It has been a little less than a day since Disney announced that they had acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and that a new trilogy of Episodes 7-9 will begin in 2015. And now after hours of sitting in silence, the person you have been waiting to hear from finally speaks up on the matter: me. I was so absurdly obsessed with Star Wars in grade school and middle school that I actually thought it was cool to be obsessed with Star Wars. I couldn’t get enough of it, anything that had the words “Star Wars” on it was automatically better: books, toys, Pez dispensers, video games – anything. Basically I’m saying that George Lucas owes my parents a debt of gratitude for financing his franchise. I was most definitely the target market in mind when The Star Wars Trilogy: The Special Edition hit theaters in 1997 and again in 1999 with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
I was 11 when the first prequel came out, and I think that most of my generation of fans would agree that as they grew into young adulthood they realized what most people past puberty had known from the start: the Star Wars prequels kind of sucked. This is not going to be an argument about those films, or the TV series it spawned. Love them or hate them, fans had some indication that the prequels were coming almost 20 years in advance, with The Empire Strikes Back labeled as “Episode V.” So Lucas wanted to tell the story of Darth Vader before he went bad for three prior films. Fine, good. It made sense despite a poor execution. Series over. One would think.
The fundamental problem with a new chapter of the Skywalker saga (if it is indeed about them) is not merely that it will be a continuation, but that it will be a continuation on film. The whole thing feels like a betrayal of the medium. For most of my life, pop culture phenomenons whether on film, TV or page have seen various incarnations and reincarnations – Star Wars included. Books beget TV, begets movies, begets video games, begets comic books and vice-versa for ever and ever amen. The mutability of the pop culture phenomenon is impressive because it allows for new takes on our favorite stories. By now Star Wars fans are used to the bastardization of their beloved films, in revisions, prequels and television shows. So it comes as no surprise that someone would continue the series after Return of the Jedi. The true crime of a new trilogy is that the story isn’t continuing in another medium like television or books, but in the format that we all initially experienced Star Wars: in the movie theater. George Lucas and Disney can’t take all of the blame however. The fact that something like this could even happen is in large part due to the entertainment atmosphere that we live in. George Lucas merely took advantage of a consumer culture by changing his story into a brand. We can’t be shocked that more Star Wars movies are being added to a cinema ether that already contains more sequels, reboots and adaptations than can possibly be named in one article. Despite all I’ve said, the new Star Wars films could actually be good, I’m not arguing that possibility. I’m merely continuing the same old (but valid) argument that critics have been making for years: a series of films that served as inspiration for generations of storytellers has mutated into just another corporate mascot. Shame on Disney, shame on George Lucas and shame on us.