Alright, I’m going to say it.
The Disney buyout of Lucasfilm might not be the worst thing to ever happen.
I know, I know.
There are a couple of reasons to suspect that the buyout might help the iconic franchise instead of ruining it.
First, Disney has a decent track record for this kind of thing. When they purchased the Marvel brand several years ago, fanboys had all the same complaints. But Disney wasn’t buying Marvel to bowdlerize it and add a bunch of pink ribbons. Disney wanted to expand its appeal, and swore their interference would be minimal. They’ve largely held to this promise. However, the influx of Disney money allowed Marvel to expand, making Marvel studios into a media powerhouse. They’ve been able to put together the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, an ambitious project Marvel could have never afforded on its own. To anyone bemoaning the Lucasfilm buyout, I simply point to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.
Additionally, a change-up is probably the best thing for Lucasfilm. While the Marvel purchase probably provided the template and the inspiration for the Lucasfilm buyout, this time there is some big changes in the upper management. Specifically, Lucas is out.
Lucas is the prodigal son of science fiction fandom. Everyone loved the original trilogy (or knows better than to say otherwise in geeky company), but Lucas has driven the franchise into the ground. Between his constant meddling with the original trilogy and the disastrous prequels, people have begun to see him as a hack, out to wring every last cent out of what was once somehow pure. I think this is rather naïve. If you look into it, Lucas has always been an artist and a businessman. In various stages of development, Star Wars was radically different. Lucas once envisioned it as a stand-alone single film. But he later went back and made it appear to be part of a larger story, and used showmanship to make it look like it was always planned as a multi-film, crossover media extravaganza. And a lot of Star Wars was highly derivative. Key elements come from the iconic works of Kurosawa, Frank Herbert’s celebrate novel Dune, and the visuals of the classic Metropolis. This isn’t to say Lucas is a hack. He weaved everything together in a rather unique way.
The biggest problem with latter-day Lucas is that no one challenges him. I’m not the first to say it (see The People Versus George Lucas), but the criticism holds up well. A New Hope was as much forged by the limitations of budget, and the contributions of lesser-known writers as Lucas’s original vision. In this case, compromise produced a better film than the original concept. In the prequels, no one dared question Lucas, even in the face of Jar-Jar Binks. That’s not how you make a mold-cracking moving. And it’s not how they made the original.
I wish Lucas the best of luck with the small films he wants to make in his semi-retirement. But I suspect the buyout and the new Star Wars movie will give the franchise some much-needed new blood.