For those of you who have only just discovered the Internet today, perhaps after emerging from a years-long coma, Disney bought Lucasfilm a few weeks ago. And unsurprisingly for a company that just spent four billion dollars to pick up what amounts to two worthwhile intellectual properties and the rights to ‘Willow’, they’ve said that they’re going to start work on ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’. Because with the rights to the Indiana Jones series tied up with Paramount, it’s either that or do a ‘Howard the Duck’ reboot, really.
All that sounds like a deeply cynical disdain for what is, at heart, a thoroughly mercenary sequel with two strikes already against it: One, there hasn’t been a good Star Wars movie produced in almost thirty years, and it’s not for lack of trying; and two, the general track record of revisiting iconic projects after decades of inactivity has been mixed, at best. (The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Tron: Legacy, Prometheus, Before Watchmen, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and yes, Episodes I-III.) And yet…and yet, despite the fact that there is as yet no cast and no director and no script, I am tentatively interested in the upcoming sequel to ‘Star Wars’. Why?
Honestly, I wish I knew. My wife suggests that it’s because I’m a masochist on the level of TV’s Frank, but I don’t think so. I’m not looking forward to it in the sense of it being a complete trainwreck that I can point and laugh at…I’m thinking it actually has the potential to be genuinely good. Part of it, I think, is that at some point I believe the change of creative hands to be a good thing for any long-running series; eventually, we all run out of good ideas and can be persuaded by the people around us that it’s worth trying the bad ones just to see what happens. It has been a long time since Lucas received any kind of serious editorial scrutiny, and a long time since he had to do the kind of feverish rewriting that marked the original ‘Star Wars’. Handing the series off to Disney (which, whatever else you may think of it, has a pretty good track record of taking care of its intellectual properties…there’s never been an equivalent to ‘Identity Crisis’ for Mickey Mouse…) might reinvigorate the stale ideas of the franchise.
Which is, actually, another point…I’ve never been a big fan of the Expanded Universe. The Thrawn trilogy was pretty good, and the X-Wing series was fun in an action-movie sort of way, but after a while I feel like it really devolved into an endless slog of book after book after book of “A new Dark Jedi/Imperial general holdover/Dark Sun crime boss rears its ugly head, and the fledgling Republic has to deal with this menace or else!” Which always seemed to translate to me as, “Let’s bring back the Emperor/Tarkin/Jabba with the serial numbers filed off!” Combine that with the militaristic insistence that this was the True Canon, the Word of Lucas, and I’m about ready for someone to stick a potato up that particular tailpipe.
And I think I’m up for it because I never stopped loving the original trilogy. ‘Star Wars’ is, I insist and will continue to insist, one of the most important and influential pieces of art in the 20th century. Anyone who doesn’t see that is missing just how big its impact was…it’s like someone telling you that a giant monster walked by, and you not noticing it because you can’t see out of this weird foot-shaped canyon you’re in. Lucas transformed the entire idea of what science-fiction could be on film, with a meticulous, shot-by-shot devotion to creating a universe so immersive that it feels at times (quite intentionally) like a documentary. The sequels, while arguably less good (and I’m sure there will be arguing) were also amazing, immersive glimpses into a world the viewer was invited to inhabit. I’m interested in going back there. I can’t help it. Maybe it’s masochistic of me…but the goodwill left over from 1977 is still enough to buy them at least an interested look from this fan.