Do you remember where you were when Disney announced it had purchased Lucasfilm?
The Mouse purchased the company for $4 billion, and by all accounts it was a steal. Then the great purging began. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was cancelled, and the expanded universe of comics, books and all sorts of other secondary and tertiary material was declared null and void. The Dark Horse Star Wars comics? No more. Disney took a lightsaber to everything, slashing and burning the status quo of Star Wars.
And the results have given fans something they haven't had in years. Hope.
What's happened since
I remember feeling the first stirrings of something close to optimism when the cast for the upcoming Star Wars film was released. Much of the original cast were reprising their roles, but newcomers such as John Boyega (best known from Attack the Block) and Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) were also tapped for the film.
Adam Driver, perhaps best known for the HBO show Girls, is also involved. It's hard to watch his glowering, darkly comic take on his character on that show without thinking of what a good, if unexpected, fit he'll be in a Star Wars film.
The funny pre-release material for the movies stressed the practical special effects and love for the core material. Disney may have burned the expanded universe to the ground, but in its place now stands other materials that exist firmly in the official canon. There's no "movies and then everything else" tiers in Star Wars fandom; everything that happens in any of the material officially happens.
This means that the new non-movie material, such as the excellent animated series Star Wars: Rebels, is playing with fire. The actions of these characters matter, and that means that when one of them ignites a lightsaber and causes a shocked Imperial troop to call him a Jedi, it means something in the official timeline.
The comics are also being rebooted. Disney just so happens to own Marvel; a company that has had some success in recent years when it comes to managing sprawling franchises and working with film and television. The new comics, which also take place in the official timeline, are incredibly exciting.
There are three new lines coming to comics next year:
- Star Wars, an ongoing series by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday (coming January 2015);
- Star Wars: Darth Vader, an ongoing series by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca (coming February 2015); and
- Star Wars: Princess Leia, a five-issue miniseries by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson (coming March 2015).
"All canonical within the Star Wars universe, each book will pick up where Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope left off, filling in important, previously unexplored gaps for some of the saga’s most iconic characters. To put it simply, this is very big news," the official site stated.
These plans, which include new movies, a television show, comics and video games, are incredibly ambitious, but Disney knows and understands ambition.
A post-Disney Marvel has all but conquered the world of Hollywood with hit movie after hit movie, while also managing the Agents of SHIELD television show. Disney has proven it knows how to buy a company and help it think big, as Marvel's upcoming schedule of movies proves.
What's more important is the fact the movies seem to be well-cast, with some surprising talent behind the scenes of the spin-off movies coming down the pipe.
Disney knows and understands ambition
I hate to keep bringing up Marvel, but the superhero movies have proven what happens when you get good writers, interesting directors, and strong casts together. Disney has learned how to operate within huge properties with grace, and that's a skill that will translate very well to Star Wars.
George Lucas used to treat his galaxy far, far away as if it was his own personal china shop, and he was the world's clumsiest bull. The later movies were laughably bad, the handling of the secondary material was awkward, and Star Wars fans were getting used to living with disappointment. Disney has, oddly enough, saved us from this fate.
Disney has even opened the vaults to allow classic LucasArts games back into the market. Amy Hennig (The Uncharted series) has joined Visceral Games to work as creative director on their Star Wars project. DICE is working on a new Battlefront game. Even in video games, no one is messing around. Serious talent is working on serious projects.
This is all great news
Star Wars: Episode VII has a subtitle: The Force Awakens. Principle photography is done.
Many people were skeptical about Disney's motivations when the sale was announced, but the company has done everything right since that time, and it feels strange to be this excited about the resurgent world of Star Wars.
The movie may not live up to expectations, and the comics could stumble, or Rebels may not be able to keep up its current pace, but for now it's great to live in a world where you can be hopeful about Star Wars once again.
May the force be with you.