…on New Star Wars Films.

So it’s official! Disney have bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas (for several extremely large wheelbarrows full of cash), and they are going to make more Star Wars films!

It’s been announced that they aim to release Episode VII in 2015, with the next two episodes coming and 2-3 year intervals after that (and rumours they may produce more yet).

I have to say, I am extremely excited by the news!

Ive always been a fan of Star Wars since it came out (even though I didn’t actually get to see it at the cinema at the time because my Dad wouldn’t take me, fearing it would be sold out – I had to wait until the Special Edition was released for that, although I did catch Empire and Jedi at the cinema first time round). I’ve seen all 6 films, got them on BluRay (having had them on DVD and even VCR before then, of course). Used to get the old Marvel comics. And I’ve read most of the books which came out following on from Empire (but not including the New Jedi order series, I must admit, there’s just too many of them).

I remember going to see Episode 4 when it was released as a Special Edition. We got to the cinema around an hour before show time, and saw a big queue as we drove into the car park . “Oh, that’ll be the queue for our showing” we joked. Only, well, it turned out it WAS! The queue was out of the cinema and round the side – this is a 10 screen multiplex, it’s not a small place, so you can imagine the size of the queue. The film was showing in the 4 largest screens simultaneously, such was the demand, and they didn’t bother checking which screen you were supposed to be in – you had a ticket, you got directed to the nearest non-full screen as they crammed everyone in to the four screens. This was a 20 year old film, selling out the 4 big screens! I don’t believe I’ve seen that happen before or since.

I remember the excitement at sitting in a big plush seat in a US cinema to watch The Phantom Menace as I happened to be in the US at the time. That tingling sensation as the 20th Century Fanfare played and then the Lucasfilm logo appeared followed by the opening of the film – it was like being a little kid again. Yes, I know a lot of people hated the prequels (more on that in a moment) but personally I enjoyed all 3 of them.

And now, well now we have the prospect of a new Star Wars trilogy to look forward to (launching the year after The Hobbit trilogy – so that’s the next 6 years of blockbusters sorted for me then).

Naturally, many people are wary. A lot of people hated the prequels and fear things will be as bad. Some of the complaints were that things like the romance dialogue between Anakin and Padmé was pretty cringeworthy and not the sort of smooth slick dialogue one night expect in a Hollywood blockbuster – for me that was one of the things I liked about it. Here were a couple of awkward teenagers trying to figure out how to tell each other what they felt. I mean, can you remember back to being a teenager? If you can, I will bet you were not the smooth suave Cary Grant style of figure when trying to chat up the girls! The dialogue seemed pretty realistic. Then, of course, there were the complaints about Jar Jar Binks and the attempted comedy his character seems to have been designed to bring. “They’ve turned it into a children’s film” was a typical comment. Usually from people in their 30s who were children when the original came out… Star Wars has always had comedy characters in it – look at the entire interaction between C-3P0 and R2-D2 in the original! They were, in essence, Laurel and Hardy. Indeed, a large part of the inspiration for Star Wars came from the old cinema serials aimed firmly at children in the 50s etc (Flash Gordon et al). I really don’t think there is that much difference in the target age demographic for the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. Try watching all 6 films in one session (I did one Boxing Day, in the order 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 which works very well if one has never seen them – it’s the order I’d show them to my nephews) and they are nt actually all that different in terms of story style and construct. Another common complaint is that there’s ‘too much’ CGI in the film. To be fair, Lucas was always trying out new technology for effects even as far back as the original film; that they use CGI instead of models now is entirely in keeping. Let’s face it, 4 model ships just isn’t going to cut it for a massive space battle these days.
Mind you, I do find it amusing that Jar Jar, so hated in Episode 1, turns out to be the one who caused the Empire to come into existence – maybe the haters were on to something, albeit for different reasons 😉

I think the biggest problems the sequels had were trying to compete with 20+ years of fan memory and expectations, and the small matter that the core of the prequel story was already widely known to all Star Wars fans anyway, making it a harder story to tell and keep fresh. No such problem for the sequels.

Lucas is not going to be writing or directing the new films (to many people’s relief), he will simply be a creative consultant. So it looks like we’ll have new blood moving the sequels forwards. I hope they choose wisely!

Many people are nervous that Disney now own it and will Disneyfy it – to be fair to Disney they do seem to have given a fair bit of a free reign to many of the films produced under their subsidiaries. I don’t recall seeing Mickey Mouse anywhere in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, and I am given to understand from friends who’ve seen it that the Avengers film was rather good, so the signs are positive I’d say – at least worth giving them a chance.

So, what will the new films cover?
That’s a great question, and if anyone at Disney or Lucasfilm does have the answer, they are not telling just yet!

Personally, I really hope they go with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy – of all the follow on books, Zahn’s is the only one to actually make significant plot advancement (as opposed to telling stories within the same universe which don’t actually advance the galactic position by their end). There’s a lot of good material within his trilogy (and his follow on two-book story too), plenty of intriguing characters, and lots of scope for really pushing the story onward. Although I suspect they will go with their own stories but you never know. At least Lucasfilm were always involved in the overall stories in the various followup books, so there should be minimal in the way of continuity problems, which is useful.

Could any of the original characters appear?
Well, Darth Vader obviously can’t, nor Palpatine.
But of the rest?
Well, Chewbacca can easily, Peter Mayhew is still enthusiastic and being covered in Wookie costume there’s be no problem with ageing.
Likewise it would be great to see Anthony Daniels back as C-3P0 (being the only actor to appear in all 6 films, it would be cool if they can get him for the next 3 as well). I think it’s pretty likely the droids and Wookies would feature.
What about Luke, Leia and Han?
Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford certainly look a heck of a lot older now (funny that, given Star Wars is 35 years old!), but if they were willing to take part there’s no reason we can’t have a 50-60 year old Luke and Han. Leia? Well that all depends upon whether they can coax Carrie Fisher back into acting.
Of course they could replace them with younger current actors/actresses to fill the roles, although I think that would be a bi disappointing and be a bit of a cope-out. Besides, there is the option for a nice generational feel. Prequels all about Anakin, originals all about Luke, sequels all abut Luke (or Leia’s) child / children. Allows much scope for moving the plot on substantially and allows the original cast to reprise their roles just like they had Obi-Wan in the first 6, so they could have some of the originals in 4-9 (and yes I realise Obi Wan was played by different people but that’s what happens when you go back in time story-wise!).

All of which is pure conjecture, and no doubt we’ll find out more as bits and pieces slip out over the next 3 years.

But whatever happens, I know one thing – I’ll be there in the cinema when Episode 7 opens, and I can already feel the tingling sensation and the excitement as the Fanfare starts up leading into those immortal words
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”