Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lucasfilm without George Lucas

Websites around the world are rejoicing about the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, however it may be appropriate to consider this from different angles. Whilst the words “new Star wars films” are all that most fans needed to get them on board, perhaps it is worth treating the announcement with some caution. After all, this is the biggest change in the entire history of Lucasfilm.

One of the reasons that so many seem positive that the Disney takeover is Definitely A Good Thing is that Disney have done well with Marvel apparently. And specifically, people keep citing The Avengers. Undoubtedly The Avengers was a box office success and well received film, that is not worth debating. But looking at the Marvel movies as a whole, they have been largely mediocre. Even box office success Iron Man didn’t gain critical success, and was followed up with a lousy and lazy sequel.

But the quality of the Marvel movies is not too relevant. What is worth observing is the way these are produced. Release dates are picked long in advance, whilst writers continue to work on the screenplays. Then a director comes on board, and has to meet the release date no matter what. This is the reason for the middling quality of these Marvel films – they are not bad movies, but they are churned out to meet a schedule rather than when they are ready.

This is not say that films don’t need release dates, of course they do. And Lucas himself had difficulty meeting the self-imposed deadline for The Phantom Menace. But he had the choice of a release date, it was not dictated to him by a studio. This gave time for all of the preparation work to be done on the prequels. The Clone Wars was in development for years before it debuted. What is the relevant difference between these two approaches?

Shareholders. Disney have to turn out movies on pre-determined release dates, and in a way that will maximise the profit for their shareholders. George Lucas had only himself to answer to, and could decide when to make movies without having to worry about pleasing other people. As long as he made whatever profit he deemed appropriate, he could then focus on the projects that he wanted to. 

Immediately upon acquiring Lucasfilm, a statement was released promising, “With this many characters to develop and stories to tell, Disney plans to release a new Star Wars feature film every two or three years for the foreseeable future.” A plan has already been put in place for how often there should be new films, without the creative teams or stories known. This indicates that the schedule has been designed on the basis of how to make money for the company, rather than based on what will produce the best Star Wars films.

So whilst a chorus of voices praises the work Disney have done with Marvel, it is worth bearing in mind that those films are not perfect and a regular production line of Star Wars films may not bring out the quality that fans are hoping for.

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