Star Wars Episode VII: A New Hope or A Phantom Menace?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas made movie making history with his original Star Wars trilogy. Now Lucas is selling his empire to Disney, which has announced plans to make yet another Star Wars film. The new film, the seventh in the saga, is set to be released in 2015 with even more films likely to follow. This move by Lucas has prompted a range of emotions in fans, from fury to relief. The question now is, will Disney be able to honor the legacy of the franchise?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the original Star Wars trilogy captivated the imaginations of a whole generation of moviegoers and brought science fiction into mainstream popular culture. “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” broke the box office record previously set by Steven Spielburg’s “Jaws” and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

In 1999, Lucas released the first installment in the prequel trilogy to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This film received a mixed critical response with nominations for Academy Awards for special effects a generally sour response towards the story and the characters. There was an especially harsh response from fans of the original trilogy to the character of Jar Jar Binks, played by Ahmed Best, who figured prominently in the film as a sort of comic relief.

“As a long time fan (I saw the original when I was 4 1/2 in the drive-in theater) I am extremely hopeful. Based on how much worse the second trilogy got, I can only see it get better,” Steven Devala, Rosemont Ridge Middle School science teacher said. “There will be no Jar Jar, and… wait, that’s all I needed to say. The fact that Lucas won’t direct it is okay with me. He has turned into a special effects junkie, and [the series] needs to return to its more realistic roots.”

    At least some of the backlash to the film can be attributed to its massive hype (there were 16 years intervening between the release of the film and the last of the original trilogy). But it is a general consensus among fans that the original trilogy is far superior to the newer films.

There has been a lot of discontent among fans about the home video releases of the films, starting with the special edition release of the original trilogy in 1997, in which Lucas digitally remastered video and audio in the film, added in some computer generated animation and changed some minor dialogue. This was when fans of the original trilogy really turned on Lucas and accused him of making changes to the films for his own financial gain. These criticisms were voiced again after the DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases of the films.

“Many people lost respect for [Lucas] after the prequel trilogy, but I lost my respect for him after his Blu-ray release of the saga,” Cyrus Shiva, senior, and long time fan, said. “He digitally added or changed unnecessary things to the classic films, which is what no fan growing up watching those films wanted. The franchise to him became more about the money than a love for storytelling and filmmaking.”

Despite the criticism over the last decade and a half, fans still love Star Wars and many see Lucas’s letting go of the franchise as a positive. Fans believe that Lucas held the recent films back and are excited at the prospect of a new director and screenwriter taking the reigns.

“[I] really hope that they get Brad Bird to direct the new film. He’s the director of “The Incredibles” and “Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol.” I think he’d do a great job with the film stylistically and bring to the screen a unique vision of the saga,” Shiva said.

Michael Arndt, who wrote the screenplay for the films “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Toy Story 3,” has recently been announced as the screenwriter for the new film. It’s this level of creative talent that has made many Star Wars fans hopeful for the future of the franchise, and whether or not future films live up to their expectations, it appears that yet another generation will have Star Wars films to call their own.