The Star Wars IP: Moving Forward

With the recent release of a video by EA entailing a look ahead at the future of Star Wars games I found this to be a good opportunity to talk about Star Wars as an IP and where it’s headed.

One of the things that creative directors do best when it comes to Star Wars, is iterate on common tropes of the past. We’ve seen this countless times in the original trilogy and we’re still seeing it now. George Lucas excelled at creating something new while taking bits and pieces of his vision from personal influences. It’s almost as if it’s being thrown at us constantly. Influences such as John Ford and Akira Kurosawa are heavily purveyed throughout the entirety of the saga. And not to mention his affinity for Flash Gordon. These influences played a huge role in making Star Wars what it is today.

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“The Searchers” – John Ford (1956)
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“The Hidden Fortress” – Akira Kurosawa (1958)
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“Flash Gordon” (1936)

Although George Lucas is no longer closely involved in the production of the sequel trilogy, J.J. Abrams successfully managed to carry on with the same influences that made the originals great. We see this more than once in The Force Awakens, right down to the composition of every shot. It’s hard to miss when you take queues from some of the most influential pieces in cinematic history…

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“Seven Samurai” – Akira Kurosawa (1954)

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“Seven Samurai” – Akira Kurosawa (1954)

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“Triumph of the Will” (1935)

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The roots of Star Wars and its assets are deep, but I’m sure many of you didn’t expect it to be THAT deep. Even I was surprised to see the shots lined up with such precision. The crew for TFA was not playing around…

With the recent success of The Force Awakens, and the oncoming hype of the highly anticipated “Rogue One”, I wonder what the future will hold for the franchise. Will we be getting something totally new, or more of the same? Well I may be speculating, but at this point in time, I think we should expect a bit of everything. Ironically I’d like to use Star Trek as an example. With Star Trek, you’ve got all kinds of choices. You’ve got TOS, TNG, Voyager, DS9, Enterprise, Star Trek (2009), Into Darkness, First Contact, Generations, Nemesis, Insurrection, The Motion Picture Saga, and pretty soon we’ll be getting Star Trek Beyond as well as a new TV series. My point is, with Star Trek, you have so much to choose from when it comes to movies/TV. Yet with Star Wars, it doesn’t quite work that way. While the Star Wars IP includes tons of books, comics, games, etc., so far, there are only 10 entries into the new canon as far as movies/TV go. So it would only be natural for the creative teams at Lucasfilm to start reeling in some new stories, some may be brought back from the old EU and I’m positive that we will receive tons of new original content as well. I would even go so far to say that eventually we will get a Star Wars Netflix series bringing on closer bond with home-entertainment (fingers crossed).

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a tremendous rise in the hype for the future of the franchise. Some of that hype has even been responsible for outstanding fan-made productions such as: Darth Maul: Apprentice, Rebel Scum, and Kara. And it doesn’t seem like that will come to a halt any time soon.

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“Darth Maul: Apprentice” – Shawn Bu (2016)

 

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“Rebel Scum” – Timothy Van Nguyen (2016)

 

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“Kara” – Joe Sill (2016)

With things like the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, there has been more and more opportunities building up for fans. And with the progression of technology, even fans have access to the resources they require for a production with the same values as any of the official films. These days, all it really takes is a cool idea with a rich story and a guy with maybe a Blackmagic cinema camera or even one of the higher end RED cameras. I’ve even seen the amazing things you can do with a DSLR or a Mirrorless like the Sony A7SII. And of course, that’s not all that matters, but it certainly is a starting point for most people. Getting people together for the production can be the tricky part. But even so, fans have been able to produce a standard of work that we have not seen before. This is only aided by the fact that we have platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, or even Facebook, to share these creations with the rest of the world. And the best part of all of this, is that Lucasfilm encourages people to make these sort of films. Which is odd to many people considering that many other franchises do not provide such an opportunity. Again, using Star Trek as an example, we recently  observed a group of people producing the fan-made film “Axanar” being sued by Paramount. Why? Well that could be largely attributed to the fact that any production, big or small, requires funding. The team producing Axanar was able to raise an adequate amount to produce a full-length feature, over $1 Million to be exact. And while that may not even be close to the amount needed for a blockbuster, it’s certainly more than most fan-made productions ever receive. (However, it must also be noted that the lawsuit was recently dropped.)

Now, seeing as many fan-made Star Wars films use crowdfunding extensively, it’s a relief to see that Disney/Lucasfilm are welcoming these productions with open-arms. But it’s not just in cinema, it’s also flourishing in the gaming industry. Even though we’ve seen an official release of Star Wars: Battlefront, fans have gone to great lengths to re-create what would have been the 3rd installment in the continuation of the original Battlefront series.

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As the release of Galaxy of Turmoil is yet to be announced, fans remain eager to see more. With not a lot going on right now with Rogue One, fans have something to look forward to (in hopes of it getting released sooner) with this fan-made iteration of a game many of us cherished so much back in the early 2000s.

The Star Wars IP as a whole has had its ups and downs over the years. Over the last two years we’ve witnessed what many would call a purge of the EU and since then we’ve also watched the development a rich plethora of content for fans to indulge in with a little bit of something for everyone. And while Star Wars has been significantly impacted by influences from the past, we’re also seeing Star Wars become its own influence. We’ve seen words, phrases, and numbers, constantly be re-iterated throughout the films, comics, books, and games. A good example would be the word “Starkiller”. Not only was it the name used for the super-sized battle station in The Force Awakens,  it was also used as the alias for Galen Marek in The Force Unleashed. We constantly see these kinds of re-iterations thrown around in different parts of the timeline.

Seeing as how a majority fans have been satisfied for the most part with the new entries into the canon, the Star Wars IP seems to be taking things in the right direction. And so long as it continues, that galaxy far, far away will only continue to expand only increasing its influence. As I’m sure many would agree, Star Wars itself is easily attributable to history and mythology. So Star Wars, in many ways, is an iteration of something that has already been created, just re-worked for the common era. At times, I’ve found myself questioning what has made Star Wars what it is today. What makes it such a phenomena? And now seeing the direction the IP itself is taking, I realized that while many attribute it to George Lucas’ vision, what truly makes Star Wars the global phenomena that it is today, is the people behind it all, who worked in collaboration, to put together something that can not only be seen, but it can also be felt. We all find ourselves identifying with at least one character at some point in our lives and it only makes the bond with the franchise that much more personal. I’m sure many of us can also recall a time in our youth where we played with our Star Wars action figures and made up our own stories and our own battles for the sake of wanting to feel like we’re a part of that universe. And I’m sure that even today, we still feel it. As Maz Kanata said, “It calls to you”.

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