, just about every conceivable storyline has been explored. Fair enough, maybe Disney will come up with something fairly good, but is $4 billion the price any sane person would pay to make a fairly good trilogy?

Anghus Houvouras: Business wise it’s such a great decision for Disney, who are stockpiling iconic characters and franchises. While everyone else is trying to figure out where media is going… what distribution model… the decline of the theatrical experience… Disney is taking ownership of the creative licenses that will thrive no matter how people watch movies. It’s brilliant on a level that is overlooked in a day and age where people cry out that the creative mindset doesn’t exist in Hollywood. In fact, you have a company that realizes what people want: superheroes, science fiction, action and adventure. In the span of the last decade, Disney has become the most geek friendly studio on the planet. Simmer on that for a moment. Disney, a studio that was best known for staging princess stories that were predominantly geared towards little girls has become the home of Luke Skywalker and Captain America.

There’s brilliance in these moves. As for the properties themselves, Lucas did his best to murder the integrity of the original trilogy. And if we’re being honest, the original trilogy contains one and a half good movies. The prequels were hyperactive garbage. There’s been some fun had in the comic books and video games, but Star Wars is at best tarnished goods. There can be no more harm brought to it by Disney. Lucas created this monster, and then he destroyed it. Maybe it will find new creative life and have a rebirth of sorts. The money will be there. We’ll all line up for 7, 8 and 9 just like we did for 1, 2 and 3 even though they were terrible. Disney for the win.

Gary Collinson: Despite people’s views on the prequels, there’s still huge potential in the universe Lucas has created. I’m not overly keen on the idea of a new trilogy – the Skywalker story is finished – but individual movies, set at various points in history, and with the right filmmakers in place…

Anghus Houvouras: It’s always about the talent. With the right story and director, it could be exceptional. Or, it could be average. I think after the prequels, there’s only room for improvement.

Luke Owen: Even if Episode VII was just below average it would be better than the prequel trilogy. The problem with those films was that Lucas lost artistic integrity to instead create a series of films made solely to make toys. While this isn’t always a bad thing (all of the cartoons that raised me were created for those reasons), you actually have to make some effort. The scripts were bad, the acting was horrendous (and that is Lucas’ fault) and the stories were boring. When going into Episode I, did you expect to see a movie about trade disputes?

As for the Disney deal, this could be the best thing for the franchise. At first I was just taken aback by the thought of a Star Wars film without Lucas (it’s like doing Ghostbusters 3 without Bill Murray…) but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. The biggest problem with the franchise was the man himself so taking him out of the equation can only be a good thing.

It’s a lot like taking Joel Schumacher off Batman. He was a tumour that needed to be removed and it ended up being the best thing to happen to the world of Gotham. Removing Lucas from Star Wars could bring balance to the force…

So there we have it. Some say we don’t need another Star Wars movie, some are ridiculously excited about the prospect and believe there’s plenty more to be mined from the Jedi universe. Most seem to agree that Disney have proved themselves with their Marvel exploits, and that they are making very shrewd commercial investments. And of course, several of our writers couldn’t resist the inevitable Star Wars puns. Yes, I apologise, many were terrible enough to create disturbances in the force…

How did you react to the news of Disney’s takeover and the upcoming Episode VII? Leave your comments below.

You can read Luke Owen’s reasons to be optimistic about Disney’s involvement with Star Wars and Lucasfilm here

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