4 days out from finally seeing The Force Awakens for the first time, I’m here to own up to my initial emotional and rash reaction to the news that Disney purchased Lucasfilm and would be moving forward with (a lot) more Star Wars.
When the announcement was made a little over three years ago, I felt blindsided (more on our reactions to the news in our first Blockade Runner video episode here). As a fan of the prequels, it was my belief that those films concluded a six part saga that told the story of a father and son in a complete way. I believed the prequels were necessary to communicating George Lucas’s vision for the tragedy of Darth Vader and his eventual redemption through the faith and love of his son Luke Skywalker. I was open to more novels and comics and television shows, but the idea of Disney producing more films seemed almost counterproductive; any more entries in the saga would surely just dilute the power of Lucas’s initial vision and the story of a father and his son. The only reasons I could see to continue the Star Wars saga at the time were financial, so I basically immediately embraced a pessimistic outlook and start digging my heels into the ground.
George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy discussing Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm.
I was exceedingly negative when friends and family, knowing me as the major Star Wars fan in their lives, immediately started tracking me down that afternoon. They expected to be greeted with excitement and joy on my part, but I instead met them with cynicism and fear. I’m not necessarily proud of that response but, in my defense, I love Star Wars and I was feeling protective. I’ve always argued that experimentation in other mediums is ok; if a bad novel comes out and it doesn’t quite hit the mark, we move on. But if a poor Star Wars film is produced, it’s not so easy to forget and it impacts our perceptions of the original. I was afraid of what more Star Wars films would mean to the legacy of the saga I loved so much and I wasn’t ready to risk seeing them diminished.
I also was (and continue to be) a major evangelist for George Lucas. Though I acknowledge and agree with the commonly-held perception that the prequels aren’t as good as the original films, I believed in the concept of the Star Wars saga as Lucas’s personal vision. The fact that the prequels were flawed in some ways only lent credence to that idea; these weren’t movies made by a committee, but instead, and for better or worse, one man’s uncorrupted vision for the Skywalker clan.
But now Disney was making more movies, and outside of some alleged creative consulting and a loose outline of some kind, without George Lucas.
And there were plenty of examples of Star Wars stories created and told without much input from Lucas at the time. Expanded universe novels, comic books, and video games were so common from the 90s on that I was completely accustomed to the idea of other creators producing Star Wars content.
But I was also very comfortable with viewing that content as something less than authentic Star Wars.
Knowing that George Lucas had wrapped up his vision for Star Wars and that his saga was complete, I was ok with other creators producing Star Wars stories in various forms of media (even television). Whether they were brilliant, mediocre, or embarrassing, I could compartmentalize them as separate from the real Star Wars, from the true Star Wars.
Luckily for me, my perspective has shifted over the past three years.
Winding up where I am now (insanely excited and super optimistic about the future of Star Wars) happened gradually as more and more of the moves Disney made inspired my confidence and hope. Major milestones like the announcement of J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan being attached to Episode 7, the first teaser trailer, and maybe most importantly, the incredible quality of Star Wars Rebels all but destroyed any possibility of me maintaining a negative outlook on the future of Star Wars.
I came to realize that while George Lucas created and defined Star Wars, he’s not the only one who can tell a true Star Wars story. It seems obvious now that he knew that too, and that he knew Star Wars shouldn’t be something that ends with him. He may not have always believed that (he’d previously stated that he’d “left instructions” to stop Star Wars sequel films from being produced after he was gone), but his point of view clearly evolved on this issue too.
So it became apparent to me at some point after almost every move Disney made seemed smart, respectful, and creatively motivated that I had probably better give up on waiting for the other shoe to drop and accept that fact that I had been wrong to immediately embrace a cynic’s view of more Star Wars, whether it was made by George Lucas or not.
The truth is, my vision for what Star Wars should be was too protective, too close-minded, too short-sighted. This new era of Star Wars means another generation of fans will be able to experience the same kind of joy surrounding new films that I did during the prequel era. The new canon (another recent positive change that has taken place since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm) is providing us with some of the most compelling Star Wars stories we’ve ever seen outside of the films, and the future is looking brighter for fans than it has in quite some time. Thank the maker that George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm, and yes, Disney, were hopeful where I lacked vision.
The version of myself that reacted so negatively to the future of Star Wars in 2012 would probably recommend I wait just a few more days to post an apology like this one. After all, there’s no guarantee that The Force Awakens will satisfy our expectations, that we’ll consider it the blessing we’re all hoping it will be.
But even if it’s ultimately not a satisfying film, I’ve so enjoyed the ride leading up to its release that I’m at a place where I can accept that Star Wars should have room to grow, to evolve, to take chances. Not every Star Wars film will be perfect; sometimes we’ll be disappointed. But I’ve already experienced so much joy in the three years leading up to The Force Awakens that I now realize it’s worth taking that risk.
So Disney, and Lucasfilm, and everybody whose excitement I did my best to extinguish three years ago, I’m sorry. Thanks for seeing what I couldn’t, and here’s to many more years of Star Wars.