Like it or not – there’s going to be another Star Wars film, and it’s going to be produced by Disney.
Lucasfilm, the film studio owned by George Lucas, was sold to Disney in late October in exchange for approximately $4bn , plus 40 million stock shares, of which Lucas has promised to give a considerable amount to charity.
With this trade off came the agreement that not one but three new Star Wars films would be produced under Disney, the first of which is targeted for release in 2015. Disney also confirmed to the media that its long-term plans were to release another Star Wars film every two or three years.
The exact nature of the new films remain shrouded in mystery. During a conference between Disney and the media, it was revealed that an “extensive and detailed” treatment of the new trilogy had been purchased alongside the rights to Lucasfilm, so despite not giving away any details it seems that Disney will not be starting from scratch.
Several online sources have also confirmed that award-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) will pen Episode VII, and that George Lucas will remain on board as creative consultant.
Little news as to what we can expect in 2015 has of course led to avid speculation among fans. In other media, known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there are plenty of potential tales for the new films to borrow.
There are story lines and characters from books and graphic novels which many fans have expressed interest in seeing adapted to the big screen. There has also been much discussion as to who should direct and be cast, and whether any of the actors from the original trilogy would agree to reprise their roles.
In particular, rumours are abound that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher (formerly Han Solo and Princess Leia respectively), are interested in the project, while directors as far flung as Kick Ass’ Matthew Vaughn and indie outsider Colin Trevorrow are touted to helm the poisoned chalice. Whatever the outcome, it seems impossible for Disney to satisfy everybody.
Those who defend the transfer and production of new Star Wars films argue that Disney has met fan expectations so far with its previous acquisitions, notably The Muppets and Marvel (The Avengers, in particular, was one of the highest grossing films ever).
The key difference though, is that prior to Disney buying these particular franchises, nobody was saying that there should not be any more. The same cannot be said for Star Wars. Its attempts to remain fresh in people’s minds after Revenge of the Sith, the final installment of the prequel trilogy in 2005, were met with negative reviews almost unanimously.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2008, the re-release of The Phantom Menace in 3D earlier this year, and the Blu-Ray release of the original trilogy featuring new edits and changes have all been condemned to some extent.
The general consensus appears to be that Star Wars should be laid to rest: any add-ons or changes made after Revenge of the Sith are typically regarded as unnecessary or counter-productive. So, with this in mind, why is Episode VII even being produced at all?
In an interview conducted between Lucas and executive of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, Lucas said “I’m doing this so that the films have a longer life, and that more fans and people can enjoy them in the future”.
There seems to be a fear that without making more, or without re-releasing or editing the previous films, Star Wars is simply going to fade into obscurity. It is hard to see where George Lucas is coming from, given that the franchise is now well established as a classic.
It is equally hard to imagine it disappearing from public consciousness just because there won’t be any more films. But, of course, there remains the elephant in the room, perhaps the true, cynical reason behind this shocking venture: Star Wars is a guaranteed moneymaker.