It’s crazy to think it has only been a little over three months since Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced a whole new Star Wars trilogy coming in just two and a half years. Since that particular nerd nuclear bomb was dropped, the news has continued to come at a rapid fire rate; first came the news that Toys Story 3‘s Michael Arndt would be writing the screenplay (with help from none other than Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark writer Lawrence Kasdan) to the big bombshell dropped a few weeks back that JJ Abrams was taking the helm of Episode VII. All of these things were generally greeted as good-to-great news by both hardcore and casual fan alike.
In many ways, this is the best time ever to be a Star Wars fan; the galaxy far, far away has been released from the viselike grip of George Lucas, and now a generation of filmmakers who grew up with the classic films are free to play in his sandbox and add to the mythology. Older fans like me are going to get to see the sequel trilogy we had long ago given up on ever seeing come to life, and under the hand of a gifted director and screen writer to boot. But now we are getting news that not only are we getting Episodes VII-IX, we are also getting a whole slew of spin-off films as well. In just one week, we’ve heard reports of a Yoda-centric film, a Seven Samurai -inspired movie from Zack Snyder (which may be one and the same with the Yoda flick), and now a young Han Solo movie and a Boba Fett solo movie, too. All of these are said to be alternating between Episodes VII-IX. That would mean like six or more Star Wars universe films in a decade. At least. And personally, I think that is WAY too much. Disney spent four billion to get their hands on this franchise, and if they keep to this crazy factory mentality they seem to have set up, they will quite literally kill all interest in Star Wars by running it into the proverbial ground. Here is what I think Disney needs to do (and to not do) if they plan on keeping Star Wars alive and a perennial franchise in the same way 007 and others have proven to be. Start taking notes, Bob Iger.
Learn From Star Trek’s Mistakes
Back in the early 90′s, Star Wars was all but dead. There were no movies coming out, and we didn’t know if new movies would ever come out. There were no toys on the shelves, and comics and books based on that galaxy far, far away were just beginning to trickle out again. The general feeling was that Star Wars had died with the 80′s. The reigning sci-fi franchise was Star Trek, thank to the massive success of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Next Gen was a huge hit, so naturally Paramount wanted a spin-off series. Before TNG ended its run, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine debuted, making two Trek series running at once. It was also successful, so when the TNG cast was spun off into feature films, Paramount decided they still wanted two different Trek shows on the air, and less than two years after DS9 debuted, Star Trek: Voyager came onto the airwaves. In the meantime, the TNG crew still had movies coming out every two years, not to mention repeats of the show airing almost everywhere in second run syndication nightly, and re-runs of the original series too. By the time Voyager ended its run in 2001, even this die-hard Trekker was officially sick of the franchise. Paramount had taken their cash cow and, in a little over a decade, wrung out every bit of life left in her. The following series Enterprise eventually died with a whimper, and it took JJ Abrams to perform miracle surgery and save the franchise.
Disney needs to look at what happened with Trek during the late 90′s and early 2000′s as a cautionary tale. Star Wars is the most beloved film franchise of all time, hands down. The sixteen year gap didn’t make fans less eager to line up for days to see The Phantom Menace, and the disappointment of the prequels for many has not quelled fan anticipation for the sequel trilogy from the looks of it. Disney does not need to pump out a Star Wars movie every year and have a show on television on top of that to make good on their four billion dollar purchase. If they play their cards right, Star Wars can remain a valuable property to them for the next several decades…or it could all be over before we know it.
No Overlapping Star Wars Films.
The idea of stand-alone “side stories” focusing on well-known characters in the Star Wars universe is actually a smart idea, and Disney simply needs to play the long game with this one. The proper Star Wars episodes should maintain their once every three years release schedule, which worked just fine for both of the previous trilogies (possibly every two years is not so bad either, it worked for Harry Potter.) But Disney should wait till after the new trilogy is finished before releasing any stand alone movies, though. Any time a Star Wars movie is released, it needs to be an event, plain and simple. Focus on your new trilogy first and foremost. Make sure that is as good as it can possibly be, and win back the casual moviegoer who abandoned the franchise post Jar-Jar. Now after that trilogy is done, then do stand-alone pics focusing on Boba Fett, the Knights of the Old Republic, or even Salacious Crumb if you want. I imagine Disney will also want an Episodes X-XII at some point; maybe make those a good decade or so after this new trilogy is done, and in between you can keep the Star Wars flame burning by sprinkling one or two of these stand-alone films. I am cool with most of the ideas floating around for spin-off films that have been leaked so far, but I do take great exception to one of them…
No “Adventures of Baby Han Solo” Movie, Please
While I think the idea of a “Tales of the Star Wars Galaxy” spin-off series is great, some things need to be nipped right in the bud. I really, really don’t think we need to find out the secret origin of Han Solo, or see him as a teen or twenty-something learning the ropes of intergalactic drug dealing and smuggling for a giant slug-like gangster. Obviously, Han is a mega-popular character, and a film set between Episodes III and IV would allow Disney to make a film in the classic timeline–they could have the Falcon and Chewie and Imperial Star Destroyers, and maybe even Lord Vader himself show up. The marketing opportunity must be impossible to resist. But they should resist it. Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Even George Lucas realized that a young Han was a bad idea, and scratched a cameo appearance from Episode III. The Clone Wars animated series has an edict that Han is never to show up, as it would ruin his grand entrance into the saga in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope. I wholeheartedly agree with that rule. I’m all for a Boba Fett/Bounty Hunters film set during the classic trilogy if done right, but please for the love of the Force, leave Han Solo alone.
No Live-Action Series
There had been talk for years prior to the Disney buyout of a live action Star Wars series, one set in the galactic underworld and possibly featuring Boba Fett and other bounty hunters. When there were to be no more films coming out, I was ok with this idea. But with Disney in charge now, rumors began to swirl of that television idea being revived for ABC. To this I say a big fat NO. If there are indeed going to be these “Tales of the Star Wars Galaxy” films as well as a proper trilogy on a continuing basis, then the last thing we want is a live-action series on top of all that. It is just one thing too many, and kills the specialness of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars should still maintain a television presence the way they have for the past five years–in animation. The Clone Wars animated series has become one of the best cartoon shows ever, and in my humble opinion is the best Star Wars anything since Empire. While I imagine that the show will go off the air within the next couple of years, executive producer Dave Filoni and his animation team should immediately be put in charge on a new animated series. The story and timeline of The Old Republic game seems perfect for a new ongoing animated series. And unlike The Clone Wars, where almost all of the main characters destinies are pretty much etched in stone, an Old Republic series would’t be limited by the existing movies as to what happens with the characters, as it would be presumably set hundreds or even thousands of years before. But whatever happens with future toons, having live action films and a television series is just plain overkill.
Just Slow Your Roll, Mickey
There aren’t that many media franchises that can really stand the test of time; James Bond just celebrated fifty years in the mass popular culture, and in just three years Star Trek will do the same. When Star Wars reaches that milestone, will it be played out beyond all repair, or just be getting started? Star Wars is now your golden goose Disney…just don’t kill it before it has started to produce any actual golden eggs for you.