So, there you are. Disney bought Lucasfilm. Unexpected, but not exactly surprising, given Disney’s voracious appetite over the last few years. The news made me think a number of things, some of which follow in no particular order.
- I bet you someone’s going to blink in 2015. If they don’t, it might be the Year of the Century as far as geek movies goes. Currently scheduled: Avatar 2, Star Wars VII, The Avengers 2, Justice League, and why not add Hunger Games 2 in there as well, just for the heck of it, though that’s a slightly different audience. There’s not enough room for all of those in the same blockbuster season, is there? My money’s on Justice League (a) bouncing around nervously trying to find a release date that gives it a fighting chance, and (b) not being terribly good anyway.
- Intellectual Property rules. We really do live in an age when the value of IP is so gigantic as to be almost impossible for us mere mortals to grasp. But some IP is more equal than other IP. It’s only a select few brands that have real (i.e. prodiguous) value to the mega-corporations. And it’s much easier for those same mega-corporations to let someone else do the high-risk work of actually coming up with new IP and then buy it up once it’s a proven property, just as it’s often easier for the IT/digital mega-corporations to buy up nascent competitors than it is for them to keep innovating across the board themselves. When did Disney last create a truly new ‘brand’ of any consequence inhouse? Can’t think of one even remotely recent one off the top of my head, but there must be one surely …?
- I’m not a serious fan of the Star Wars universe – I know nothing about it other than what’s in the films – though I certainly like Episodes IV-VI. As an almost disinterested observer without any emotional investment, therefore, I can’t really see a particular downside to this deal, creatively speaking. Anything that let’s someone else have a go at taking things forward seems like an entirely good idea, given the dog’s breakfast that Lucasfilm made of Episodes I-III when left to their own devices. I’m cautiously confident that Disney would never have allowed a dismal, soul-less mess like The Phantom Menace out of their building. I’d be staggered if Episodes VII-IX aren’t a huge step up in terms of quality compared to that. Which can only be a good thing, can’t it? I sincerely hope making George Lucas a ‘creative consultant’ or whatever he’s called now is a token gesture that will ensure he doesn‘t actually exert much influence over the filmic content. Guy deserves a quiet retirement, and Star Wars fans deserve his quiet retirement too.
- Imagine this, for a moment: one day, you have an idea for a story. It could be anything; just a hint of a narrative. From that – nothing tangible, just an idea for a story – it is these days theoretically possible to become a billionaire. You don’t have to invent anything, you don’t need an engineering or a computing degree. You just need – at its most basic – an idea, a pencil and some paper. And that could land you $4 billion dollars somewhere down the line; in fact, a great deal more than that when you factor in all the income Lucas has already pocketed. And it’s not like he’s the only one. J.K.Rowling’s not exactly done badly out of the story idea game. It’s amazing.
- And imagine this other thing, for a moment: almost all of the most valuable IP in the world at the moment is speculative fiction. SF and/or fantasy. Almost all of it, perhaps even all of it, because I can’t offhand think of a global IP mega-brand that isn’t some kind of sf. I stand to be corrected, but either way: speculative fiction, collectively, is the most popular and commercially valuable kind of fiction, bar none. At least from a movie and merchandising point of view. Yay! Go us, I guess.
- Was Star Wars actually the start of this IP-obsessed, Monopoly money world in which we now live? Did George Lucas unknowingly prefigure all that was to come way back in 1977? I can’t think of anything that came before it that has turned out to be so symbolic of the way the IP world has gone.