*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.
The Walt Disney Company purchased LucasFilm Ltd. this week for $4.05 billion. Perhaps you heard about it? It was the geek shot heard ‘round the world. Disney paid in cash and stock options, which is sort of amazing when you think about it. They were able to make a $4 billion deal with no outside financing; they essentially just gave George a big duffle bag stuffed with cash.
The other news that came out of this announcement was the greenlight given to new Star Wars movies, beginning with Episode 7, which will hit theaters in 2015. If tradition holds and this comes out on Memorial Day weekend, Disney will be releasing Star Wars 7 within about three weeks of The Avengers 2. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. The Treasury Department should just give Bob Iger his own money printing press at that point.
It’s also pretty amazing that a deal this big was able to be negotiated over what must have been at least weeks and more likely months without it being leaked to the press. If Star Wars 7 is going to be released in about two and a half years, they must be pretty far along in the planning process.
Disney also stated this week that they want to increase the presence of Star Wars in their theme parks, which is awesome. I’m a giant Disneyland nerd, and Star Tours 2.0 is probably my favorite thing at Disneyland right now. If they would just turn the Innoventions building into a Stark Expo, I could pretty much just live in Tomorrowland. If they ever go through with the rumored plans of building a third Disney park in Orange County, it should be Marvel/Star Wars themed. That would truly be the happiest place on earth.
Since I’ve never in my lifetime seen a fan base turn on its creator in quite the hostile ways that Star Wars fans have turned on Lucas (and some of their frustrations are truly earned), it wasn’t a surprise to see a certain amount of jubilation as the idea of new Star Wars movies in which George Lucas will only serve a small, advisory role. If you think about it, the most successful things he’s done were story ideas he had that he, in turn, gave to people like Lawrence Kasdan or Senor Spielbergo to take the reigns. Supervisory George is the best George. The prequels did nothing if not highlight his limitations as a writer and director of actors.
So, there’s no question that speculation of who will be given the reigns now is something people are talking about. I’ve read rumors that Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird are already working on the film as writer and director, respectively, that the secretive, 1956 movie they were to have collaborated on is a Blue Harvest-like code for Star Wars 7. I’ll believe that’s true when something is officially announced.
But, suffice it to say that the internet is ablaze with speculation at this point. I’m not going to do any speculating.
It always seems that there’s a circular, dog-chasing-its-own-tail quality to geeks when news like this comes forth. When we start speculating about casting or directing choices, we’re like Inspector Rennault from Casablanca: “Round up the usual suspects.”
I’ve read a lot of “Who Should Direct the New Star Wars” pieces in the past three or four days, and every single one of them couldn’t be more predictable. It’s like we as geeks only know the names of eight or ten directors, and we spit those names out like the world’s most unsurprising vending machines. You don’t need to read the articles. You can just write down the list yourself and check it against the one you’re reading.
The list always goes a little something like this: Guillermo Del Toro. He’s always the first guy on the list. He’s followed by Alfonso Cuaron and the hipsters clinging to idea that The Prisoner of Azkaban was the only good Harry Potter movie meme. Then comes the aforementioned Brad Bird. And, Neil Blomkamp, the one hit wonder. Senor Spielbergo gets thrown a bone since he may or may not have been in line to direct Return of the Jedi. Peter Jackson comes up. Then, there’s JJ Abrams, whose take on Star Trek is decidedly more like Star Wars anyway. Chris Nolan shows up, even though his sensibilities are all wrong for Star Wars. Edgar Wright. Jon Favreau. Joss Whedon.
That’s pretty much it, every single time.
Even though I do think Brad Bird would be a really nice fit for Star Wars, why can’t we think outside the box more? Why do we only ever come up wth these same names over and over and over again?
I won’t have a chance to see Skyfall until the middle of next week, but since it’s already opened in the UK, we know that the reaction for it over there has been pretty ecstatic. There’s a lot of talk about it being the best Bond ever. I’m really excited to see it. But, who would have ever thought that the Academy Award winning director of American Beauty would be such a great fit for Bond? Early word is that stage director-turned-movie director Sam Mendes has crushed Skyfall out of the park. Word on the street is the action is great, but that the movie is exceedingly well acted and has emotional and thematic depths we don’t normally associate with a James Bond picture. It turns out that director of Revolutionary Road was just as well if not better suited for Bond than the director of Inception.
And, how about casting? Whenever a geek property gets a greenlight and we fill message boards with casting ideas, we almost always latch onto the actor who most resembles the character as drawn or imagined by us. Allow me to take you back five or six years. Anybody remember how the casting news of Heath Ledger as the Joker was met by the geek community? The film Ledger was most famous for was Brokeback Mountain, for which he’d recently been nominated for an Oscar. Geeks went crazy! Nolan had lost his fool mind! Was he making Batman gay or something? Geeks wanted Crispin Glover to be the Joker. And, geeks were spectacularly wrong as Heath Ledger went on to make the Joker one of the all-time greatest movie villains. His Joker is one for the ages.
When Marvel was making Thor, who would have conceived Kenneth Branagh would make a kick a– choice as director? I sure wouldn’t have. Marvel’s done a terrific job of thinking outside the box as it relates to their films. The second Captain America film is set to be directed by the Russo brothers, who are most well known for their TV work on Arrested Development.
We rail against the studio’s choices time and time again, but how often do they get it right? Almost as often as we get it wrong.
I didn’t like the prequels at all, so the idea of new, good Star Wars movies is just great to me. I really don’t care who winds up directing them, as long as it’s somebody who’s a great, world-class storyteller.
Disney bought Star Wars this week! May the Force be with them.