Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Star Wars

Chances are good that if you're reading this now (because you have power and internet access in the wake of Frankenstorm Sandy) you have heard that Disney is in the process of purchasing Lucasfilm Ltd and is planning to produce at least three new Star Wars movies. Since Star Wars is such a vital part of comic book culture I thought I would share my thoughts. What follows is pure opinion and should be taken for what it's worth, which is practically nothing.

My History with Star Wars

Return of the Jedi was the first movie I ever watched in the theater and my earliest memory is sitting in the dark watching the opening crawl of the credits. We missed the very beginning so my dad decided to sit in the theater and we watched the whole show a second time. From that point on I was hooked. Star Wars was the one constant amongst my geeky interests. I devoured the comics, toys, video games, novels and the assorted bric-a-brac that is part and parcel of the Star Wars experience. I greeted the news of the prequels much as one might welcome angels from on high proclaiming the second coming and bought tickets for opening day a month in advance.

I really wanted to like The Phantom Menace. I probably saw it three or four times in the theater trying to convince myself it was just as good as the originals but something was missing. It just wasn't the same. I enjoyed Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith well enough but the magic was gone. When George Lucas began to tinker with the Trilogy. With every re-release Star Wars moved further and further away from what I had loved. I felt like a small but important part of my childhood had been tarnished. I haven't really followed Star Wars since Sith's DVD release in 2006

Fast forward to October 30th 2012.

My initial response was negative. As flawed as the prequels are, the Star Wars saga is a complete thematic whole, the life story of Anakin Skywalker, his tragic fall and his ultimate redemption. While there are other stories to tell in the galaxy far, far away more films would seem to be superfluous.  Then I came to realize several things.

The Good


1) This takes the original trilogy out of George Lucas' hands

This is a big one for me because it means that we may finally get a blu-ray release of the original films (presumably minus the Fox fanfare). I have the limited DVD's that were released in 2007 but it's obvious that no love and care was taken with the release and there is a distinct lack of special features. If Disney wants a great model for an improved Star Wars box set they should look to the Aliens franchise which released a disc worth of special features and two versions of every movie.

2) George Lucas, Stan Lee and Walt Disney were my heroes

Some kids idolize presidents, athletes or actors. My heroes were men who created huge companies using their own talents and those of others. While I realize now that there was a fair amount of exploitation going on in all three cases, Lucas, Lee and Disney are the models by which I measure success. The fact that all three are now under the same roof is certainly apropos from my point of view.

3) My son's first movie can be Star Wars

As I stood in line for each of the prequels I saw a lot of kids waiting with their parents. It made me sad to think that there was no way I would have a son or daughter of my own who would be old enough to experience a Star Wars film for the first time in the theater. Even if the old magic is gone for me maybe Episode VII will kindle something in him that he can enjoy for a long time to come.

4) Lucas plans to donate most of the $4 billion Disney is giving him to education

You can read The Hollywood Reporter's story here.

The Bad

 One positive thing about George Lucas is that he has always been very generous with his intellectual property, as the number of Star Wars fan films can attest. Disney is very aggressive in protecting their copyrights and trademarks. One can't help but wonder what effect this deal will have on the fan culture. Disney's purchase of Marvel seems not to have had any effect but then again most Marvel fans aren't producing their own professional looking X-Men comics and posting them on line.

The Ugly

A lot of speculation is focused on Dark Horse Comics. While Dark Horse president Mike Richardson has stated that the future of the company's Star Wars line is secure for the near future, I think it only makes sense to assume that Disney will take the rights back once the current contract expires. While I don't predict doom and gloom for Dark Horse (they have plenty of other A-list licenses and creator owned books to keep them afloat) there is a very troubling issue on the horizon that cuts straight to the center of the comic book industry. If and when Dark Horse loses the Star Wars license what happens to all of the digital comics licensed through the company's digital program? If  books suddenly disappear from user's libraries it could create a messy situation that undermines public confidence in digital and cripples the current digital distribution model (for better or worse).

So there you have it: one fan's opinions. What do you all think? 

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