MUELLER: ‘Star Wars’ strikes back

MUELLER: 'Star Wars' strikes back

A long time ago …

In the galaxy we live in …

There was a franchise called “Star Wars,” and we loved it. Well, we loved half of it. George Lucas’ original intergalactic trilogy is one of the most beloved and widely known series of films in the history of cinema. Everyone can quote the original films, and the plot elements and twists (especially Luke Skywalker’s daddy issues) are cultural staples.

It’s not just because the original three films are wildly entertaining adventures that stand the test of time with characters that are charismatic, relatable and memorable. It’s because most moviegoers grew attached to them as children. For many of us, “Star Wars” was the first film we saw. Therefore, it’s not just a film; it’s a part of our lives and the way we view all pop culture. In a way, it raised us.

Then the prequels came out, making only the biggest “Star Wars” apologists happy. There was very little to like (Darth Maul, lightsaber battles) and a whole ton to hate (Hayden Christensen, tiring tax talk, pretty much all of Episode I).

But even though we hate much of what has happened to “Star Wars” – the prequels, the excessive commercialization – we still can’t help but love it. Even when the franchise messes up, we just accept it and hope the next film, video game, television series or toy can make good on our expectations.

Now, with Disney’s recent purchase of Lucasfilm and the franchise’s rights, things may have changed. Cynicism and doubt is running high. Expectations are surprisingly low. Audiences aren’t excited to see what new adventures could come from the “Star Wars” universe. Instead, they’re waiting to hate them.

But should we be so skeptical? “Star Wars” history may say yes, but Disney’s history says no.

Remember, Disney is the studio that helped make “The Avengers” one of the most satisfying blockbusters in recent history. They may be money-hungry, and they will certainly wring as many dollars out of the brand as possible. Then again, every studio would (and George Lucas already has), and at least they have a respect and understanding of their franchises’ fans (which Lucas didn’t).

So no, you shouldn’t fear the purchase by Disney. What you should fear is whom Disney will select to direct Episode VII. The right choice could make the movie a fanboy favorite. The wrong choice could be the final strike against the adored franchise.

When the news first broke, a plethora of names were immediately tossed in and out of the ring. The directors whom fans definitely do not want are easy to predict: epic summer schlockbuster master Michael Bay, slo-mo savant Zack Snyder and the creator – as well as the destroyer – of the series, George Lucas (he’s currently a creative consultant on Episode VII, but the reports seem to imply that he will not direct).

A lot of the favorites are easy to pick out, too, especially the main two: Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon. They certainly sound like good ideas; Nolan transformed the comic book genre for the better with his Dark Knight trilogy, and Whedon helped “The Avengers” come through on years of hype and buildup.

They may sound good on paper, but I’m not convinced. Do you really want these brilliant cinematic minds bogging themselves down with more franchises, which are guaranteed to be under intense scrutiny by fanboys and studio heads alike? It’s great that Nolan’s Batman films were so good, but his solo projects, like “Inception,” “Memento” and “The Prestige,” are just as good and even more imaginative. He couldn’t make revolutionary and mind-binding movies like those in the “Star Wars” universe.

Whedon is too creative as well, but he’s got another problem: He’s already got the Marvel universe to work on. Working on both at the same time would probably result in a decline in quality and real cinematic inspiration.

My main problem with the Nolan/Whedon argument is the fact that it seems rather childish to give these two men any and all franchises. Why shut out the rest of the creative minds in Hollywood? It’d be like eating a delicious meal at a restaurant and then forcing that chef to take over every other restaurant in the state. What made the chef unique and fresh will eventually become tired and stale.

I say bring in someone new and unexpected. I’ve heard names like Gore Verbinski and Matthew Vaughn tossed out, and they excite me. They’ve brought fun and energy to genre films before (Verbinski with “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Vaughn with “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class”), and I think they could do the same with “Star Wars.” Or maybe Disney will find someone completely unanticipated who could bring the same kind of youthful energy that the original films have.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Oh, that’s right; it already happened. It was called “The Phantom Menace.” And “Attack of the Clones.” And “Revenge of the Sith.”