Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Some news from the world of entertainment:
The Walt Disney Company, in a move that gives it a commanding position in the world of fantasy movies, said Tuesday it had agreed to acquire Lucasfilm from its founder, George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in stock and cash. 
The sale provides a corporate home for a private company that grew from Mr. Lucas’s hugely successful “Star Wars” movie series, and became an enduring force in the creation of effects-driven science fiction entertainment for large and small screens. Mr. Lucas, who is 68 years old, had already announced he would step down from day-to-day operation of the company.... 
In a hastily convened conference call with investors late Tuesday, Mr. Iger said Disney planned to revive the Star Wars franchise and release a seventh feature film in the series in 2015, with new films coming every two or three years thereafter. Mr. Lucas will be a consultant on the film projects, Mr. Iger said.... 
Jay Rasulo, the company’s chief financial officer, said Disney’s financial calculations in agreeing to purchase Lucasfilm were driven almost entirely by the potential of the “Star Wars” series, which already has a place in the Disney theme parks. Lynne Hale, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lucas, said he was on a flight back to San Francisco from Los Angeles and could not immediately be reached. “It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement.
Honestly, the truth is the best time for that was probably about 15 or 20 years ago. But here we are.

My initial reaction to this news was that it was as if Lucas, having dug up a much loved corpse and drawn a mustache on it and put it in a silly costume before re-interring it, decided to let a bunch of goons pay him money to dig it up again for some group necrophilia. But on reflection, I agree with the emerging consensus that Disney probably will do a good, or good-enough, job with the Star Wars franchise, just as they seem to be doing with their Marvel properties. One friend suggests that they'll let a dozen of the best filmmakers of our generation fight it out to tell great Star Wars stories; another predicts that we'll all go through a cycle of overexcitement and disappointment as news leaks through the production cycle, before the first movie finally comes out and we all agree that it's better than the prequels though obviously not close to the original trilogy. 

I agree with that, and I can't imagine that I won't see the films. But I still wish they'd left it to rest. Maybe it's the incredible disappointment I felt with Episode I in particular, after waiting 16 years for that moment of the lights going dark and the Lucasfilm logo and the 20th Century Fox fanfare to sound; maybe it's just impending and inevitable grumpy-old-man-ness. Yet the sense, irrational but undeniable, is that something is lost every time they go back to this particular well. 

I've always said that Star Wars--the original trilogy--was the single best thing about growing up when I did. For all his flaws as an artist, Lucas succeeded completely in his goal of creating mythology for a new generation, and I don't doubt that those films influenced me in ways I couldn't possibly understand. I know that making more doesn't, can't, diminish the power of the first three; they remain fixed in memory (even if Lucas can't stop futzing with them in various infuriating ways), and nothing can change that my mom's greatest act of parenting through the first 39-odd years of my life was those four straight Wednesdays in 1977 when she took me to matinee showings of Star Wars. 

I guess a generous gloss on what I'm saying here is that it would be nice for younger generations to have their own cultural touchstones, and for entertainment conglomerates to show more faith that the artists of today can bring them into being. A related point might be that the endless perpetuation of franchises must exert some kind of creative opportunity cost, in terms of what else those great filmmakers might have worked on. It's also clear that Star Wars was always, in addition to much else, a franchise; from the start, Lucas had ideas about how to perpetuate the series in various media, including print. But there's a difference between knowing this on an intellectual level and being faced with it for, quite possibly, the remainder of my life and beyond. 

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