"Stars Wars" fans that have loved the franchise but lamented creator George Lucas' incessant tinkering can rest easy. In a shocking deal worth more than $4 billion, Disney now has the rights to arguably the most famous movie series in history, giving fans hope that the "Star Wars" universe can spin-off into interesting territory. Will Luke Skywalker be involved? How about Han and Princess Leia? The possibilities seem endless as Disney aggressively pushes forward to bring three new "Star Wars" features to the big screen, with "Episode VII" scheduled for release as early as summer 2015. Here's a look at what the return of "Star Wars" will mean to the franchise, both to its cinematic resonance and its expected impact at the box office.
Continuing an iconic series:
Let the internet speculation begin. Though much is still unknown at this point, popular online site Collider has already reported that Lucas has met with writers about treatments for all three films, which should provide the background for the entire trilogy. Lucas will stay on only as a creative consult from there, allowing Disney to pursue the visions of different filmmakers. According to Lucas' biographer Dale Pollock, the action is expected to take place roughly 20 years after "Episode VI," giving fans a further idea of the characters that might be involved. Disney hasn't speculated on which characters will be a part of the new series, but it's very possible - if not likely - that we'll see versions of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and others.
One thing that Disney will have to turn around, however, is the general consensus that the prequels were a big step down from the classic original trilogy. Though asking any filmmaker to find the magic of a movie like the 1977 original "Star Wars" is an act of futility, expect Disney to learn from the missteps of "Episodes I-III." While the original trilogy had slick characters like Han Solo to counteract some of the more cheeseball dialog and scenarios, "Episodes I-III" lacked that balance, which led to movies that felt a little too childlike for much of its audience. Lucas also took heat for being too reliant on green screens and special effects, something that an experienced action director with a new vision could significantly improve.
But well before "Episode VII" heads to production, recasting the iconic characters will be crucial to the artistic success of the franchise. Though there will have to be some new characters as well, it's very likely we'll see some of the old favorites to help link the new series to the original trilogy, which will create an internet firestorm around every casting rumor until Disney announces its cast.
More than anything, though, Lucas handing Disney the keys to the "Star Wars" franchise is a huge win for fans of the series. While the more recent trilogy was hamstrung by having an audience that knew exactly where the story was headed, "Episode VII" can head off into new storylines and new worlds in a way "Star Wars" fans haven't been able to experience since the 1980s. Expect "Star Wars: Episode VII" to be the most talked about commercial movie over the next few years.
In an era of billion-dollar movie franchises, every major studio is looking to set up for the future. Fox already has two "Avatar" sequels coming; Warner Brothers has "The Hobbit" trilogy on the schedule; and Lionsgate is hoping that "The Hunger Games" can take the leap to break into the $1 billion worldwide box office club. In addition to the thriving "The Avengers" series, Disney now gets to develop a new set of "Star Wars" films with a built-in, ravenous fan base hungry to see improvement upon Lucas' last trilogy. Even while getting largely disappointing critical and audience reviews, the newer trilogy ("Episodes I-III") was still nothing short of a cash cow for distributor Fox, with "Episode III" earning a very solid $849 million worldwide despite the horrible buzz surrounding "Episode II."
With Lucas mostly taking a backseat, Disney can now take the new trilogy in just about any direction they please, though it will ultimately lead to a much-hyped release in the summer of 2015. After watching Disney's "The Avengers" pull down a shocking $1.5 billion worldwide this summer, it's clear that Disney has as much international clout as ever, which should allow them to tap into an enormous worldwide audience for all three films. If the series gets off to a good start with "Episode VII," revenues approaching or even surpassing $2 billion for the last two entries in the new trilogy seem like a very strong possibility.
And if the new trilogy really clicks with audiences, we could even see one of the "Star Wars" films eventually challenge the $2.8 billion worldwide record of "Avatar," assuming James Cameron doesn't break his own record with "Avatar 2." With a franchise this enormous, it won't even be surprising if Disney is already in full marketing swing as early as Comic Con 2013, nearly two full years before "Episode VII" is expected to hit theaters. Considering that Disney also now has the rights to all the merchandising and future Blu-ray releases, $4 billion could very well end up being a bargain as Disney takes the reins of the "Star Wars" franchise. Through a Lucasfilm spokesperson and The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas has also announced that he'll be donating most of the acquisition funds to his many philanthropic organizations, making it a victory for more than just the film community.
by RTT Staff Writer
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