6 Surprising Ways Disney's Changing The 'Star Wars' Universe
In the seven years since Disney bought Lucasfilm for 4 billion Earth dollars, we've gotten five new movies, a bunch of novels and comics, and one scene wherein Han Solo gets his surname from a random space TSA agent. With the "Skywalker Saga" wrapping up this December, it's worthwhile to take a look at some of the ways Star Wars has evolved in this new era. Such as how ...
The Movies Are Going On Hiatus ... Sort Of
Not unlike Ross and Rachel, Star Wars films and audiences are taking a break. And clearly Star Wars is the Ross in this scenario, because they're going to cheat a little. After Solo's mediocre box office returns proved that audiences won't turn out in droves for every movie set in that galaxy far far away, Disney has seemingly adjusted their plans. Now, after The Rise Of Skywalker, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, the movies will go on "a bit of a hiatus" to take "some time and reset." You know, like a multi-billion-dollar microwave. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy echoed that sentiment, stating that we likely won't get another Star Wars movie for "a couple of years."
This isn't a sign that Star Wars is through gobbling up your money and attention, far from it. This hiatus is merely to help them plan "the next decade of storytelling." We're still getting two new film series from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and the dudes behind Game Of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. So now might be a good time to invest in angry internet message board stocks.
Plus, it's only the movies that are slowing down. We're still getting multiple Star Wars TV shows in the near future, to say nothing of the various comics and books. In their effort to delight audiences while also attempting to crush Netflix like an insect, Disney's new streaming service already has three Star Wars shows in the works, some of which totally could have been movies. Like The Mandalorian, which comes out in November. Lucasfilm cancelled plans for a Boba Fett movie, but greenlit a series about a dude who looks exactly like Boba Fett. We're also getting a show about Rogue One's Cassian Andor -- hopefully a prequel and not a Weekend At Bernie's-like farce. And instead of the Obi-Wan movie everyone wanted, Ewan McGregor will appear in an Obi-Wan series chronicling the exciting years he spent in an "abandoned" bachelor pad made out of dirt.
Disney Could Probably Release The Originals, But Won't
George Lucas famously hasn't released high-quality versions of the original, unaltered Star Wars movies in some time. Meaning that if you want to watch them on Blu-Ray or streaming, prepare to see Greedo shoot first, the Ewoks blink, and Hayden Christensen collect some residual checks at the expense of your childhood.
But when Disney bought Lucasfilm, fans wondered if that meant that the Original Trilogy might see the light of day on a format that doesn't require borrowing your parents' LaserDisc player. Originally that wasn't the case, since the home video rights to the series remained with 20th Century Fox. But now that Disney owns Fox, rumors surfaced that they were planning to release a new 4K box set with the OT included. Plus, there was a recent screening of an original 70mm print of A New Hope, featuring no CGI creatures whatsoever, which was approved by Lucas. Surely a home media release isn't far behind?
Well, probably not. Even though no rights issues prevent Disney from releasing the unaltered movies, they likely won't. Why? Because of George Lucas. The recent Blu-Ray release is considered to be the official canonical version of the Star Wars trilogy, at least according to Lucas. And Lucasfilm is adhering to "Lucas' wishes" on this matter. There have even been rumors that part of the deal when Disney purchased Lucasfilm was that Disney couldn't "retcon anything George Lucas was involved in" -- which would include pretending that all the changes in the Special Editions were, say, some dream Lobot had. And Kathleen Kennedy has gone on the record that she "wouldn't touch" the originals, which will "always remain" Lucas'. So get used to hearing that goddamn "Jedi Rocks" song for all eternity. And speaking of George Lucas ...
Lucas Has Been Sniping About The Sequels, And For Good Reason
When Lucas first sold his company to Disney in 2012, he seemed pretty pleased. Not just because $4 billion can buy a hell of a lot of plates of food court spaghetti, but because, according to his statement, "one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next." But then, when The Force Awakens hit theaters, he was surprisingly harsh about it. While J.J. Abrams wrote a love letter to Lucas' original trilogy, it was also an implicit rebuke of the prequels, which Lucas must have taken umbrage with. He called the movie too "retro," which is kind of true, and referred to Disney as "white slavers," which is kind of ... an absurd thing to say.
Lucas later apologized, and that seemed to be the end of him directly commenting on the new movies. Every statement that followed was secondhand. When The Last Jedi came out, his rep simply stated that Lucas thought it was "beautifully made." He actually visited the set of that film, but didn't comment on the experience -- though according to the production designer, Lucas was "cranky," and thought it was dumb that they built so many physical sets instead of simply slathering some green paint on the walls of an empty soundstage.
Here's the thing, though: The man has every reason to be pissy about the Disney movies, because Disney kind of screwed him over. You've probably heard that Lucas gave the company outlines for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, which they then decided not to use. And this wasn't some fun bonus Lucas threw in; it was a key component of the deal. Part of his agreement with Disney was that they "had to agree to take his story treatments and use them as the basis for any future films." Lucas himself stated: "Buying my stories is part of what the deal is." He also refused to show said stories to Disney until after the deal was finalized. And since they were about germs or something, Disney ultimately decided to scrap them.
Lucas complained about this, albeit in subtle ways. During a video Q&A, Vanity Fair surprised J.J. Abrams with a question from Lucas: "Whatever happened to Darth Vader's grandchildren?"
This is presumably a reference to the outlines that weren't used. A visibly flustered Abrams responds, "You tell me, man. You made all this shit up."
They Somehow Turned Merchandising Into A Holiday
Star Wars has been synonymous with useless merchandise from the very beginning, when they literally sold empty boxes to children during Christmas 1977. This has historically been fodder for lighthearted ridicule, from the time Mark Hamill was sold as the ultimate collectible in a Saturday Night Live sketch to Spaceballs devoting an entire scene to how the "real money from the movie is made" by hocking random junk like lunchboxes and flamethrowers.
We've said it before and we'll say it again, Mel: You actually sell that flamethrower, and we'll camp out on release day.
Rather than shy away from that reputation, Disney somehow turned it into a positive by unabashedly embracing it. They basically turned their desire to sell you a bunch of stuff you really don't need into a special day with an alliterative name. Beginning in 2015, "Force Friday" is now the traditional day when Lucasfilm unveils all the toys and random tie-ins you can forgo paying rent in order to own.
So go ahead and buy that Salacious Crumb electric toothbrush, or an inflatable Kylo Ren pool toy / life companion. Force Friday is basically a holiday, and not the kind that requires fasting or putting on itchy dress pants.
A Bunch Of Other Lucasfilm Projects Are In Development, But Not All With Disney
Disney didn't only buy Star Wars; they bought all of Lucasfilm. The company came with a whole bunch of other properties primed for rebooting. Obviously we're soon getting another Indiana Jones movie, in which Indy will probably the same skills he used to defeat the Nazis against rowdy preteens at the local mini-mall. And there are rumors that Disney could devote a whole section of their theme parks to Dr. Jones' adventures. But what about the other titles in Lucasfilm's roster?
We may not be getting the Radioland Murders cinematic universe, but a few other properties might be resurfacing. Like, remember Willow? It was basically The Lord Of The Rings with wisecracking fairies and Val Kilmer. We may be getting a Willow series on Disney's new streaming service. Other famous Lucasfilm movies are being rebooted, but not directly by Lucasfilm. They made the critically lambasted (and sexually confusing) Howard The Duck. But that character is still owned by Marvel and is getting a new cartoon series on Hulu from Kevin Smith. And another '80s movie that challenged an entire generation of kids to untangle the intricacies of human sexuality, Labyrinth, is reportedly getting a sequel from Fede Alvarez, who directed Don't Breathe and the Evil Dead remake. But since the Jim Henson Company retained the rights, this is one project Disney doesn't have their four-fingered hands in.
Everything In Their Theme Park Has To Be Canon
It's not surprising that Disney would want to tether their new Star Wars-themed park, Galaxy's Edge, to the series. We've already gotten Star Wars stories set on the planet Batuu, presumably in the Orlando region of the Florida System. What is surprising is that everything that happens inside the park is considered an official part of Star Wars. Even when you go take a shit, that technically takes place in the Star Wars universe. And refreshments like Coca-Cola had to be introduced, which is why they're sold in bomb-shaped containers and labelled in the fictional language of Aurebesh.
There's even a whole elaborate backstory for how Coke was imported to this particular outpost. Naturally, people have questioned how exactly an Earth beverage ended up in a galaxy far, far away. One member of Lucasfilm's Story Group suggested that while the soda is canon, it's not the same drink, but coincidentally a different brown carbonated sugary drink called "Coke" that "comes in a red container."
... And with that, they've finally made those Ewok tie-in movies seem like a bastion of artistic integrity.
There are also actors in the park playing out new stories set on Batuu, and that's canon too. So how does that work? Well, at Galaxy's Edge, the same day repeats over and over, and that day is canon. One Lucasfilm executive explained that "It's kind of like Groundhog Day." Which is ... confusing. So if all the events of the park are canon, albeit trapped in some kind of temporal anomaly, does that mean everything you do is part of Star Wars now? Is your toddlers' screaming tantrum as valid as the Kessel Run or the Battle of Yavin? If you watch Magic Mike on your phone inside of Galaxy's Edge, is Magic Mike now Star Wars canon? Possibilities abound.
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