Yesterday, the pop culture world was rocked with one of the biggest bombshells in recent memory, as Disney announced that they will be buying Lucasfilm — and therefore the rights to "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" — for $4.05 billion. And even more, Disney is planning to have Star Wars: Episode VII" out in theaters in 2015, with the rest of the third "Star Wars" trilogy to follow.
And all I can say is, thank goodness. It's about time.
The move is being met by a fair share of cynicism and snark (natch) across the galaxy, but here are four reasons why Disney's acquisition of "Star Wars" is a win for everyone:
1. George Lucas Is a Sell-Out. The fact that Lucas was willing to sell his beloved franchise seems to have come as a shock to many fans, but before you accuse Lucas of being a sell-out, you should know one thing: He totally is. In fact, he's been selling out the "Star Wars" franchise pretty much from the moment it first hit theaters in 1977, licensing untold thousands of tie-in products and pumping out novels, comic books, video games, cartoons and made-for-TV spin-off films. Ever since the 1978 "Star Wars Holiday Special" introduced Jefferson Starship to the "Star Wars" universe, it's been clear that making a buck was a driving force for Lucas, in large part because he had to fund everything himself. The irony here: Now that "Star Wars" is owned by Disney, they won't have to pimp out "Star Wars" to keep the cash flowing, meaning the quality of the product should actually increase.
2) The Movies Will Be Better. And the main product, of course, are the films themselves — films that will likely be significantly better with Disney at the helm. Why? Well, take a look at "The Empire Strikes Back," which many fans consider to be the best "Star Wars" movie ever — and which Lucas neither wrote nor directed. At his core, Lucas isn't really a writer or a director, he's an idea man; he does his best work when he can come up with the big ideas and let other people implement them. That's exactly what's going to happen with the new trilogy: Disney will be working from stories crafted by Lucasfilm, with Lucas himself acting as an adviser while Disney handles the task of bringing those ideas to life. It's the way the best "Star Wars" films were made in the past — and the reason the new trilogy could possibly be a return to greatness.
3) Disney Knows What They're Doing. For all the talk of Disney as a corporate behemoth, swallowing up properties and churning out disposable product, the reality is that in recent years Disney has proven that they know how to handle their acquisitions: by being hands off. Take a look at their last two big purchases, Pixar and Marvel. Instead of mucking up Pixar, Disney actually went the other way, bringing in Pixar execs to overhaul Disney itself. And with Marvel, they've been amazingly hands off, letting Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios do their own thing — a policy that gave the world its third biggest film ever, "The Avengers." If history repeats itself, we could see a Lucasfilm that is energized by Disney rather than absorbed by it.
4) New Movies! And, of course, the biggest deal of all: Fans will finally get to see the long-awaited and long-rumored third trilogy after all. Lucas himself had vowed never to film the final trilogy, in part because at 68, he just didn't have the drive left to do it. Now, though, with Disney at the helm, "Star Wars" devotees who have been waiting nearly 35 years for the final chapters in Luke, Han and Leia's saga will at last get to see it on the big screen. Some fans would have been willing to sell their souls to the devil for that chance; selling Lucasfilm to Disney instead seems like getting off easy by comparison.
Sure, there will no doubt be some growing pains along the way. But George Lucas' decision to sell Lucasfilm to Disney isn't the end of an era, it's the beginning of a new chapter both for "Star Wars" and for "Indiana Jones" (anyone up for a revival of the acclaimed series "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"?).
For the past several years, Lucas and Lucasfilm have been running on fumes, milking old movies (this time they're in 3D!) and old ideas without really contributing anything new and vital to the mythos. With Lucas having already announced there would be no more new "Star Wars" movies, they basically were reduced to just feeding off the carcasses of the old films.
No matter what you think about Disney as a company, though, the fact that they now own "Star Wars" means there will be new movies, new ideas, new creators and new energy. And so for real fans, fans who truly love the "Star Wars" universe and want it to remain vital, there's only one way to describe Disney's purchase of "Star Wars": A New Hope.