A couple of weeks ago, the Earth stopped spinning for a millisecond. It was the collective shock across the globe at the news that Lucasfilm had been sold in its entirety to Disney, and that Disney was already in production on a new Star Wars film, titled at this point only Episode VII.
Very little is known about the film at this point, and it’ll probably remain that way for a while. Everyone and their cousin is going to report every stray rumor as fact, and they’ll all have some mysterious “mole inside Lucasfilm or Disney or Star Wars,” or whatever. Unless it comes directly from Lucasfilm—which is remaining a separate identity at Disney, just like Marvel, Jim Henson Productions or Pixar—or from me, don’t believe a word you’re being told.
What we do know is this: Disney will be distributing the film, so the chances of it having the iconic 20th Century Fox fanfare is small. Michael Arndt—the screenwriter of the wonderful Toy Story 3 and the abysmal Little Miss Sunshine—has turned in a treatment based on a story by George Lucas, and has been hired to turn that treatment into a screenplay. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) has been saying since 1983 this was going to happen and he’d have a small part in a sequel trilogy, passing the torch somehow to a new generation. It’s known that George Lucas met with Hamill and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and told them about the new films about a year ago. We do know the films will be set after Return of the Jedi—how long after remains to be seen. Lucas will remain as the creative force behind the film, but will leave writing and directing duties to the “next generation of filmmakers.”
That’s it. That’s all we know. If anyone tells you they know otherwise, they’re lying to you.
There are a lot of factors in this story that help redeem the legacy of George Lucas in this story. Firstly, Lucas says he plans to donate virtually all of the $4 billion Disney spent to buy Lucasfilm and all of its properties to an educational foundation that bears his name. That buys a lot of good will with fans who feel betrayed by the prequel films.
For those who felt the prequels needed to be better than they were, or directed by someone else, this is our chance to have Star Wars exactly that way. We’re going to see a generation of filmmakers inspired by Star Wars take it to the next level, which is exactly what the franchise needs. Look at what they’ve done with that model with The Clone Wars TV show. It’s consistently one of the best shows on television, and has been given that breath of life by people who love the mythos.
The other thing to take into account is who is behind the production: Disney. Sure, Walt Disney Studios has given us some horrible movies, like the Pirates of the Caribbean films; it's also shown us moments of science-fiction brilliance with movies like John Carter (of Mars). But Lucasfilm is going to act like Marvel or Pixar. Pixar has maintained its level of quality in filmmaking without major studio interference, and Marvel has dawned a new golden era of superhero films. Don’t take my word for it; just toss The Avengers in the Blu-ray player one more time.
As someone who unabashedly loves the Star Wars prequels, I’m convinced things can only get better from here. I’ll be counting down to 2015 with bated breath. And maybe my kids will be old enough to wait in line for me.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.