By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 31, 2012 at 10:59AM
Unless you've been robbed of power by Hurricane Sandy, you've probably heard that yesterday saw the biggest movie news story of the year -- if not several years -- break. Disney have purchased LucasFilm for $4 billion, and have announced that plans are moving ahead for new "Star Wars" movies, beginning with "Episode VII" in 2015 (the start of a new trilogy), with franchise creator George Lucas serving only as a creative consultant, and new talent coming in to write and direct the new films.
Lucas has gone back and forth on the possibility of new movies over the years. It was long rumored that, even while shooting the first film, Lucas had planned out as many as ten future sequels, and it was generally believed that three trilogies were sincerely in the works. And Lucas wrote in 1994: "As the saga of the Skywalkers and Jedi Knights unfolded, I began to see it as a tale that could take at least nine films to tell - three trilogies." But Lucas told Vanity Fair ahead of the release of 'The Phantom Menace' that, "It really ends at part six. I never had a story for the sequels, for the later ones."
And more recently, he's seemed to be even more definitive. He told Total Film in 2008, "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII–IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything. And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married..." And only a few months ago, he said in the New York Times, "Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
And yet something seems to have changed his mind, possibly vaguely related to the $4 billion that Disney paid for the company. Now, some in the film blog community are jumping their guns and starting to talk about potential directors, and while the “targeted” release of 2015 means that the studio can't drag their feet too much, there's a long way to go before a helmer is in place -- for one thing, a writer is needed to flesh out the treatment that has already been completed. But there is one question on our minds: what direction could these new initial movies take? (And Disney have been open about wanting a new film in the franchise every few years until the sun swallows the Earth, so it'll certainly move beyond "Episode IX: Resurgence Of The Ewoks"). Below, we've laid out five potential directions that the next few films could go in. Let us know your own views on the future of a Disneyfied "Star Wars" in the comments section below.
Arguably the option that would make the fanboys happiest would be to reunite the band -- Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billie Dee Williams, etc -- to reprise their roles for a new set of adventures, or at least to pass the torch on to a new set of heroes. Seeing Ford (who's been looking for a bona fide hit of late without success) reprise Han Solo, or Hamill as an aged Jedi-master version of Luke, would undoubtedly see longtime fans climaxing publicly as soon as the news arrived. It would mean ignoring the Expanded Universe books, which might anger some, but few creative types would want to adhere to those, and we imagine even Lucas doesn't know every detail of what happens in the hundreds of spin-offs he begat. While some of the original cast (Ford in particular) didn't have the best relationship with Lucas, that he'd only be tangentially involved on a creative level might help. What this approach would need is a filmmaker willing to adopt the style Lucas set up in the original film: a 21st century equivalent to Irvin Kershner or Richard Marquand, essentially someone like "Captain America" helmer Joe Johnston, a one-time Lucasfilm employee. And a pick like that would likely underwhelm the movie geeks who are vainly keeping their fingers crossed for a Christopher Nolan or a David Fincher (which, for the record, is never going to happen). By the same token, though, does anyone really want to see a 70-year-old Han Solo, or a 60-year-old Luke?
So what if no one, filmmakers included, wants to see aged versions of those central characters? Or what if the treatments that Lucas have produced pick up right after the conclusion of Episode VI, rather than leaping forward in time? After all, the Expanded Universe is genuinely considered to be canonical in fan circles, and telling long-time fans (who are admittedly aging beyond the target audience for a tentpole) to disregard them would be a bit like chucking out the whole of the Old Testament past Joshua. So you use those novels, comics and whatnot, set in the period known as the New Republic (thank you, Wikipedia!), immediately after the death of the Emperor and Vader, directly adapting, or at least being inspired by, the stories. Short of ‘Benjamin Button’-ing the original actors, you’d have to recast, but fans have put up with such things in the past, and there’s plenty of material to work with: Luke training up a new generation of Jedi, Han and Leia having kids, and (*spoiler!*) the tragic death of Chewbacca. Perhaps the most obvious inspiration would be Timothy Zahn’s trilogy “Heir To The Empire,” “Dark Force Rising” and “The Last Command,” which see the gang reunited to battle a new threat intent on reviving the Empire. Or there’s the “Dark Empire” comic series, which sees the Emperor Palpatine resurrected through cloning. The problem, as you might have imagined from these premises, are these plots are pretty terrible -- they make Lucas look like David Chase in terms of his plotting skills. But it’s certainly the most obvious jumping-off point, and the one that the “Episode VII” billing suggests that Lucas might have gone in with his treatments. Again, you’d likely need a filmmaker willing to stick to the aesthetics and style of the first six movies, as far as possible.