Time to Reboot Star Wars?

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just asking the question.

Thinking about Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars brand and movies etc. it just made me wonder. I love the Original Trilogy and pretty much despair at the prequels-  so I should of course be as much worried as I am excited at the very idea of seeing another Trilogy of films.  But I got to thinking, are the OT films old hat, dated, boring to new generations?  Does the idea of a guy with a laser sword make current audiences yawn? Rightly or wrongly, it got me thinking, is it time for a Star Wars reboot?

After all, we live in an age where the Spider-man films got a sudden reboot after three very successful (well, financially at least) entries. The original creative team was axed and all the parts recast, with even the origin story being retold. Ang Lee’s Hulk was followed by a complete reboot, with new creative team, the parts recast. Likewise the Superman Returns, itself a reboot, is being followed by another reboot via next year’s Man Of Steel. It could be argued that Prometheus was itself  more a reboot of the Alien franchise than a ‘proper’ prequel to the original Alien.  J.J.Abrams’ reboot of the original Star Trek reset the entire timeline of a forty-plus-year franchise continuity, competely wiping the slate clean of an entire mythology. The James Bond series has been given a slow-motion reboot over the course of three entire films. We have seen several people playing Batman culminating with a huge paradigm shift via Christopher Nolan’s reboot, and I have no doubt that now Nolan has left the franchise another reboot won’t be far behind.

We live in the age of the reboot. A time when intellectual properties are rebuilt for new generations, archetypes redesigned and shaped to the tastes and aesthetic of new audiences. Technologies have moved on. Disney’s John Carter was, in my mind, a very fine Star Wars-type pulp adventure fairly faithful to its roots but was utterly ignored by the public and panned by the critical establishment.

The fate of John Carter would never be shared by a new Star Wars film simply because of the power of the intellectual property- failing any negative fallout from the prequels, a new Star Wars film simply cannot, will not fail. Even  The Phantom Menace in its recent 3D makeover picked up a tidy sum (utterly baffling me, but what the hell do I know?). But the response to John Carter, which to me was everything the prequels should have been, must be some cause for concern. Disney didn’t buy Star Wars with some strange idea to make a fast buck with a new sure-thing Trilogy. Disney are surely in this for the long haul. Fifty years from now if physical media still exists, people might be buying a Star Wars box set as big as the new Bond 50 set.

So with Disney now relaunching Star Wars, is there a temptation to just go with a clean slate and reboot the whole thing? Now clearly that won’t be happening, as it seems the studio has story treatments from Lucas indicating a continuation of the saga post-Jedi. But would Disney be wiser just rebooting the whole thing rather than continuing it? Heresy for all fans like me, yes, but looking at how the industry has operated these past ten years with all the reboots etc, does it make sense to rebuild the saga for a new generation, as all those other franchises and intellectual properties have been? Is Star Wars too old, is there any life left in Sith and Jedi and droids and Ewoks and Wookies as they currently exist, when audiences have been wowed by Matrix films and Avatar?  Has Lucas wisely flogged off a tired franchise at the perfect time, at a price above what its worth?

Afterall, James Cameron is working on another two Avatar films, a franchise that might be cannily described as a Star Wars saga for the new generation. Just as Lucas cannibalised historical themes and characters and situations from earlier sci-fi like Flash Gordon and John Carter, as well as Dune and Lord of The Rings, so did James Cameron with Avatar. Neither franchise is particularly original, instead building on earlier works and genres. Many of the Star Wars archetypes and functions exist in Cameron’s universe (for instance the mooted return of Sigourney Weaver’s character in Avatar 2 is surely a nod to Ben Kenobi’s return in TESB). In a decade of two new Avatar films, will Star Wars still cut the mustard?

From an artistic and fanboy standpoint, the very idea of a Star Wars reboot must sound like heresy  but from a business standpoint, does it actually make more sense than simply going on with Episodes 7, 8 and 9?

Should a new, rebooted Star Wars start, pre- A New Hope, with Darth Vader kicking ass and hunting down Jedi post-Empire’s rise? Should a new generation of rebels challenge the evil Empire? Should the ‘classic’ story be retold with new technologies, new cast, newly designed worlds and cg-characters? Would that sell easier to a new generation with its smartphones, tablets and ipods and Facebook accounts?

Does that beloved Original Trilogy still have a place in this new world that feels so distant from the 1970s that gave it birth? Is Lucas stepping aside his own admission of that?



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