Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Force Fed: George Lucas’ Halloween Trick

George Lucas has announced the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney – on Halloween no less. New movies are promised, and lots of them.

The timing suggests something of a self-satisfied wink from those involved in the deal. Was this was mocking recognition that for many eye-twitching, obsessive Star Wars fans Lucas has become more a master of horror than of fantasy, a Dr. Frankenstein bent on debasing the power of creation? Disney coupled to Lucasfilm is certainly one hell of a monster.

Many fans are surprised by the deal - when Yoda began flogging Vodaphones (“how strong with them the force must be”) most naturally assumed that the franchise had become an un-dead beast, only to be resurrected as and when Lucas’ voodoo finances demanded it.

Yet here are Disney committing to a new trilogy (7,8 and 9) and then after that, a new movie every few years. According to their press release, Star Wars “…offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories” creating “the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.” A dispassionate observer has to ask: is there really an appetite out there for all this stuff? Doesn’t such excess run the risk of bloating fans, like the “greed” victim in David Fincher’s 7even, force fed until he bursts?

Well, reading the press release is instructive: Lucas frames the transaction as handing over the franchise for a new generation, but there is a strong hint that he is simply disgusted by what it has become – witness the image at the top of the release: those eyes speak of a man asking: “what have I created?”

Disney, on the other hand, can barely contain their bloodthirsty glee in acquiring Lucas’ much-deformed child. The release doesn’t say much about the artistic merit of the films, but does openly drool over Star Wars’ $4.4 billion in box office. It also can’t stop saying the word ‘global’: global leader, global growth, global portfolio, global business, global box office, global franchise, global demand, global appeal. Evidently Disney feel the franchise will be a great way of reaching audiences in other countries – like oh, say China – with the vampiric intent it does those in the USA.

The language really is creepy as hell. Listen to them, the children of the night:

“In addition to returning capital to shareholders, we have invested, both organically and through acquisitions, in high quality, branded content that can be seamlessly leveraged across our businesses. Our acquisition of Lucasfilm is entirely consistent with this strategy, and we're incredibly excited by the prospect of building on Lucasfilm's successful legacy to create significant value for our shareholders.”

It’s no real revelation that Disney enjoy making money. In the end, fans old and new will not mind who finances the films as long as they are entertaining. Perhaps some true creatives with a real affection for the characters will get hold of it and take it somewhere we can all enjoy.

George should be wary though. Selling Star Wars doesn’t absolve him of blame if things go wrong. He’s still ‘creative consultant’, still eminently blameable for any prequel-style disasters. Hurt those old fans again and it won’t take Halloween for a fan in a Hockey mask to turn up at his door seeking revenge - “with nothing left, no reason, no conscience, no understanding of good or evil, just a pale, blank face.”

Happy Halloween, George. Here’s hoping this is a treat, not a trick.

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