Episode VII: The Money-grab Strikes Back – By Cameron Heffernan

One longtime Star Wars fan gives his two-cents on the Disney acquisition, the end of innocence and why it’s wrong, as a fan, to root for this coming Star Wars bombardment of media.

thetimes.co.uk

A long time ago in a small town on the outskirts of Ventura County there lived a kid who found comfort and solace in an imaginary world filled with mind-bending super humans, snarky droids, the coolest space-pirate you’ll ever see in movie/television history (yeah I’m looking at you Firefly), and the most memorable plot twist, ever. This imaginary world once meant so much to this kid because it represented something that was his own; while most kids were entranced with hanging out with friends, being cool and listening to normal music for kids (and not Nirvana and Pearl Jam). This young child was running against the normal  that most of his classmates and acquaintances were going with, and he was lost in a world of Lightsabers, Blasters, Princesses who kicked ass as much as the next ass-kicker, and the most suave space-pirate that it accounts for 55% of his sexual prowess to this day.

That kid was me, and when I was young I was looked down upon by my peers for the Return of the Jedi Shirt (yes the same exact one that John C. Reilly has on in Step Brothers) I would wear to elementary school almost daily, I was shunned for owning more Star Wars characters than Power Rangers characters in toy form and I was looked at as a leper when I would dress up as the aforementioned space-pirate known as Han Solo.

This was common ground then, Star Wars was a fraternity but not one you joined by being “cool” or “in the loop”, there weren’t any stores like Urban Outfitters with ironic tees and there was no Star Wars store aside form the one attached to Star Tours but even back then no one liked that ride and no one bought the crap sold at the store out side of it. Star Wars was something that brought you in because you didn’t fit in with what most people thought was valued entertainment, you didn’t fit in with the Disney kids, and you didn’t fit in with the kids that watched only movies meant for children. You were a forgotten kid, the one who was too “mature” for his age and own good; a kid who just kind of figured things out at too young of an age.

For the better part of 20 years I have been a “Star Wars fan”. I owned the shirts early on, I had the original VHSs, I had original toys that I have since learned are worth tons of money had I not opened them and subsequently set them on fire in my later and more terrorizing years, and I was first in line for Episode I, Episode II and Episode III. Hell, I even went to the re-releases of the original trilogy with all the bullshit you know today like the CGI Jabba the Hut and that added scene between him and Han after the infamous Mos Eisley scene.

It was somewhere around my fourth viewing of Episode III and the fourth time I had heard Darth Vader scream “noooooooooooooo” about his dead bride that something inside me snapped. Till this day I don’t know what it was, but after that I realized that Star Wars was no longer something for nerds and outcasts alike to fraternize about among one another, and discuss the finer points of workers rights on the Death Star, Boba Fett and how useless he was or who shot first, no, ‘Wars’ no longer hung out in the back of the class. Oh no, Star Wars had moved up, it found a new set of friends, a new girl, one much prettier than the last. Star Wars was a commodity, as it always was, but this time it didn’t seem like the lamentation of a dreamer. this seemed like a money-grab, like a thief in the night all at once stole your childhood and left your happiness drowned in the shallow end of your family pool.

George Lucas recently sold his film company LucasFilm as well as the rights to Star Wars to Disney. Yes the Disney that has been putting out vapid and wasteful films for the better part of 30 years now. (I understand that Pixar is apart of Disney and are a very well put together studio and they make good movies but they aren’t the same brain-trust as Disney, the one who pumped out one of the single most racist portrayals of blacks in the south since another Disney produced masterpiece, Song of the South) Disney acquired Lucas Film for a whopping $4 Billion, $2 Billion being in stocks (so he’ll only earn more on top of this) and another $2 billion in cold hard cash. Lucas was estimated at being worth $1.4 Billion in cash investments, according to an CNBC article by Robert Frank earlier in the week. After this acquisition by Disney Lucas has boosted his wealth to a total $5.2 Billion. Look I’m all for people making money but, for real? $5.2 Billion for someone who hasn’t pumped out a quality film since 1983? Is that really necessary? No, no it’s not.

All this brings me to my grand point. (I know, it’s taken long enough right?)

With the acquisition of LucasFilm Disney plans, with the creative okay from Lucas himself, to make Episodes VII-IX. Yes, the one thing Star Wars fans have been clamoring for since the final film cell rolled on Return of the Jedi. What happened to Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewy? (sarcasm all over that one)

Oh wait, they answered that, as a matter of fact there are over hundreds of books, expanded universe comics, video games, and cartoons that answered all those questions already, (FYI, Spoiler alerts ahead), wanted to know what happened with Han and Leia? well they get married and have kids and give them stupid names like Jaina, Jacen and of course Anakin. Want to know what happened to Luke? well he fluctuates from being a dark-sider to a force-user to a dark-sider and ultimate realizes the errors of his ways, just like his father, and goes back to being a Jedi. Oh, and Chewy is crushed by a planet while trying to save people from the collapsing planet. Yes, a planet. Look, it’s all been written and so on and so forth. So why is it necessary to make three more movies?

Many would like to point to the fact that Disney acquired Marvel and Pixar and both of those went over without a hitch. To this I say, Marvel already had a successful business model, if Iron Man fails Disney never acquires them and the Avengers never gets made. Iron Man was an eventual success, but a gamble nonetheless, Marvel hasn’t strayed away from that formula, seeing as Captain America and Thor were essentially the same movie but with a different main character. With Pixar they got more of a “Godfather” deal. Pixar merged with Disney in 2006, but the creators at Pixar do all their own work without much input from Disney officials, that’s why Pixar movies have some context to them and aren’t just mindless drub for people to take there kids to just too shut them up. Some do say that Pixar now has fallen under “Heir Mickey’s” rule, but I beg to differ. Pixar always puts out a  quality product.

Lucas, even if he was to be at the creative helm of these hasn’t done anything of worth since ‘Jedi’. I would love to chalk up the Indiana Jones Trilogy to him but we all know that Spielberg is the bread and butter of that franchise. Lucas made Red Tails, a dramatized and action packed portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen, that was okay, but was still kind of an over-dramatized piece of garbage. And prior to those we have the original money-grab that was Episodes I-III. Which I don’t really think I need to go through how progressively awful those got. By the end of III you felt like Lucas had literally just mugged and physically accosted you.

It’s fantastic that most fans are willing to bend over to Lucas and Disney and accept whatever crap they throw at them. there are a myriad of ways to look at this, 1.) Maybe Lucas or whomever writes these sequels will take care of them give us a trilogy of Star Wars films that rivals the original. 2.) Lucas does his crazy crap again, much like his demands for Aliens in the fourth installment of Indiana Jones (which at one point was supposed to be called Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men). Or 3.) Disney shits all over everything you love about Star Wars and turns into a story-less effects-fest that appeals to this uneducated and ignorant generation that seems to be before us.

I understand that it’s just a movie, but our willingness to just accept this and more than likely show up in droves in 2014 or 2015, or whenever Episode VII is released, and willingly put down, what could be upwards of $13-$25 for a movie is just ridiculous. Star Wars, as I said previously was once a private fraternity, now it’s become a fashion show just like everything else you ever loved as a child. Entertainment at this level isn’t meant to get across any greater moral points or expand in the universe of storytelling. It’s about selling toys, it’s about shirt sales, it’s about selling Darth Vader helmets with Mickey Ears on them, It’s about making really good art out of amalgams of Mickey Mouse and your favorite Star Wars character at exorbitant prices, it’s about making a whole new generation want to buy the originals and I-III on whatever may be the next High-Definition format at staggering prices, it’s about lining the pockets of Robert Iger and George Lucas, it’s about killing the innocence of humbly liking something and making it that liking something means you wear the hat, shoes, shirt, and pants every day and whenever someone gives fair criticism you lash as if an extremist of any religion. Do we really need a Star Wars wall clock or a Star Wars toaster, or anything of that nature? No, we don’t.

With this acquisition that’s all that we’re going to get more of.

It’s not about a fan service and it’s not about “continuing a beloved storyline (which is a rip-off of Beowolf, Flash Gordon and any Japanese Samurai movie), It’s about the money. All the credit in the world though to George Lucas, to go from a dreamer on the edge to a billionaire tycoon who is now “official” business partners with one of the biggest brands worldwide (Granted with Star Tours and other Disney/Star Wars affiliated things prior to the acquisition it was like the two were together forever and now they’ve finally decided to tie the knot. You know like the firends everyone has that have been engaged for 20 years and at the 25-year mark is when they finally say, “HEY GUYSSSS!!!! We’re finally getting married,” and your only reaction is, “Well it’s about goddamn time.” This marriage isn’t as pleasant though. This marriage marks the end of something that was simple and fun and turns it into a whole new animal complete with all the bells and whistles you can afford, or not afford, just give them your money.

 

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