Episode VII: The Franchise Strikes Back
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02
Star Wars Episodes I-III
A long time ago (1977 to be precise), in theaters across the country, director George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise established its dominion. After James Bond, Star Wars is domestically the second highest grossing franchise of all time, at an adjusted $4.45 billion. The original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) followed the narrative of Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance reclaiming the galaxy from the tyranny of the Galactic Empire, established by Darth Vader, fallen Jedi and father of Luke. Beginning in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, a new prequel trilogy did just the opposite, outlining the demise of a benevolent order of Jedi Knights, protectors of the Galactic Republic. Through a clone invasion funded by the Trade Federation, and the betrayal of Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), the Republic falls. Completed by Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), the franchise’s revitalization received a mixed critical consensus, but incredible commercial success. Spanning 31 years, the 6-installment story of Anakin Skywalker, the predominant Christ figure of popular film, captured the minds of young and old alike, and created the precedent for the American blockbuster. – J.W.
Star Wars Episodes VII-IX and the Disney Era
On Oct. 30, 2012, Lucasfilm, the studio responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, passed from the independent holding of director/producer George Lucas to The Walt Disney Company, at a price of $4.05 billion. Although at face a bleeding gash in the integrity of the Star Wars brand, in truth the acquisition is an expensive formality—besides the Steve Jobs estate, Lucas has the largest independent stake in Disney, and Star Wars attractions have been appearing in Disney parks since 1987. Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg’s longtime production partner, is currently being transitioned in as president of Lucasfilm. Director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) and screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) are teaming together to create Episode VII, the first installment in a new Star Wars trilogy. Original actors Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) are all rumored to make a return in Episode VII. Along with the upcoming trilogy, expected to land in theaters in 2015, the production of several standalone Star Wars films has been confirmed by Disney CEO Bob Iger, set to focus on individual Star Wars characters. As the wise Admiral Ackbar once stated, “It’s a trap!” – J.W.
The prospect of J.J Abrams resurrecting the Star Trek franchise in 2009 was unnerving for most Trekkies—after decades of ill-conceived reboots, the star-crossed lovers of the franchise seemed fated to be hurt again. But alas, the $140 million film escaped the black hole of commercial destruction, and tactfully expanded the galaxy of a once-collapsing franchise. Through its elaborate plot driven by means of time travel, Abrams’ Star Trek manages to redraft the ailing saga without starting over per se. Star Trek serves as a political metaphor, with Captain Kirk signifying our humanity, brashness, and fallibility, and the Vulcan Spock our idealism, sagacity, and high-minded virtue—the ultimate prescription being both characters are essential to the survival of the Enterprise. Chris Pine, a relatively unknown actor, revived the role of Kirk, made iconic in the 1966 television series by William Shatner. Zachary Quinto played Spock. This May, Abrams is set to once again strengthen the gravity of the franchise, with Star Trek Into Darkness. The film follows the U.S.S. Enterprise as its crew investigates a violent attack on Earth. - J.W.
“It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Superman!” Comic book fans certainly know who he is, but there’s no denying that the red and blue spandex wearing superhero has been fairly elusive ever since the conclusion of the films starring Christopher Reeve. The character, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1932, appeared in movies as early as 1951, but when Ilya, Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler purchased the hero’s film rights in 1974, the franchise really took off. Though the popularity of the Reeve movies dwindled as they progressed through the ’80s—the third and fourth being notably poor—the series was important in establishing the character’s popularity. For years, film companies and directors seemed to stay clear of the franchise, as if it was kryptonite itself, and it wasn’t until 2006 that director Bryan Singer created an alternate sequel to the last two Superman movies, Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). However, Superman Returns (2006) was just as unsuccessful. Despite the continued failed endeavors, Warner Bros. Pictures, with Zack Snyder (300) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy), is working on a Superman reboot. Man of Steel will star Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, and it is set for release in June 2013. Considering Superman’s past, the franchise needs a flying success with Man of Steel, and hopefully, under new direction, it will get just that. – A.I.