Moises and Beaks have the news aspect covered, so I thought I'd chime in with what I think all this means for us STAR WARS fans. I admit, this news has me giddy, because it's brought me back into the fold. It didn't take much. But the idea that STAR WARS would continue without George Lucas makes me happy - come on, doesn't it make you a little bit happy that he's moving on? For one thing, at some point, George Lucas signed off on this:
Let's get past all that now. Because it's now in the hands of Disney, and they will treat STAR WARS like... well, like a product. That's both good and bad. Because Disney will be sensitive to the opinions of fans the world over, we won't see many decisions made along the lines of Jar-Jar Binks, or the above video. And yet... it's a product, and we may be good and sick of STAR WARS this time ten years from now. I remember the merchandising juggernaut that was STAR WARS back in the 1980s... this will be something else, playing on kids just entering the universe, and adults nostalgic for it all... $4 billion? Disney's going to make that back easily. Let's also not forget about Indiana Jones, which will surely return, perhaps rebooted and reimagined, with a new lead actor.
I even read somewhere today about someone suggesting Indiana Jones team up with Howard Stark now that both characters are under the Disney umbrella, which tells me that the Age of Fan Fiction has truly arrived. I'm sure that won't happen - STAR WARS and Indiana Jones are definitely their own thing and I would think Lucasfilm, under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, would be very careful about how these characters are used - but who knows? It's a product. Always has been, and now under Disney, will be for many years.
This may seem like I'm pessimistic, but that's far from the truth. I'm genuinely excited to see these films unleashed from Lucas's bondage and set free among brilliant minds who have grown up with this universe and are now free to play in it. Already there's a ton of speculation on who should step up and direct the next one. I think fandom will demand a respectable name to at least direct the first movie, and although there are brilliant directors doing their own original work, I can't imagine a one of them turning down the opportunity to make a STAR WARS movie... as long as they are given that freedom. I'm also mighty curious about what this next trilogy will be about - I can only hope that the next three movies will continue with the story of the Skywalker family, but there's no reason why they can't deviate from that story strand. I'd love for Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, or Billy Dee Williams returning in some fashion, even if it's just a cameo, which would be likely. Perhaps Hamill can play Luke along the lines that Alec Guinness played Ben Kenobi, as a wise mentor (who then gets killed, perhaps).
George Lucas stated about the Prequels that they echoed the original movies, and I'd be curious to see if these next three do the same. But we could speculate all day on what these stories would be. I'm more curious as to what this means for the ancillary products - STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, which is actually getting quite good now, or the Expanded Universe books and whether or not they would be incorporated into canon in the new movie, or even the long-rumored live-action television show, which I'd imagine is somewhat impacted by this new news. Obviously this won't affect toy sales much if at all. We'll probably see even more sales as new characters are introduced.
So... who's going to make this new movie? Lucas, as "creative consultant," says he won't be hands-on, but we all know from experience and years of meddling that that's far from the truth. This is not 1979, as Lucas fretted over Irvin Kershner's EMPIRE, or Lucas totally dominating Richard Marquand on JEDI. Disney owns STAR WARS now, and will be very conscious as to how the new movie will proceed. With news entering the fansphere at hyperspeed pace, every tidbit of the new movie will be examined like so many tea leaves, and if Lucas begins to try to assert some control over his baby, he may find that Disney will not take too kindly to any of his interference. This is all speculation, of course , from the video released today, Lucas seemed genuinely relieved to be passing along the torch. So it's up to Disney to find someone who would be willing not only to shepherd the first film into existence, but perhaps the remaining two in the trilogy as well.
All I can hope is that they find a director who, when asked about their favorite STAR WARS movie, says without hesitation, "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK." I hope they find an Edgar Wright, or a Rian Johnson, or even a Brad Bird or a Neill Blomkamp, who would be willing to play in this universe without sacrificing too much the intrinsic voice they have as artists. People clamoring for Joss Whedon can forget it - THE AVENGERS is his baby, and he's sticking with those stories for a while yet. I even thought Ben Affleck, of all people, would be a fine choice - he may not have the vision or imagination for STAR WARS, but he has a certain blue-collar workingman aspect to his movies that would probably suit STAR WARS just fine, especially in character development, which for me at this point is the most important aspect for these new movies to get right. But I do think that fans will want a trusted soul to take over the reins, and not a no-name director. If anything is to restore the confidence of fans, finding a director that clicks with both the material and the fanbase is an absolute must.
What will the new movies be about? If this is parts VII through IX of this saga, then obviously a key component will be gone, and that's the story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, still the most compelling and my personal favorite character of the saga. I still think Hayden Christensen did fine in REVENGE OF THE SITH and ATTACK OF THE CLONES - he's no Olivier, but he got the job done. That character, obviously, is gone from the new movies, so I'm curious to know who these new movies will anchor around. Will it be Luke? His child, perhaps, or the child of Han and Leia? Will this follow the Expanded Universe at all? I'd actually prefer that they didn't and let the movies do their own thing. Those books, while enjoyable, have created a storyline now that is so convoluted that regular folks who are just coming at STAR WARS from the movies would be hopelessly lost. As for Vader, they shouldn't cheat by bringing him back, but I'd love to see how the impact of his character resonates in the new movies.
Finally, Fox still owns distribution of the original movies, and it's unclear if that's in perpetuity or if that expires with this new deal. I'd imagine now that we'll get new Blu-Rays of the original movies, and that this time they'll be the ORIGINAL original movies. George Lucas isn't standing over their shoulder anymore, and fans demand it, and so it will happen, there's just too much money to be made. How Fox and Disney work that out is anyone's guess, but I'd be very surprised if we didn't hear something within the next year or two. As for the Prequels, I think that they will likely continue to be enjoyed by future generations (even if their Gen X parents and grandparents scoff), and that includes THE CLONE WARS (which turned out rather well, I thought). But now that Disney has huge money and power to play in this universe, I really have no idea what happens next for STAR WARS.
And that is incredibly exciting to me. I remember seeing it for the first time in 1977, and having my life changed - as was many of yours. This is the best thing to happen to STAR WARS since... well, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I'm back in the fold again. I feel young again. Thank you, George, for handing this off for new artists, writers, and filmmakers. For STAR WARS to truly live, this needed to happen, and I could not be happier. May the Force be with us all tonight, and with Disney as they embark on this journey to a galaxy far, far away.