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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Disney's Buyout of LucasArts Probably Doesn't Matter, So Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Lives


So, yesterday the internet set itself on fire with the news that Disney is buying out LucasArts for $4.05bn, and that with that buyout, more Star Wars feature films are promised. For many fans, the natural reaction has been to recoil in horror at the prospect of more series-ruining instalments, but my response has been far more indifferent. Why are people surprised by this? George Lucas is first and foremost a business man, and despite his numerous and unconvincing claims to the contrary, only really sees Star Wars as a money spinner. It's hardly shocking then, that when Disney comes along with an offer he can't refuse he doesn't turn it down. Moreover, this is completely in line with Disney's current business model of buying up smaller, successful genre studios so that they don't have to compete with them, namely, Pixar, Marvel Studios and now LucasArts. Despite Lucas' self-proclaimed creative monopoly on Star Wars, he is demonstrably tired of the franchise, and was, I think, reluctant to return to do the prequels. More recently, he's become more than a little petulant over calls to do episodes VII-IX. Combined with his readiness to hand over the expanded universe (games, comics, novels, etc) to others, it's hardly surprising that if the final trilogy were to happen, it wouldn't be George helming it.

What baffles me more, however, is the newly-awakened well of fanboy spluttering that has erupted at the mere mention of three more Star Wars films. Now, the prequels are amongst the worst films ever to have made it to cinemas; a mirthless, mechanical and nonsensical trudge through space politics, dated CGI and naked merchandising, nowhere better eviscerated than here. It's not entirely unsurprising then, that fans are, shall we say, cautious at the thought of more of the same, especially when the press release on this story that the decision to resurrect the franchise was an entirely commercial one. But what I want to know is, why does anyone care at all? Star Wars as a vital, continuing saga is dead. This is not news. Once, in the late 1970s and 80s, those films created a cinematic landscape that still influences filmmakers today. But the series itself is over. The prequels are testament to the fact that Star Wars' time has passed, just as other classics of the 1980s, like Indiana Jones, Jaws and Willow. No amount of new instalments will change that, but simultaneously, they can't affect the originals' significance, nor should they be allowed to affect our personal enjoyment of them. Yes, it's sad and often infuriating that our beloved films (tellingly, usually the ones we saw in childhood) are diluted with endless sequels and spinoffs, but come on, we're not talking about the Three Colours Trilogy here; this is Star Wars. It is, and always has been, a commercial franchise. More than that, do you really think three more films are going to have that much effect on the mountainous pile of comics, books, games, toys and spin-off TV series? Why does it even matter now? Star Wars as a franchise was turned into commercial pap a long time ago. The fight for Star Wars is over.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, why the assumption that a new trilogy will be terrible anyway? The best item in this story is that George will have only the barest input, staying on only as a 'creative consultant'. If Disney hire a good creative team (no guarantee, but not outside the realms of possibility), and they manage to focus on what made the originals so great in the first place, hell, even if they manage to knock out a half-coherent script, the result could be far from the disaster that everyone seems so keen to predict. Now, the odds are probably that the new films will be less than stellar, but there is absolutely no reason that they can't be good, commercialism or no commercialism. You think that last year's fantastic series reboot, X-Men: First Class, was born out of some sort artistic necessity? Or Batman Begins? Or Casino Royale? Of course they weren't - they were conceived purely as commercial ventures, designed to reinvigorate moribund franchises that still had a lot of dollar potential. The difference between those films and the prequel trilogy is that their respective studios also had the sense to hire creative teams that cared about what they were doing in addition to the box office. Admittedly, the X-Men and Batman reboots are exceptions in a marketplace saturated with sub-par sequels and remakes, but they remain as examples of otherwise dead franchises being successfully revived. Will this happen with Star Wars? It's impossible to say right now, but it's important to remember that the prospect of a new film remains far from certain: many films end up in development hell much further down the line than this. Moreover, any new instalment will never be able to match the magic of the originals, and nor should it try. And when it doesn't there's no point in getting upset about it.

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