Star Wars Episode VII: No Hope
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A lifelong fan fears the Force may be weak with the upcoming Star Wars sequels...
A long, long time ago, way back in 1977, my parents took me to see a movie called Star Wars (it would be another four years before it gained the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle) and I fell inconsolably in love with it. I pestered my wonderfully obliging parents to buy me the toys, talked about it incessantly with my friends, ran around pretending I was a stormtrooper (much cooler than being a farm boy or an old space pirate) and prayed for more adventures in this wonderful galaxy far, far away.
Three years later I got my wish when The Empire Strikes Back rocked my world by introducing AT-ATs and Boba Fett into my life, and then just another three years later Return of the Jedi brought it all to a satisfying conclusion (well, to my thirteen year old self, anyway). My love for this fantastic universe that George Lucas had created burned brightly, and for years afterwards I continued to be obsessed with Star Wars toys (the centrepiece of my collection is the entire run of 12” figures from 1997/98, including all the variants and exclusives), books, comics, trading cards, t-shirts and just about anything else I could get my hands on.
Then came the prequels, and somewhat inevitably a disappointed sigh could be heard around the world in May 1999 as my generation stumbled out of cinemas with heavy hearts after The Phantom Menace failed to reach the impossible and completely unrealistic expectations that we’d placed on it. Though there was a slight feeling of redemption with Revenge of the Sith (2005), Lucas promised us that this would be it, there would be no more movies, he was done with Star Wars, and as a result I was able to see this as a kind of closure. I'd always have my classic trilogy, the kids could stake their claim on the prequels, and though there would be the Clone Wars cartoons which, admittedly, are not bad, in my eyes they weren't part of *my* Star Wars.
All was well in my Star Wars world, but then the unthinkable happened - the House of Mouse got its greenback-stained teeth into Lucasfilm. Effectively retiring, though not entirely as we shall see, George Lucas, sole owner of Lucasfilm, sold his pride and joy to Disney for the eye-watering price of just over four billion dollars in cash and shares, and with it went any shred of dignity that the Star Wars universe may have been clinging on to.
You see, Disney may once have been a respected and trustworthy studio in my eyes, but in recent decades it has systematically sold itself out by taking its most loved and treasured properties and churning out inferior, direct-to-DVD sequels that have done nothing but cheapen its value. How did The Jungle Book 2 (2003) ever seem like a good idea? What possessed Disney to churn out not one but two DTV sequels apiece for the magical The Lion King (1994) and Cinderella (1950)? I don’t think I even have the words to express my incredulity at discovering that there is actually a Bambi 2 (2006).
Despite managing to keep my flame of enthusiasm for the ongoing Star Wars universe alive through the indignities of R2-D2 and C-3PO advertising a high street electrical retailer here in the UK and Yoda being whored out to a mobile phone company, the prospect of a new Star Wars film finds it sputtering alarmingly as I fear what Disney will churn out, and as the old Jedi Master himself once said, we know where fear leads, don’t we? Even without the precognitive talents of the Force I can confidently predict much suffering come 2015 when Episode VII is slated for release.
Apparently this new film is to take place after the events of Return of the Jedi, which puts it smack in the middle of what has come to be known as the Expanded Universe, so the big question I and many of my fellow Star Wars fans have is what exactly is this proposed new trilogy going to cover, as the many, many stories that have been told post-Jedi over the last twenty odd years pick up chronologically from quite literally just after the second Death Star was destroyed, in The Truce At Bakura by Kathy Letts (1993).
Assuming, and it’s a mighty big assumption given that this is Disney we’re talking about holding the reins now, that the new movies aren’t just going to ride roughshod over the existing and beloved canon (to the fans, anyway - Lucas has previously stated that he views the Expanded Universe as existing outside of ‘real’ Star Wars canon), then the obvious choice of source material would be Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, comprising Heir To The Empire (1991), Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993). Though it includes all of the main characters from the classic trilogy, all of the original actors are arguably too old now to reprise their roles with any dignity [Update: Though they're reportedly keen to try, especially Harrison Ford], even with the augmentative wonders of CGI, but a little creative recasting could be graciously overlooked as long as the new characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn himself are well-handled.
However, while my heart wants to believe that this could happen, my head tells me that with the release date locked in for 2015, and with no mention of a script or even a story having been released along with the acquisition news [Update: Episodes VII, VIII, and IX will reportedly be based on George Lucas' story outlines], all coupled with Lucas’s previous views on the validity of the Expanded Universe as canon, that we’ll in all likelihood get three movies featuring the sons and daughters of Han, Leia and Luke, played by the likes of Justin Bieber, Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
I hope not, I really do, and I’ll protect and nurture my still-flickering flame of fandom for as long as possible, but as has oft been said in the Star Wars films, I’ve got a bad feeling about this, and I fear that Episode VII could make the disappointment of The Phantom Menace seem like a mere tremor in the Force.
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