Everyone with a platform and an opinion has weighed in on the news that Disney has acquired Lucasfilm, so I might as well throw my thoughts onto the pile.
If Lucasfilm was going to go somewhere, I can’t think of a better place for it to land. Disney has already had a relationship with Star Wars for many years. We can debate the creative merits of that relationship another time. I’m also not very interested in the wealth of jokes the news inspires. I know a lot of people think the updated Star Tours ride is just another cheesy insult to a beloved fairy tale, and it’s easy to think that any film Disney produces would retain the same flavor.
My understanding, however, is that Disney usually keeps the creative teams responsible for theme park attractions somewhat separate from those responsible for the films. There’s obviously some overlap, but I don’t think the people that write, produce and direct Disney movies necessarily write, produce and direct the attractions they inspire. I could very well be wrong, but I doubt that Joss Whedon writes material for anything to do with The Avengers that happens inside the walls at Disneyland. The same principle would govern the production of any future Star Wars films.
My biggest interest at this point is who Disney, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, hire to make the films. Any number of talented individuals can probably pool their resources and create a decent Star Wars flick. Thing is, though, decent isn’t gonna cut it. Before the prequels, Star Wars was better than decent, more than just good.
It was something special.
More than anything else, the choice of Episode VII’s director will tell us all how serious everyone is about doing this right. I know we all have different ideas about what “doing it right” really means, but that’s beside the point at this stage. The prequels ignored even basic storytelling principles. They failed on the fundamentals more than anything else. With the news of Disney’s acquisition of the property, Star Wars has shed its biggest burden: George Lucas.
Everyone can see the vast gulf that separates the original trilogy from the prequels, and the level of Lucas’s involvement defines the difference. In the intervening years, he moved from behaving as an artist who collaborated with others to doing everything on his own. Removing Lucas from the direct creative process of any future installments allows for the kind of collaboration the prequels desperately needed.
As news about the deal has rolled out, we’ve learned that Kennedy has already met with writers, and that a treatment for the new trilogy already exists at some level. Now, Star Wars needs someone with the vision to carry it forward, and push it far enough to make us forget all about the prequels. We need someone who can deliver on the promise that Episode I never did. That’s a very small pool of talent.
Whoever takes the gig will fail to meet everyone’s expectations. It’s inevitable. So to me, the best choice has to be someone who’s already delivered the combination of gravitas, scope, fun and adventure that Star Wars requires. I would love to see Brad Bird helm this picture. Watch The Incredibles and tell me I’m wrong. Bird could raise this out of an ocean of punch lines.
Anything less and it’ll be hard to take any of this seriously. At best, future episodes will rise to the level of the expanded universe novels and video games—interesting diversions that pay homage to the greatness that once was. At worst … well, maybe it can’t get any worse.
Disney doesn’t have to fumble the ball here. Everything depends on how they call their next play.