|Photo from a Disney corporate retreat|
The news that Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion is the kind of thing that ordinarily would be a short item in the business section (old media version) or one of those Hollywood Reporter tweets people who aren't professional industry journalists ignore (new media version). What makes this different is not that The Mouse just straight up unzipped, because that's happened before (Pixar, Marvel, etc), but that the company being bought out is Lucasfilm, as in George Lucas, as in Star Wars. And, of course, The Mouse wasted no time in saying, there's gonna be a new Star Wars movie in 2015.
I've written before about my mixed feelings about the Star Wars sextet, and that five of them secretly kind of suck, so I'm not all up in arms kvelling about how the purity of the Star Wars brand is going to be besmirched. First of all, Star Wars was never about anything other than money; why the fuck do you think the thing George Lucas put the most energy into securing in his contract for the first movie was the toy rights? That was his whole idea, before the first movie took off and took on a pop cultural life of its own. People can talk all they like about Star Wars being their childhood, and hey, I'm no one to judge: I spent those same formative years worshipping Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Dudikoff movies. But there was never anything completely innocent here.
If anything, the Evil White Guys In Suits over there at The Mouse are more likely to make another Star Wars movie that's any good than George Lucas is, with his enormous, life-consuming ambivalence about the movies that will be at the very latest after one comma in the first sentence of his obituary. Say what you will about The Mouse—and I say some colorful things indeed—but they are very smart about the way they maximize profits. Their fuckups, like John Carter, are few and far between, and they learn from their mistakes, so any plans they have for Star Wars are likely to be subject to some pretty strict quality control, ironically considerably more than Lucas had in “writing” and directing those prequel turds. People who want to see Star Wars movies that are actually good movies should be pleased that someone else is going to be making them now.
But more than that, what The Mouse is going to be making here is money. Fucktons of it. In the novel Cloud Atlas—hey, why don't you check out my review of the movie adaptation at Tor.com? Do it—there's a storyline set in the 22nd century, where all movies are referred to as “disneys,” and this acquisition of Lucasfilm is one step closer by The Mouse to that kind of total market domination of American (and by extension basically global) entertainment. While the Star Wars thing is going to be greatest source of nerd rage/squee in this whole thing, the bottom line is that this is The Walt Disney Corporation flexing its nuts and reminding us all “We major.”
And you know what? Setting all cracks about Evil White Guys In Suits and the memetics of control in which their movies traffic, and old Walt's really nasty personal history viz a vis Jews and Nazis aside for a second, a round of applause to the Disney Corporation. Personally I'd rather there were societal (governmental?) checks on runaway corporate power, because you don't even need to go to OCP's reign of terror in Robocop to see the results of that, we fucking LARPed it for eight years under George W. Bush. But when all companies are doing is making assloads of money and not doing any (real) harm in doing so, have at it. This is America. There is no one better at what they do than Disney. Mickey Mouse is a fucking OG.
Okay, let's go back to those things we just set aside: oy. Does Disney have to fucking own all the things? The same respect for freedom and ability that allows me on one hand to respect their being really good at what they do makes me look at the fact that it's them that are this good at what they do and get a little uncomfortable. The Disney machine has been behind a lot of great movies—the magnificent run Miramax experienced as their specialty division in the 90s is one of many highlights—but there's a wide streak in entirely too many of their movies that exists to reinforce the existing order without question. It's a benign order, non-threatening in every overt way, but it is order nonetheless. Once Disney reaches its logical conclusion and controls fucking everything, we can only hope that they lean more on the “benign” side of things, rather than on “OBEY.” On the other hand, Donald Duck being Minister of the Interior might mean happy days for dudes with anger management issues, lousy diction, and an aversion to pants, which will work out great for me.
(EDIT 10/31/12: You should also probably read Isaac Butler's far more articulate take on this subject over at Parabasis.)