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This story first appeared in the Feb. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Seven movies in 33 years. That has been the Star Wars output while George Lucas ran Lucasfilm. And that scarcity has been a big part of fans’ lust for The Force. So Disney CEO Bob Iger‘s Feb. 6 reveal that Episodes VII, VIII and IX will be joined by spinoff movies (Han Solo and Boba Fett are rumored to be getting stand-alones) is causing some to wonder whether it’s too much of a good thing.
“I dearly hope that this new crop of talented filmmakers will expand the world of Star Wars, not retread familiar ground or provide unnecessary backstory to characters who don’t need it,” says Zack Stentz, co-writer of X-Men: First Class.
Of course, even the threat of at least five new Star Wars movies — J.J. Abrams‘ Episode VII is slated for 2015 — is doing wonders for Disney’s stock, which closed at $54.75 on Feb. 11, up 11 percent since the Lucasfilm purchase. But it is possible to overexpose a good thing. In the ’90s, Star Trek had two TV series and regular features — until audiences stopped watching. “Reboots and straight sequels can exhaust a franchise, but a continuing saga like Star Wars doesn’t belong in that category,” counters writer Zak Penn, who helped Marvel with The Avengers. “I liken it more to Terminator or even The Matrix. I’d still pay to see stories set in those worlds; even — and maybe because — I still have a bad taste in my mouth from more recent installments.” Plus, Lucas never has shied from exploiting his creation.
“Now part of the Disney empire, Star Wars will become as ubiquitous as Starbucks,” says filmmaker Kevin Smith. “It’s now as American as baseball and apple pie and as universal as Coca-Cola. In our current business climate of outsourcing, Star Wars may be America’s last remaining dependable export. So it’s a good thing they’re taking the expanded universe approach: giving Yoda, Boba Fett and Han Solo their own movies is creatively and financially ingenious. Grouse though they may that it’s not ‘their Star Wars‘, every old-school fan will line up to see a Yoda origin story, or to see David Borneaz as a a young Han Solo winning the Millennium Falcon from Donald Glover‘s baby-faced Lando Calrissian (Yeah, I’m calling it here!).”
Smith adds, “You can’t call it the commodification of Star Wars because the creator himself first commodified Star Wars a long, long time ago in a decade far, far away with toys and bed sheets and inflatable light sabers. Star Wars has always been big business. It’s a roller-coaster ride in a theme park: thrilling, fun and good for repeat business. And as you leave the ride, you’re compelled to buy a T-shirt and snow globe memento. Disney paid billions for Star Wars, but with the JJ news and now this subsequent info about the spinoff flicks, they’re gonna make double what they paid in the first 10 years alone. After that, the financial Force will be with them. Always.”
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