This article was first published on Louder Than War on 4 November 2012.
The news earlier this week that George Lucas had sold the rights to Star Wars to Disney sent a disturbance through the Force. Well, maybe not quite, but it certainly sent internet geeks into a fit of pique about what new hell lay ahead for the Star Wars universe now Disney had a hand in it.
The news broke this week that Star Wars VII is slated for release in 2015 but rather than get excited the geek wires hummed with horror that this was happening because George Lucas had sold the rights to that galaxy far, far away to the sanitised, commericialised cartoon-producing Disney.
It was, indeed, a great disturbance in the Force. A thousand voices crying out as if in pain. But unlike the civilians on Alderaan who found their own voices suddenly silenced when they became collatoral damage for the dark side, this being the internet meant the pain, fury and fear of the geeks just escalated from hashtag to meme and back again.
Yes, mostly the internet was spitting feathers that this further betrayal had been allowed to happen. Hadn’t they suffered enough with the prequals? They were indeed overcome by visions of a chorus line of Jar Jars singing and dancing and all the things they hated most about Phantom Menace being amplified until the original films, character and storylines were thoroughly destroyed.
Did I find myself furiously tweeting my own disapproval? No. I headed to my personal Dagobar to mediate on the Force (alright, I went on a family holiday to Wales and argued with my other half about the pros and cons of Disney Star Wars). Here’s the conclusion I came to: Star Wars VII has the potential to be absolutely amazing.
Now, be mindful of your thoughts for a moment Padawan and stay with me while I walk you through this.
I have done my fair share of raging about Phantom Menace. I still get an uncontrollable nervous tic born out of pure fury every time the bowl-haired Anakin in Episode I shouts ‘yipee’ (never has the journey to the dark side looked so long or unlikely as in that moment). But over the years I’ve also tried to get some perspective about the prequals.
The things we loved about the originals and about George Lucas as creator of the galaxy become the things we hate about them. The back stories he gave to the galaxy not just as a whole but to individual characters were so detailed it gave geeks the ammunition to obsess and argue, cogitate and hypothesise while making everything seem so very, very real. But it was this detail Lucas got bogged down in for the prequals – the Trade Federation, the politics, fucking Midichlorian counts – a little too much reality seeping into this fantasy tale.
But the real problem with the prequals is Jar Jar Binks. An awful character given far too big a part in Phantom Menace. I imagine he’s supposed to be the pratfall light relief but only serves to annoy and distract from the good parts of this film. Yes, there are some (the pod race for example – a brilliant set piece). And as if the instinctive hatred of the goofy Gungan wasn’t enough it’s all legitimised in Episode II when he gets into politics and clears the way for Senator Palpatine to begin his evil-doing.
I’m not even going to try and convince you that Jar Jar should be welcomed into the Star Wars fold but I think it’s a great shame the other two films in the prequal trilogy are written off due to his part in the first. Seriously, take another look at Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – there are some childhood-dreams coming true with Jedi council members showing off their mad Force skills and Episode III is just so very, very dark.
Yeah, I could list a load of stuff not so good. Here’s one; a sassy female character with the potential to equal or out-do the male protagonists but then basically wilts and loses all sense of self, all of her inner strength and purpose, when she falls in love. Padme Amidala in the prequals and daughter Leia in the originals (SPOILER ALERT!) begin as fierce, feisty, independent grrls and end up as anything but. I mean Padme pops out the twins and then gives up and dies being unable to face living now her love has crossed over to the dark side. Disappointing. Leia holds up better than her mum but it’s as annoying to me as Jar Jar (well, almost) that the Force wasn’t as strong, or as explored and exploited, in the female Skywalker.
Anyway, that’s my personal gripe. And maybe it should make me fear the Disneyfication all the more – would Padme or Leia have been more palatable as a female lead if they had a shoe-in to the Princess Parade at the Magic Kingdom post-big screen appearance?
But let’s all be honest for a moment; the original trilogy had more than a little Disney about it. What? It did. Princess in distress needing rescue by a bad boy with a good heart; the triumph of good over evil without any graphic violence; young boy taken from humdrum life to discover secret about his past and become a hero; talking robots to help in the quest; Ewoks. Oh man, the Ewoks.
Yes, George Lucas came up with all that – and Jar Jar Binks – all by himself. Well, at least without the input of Disney. But he also crafted an expansive, detailed and fascinating universe for us to get lost in. While the six films we’ve had so far have focused on the Skywalker dynasty with so much to go at in that galaxy far far away who’s to say Star Wars VII won’t be a spin off based on a brilliant but small-time character so far? Boba Fett, say. Or Lando.
Names in the frame for directing include Christopher Nolan. How great could a Nolan-directed Star Wars be? A really dark Boba Fett story? Yes please. Joss Whedon has also been named but he’s tied up with Avengers 2. Disney may own the Marvel rights but they haven’t totally fucked that up, have they?
And spin-off Star Wars hasn’t been a total bust so far either. The Clone Wars animated series is worth a watch – more detailed stories and some good character arcs for those crossing over from the films.
So, let’s not let go of the universe we loved as children and have obsessed about ever since but to let go of the cynicism that the prequals instilled in us.
The original story was as much about redemption as it was about revenge – with the right director, script and plot the next trilogy in the installment could very well mean we cinematically get both for the Star Wars galaxy.
All words by Sarah Lay.