Con: The Disney Empire Strikes Back

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Us “Star Wars” fans haven’t had much to celebrate about ever since “Episode III” opened back in 2005, or arguably since 1999 with the release of “Episode I.” After experiencing the enthralling, epic journey that was the Original Trilogy, we were left feeling rather cheated, underwhelmed and vulnerable by the time the Prequel Trilogy came to an end. But hey, at least we could find consolation in and appreciate the fact that one of the most beloved stories of all time had reached its conclusion. Such sentiments came to an Alderaan-shattering halt last week.

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Walt Disney Company announced that it had successfully acquired LucasFilm Limited from George Lucas, the man behind the “Star Wars” saga for $4.05 billion. Not bad, George, though I strongly believe that “Star Wars” is worth way more than that, considering that it’s the third highest-grossing film franchise, earning nearly $4.4 billion worldwide.

There’s no doubt that Disney is going to make absolute bank from this deal. By acquiring ownership of LucasFilm, it now owns not only its “Star Wars” franchise, but also its “operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production,” as stated in its press release. What’s more, Disney will now handle “Star Wars” licensing, marketing and merchandise, and it is very likely that the animated “Clone Wars” television series will leave Cartoon Network for Disney XD. Finally, Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned that expanding the “Star Wars” franchise’s presence in its theme parks was a selling point in the deal. All this, just for $4.05 billion. Talk about being seriously undervalued, especially since Forbes claimed back in 2007 that “Star Wars” has earned more than $22 billion from the films and merchandising.

However, it was the announcement that Disney was going to develop “Star Wars: Episode VII” for a planned 2015 release, followed by “Episode VIII” and “Episode IX” every two or three years following, that grabbed the headlines. Essentially, the new Sequel Trilogy will be released by 2020. Lucas will not be writing or directing any of the new films, though he will serve as creative consultant.

Let’s face it: “Star Wars” has become a bit of a joke for nearly the past decade. The Prequel Trilogy was, for the most part, disappointing and heartbreaking for the most passionate fans, thanks to the likes of Jar-Jar Binks, a contrived love story and a whiny, asshole Anakin Skywalker. By the end of the Prequel Trilogy, the franchise had become a dead horse.

Unfortunately, Lucas further compounded our misery by not just beating that dead horse, but defiling it in almost every way possible. From bastardizing the holy grail that is the Original Trilogy through the Complete Saga Blu-ray Edition to somehow having Han and Slave Leia enact a DDR-style Galactic Dance Off in “Kinect Star Wars,” to producing the horrifying “Star Wars Detours,” Lucas has left us sobbing uncontrollably over what our beloved saga has become. “Star Wars” deserves to be worshipped upon the highest altar. Instead, it’s become a once pristine sidewalk now marred with an ugly web of cracks and gum.

Honestly, is a new “Star Wars” trilogy truly needed? The arc that encompasses over the entire saga is complete. What more can be told? Do we need to find out what exactly happens after the events of “Episode VI?” Do we really need a new “Star Wars” in an age where audiences are crying out for original material from the film industry, which cranks out films based on previously existing material every single year? Disney is releasing new “Star Wars” films not because they’re needed, but because they’re guaranteed to rake in hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

However, no matter how much we protest the production of new “Star Wars” films, Disney is moving forward with it. Thus, we should focus on how the films should be made and treated, and hope that under Disney’s ownership, LucasFilm delivers. And it better deliver.

I was quite disturbed to read that Disney and Lucasfilm had already set a 2015 release for “Episode VII.” Disney and Lucasfilm have roughly two years to complete the film and have it ready for wide release. Lucasfilm president and film producer Kathleen Kennedy reported that they’ve yet to hire screenwriters to write the films. After that, there’s still the pre-production process, the actual production process, and with the vast scale of “Star Wars” in mind, it will take many months. Finally, there’s the post-production stage, where editing, sound and music is worked out, all while the film will be heavily marketed.

If “Episode VII” is not treated as the labor of love that it should be, it’ll show in the final film, and that is an insult to every single person who grew up with, and treasures, “Star Wars.” Hell, that will sting worse than the Prequel Trilogy and everything else that has been going on with the franchise as of late.

At this point, it’s very difficult to judge or predict how the Sequel Trilogy will turn out. What will the story be? Who will write it? Who will direct it? How much of a say will Lucas have when it comes to content? No matter what the answers to these questions will be, it is clear: the “Star Wars” that we used to know will be no more. After all, we definitely won’t be hearing the classic Fox fanfare before the films start, and hopefully the 80-year-old John Williams has enough life in him to return to score — a “Star Wars” without his music is no “Star Wars” as all.

For too long, “Star Wars” fans have felt like a battered housewife who keeps returning to an abusive husband. That’s the extent of how far our love for “Star Wars” goes. As the Sequel Trilogy becomes a reality under Disney and Lucasfilm, we can only hope for the best, that the infectious magic that once captivated us will return, that the saga will completely atone for its past horrors. If all goes well, on the night of the “Episode VII” release when we sit in that theater watching the film roll, our hopes will finally be fulfilled. May the Force be with us.

Jun Im is a fourth-year film and media studies major. Fellow “Star Wars” fans can send their grievances to juni@uci.edu.

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