Thursday, November 01, 2012

The once and future Star Wars

I'm not convinced I have a strong opinion about this new Disney buying Lucasfilm event.

"Yeah," I imagine you saying, "So why is this your first post in 4 months?"

Imaginary you does have something there.

At first my mind turned, as did Buzz Dixon's according to his May The Mouse Be With You… post, to ramifications to intellectual property law, with Disney holding one more major piece of copyright.

But I'll leave that for another discussion.

Let me start by saying, I’m much more concerned about what this change will mean to Star Wars: The Clone Wars and, to a lesser extent, the Dark Horse comics than I am about anything else involved in this, but there’s so little to wildly speculate about there, so I’ll leave that for the future.

A number of people have begun the speculation about Disney bringing out remastered editions of the original theatrical versions of the original trilogy on Blu-ray. I’ll stand with the speculators on that.

Don't expect to see the original editions of Star Wars on Blu-ray any time soon by Drew McWeeny makes the most important points here.

I expect that is something we’ll see as soon as it’s possible to do, and do well. I expect Disney will be conscious of the perception that the DVD editions were less than they should have been and could have been, so I don’t think we’ll see it announced until they assess how long it will take them to do it right and can make themselves the champions of old school Star Wars fans.

But what of something such as Star Wars Revisited? Lucasfilm has traditionally been pretty hands off and even positive toward fan films and fan edits. Disney has not.

Disney Buys Lucasfilm: What This Means For Revisited begins that discussion for real.

I’d be perfectly satisfied, for myself, if I imagined that Disney would themselves take on a project such as that, creating a smooth, professional blend of the elements that work better in the original theatrical versions and those that work best in the Special Editions. I’d advise Disney that a Blu-ray set that included both the original theatrical versions along with versions like that, that incorporated the elements of the Special Editions that are widely considered to work, but eliminates or tempers the elements that are not considered to work as well, would be a product that the vast majority of fans would rush to purchase.

All that would need is a word of interest. I don’t even think they’d even need to go into fandom to find how to do that. I suspect Lucasfilm is lousy with people who could tell them exactly the same as I am.

That is easily doable. It’s only a matter of whether Disney is willing or interested in taking those kinds of steps. The future will tell what their attitude will be on dealing with the existing movies.

Which brings us to sequels… the big news that’s causing all of the buzz.

I’ve wracked my brain and I can’t see how they can work.

Yeah, I know, George Lucas variously promised 9 episodes and even 12 episodes, and he may have had some vague ideas of what things he wanted in those sequels. You can check some details on that at Star Wars Sequels: George Lucas Always Teased 9 Films; Or Did He? by Michael Liedke.

On the other hand, he never made them and stopped suggesting he would quite a while back. Why?

Because what do you do?

Episodes 4-6, the classic series, cover the victory of the Rebel Alliance and the fall of the Galactic Empire. Episodes 1-3, the prequels, cover the fall of the Republic and rise of the Galactic Empire, solidifying this as the overall arc of the stories. The arc of Palpatine’s role as the central force in the Empire throughout, further solidifies his defeat as being the same as the Empire’s defeat.

Regardless of what arguments one may have with the movies themselves – and that is a discussion I am interested in opening up soon enough – the structure is tough to argue against in that way.

How does one make another trilogy that doesn't merely restate the thesis of one of the two existing trilogies?

If you look at either the very popular Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, they are about the restored Republic battling the last vestiges of the Empire. The character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a kind of Sherlock Holmes as intergalactic villain, keeps the threat real and compelling within the books themselves. However the threat itself doesn't have the kind of epic build in the story.

It works as books, carrying somewhat different expectations.

It would work as a TV series, much as "The Clone Wars" does now, or as a mini-series (or perhaps "maxi-series"), but the story is too small for Episodes VII, VIII and IX. The Empire isn't bigger, it's smaller, and arguably a little pathetic... aside from Thrawn's brilliance, which works well in a novel and could be developed over the course of a TV series, but would be next to impossible to make play as a step-up in three 2-hour movies.

By the way, I think Star Wars: Legacy by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema would also make an absolutely fantastic TV series, and would feel like a natural modern take on the Universe.

I’d like to think there are clues hidden by Lucas throughout the series. My friend Wade Bradford said he’d been specifically looking for them when watching Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

I know if I were really tasked with coming up with a way to make a sequel trilogy, I'd certainly go through all six movies with a fine tooth comb, looking for clues, whether clues placed carefully by Lucas or merely bits of business I could build into "clues" with some imagination and a bit of chewing gum.

Is there enough there to hang a real, satisfying epic trilogy that feels like it extends out of the original movies, but also impressively build further? I don't know. Thankfully, I'm not the one tasked with this job, and the question of who will be seems to still be open.

I remember once reading Lucas offhandedly saying that all he had for a sequel was the general idea of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo return as some kind of Over-the-Hill Gang in space. As a one-off, throwaway, that sounds fantastic!

In fact, I didn't see the movie, but moments of the trailer, with Harrison Ford in Cowboys and Aliens, made me think for the first time that maybe a crotchety old Han Solo would be something I'd like to see.

I think I would like any of these smaller things better than whatever they end up making as a new trilogy. And, depending, it wouldn't surprise me, or anyone, a bit if Disney strip-mines the whole thing and we get a bit of both approaches... although, of course, there's no value in spending the money and offering the time and approval and whatever it would take to get Ford back as Solo for anything that wasn't a full-on sequel, I know.

I expect if they do that the smaller pieces will continue making me a lot happier than the larger ones. I think when I was a kid and imagined a future of 12 episodes, that was closer to what I imagined. A future of many little struggles in a never-ending struggle between good and evil.

And finally, I do like My Favorite Part of the Lucasfilm Sale by SamuraiFrog. Is he more optimistic than I am? I'm not sure. I'm cautiously apathetic with a sprinkling of prepared to be pleased.

Of course, that changes on a dime in the event - I agree with Breakdown: Who Should and Shouldn’t Direct Star Wars: Episode VII by Nathan Adams, which call this "not likely to happen" - that John Carter of Mars director Andrew Stanton is handed the franchise. Then I'd sent into some kind of excitement seizures, so it's probably for the best that it doesn't happen.

UPDATE: Disney's Star Wars by Outlaw Vern manages to say all I wanted to says and more, and in half the time.

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