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Star Wars moves to the dark side

Kevin Noonan | Sunday, November 4, 2012

 

 

Conflicted, I am.

Disney’s $4 billion takeover of Lucasfilm this week leaves “Star Wars” fans in a state of confusion reaching intergalactic levels.

As the youngest of four, including two older brothers who grew up in the 80s and showed me PG-13 movies long before I turned 13 years old when our mom wasn’t looking (I was quite the rebel), “Star Wars” was a cornerstone of my childhood pop culture experience.

And, like most fans, it was more than just the films that made it special. I had Luke Skywalker and Han Solo action figures, a Lego model of the Millennium Falcon, film posters and all kinds of other merchandise.

As a now cynical “adult,” I sometimes look down my nose at the merchandization (I made that word up, but in the spirit of what we’re talking about, I’m going to charge royalties out the wazoo if anyone tries to use it) of that vague, crotchety old man idea of “kids these days.” But I’m a hypocrite, because the “Star Wars” merchandization was a central part of my playtime when I was growing up.

And so I’m not sure how I feel about Disney taking over Lucasfilm. George Lucas may have revolutionized the entertainment industry when he got 20th Century Fox to let him hold onto the merchandise and sequel rights in his deal for the first “Star Wars” film, but Disney is without a doubt the main offender when it comes to turning every possible creative idea or brand into a line of gummy bears and backpacks.

I can only imagine what the next three films in the “Star Wars” series will look like once Disney gets its filthy, dumbing down, mass appeal marketing hands on it.

Script idea: A cast of fresh-faced recruits is schooled in the ways of rebellion by the rough, gruff and tough Han Solo. Solo seems like an unlovable soul at first, but after time, the students begin to appreciate his tough love, and in the end, he learns as much from them as they do from him. Oh, and you know what? Turns out they can all sing, too. And dance. Acting though, they’re still working on it.

Back in the good old days of Disney, when Walt himself did pretty much whatever he wanted and nobody could stop him because he was Walt Disney and who the heck are you, the film studio might have been able to have a little fun with the implicated and overlooked make-out between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia (brother and sister aka incest). Now though? They’ll probably write Luke out of the script to avoid having to deal with an issue like that. Bunch of wusses.

So they’ve announced three more movies. The rumors persisted for decades that Lucas had long planned for nine films total, so it’s not like this is completely out of the third moon of Endor (Before some punk writes a Letter to the Editor about how this is a bad reference because there isn’t a third moon of Endor since Endor is a moon itself, don’t).

But if there’s one thing above all at which Disney excels, it’s beating a dead horse into a powdery pulp, then turning it into glue and selling it to you. Tired of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise? LOL. Hope you’re pumped for the fifth one.

You thought the “Spiderman” reboot came a little fast? Sony’s only making those movies because if they don’t do it every so often, the film rights transfer to Disney, and then Disney will be rebooting it every three years.

This is the same studio that made “Cinderella 2.” You think they’re not above making “Star Wars 13: Luke Skywalker and the Cuddly Kittens of Coruscant?” Well, you’re wrong.

Wow. That little hatefest escalated quickly.

Here’s the flipside. By selling Lucasfilm to Disney, George Lucas ensures the whole world that never, ever again will George Lucas be able to take something I love and douse it in gasoline and put a match to it (see: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Star Wars” Episodes I, II and III and the “South Park” episode entitled “The China Problem”).

There is no question about Lucas’s genius, or at least former genius. He created two of the greatest film franchises in history, “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” But following the release of what should have been the final installment in the Indiana Jones,  “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” in 1989, for which Lucas was an executive producer, he’s churned out notably below-average work.

The 90s saw him create the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” television series, which beloved by some, was nowhere near the quality of the films. He has rereleased the original three “Star Wars” films a number of times, making small adjustments and updates, drawing aggressive ire from hardcore fans.

He directed the second installment of “Star Wars” trilogies, which perhaps were hated more than they deserved but still failed to live up to the legendary quality of the originals. And then there was the terribly ridiculous and ridiculously terrible “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It gives me shivers just thinking about it. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re making a fifth one. And Shia LeBeouf might be in it again.

Lucas once had the Midas touch when it came to creating films of epic nature and lasting greatness. He now has whatever the opposite of the Midas touch is – everything he touches turns to crap.

From that perspective, maybe it’s a good thing that Lucas can’t mess with these films any more.

So the question then becomes, which is the lesser of two evils: Disney getting to turn “Star Wars” into the watered-down, riskless mush that is a Disney franchise, or George Lucas no longer being able to blindly ruin that which I love?

To be honest, I don’t know. It’s pretty cool of Lucas to donate the majority of the money from the sale to charity; I can’t fault him for that. And let’s be honest, I’m still going to see the movies. I’m going to line somebody’s pockets, no matter whose name opens the credits. So at the end of the day, maybe there isn’t a right answer.

It’s a trap.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.