Yesterday’s news that George Lucas had sold his entire Star Wars empire to Disney basically short-circuited my brain for a few hours. I was a Star Wars kid, as most of my generation were. (I turned three years old the summer the original film was released.) I grew up playing with the toys. I remember standing in line at the cinema the day Return of the Jedi was released. I edited my university’s student newspaper and made the 1997 special-edition re-release front-page news. Suffice to say, it was a big part of my life for a long time.
Now? Not so much. Some of my disinterest certainly stems from disappointment with the prequels. Some is from disillusionment over the endless merchandizing. Some is likely just a result of me getting older. Star Wars just isn’t something I think much about any more, even if it’s still a big enough part of my DNA that I showed the original film to my six-year-old daughter for the first time just a few weeks ago and was excited to do so. Will the Disney deal change that and get me enthused about Star Wars once more? Maybe. There’s no doubt it’s exciting to think about top-tier storytellers getting to play around in that particular sandbox. It’s been clear for a while that nothing particularly fruitful was going to come on the Star Wars front while Lucas remained in charge. So a franchise badly in need of some fresh blood and new ideas is going to get just that.
And yet, interestingly, the news today has me looking backward more than forward. Quite honestly it’s made me feel old. While the sale of Lucasfilm may very well lead to the best Star Wars movie since the early 1980s being released, it also means the franchise is now just another cog in the Disney corporate machine. When I think about Star Wars, I don’t think about corporations. I think about the vision of one guy being supported by a team of FX artists doing things with film that were supposed to be impossible. I think about the Time magazines published the months that Empire and Jedi were originally released (with Vader’s visage on one and Lucas’s on the other) that I still have stuffed in a drawer somewhere. The Empire issue has a sidebar where Lucas details his nine-film plan, at the time a mind-blowing revelation. I think about how I used to watch the older “making of” docs, with Lucas personally inspecting the space-alien puppets being cranked out at an ILM workshop.
Now, with the Disney deal, all of that seems part of an already fading past. Even though Lucas was clearly no longer a good steward for the franchise, his departure makes it feel like the book has finally been closed, once and for all, on the Star Wars I grew up with and adored with all of my space-opera-loving heart. You know that scene in Star Wars where Luke gazes out at Tatooine’s twin sunset, feeling incredibly sad about what’s been lost but also realizing that it’s time to get on with his life and accept whatever adventures come next? Yeah, it feels a lot like that.