Gee… I wonder what we’ll have to talk about this week on the Geek Beat? Can you guys think of any big news in the world of geekdom that’s dropped in the last week? Anything that might be, I don’t know, sending shockwaves through every fan’s neurons? Could it possibly be something that so many have already said so much about, but because they announced it on a TUESDAY I had to wait until the news cooled off a bit to actually say something about it?!
I’m not bitter. No, I’m mostly excited at the possibilities that await. I thought in 2005 that we were done with one of the most influential and popular space operas ever to be created, but the executives at the Walt Disney Company had an entirely other idea.
That’s right, this week on the Geek Beat we’re pulling out our lightsabers, powering up our DL-44s, and heading back to Toschi’s Station to pick up some power converters. The Star Wars saga isn’t done with us yet, and it looks like in just two and a half years we’re heading back to a galaxy far, far away….
Top Three Geeky Articles at Movies.com This Past Week
1) Disney Buys LucasFilm, Announces New 'Star Wars' for 2015
2) George Lucas Donating Billions to Charity, Explains Why He Sold 'Star Wars'
3) Mark Hamill Talks More 'Star Wars' Movies in 1983, Plus Rumored Storylines and Directors for 'Episode 7'
“This Can’t Be True…”
That was my first thought. When I saw the headline that Disney bought LucasFilm and that another Star Wars film would be coming down the pike, I didn’t believe that this was possible. As many fans are very aware, George Lucas has held a pretty tight leash on his baby for decades, without even a desire to release the original theatrical versions on any current format (at least not in a method that pleased longtime fans). The Star Wars saga was a very personal story for Lucas in a lot of ways, and I doubt even the most seasoned Star Wars fan thought that Lucas would part with it. But here we are, barely a week later and even though the next leader of the free world will be decided today (maybe), it’s still something that’s more baffling to me than even the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C. (and that’s saying something).
For days, I had no idea what to make of more Star Wars films. I’m sure many fans who are burning Jar Jar Binks in effigy are rejoicing that Lucas will not be behind the director’s chair, but there are also perhaps just as many fans who are concerned about what the direction of the Star Wars universe will be without its creator at the helm.
Then, I began to understand the possibilities a lot more. You have an entire generation of filmmakers today that grew up with Star Wars, many of which were absolutely shaped by their love of that galactic hero’s journey. Names like Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams, Ben Affleck and Tina Fey, some of the most talented entertainers in show business today have declared their love for these stories ages ago. If you hand the keys of that kingdom to a true fan who may see the saga as sacred ground, then it’s highly doubtful that a person with great reverence for the original material would take the characters and locales into unrecognizable directions. But this absolutely begs the question: where will these movies pick up the story? I don’t know for sure, but I know what I’d like to see.
Where Are the Heroes of the Galactic Civil War?
As a pretty big Star Wars fan in my own right, I’m trying to pay a lot of close attention to where the story will go and where we’ll catch up with the franchise in the summer of 2015. Most of the talk is centered around this being a true sequel trilogy, with a lot of outlets referring to the new film as “Episode VII.” I definitely hope this ends up being the case, because there are a lot of unanswered questions I’d love to have the answers to.
In the prequel trilogy, we saw the rise of Anakin Skywalker as the Chosen One, as a war hero and a Jedi Knight that would be skilled almost beyond compare. We saw his temptation and fall to the Dark Side, and the tragedy that befell him and his family as a result of his desperate and irrational desire to control the fates of those around him. Those actions also brought about the near extinction of the Jedi Order, with most of the Knights and Masters murdered and the remaining few sent in pockets to live exiled lives as pariahs and outsiders. The original trilogy saw the dominance of Darth Vader as a galactic tyrant, while his son grew up quietly on a backwater planet until destiny had called him to make a difference. The end of the original trilogy saw the son redeem the father, with the Chosen One finally fulfilling his duty to bring balance to the Force.
A Star Wars film without Anakin Skywalker at its center has not been made. Have we seen the last of him? What about Luke and his efforts, conceivably to try and rebuild the Jedi Order? There’s a wealth of expanded universe material in the forms of novels and video games that answer this and other questions about the heroes of the original trilogy, but the producers behind the new film have said that the story will be original. Will any of the material form the expanded universe be taken into account?
One thing that I doubt any fan would disagree with is that there probably aren’t many people who would mind seeing Harrison Ford put the black vest and holster of Han Solo back on. With Ford’s recent penchant for undertaking films like Cowboys and Aliens (with the aforementioned Jon Favreau) and Ender’s Game, he may be open for another turn as the Corellian scoundrel. The greatest indicator of his possible willingness to return to Star Wars might be his recent return to the Indiana Jones franchise, but one never can tell.
What New Characters Will We Meet?
Some of the buzz for Episode VII has the children of Luke Skywalker as focus characters, which would make sense for several reasons. The Skywalker family has been the primary focus of every Star Wars film, whether it’s in their genesis, their downfall, or their reemergence, it would be hard to see a new trilogy take place without some connection to the potent bloodline of the Chosen One. That being said, there’s a lot of EU material related both to Luke Skywalker’s children becoming Jedi Knights as well as the children of Leia and Han finding their path in the Force.
What about new antagonists? Is the Galactic Empire truly vanquished without Emperor Palpatine to rule? Some novels and video games have the Imperial Remnant at the heart of the insidious plots against the good people of the galaxy, while others find a way to the Dark Side to try and bring about the rebirth of the Sith. What about a certain Chiss Grand Admiral that managed to bring the Empire up to nearly full strength in the absence of its primary leader? Could we see him in the new films? There are so many possibilities, it can make your head spin.
Do We Need an Episode VII?
I’m unashamed to say that I love Star Wars. The saga did an extraordinary job of expanding my awareness not only of the effects fictional storytelling can have on people, but of some of the best works of merit in a multitude of mediums. Without Star Wars, I wouldn’t have discovered the films of Akira Kurosawa when I did. Without Star Wars, I wouldn’t have taken the time to learn more about the philosophies of Joseph Campbell. Without it, I wouldn’t have looked further at the history of the 1960s and '70s in the United States to learn just what kind of geopolitical turmoil and uncertainty spawned parts of the story in the first place. By extension, it’s without George Lucas specifically that I wouldn’t have discovered a lot of things that today I am genuinely interested in, Star Wars itself notwithstanding.
Do we need an Episode VII, particularly without his guiding hand? My answer is probably no… but I also don’t think it could hurt either. Even with its massive popularity, Star Wars is now an aging franchise. In order to make it continually fresh and viable for new generations, new material has to be produced. We were promised TV and a multitude of games, novels and other merchandise under the old guard, but nothing could generate the excitement or attention of the masses like a major motion picture.
There are certain other aspects that I am worried about, though. Lucas and the fan community were always on very good terms. Lucas allowed and even encouraged many fan filmmakers to play in the sandbox that he created without having them worry about legal repercussions. Can the same be said of Disney, whose lobbying efforts got a law nicknamed after Mickey Mouse so that certain copyrights couldn’t enter the public domain? Could such documented fierceness of one of the most powerful media empires on Earth be as friendly to the fan communities as George Lucas has been?
The fans may have ragged on Lucas for casting Jake Lloyd or creating Jar Jar, but I think largely that Lucas has shown an immense amount of appreciation and affection for the people who’ve loved his creation so much over the last 35 years. I also happen to think of Lucas as a very decent and good human being, even before the news that he decided to donate billions of dollars to charity, particularly to education. It is very rare that we see such a massive display of generosity, but over the last year we also saw Mr. Lucas pursue the construction of low-income housing in the Bay Area.
Will I be sad and maybe a little… doubtful about a Star Wars film without his direct involvement? Yes. Am I willing to accept it? Absolutely, especially being as proud of him as I am for pursuing the betterment of society as a result.
The Force is always going to be strong with Star Wars, but even though we give him some grief now and again, it looks like it’s very strong with George Lucas. For now, the possibilities are endless, and because of him, I’m sure we’ll be smiling when we see the return of that far away galaxy in a couple years’ time.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop
This week, the Marvel NOW! initiative continues with one of its highest-profile releases in the form of the brand new Iron Man #1. With the new first issue comes new, darker armor and a new creative force behind the Armored Avenger that promises a lot of big things for Tony Stark in his solo adventures going forward. Writer Kieron Gillen (Thor, Journey into Mystery) and artist Greg Land (Ultimate Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men) will be going back to the Extremis technovirus. But instead of being contained within Tony’s body, it’s out in the open, and it’s up to Iron Man to contain it before all hell breaks loose.
I’m looking forward to it because Gillen is a very good writer who brought a clear vision to both Thor and Loki in his highest profile work at Marvel to date. His stab at Tony Stark and the world of Iron Man should prove to be one of the more interesting books of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, but it’ll be very tough to follow Matt Fraction’s long and acclaimed run on Invincible Iron Man from the last four years.
That concludes this week’s Geek Beat, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. What do you feel about the new Star Wars film? Should they borrow from some of the great expanded universe material, or should they plow ahead with a brand new story? Who do you want to see back? What are your conspiracy theories? Is Disney a good home for the franchise? There are a lot of thoughts and feelings that can be explored, and I hope you decide to share them.
And of course, feel free to let me know what you’d like to see from future Geek Beats. Let’s hope no more earth-shattering news hits in the next day because I hated missing the wagon on this one last week. Thanks for reading, and sound off with your thoughts below!
Chris Clow is a recent Western Washington University graduate, film history fan, and comic book expert and retailer, contributor and overall geek to Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM. You can find his regular piece The Geek Beat here at Movies.com every Tuesday. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.