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Thursday, November 1, 2012

POINT/COUNTERPOINT! Star Wars Finally Escapes Abusive Father

Posted by Alex Falcone on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 at 9:44 AM

STAR WARS Thanks for dressing up for the photo, George.
  • STAR WARS Thanks for dressing up for the photo, George.

Sick of everybody talking about Disney buying Lucasfilm yet? WE DON'T CARE. In the closest the Mercury will ever get to publishing a "think piece," Blogtown's Alex Falcone and Senior Editor Erik Henriksen have decided to discuss the future of Star Wars, a series made not for, say, two grown men but rather for little baby children. Naturally, they disagree about the issue at hand; thus, we shall have a vote to decide who is correct, and therefore who is the better human being.

POINT: STAR WARS FINALLY ESCAPES ABUSIVE FATHER
by Alex Falcone

Earlier this week, the internet was swirling like Hurricane Sandy (too soon? sorry) with the news that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion. People were acting like George Lucas had personally let everybody down by handing the keys to the Star Wars franchise over to the evil empire. But why? There is no way Disney could possibly be a worse steward of the franchise than Lucas was.

George Lucas deserves credit for creating the series, sure. He birthed it. But he's been a shitty dad. He didn't just preside over three unspeakably bad prequels (only slightly more watchable than The Holiday Special), he actually went back and made the originals worse! That kind of abuse can't be tolerated.

During an interview on the VHS of the re-released version of A New Hope, Lucas said that he'd always wanted the movies to be this way but couldn't do it the first time around for technical and financial reasons. He doesn't even deserve credit for the original trilogy because he wanted them to be awful but fortune conspired to make enjoyable films! Sometimes art is bigger than the artist; it's about time we put this art into foster care.

It's possible that, deep down, George agrees with me and that's why he sold. Once you've got a few billion dollars, a few billion more isn't going to convince you to part with your life's work. But you will if there's ego involved. According to the statement he released, the squish-faced Lucas said he wanted to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. He wants to retire but he wants people to go on making terrible Star Wars movies forever. You can count on Disney to do that.

And maybe, just maybe, they'll do a better job than he did. They don't always put out the best sequels (The Return of Jafar, anybody?) But at least the Star Wars movies will be in a safe place where Papa Lucas can't hurt them any more. And like Hurricane Sandy, this will all blow over in a couple days. (Still too soon? My bad.)

COUNTERPOINT: UH, GUYS, ON PRINCIPLE THIS MAKES ME KIND OF UNCOMFORTABLE
by Erik Henriksen

I'm actually seeing the opposite of what Alex is—nerds being delighted that Disney now owns Lucasfilm. Which weirds me out. Say what you will about the prequels, or The Clone Wars, or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (for the record, I'll go to my grave insisting Revenge of the Sith is a lot better than anyone gives it credit for, that The Clone Wars is fun, and that anyone who was let down by the fourth Indiana Jones clearly hasn't sat through Temple of Doom or Last Crusade in a while), but they were largely the work of Lucas. Sometimes his stuff was crappy, and sometimes it wasn't, but it's worth remembering that, massive as they were, all the Star Wars movies from Empire on were financed solely by Lucas. Rather than test-screening his movies to death like Hollywood does, and rather than making them how others wanted him to, Lucas made 'em and put 'em out like he wanted. Regardless of how one feels about the final product, that's admirable.

Less admirable are corporate behemoths like Disney, who snap up better things once they become a threat (Pixar) or whenever they cater to a demographic that Disney can't acquire on its own (Marvel). This Star Wars deal has probably been in the works since the first rubber Mon Calimari showed up at Star Tours. Disney buying Lucasfilm was a smart business move for Disney and Lucas—just as it was for Disney's other acquisitions, from Pixar to Marvel to ESPN to ABC to the Muppets. And realistically, Alex is probably right: I'm not convinced the new Star Wars movies will necessarily be better, but they'll certainly be less like what Lucas wanted, and more like what Disney's studies tell them audiences want.

For Disney, Star Wars is something to be exploited—and with a movie every two or three years, they're going to exploit the hell out of it. Which, to be fair, is what Lucas has been doing forever too. But given the choice between rooting for an old guy doing shit the way he wants and a multinational corporation doing things the way that'll be most profitable, I'll always root for the old guy. The biggest challenges facing pop culture are less independence and fewer outlets: Fewer and fewer people being in charge of what movies get made isn't good for anybody. Yeah, this might result in Star Wars movies that people like more. But it's stuff like this that makes it even harder than it already is for invested, earnest, out-of-left-field filmmakers—like Lucas once was—to make their mark. Even if I really do want to see Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, I can't feel good about the reasons they're happening.

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