“I just don’t have high hopes for it. But I will probably go see it anyway.”
That’s an anonymous Internet post from a “Star Wars” fan last week shortly after Disney announced it had bought the franchise from creator George Lucas and would release a seventh “Star Wars” movie in 2015.
Fans are worried about Disneyfication of their beloved fictional universe. Could it become pablum for little kids? A story missing its grit and edginess? It took little time for wisenheimers to post graphics of R2-D2 and the Death Star with mouse ears on top.
But millions of those same fans are in a frenzy over the news that a third trilogy of “Star Wars” movies, long rumored and once referred to by creator George Lucas himself, is now in the works.
Mostly, they can’t wait.
“I was shocked and surprised, but actually super excited,” said Vincent Carlson-Brown, 31, associate artistic director of Nebraska Shakespeare and a lifelong “Star Wars” fan. “I thought the movie canon was complete. But if you’re on the inside, you know there’s been talk of a trilogy of trilogies. I always hoped episodes 7, 8 and 9 would exist. So a lot of hopes just came through for a longtime fan base.”
Carlson-Brown, for one, isn’t worried about Disney screwing it up.
“My opinion: The movies are best when George Lucas doesn’t have complete control. I’m interested to see what a different director and creative team can do in the Star Wars universe.”
Lucas made missteps of his own, with Episode 1 in particular, Brown said, in which “the nature of a few characters disappointed me.”
Can you say Jar Jar Binks?
Besides, he said, “Star Wars” was never that edgy to begin with. And Disney has done well on other movies that have a dark undertone, such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” he said.
He does admit to “a hesitation about letting it go on too long and too far.”
Kevin Coffey, a fan and The World-Herald’s music writer, said it’s an open question whether Disney will build on the expanded “Star Wars” plotlines created by comic books, novels, the highly regarded television series “Clone Wars” and other iterations of the franchise, or start off on a direction of its own.
“If you’re a fan,” he asked, “you wonder, are they ruining all this stuff you’ve been devoted to since you were a kid.”
On the other hand, he said, Disney bought Marvel Comics and has not messed up on movies like “The Avengers,” which thrilled comics fans on its way to a $1.5 billion worldwide box office in May.
Similarly, Disney’s purchase of Pixar has reportedly not led to corporate interference with the creative process at one of the world’s great animation studios.
Molly Welsh, a self-described “Star Wars” fan “from birth,” said she was thrilled at the news of Disney’s purchase and more movies ahead. To her, the only potential downside is if Lucas is involved too much in writing the dialogue for the next movie.
Most fans and critics agree story arc and imaginative visuals, not writing dialogue, are Lucas’ strengths. But Lucas says he wants to retire, so the odds that he’ll be looking to write another screenplay seem remote. He has, however, turned over his story treatments for the third trilogy to Lucasfilm producer Kathleen Kennedy, who will ramrod the new film, and he agreed to serve as a consultant.
“I’m an optimist,” said Welsh, 32, education manager for the Omaha Symphony. “Maybe they’ll get it right. Go for it. There needs to be an Episode 7 before I get any older.”
Disney is counting on that sentiment.
This column’s opening quote says so much about why the Mouse House gambled $4 billion on buying Lucasfilm, plus Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic digital effects company, plus his Skywalker Sound that does sound effects, sound mixing and sound editing.
Disney is counting on just that kind of fan loyalty, and the media frenzy that accompanies any news about the “Star Wars” franchise, translating into big bucks.
Personally, I think it’s a good bet, even as I sag with franchise fatigue.
The six “Star Wars” movies so far have generated $4.4 billion in box office revenue, which is chicken feed compared to the $25 billion the brand name has made in merchandising.
Disney is already projecting that, after a slight profit dip in 2013 and 2014 because of the purchase, it will see “revenue enhancement” by 2015. There are a lot of ways to make money off this brand name.
For his part, Lucas said he’s ready “to get into another stage of life” and out of the movie business. Disney, he said, has the resources and talent to grow the franchise.
“I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life,” he said.
And sitting on a $4 billion retirement fund is not a bad place from which to watch it unfold.