What Disney’s Buyout of Lucasfilm Means To Me

I can’t take the Dark Side seriously like this.

As I’m sure nearly everyone reading this has already heard, Disney has bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion, with plans to release Star Wars Episode VII in 2015. I learned about the buyout this afternoon while I was listening to NPR. This was my immediate reaction:

I’ve seen some mixed reactions about this acquisition on Facebook, and while both sides make decent arguments, I’m firmly in the “this is a terrible idea” category. Let me explain why…

You see, the Star Wars franchise has always been something kind of sacred to me, as I’m sure it has been for countless other fans. I can vividly recall watching Episodes IV, V, and VI with my dad when I was five or six years old. (I also remember watching the Holyfield-Tyson fight with him. Having DirecTV had its advantages.) They set the standard for what “epic movie” meant to me. All of the quotable quotes, the instantly recognizable John Williams score, the Jim Henson-crafted characters… Even then, I knew that there was something important about these movies.

Han Solo was one of my first crushes. In fact, I even had a life-size cardboard cut out of him in my bedroom when I was in elementary school. However, Han isn’t the only good-looking, rugged character in the Lucas universe played by Harrison Ford. I can’t imagine what the Indiana Jones trilogy would have been like if Lucas and Spielberg had been able to hold on to Tom Selleck to play the bad boy professor/archaeologist, but CBS had him locked down for a TV show at the time. (Who would my mom have drooled over on Magnum P.I.?!) Dr. Jones probably definitely had a strong influence on 2nd grade me wanting to be an archaeologist. RaidersTemple of Doom (scary as it was for a little kid), and Last Crusade were all very important to me growing up, too.

The originals will always be classics for me, and I’m sure a lot of other fans understand what makes both of these franchises special. Personally, I hated the Star Wars prequels; they felt sort of… icky. (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?) I don’t know anyone who prefers Episodes I-III over IV-VI. However, I don’t have any opposition to Ewan McGregor as the younger version of Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. That worked just fine. Of course, there are all of the video games and animated shows and books that go along with Star Wars, but I feel, if anything, the video games and the animated shows get kids interested in the larger story. Brian has read a few of the books based on the movies, and it seems like they generally revere the original story line, staying true to the plot and characters. In 2008, another chapter was added to the Indy Jones story: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I only watched this because I felt obligated to do so, but I knew it was going to be terrible. I just didn’t know how terrible it was going to be. While several critics gave it good reviews, the film garnered a largely negative reaction from fans, earning it the 2008 Razzie Award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel. Trey Parker and Matt Stone even shared their opinion of it in South Park‘s mid-12th season premiere with “The China Problem.” For those of you who aren’t fans of the show, I’ll just say that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were not very nice to Indiana Jones. Not nice at all.

Am I the only person who gets the idea of leaving well enough alone? The Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies clearly stood the test of time; studio execs know that fans will continue to throw money at the franchise regardless of how lame any of the sequels and prequels turn out to be. When does it stop? Disney should not have made Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I love the other three, but the fourth one was just bad. Almost all of the Disney “classics” I loved to watch when I was growing up have at least one straight-to-video sequel, but why? I think my disappointment over Disney’s buyout of Lucasfilms boils down to this: I don’t want to see Han Solo become a caricature of who he was to me when I was a kid. That’s exactly what happened with Jack Sparrow in the Pirates movies — he’s a joke. I’ve heard the argument about how Disney has done great things for the Marvel franchise, and I can agree with it, to a point. The Avengers was the second-best movie of the summer, behind The Dark Knight Rises, but were all of the others that (very quickly) led up to it (Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk) really that great? It seemed like it was a “let’s get these back stories out as quickly as possible so we can release a summer blockbuster opposite Batman” situation. I have a hard time judging Iron Man, because, well… Robert Downey, Jr.

I know there’s no stopping the machine that is Disney. If they must, though, make more sequels, I hope they will take these 15 “do’s and don’ts” into consideration, especially the idea of bringing nerd king Joss Whedon into the mix and getting John Williams into a recording studio as soon as possible. Maybe, like this article from The Atlantic argues, Star Wars will survive whatever silly things Disney does to it. However, I can see one positive to Disney’s new purchase:

Disney will finally have a princess who can really kick some Stormtrooper keesteralthough as far as strong princesses go, Brave‘s Merida , Disney/Pixar’s latest princess, is still my favorite. (Even for a practical, liberated princess, I would still recommend having a tissue handy for this movie.) Besides, who knows? We may even get a follow-up to another Lucasfilm classic:

5 Movies You’ve Probably Never Watched (But You Totally Should!)

I’ve done quite a bit of movie-watching this past week. It started with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows at Brian’s place. It was good, but I didn’t care for it as much as I did for the first film. Robert Downey, Jr. was in it, so that was honestly enough for me. On Sunday, I met up with my mother and sister to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotelwhich was ok. I guess I would describe it as a coming of age-type story, but a different age. It had the best combination of British actors since the last Harry Potter movie (Dame Judi Dench! Dame Maggie Smith! Bill Nighy!), and featured the mesmerizing colors and breathtaking architecture of Jaipur, India. However, I didn’t care so much for the cinematography. I mean, I get that it was probably jumpy and quick to mimic the pace of life in the city, juxtaposed to the dull and slow portrayal of England, but I just wasn’t into it. Still, I appreciated that Bill Nighy plays the same character that he plays in just about all of his movies. The next day, Brian and I went to see Bravewhich I have been bugging him to see since the previews came out. I feel like I’ve finally found my Disney hair twin, and Disney princess personality. (Well, mixed with Belle, of course.) The movie tells the story of Merida, a 10th century Scottish princess determined to choose her own fate. Every wish has its consequences, and she must discover how to reverse a witch’s curse before it’s too late. Like the other great Pixar films, such as Up, WALL-E, and the Toy Story series, Brave is a story about a relationship, a bond. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot, but I will say that this is a mom and daughter movie.

Now that I find myself with a surplus of spare time, I feel like I’ll be able to catch up on some of the movie- and TV-watching that I missed out on during grad school. (Although, I’m getting a bit stir-crazy, and will probably start giving myself projects or homework to keep busy while job searching.) Although classes and work continue, it’s summer, and you’re likely finding yourself with a bit of time to kill, too. While you could head to the theater and shill out $9.50 to see Magic Mike, in which case, call me, because I totally want to see that, too — you could also check out one or two of the following. I feel like I’m sharing a cinematic secret with you, reader… I bet you’ve never heard of a few, if not, all of these movies. They’re all pretty much off the radar, but each is worth a watch and available through Netflix.

1. Waking Ned Devine

I don’t remember when my family first discovered this movie… maybe when I was in high school. My mom picked it up at the library, thinking it might be decent. Being a pretty good judge of character and whatnot, she nailed it with this one. Released in 1998, Waking Ned Devine is set in Tulaigh Mhór (Tully More), Ireland, population: 52. The Irish National Lottery has reached a record high, and it’s confirmed that the winner is from the small village. However, Ned Devine has died from the shock of winning. The townsfolk come together and decide that they’re going to try to claim the winnings anyhow, but they have a few obstacles in their way. I loved the music and the sweeping landscapes, but it’s a hilarious film. Yep, there’s an old naked guy riding a motorcycle, but the story of a lifelong friendship is honest and heartwarming.

2. Undertaking Betty

Ok, so obviously, my family is into black comedies set in the United Kingdom, and this was another library find. From 2002, this movie starts with your typical love triangle-quagmire: Man loves woman who is married to another man, who is cheating on her with his secretary. Did I mention Man #1 is an undertaker? After confessing his love for Betty, Boris Plots and the object of his affection hatch a plan to take her out of her joke of a marriage to the town’s mayor… there’s just that whole “till death do us part” technicality. If anything, watch it for Christopher Walken, who plays the town’s other undertaker, staging flamboyant “fun-erals” that feature showgirls and Spock ears.

3. Pirate Radio

This is another one where I can’t quite remember how I discovered it, but I’m glad I did. Released in 2009 in the UK as The Boat That Rocked, it is based on the true story of a “pirate radio” crew, anchored in the international waters of the North Sea. In the 60s, BBC radio wouldn’t play rock and pop music, depriving the masses of The Beatles, The Kinks, Martha and the Vandellas, and other artists of the time. A certain government minister (played by Kenneth Branagh) decides to put an end to this attack on British sensibilities, and puts his deputy (Jack Davenport, known better as Admiral James Norrington of Pirates of the Carribean) to the task. The rogue gang of DJs, led by The Count (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), refuse to let their hope, and love of the music, sink. I love this movie, and here’s why: 1. The soundtrack is incredible. I was raised on classic rock and pop of the 60s, and the soundtrack of this movie just makes me smile. 2. I’m kind of a sucker for “fight the power” movies3. This was my introduction to Chris O’Dowd — the adorable police officer from last summer’s Bridesmaids. Nick Frost (of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and Bill Nighy also star. If you get this movie through Netflix, I must tell you to watch the extra and deleted scenes. At a full 45 minutes of bonus scenes, some of the best material can be found here.

4. The Secret of Kells

I had this film in my Netflix instant queue for a while before I got around to it, but after watching it, I regretted putting it off for so long. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this film from 2009 for small children, since some parts could be a little frightening for them, but I think older kids and certainly adults will be able to appreciate the beautiful, hand drawn animation. Set a couple of centuries before Brave, this is the fictionalized story of the creation of The Book of Kells, an ancient Irish text that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. This movie weaves Irish mythology with the real history of brutal Viking invasions, told through imagery based on traditional Irish art. Young Brendan is living in a monastery outpost, serving as an apprentice to the master illuminator who is finishing the book. In order to finish it, Brendan must overcome his fears and journey into the enchanted forest. There, he meets a young forest spirit named Aisling, who helps him along the way. The movie takes some very dark turns, but if you’re into either Ireland or mythology, this one’s for you.

5. Midnight in Paris

I’ve never been crazy about Woody Allen… his style is kind of an acquired taste, but his love letter to Paris is a good place to start. It was released just last year, and I do remember seeing it playing a few theaters, but I was always heading there to see something else. This rom-com fantasy stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter who wants to start writing serious novels, but he is just one of the many big names in this film. Gil is visiting Paris on a business trip with his dream-crushing fiance (Rachel McAdams) and her skeptical parents, and they run into friends from home, a know-it-all husband and his naive wife, who insist on spending time together. In need of some alone time to explore the city he adores, Gil takes off on a midnight stroll, only to be transported to Paris of the Roaring Twenties. Here, we’re introduced to the celebrities of the age, including F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and his wife, Zelda; Ernest Hemingway; Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates); Pablo Picasso; Salvadore Dali (Adrien Brody); T.S. Eliot, and a handful of other famous artists. While I’ve never been big into time travel films (especially the other one starring McAdams), this is not one to be missed.

I hope you’ve found these recommendations interesting. Let me know if you watch one of them. Right now, I’m highly anticipating the nationwide release of Moonrise Kingdom. (Watch more Wes Anderson films if you don’t already, please. Bill Murray in madras!)