Star Wars – Mythology for Sale

Today, George Lucas sold Star Wars.

In retrospect, it feels inevitable. The real story of Star Wars for a long time now has been the story of a business enterprise (Lucasfilm, to be more precise). It has been the saga of merchandising rights, of toy lunch boxes, of animated spin-offs, of poorly-conceived prequels. So of course the end of this chapter would be its sale for a staggering amount of money ($4 Billion, if you’re counting). Has one story ever made an artist as rich as Star Wars has made George Lucas?

I don’t know how to feel about this news. While Star Wars has transformed into an enormous, sprawling franchise, we still care about it. I know I do. That’s because, at its core, there is a great story there. A young warrior, an impossible quest, a charming rogue, a beautiful woman, a wise teacher and a fallen hero turned villain, set in a universe that was unique and inspiring. Star Wars has been THE mythology for our times – it’s as omnipresent in our culture as the Labours of Hercules or the Trojan War were for the Ancient Greeks and Romans. We care about Star Wars because, at a certain point, we’d begun to think it was ours.

Today is a reminder that it isn’t. Hell, perhaps it never will be, given how determined the copyright lobby (led by Star Wars‘ new owners, Disney) are to prevent proven money-makers ever entering the public domain. Star Wars is a commodity to be bought and sold, and now we’re guaranteed new films to ensure the money keeps rolling in.

On one hand, it’s hard to imagine Disney could commodify the saga any more than George Lucas already has. How many more animated parodies or toy lines could they possibly create? The sale does open up a door that I thought would have remained shut until Lucas passed on – other filmmakers will have a chance to play in the Star Wars sandbox. A glance at Disney’s stewardship of Marvel, who have operated with relative independence and have been increasingly open to collaborating with exciting talent (Joss Whedon, Kenneth Brannagh, Shane Black, Edgar Wright, to name a few directors on Marvel’s books) suggest this might not be a bad thing.

And there will be no shortage of filmmakers ready to raise their hand to make a Star Wars film. It will remain to be seen whether they have a worthy story to tell. Is there anything more to be said in the saga of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader? Would they be brave enough to use the universe they’ve been given to try something daring and new?

The sale of Star Wars is a stark reminder of how art today, and especially blockbuster filmmaking, has become about certified franchises and continuing revenue streams. In that sense, it feels like we’ve never been further away from sharing stories over a campfire. And yet part of me can’t help but hope that, by freeing Star Wars from the clutches of its creatively-waning creator, the possibilities for exciting storytelling in this world built on lightsabers, cooky eastern religions, planet-destroying space stations and unapologetic heroism have never been greater. Despite all the times I’ve sworn off Star Wars, I know I’ll be eagerly watching what happens next. Which is, of course, what the money-men are counting on.

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53 thoughts on “Star Wars – Mythology for Sale

  1. I’d like to think George Lucas did this so a legacy lives on for a new generation. I hope he retained some creative rights, and did not just sell for the cash. He has so much money already, I can’t imagine it matters to him . . .

  2. Good luck in one sense, good riddance in another. Disney is getting too big (Pixar, Marvel, now Lucasfilm) and that is a shame. And like you said, where else can you really take the story?

    Nice post!

  3. The things is, Lucasfilm has actually been quite tolerant, and at times encouraging, of fans making their own Star Wars films, literature, etc. My greatest concern is that Lucasfilm controlled by Disney will end this creative wanderlust. Disney has a notable history of being extremely cutthroat when it comes to copyright of their intellectual property. Us artists used to joke that “Disney would kill your children” if it meant protecting profits.

    This Disney deal doesn’t sit well with me.

    • I think in the short term Disney will be pretty accommodating – they’ll want to keep Star Wars fans on side in the lead-up to Episode VII. Once they’re feeling secure? Could get messy – but perhaps they’ll see the advantages of having so much creative passion out there for their new “brand”?

  4. it is the end of an era, i think that it could potentially be a fresh start however i think that the star wars saga has finished, if they try to create a new film or a new series, that is when we will see an issue due to the fact that disney and lucas films have completely different ideologies and ideals. This would mean that any star wars that is created in the future you would need to rename it or use some sort of different identification. lovely post though :)

  5. I kind of know how you feel. I wrote about this last night on my blog, and I’m still in shock about it. Still, if they need a new Sith Lord, I’m always willing to volunteer as my Star Wars alter-ego, Darth Lucifous.

  6. Excellent post and I couldn’t agree more. I can put my views on Disney aside and get excited about what they might do with Star Wars. Lucas lost his touch long ago as evidenced by the last 3 films in the franchise. In this case capitalism will help us all by freeing a galaxy far, far away. I can’t wait for 2015.

  7. Yesterday, I was both ecstatic and sad. Today, I agree with your hope that they will treat Star Wars similarly to Marvel and The Avengers, but with enough oversight that Lucas will allow some fresh creativity in.
    As a note, I read Episode VII is part of the extended outline of the entire series Lucas made when the idea first came to him in the 70′s. It will actually complete his version of his saga, regardless of the offshoots published under the Star Wars title.

    • It’d be encouraging if Lucas handed his story notes from the 70s to some new writers (apparently, according to a few people who had a look at those in the 80s, they were pretty great). If they’re new outlines, I hope Disney’s creative team drop them in the nearest recycling bin (no more trade blockades, Jars Jars or strange scientific explanations for the force please)

  8. It feels weird that something so beloved could be purchased. I mean, I realize Lucasfilm has had a role in some really wonderful movies other than Star Wars, but it’s an odd feeling to know that someone else will be touching this stuff at some point. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for some Timothy Zahn-inspired Star Wars universe action.

  9. Hopefully, who ever gets the honor to make a new Star Wars will take into account of all the creativity that has already been brought to the table since we were all kids. If they do a good job at it, then my hat is off to them.

  10. I’m so upset by this! There’s soooo many books that have continued the story…new movies will just mess it up! But like you, I’ll be standing in line to see the new movies, even as I complain.

  11. I was thrilled when I heard this because I think it will breathe new life into the whole franchise, I think that while not everyone will be pleased, I do believe that they can make some good respectable films. I was really pleased with the Avengers. I guess now we just wait and see what happens! Give them a chance to show what they’ve got and how they want to approach the rest of the movies.

  12. Star Wars was the original trilogy. When the prequel came out they watered-down the mysterious force-choking villain Darth Vader into a bratty kid and whiny emo teen. I really feel like it would have been strongest as the original trilogy alone.

    However, some offshoots have been excellent, especially the books. Exploration of other aspects of the galaxy far, far away is a good thing. I don’t think it should be an Episode 7 thing, though, but rather a Star Wars the Next Generation type of thing, where you divorce it from the original and get the Jedi/Sith interaction that’s been done to death out of the way. Make it way in the future, maybe merge the Jedi and Sith into a very different entity, and introduce a new feel to the mythos. Reinvent the milieu, don’t rehash it: that’s my advice.

  13. Star Wars completely died for me. I have never liked anything Disney has ever produced. What glued me to the franchise was it wasn’t happy fairy tale Disney. It had its allure and malevolence in dealing with the dark side. Alas everything is a commodity to be bought and sold…creative license no longer exists.

  14. It was a bit of a shock to hear that Disney had bought Star Wars from George Lucas, but I think this could be a really great move by Lucas. A new Trilogy sounds ver exciting. I hope Episode VII might include some of the original cast, maybe passing the torch to a next generation of characters. The Prequel Trilogy never really lived up to the original films. I think Disney will do a good job, and with Lucas still involved, his Star Wars Univese will be in safe hands.

  15. I think there are still stories to be told in the Star Wars universe. It’s just a matter of them being told the right way. It would be nice to see them taken in the direction of the Star Trek franchise. A bit less campy and a bit more serious.

  16. Maybe we can expect a follow up to the documentary ‘The People vs George Lucas’? LOL. Some intense fans on that one – could be fun watching them react to this news. Personally, I’m a little sad. It’s like your dad suddenly adding something to a yard sale that you were never allowed to touch in the house while growing up.

  17. I think that this news is quite positive, when Roddenberry took on the role of ‘creative consultant’ after Star Trek The Motion Picture, we got the greatest Trek of them all: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan :)

  18. Maybe Lucas wants a brand new life (without these “Star Wars” things). IMHO, sometimes people just want to get rid the things that they (previously) really loved. Whatever the decision, lets just wish that it’ll be the best for him.

  19. I wrote on this as well (hell…my whole blog is devoted to Star Wars)…and I’m excited! I think this is a breath of fresh air and will bring our beloved “franchise” a much needed reboot. Unless the new trilogy is bad of course…then all the fans will swear they never liked the idea of Disney taking over from the start. I, for one, am excited to see what this new future brings for us Star Wars fans.

  20. I remember the original Disneyland as a magical place of tickets, I remember the original Star Wars as a new and almost underground film, started both by men with great imaginations and the ability to trill generations of kids and the young at heart. As soon as Disney became incorporated I found it almost diabolical and more dark than magical. I have witnessed many artists sale-out over the years and it is not for me to judge. Who knows, maybe they really did need the money. I say always go back to the original source or the place of the original vision before ego or corporations take over. I am not surprised by this sale of Star Wars… but frankly I do not give a damn.

  21. Pingback: The Big News: Star Wars purchased by Disney « The Geek Anthropologist

  22. Congrats on being FP! I’m still very unsure of how I feel about this, but maybe good old George should have sold before he made episodes 1 to 3. The art and costumes were great, but the rest was pretty horrible. He lost his passion a while back and maybe now someone can restore Star Wars to its former glory. We’ll know in a few years. I posted about reactions to the news and images and memes about it and quoted your post, which I think is great! Congrats again!

    http://thegeekanthropologist.com/2012/11/02/the-big-news-star-wars-purchased-by-disney/

  23. Pingback: Disney, You’re Our Only Hope – Part 1 – The Dark Side | Good. Wholesome. Fun.

  24. Pingback: Midweek link drop – November 7, 2012: Star Wars, Forum Snowboards, In-N-Out Burger, The Million Muppet March, and dog ownership | Foxed

  25. Pingback: The Big News: Star Wars purchased by Disney | The Geek Anthropologist

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