Disney Just Took Star Wars to the Next Level

This just in: Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) has upgraded the next Star Wars movie before shooting even starts.

Disney's Lucasfilm division just removed screenwriter Michael Arndt from the Star Wars: Episode VII project, and the new names are enough to flood the film department at your local college in expectant drool.

Lawrence Kasdan is back in the Star Wars fold. Image credit: sbclick via Flickr

Director J.J. Abrams will go beyond just directing and producing the film, throwing in his considerable screenwriting experience for good measure. Lawrence Kasdan steps up from a mere creative consultant to a fully credited writer.

If the gravity of these selections hasn't sunk in yet, here's why Star Wars fans should get excited about the news.

Abrams is an Emmy-nominated writer from his days of penning Lost and Fringe, two TV projects with definite touches of the fantastic. He has already rebooted the Star Trek film franchise to strong reviews. It's hard to find a writer more qualified for this particular job.

Except, you could just look at the guy right across the table. Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, widely seen as the best films in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, respectively.

Wait -- what about the silly ewoks?
Yes, Kasdan also penned the less impressive Return of the Jedi, but always said that he bent to Star Wars creator George Lucas' will. Don't blame the Ewoks on Kasdan, and he had nothing to do with Jar-Jar. And George Lucas only gets credit for dreaming up the characters (and some creative consulting) in Episode VII.

As a lifelong film buff in general and Star Wars aficionado in particular, I can only applaud Disney for making this move. This takes guts, but it's exactly the right thing to do.

Arndt is a brand-name writer in his own right, with an Oscar statue to his name. We're about to see his sci-fi chops next month, when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire makes its debut. Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF  ) is putting one of its most valuable franchises into Arndt's hands, albeit under a pseudonym and seemingly subordinated to novel author Suzanne Collins and Slumdog Millionaire scribe Simon Beaufoy.

But you know, Ardn't Oscar was for Little Miss Sunshine, and his next best-known work is Toy Story 3. Hardly the perfect setup for a Star Wars career, even if it's all high-quality work.

The Foolish takeaway
So yes, this is a big upgrade that moves the next Star Wars movie in exactly the right direction. It's true that Disney probably could slap the Star Wars name on the phone book and call it a script, and lines would still go around the block for the first midnight showings. The Phantom Menace still collected more than $1 billion in global ticket sales, despite terrible reviews. Even Episode III: Revenge of the Sith scored $850 million worldwide, after firmly establishing the shoddy quality of the prequel series.

But that's short-term thinking. Disney doesn't work that way.

Disney thrives on top-notch content. Invoke the inner kids and the fanboys in every viewer, and they'll flock to sequels, theme park rides, themed cruises, and plastic lunch boxes for years to come. Disney invested a cool $4 billion in Lucasfilm, and this creative change will most likely ensure that the third Star Wars trilogy pulls its billion-dollar weight at the box office -- and the park, and the toy story, and the ...

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Read/Post Comments (24) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 2:10 PM, causticcrusader wrote:

    I may just be in the minority when I say that I wasn't impressed with the writing for the Star Trek movies or Lost. Furthermore, the last couple seasons of Lost and all of "Into Darkness" were rather lazy with the story and character development, although the visuals of the latest Star Trek was enjoyable. The biggest problem with such an established franchise is trying to catch fire instead of building something better anew

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 2:22 PM, pocahoncho wrote:

    I disagree with the "step forward" premise of this article. Yes, Kasdan is a great writer. So is Paul McCartney. (And yet Paul hasn't written a truly great song in years.)

    I think this is a step backwards. the Star Trek scripts were so full of holes (and cheap Star Wars plot points) that I have to wonder what Disney is thinking.

    Remember, these is the same studio executives who destroyed "John Carter..." So... Hmmm.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 2:28 PM, chewbacca3 wrote:

    Great news, Disney are smart people,Star trek was great, I'm sure the new Star wars will be great also

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 3:15 PM, SuzieD wrote:

    This is probably the worst idea ever in movie making. Abrams usually starts out strong and then makes a mess of it by the time he is finished (Alias, Lost, for example). The new Star Trek movies were no better. Why Disney has handed him another franchise to destroy is beyond me.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 3:16 PM, quacker wrote:

    i am so tired of NEWS outlets being nothing more than advertisments

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 3:22 PM, RobP1965 wrote:

    The first star wars was awesome. (at the time) Empire was ok and Return was . . . a movie they made too . . . anyway. . . the last three were so horrible as to not even be worth watching except to make fun of. Bad writing, bad CGI, bad bad bad. Now the first Star Trek reboot was great. I enjoyed it as a Trek fan but Darkness was . . . well it was lazy to say the least. I've had other Trekkies try to sell me on it and . . . okay I get it but it did not give me warm fuzzy feelings about Abrams turn at Star Wars. I might watch his turn if the come on the Roku . . . on Netflix for free and nothing else comes out like say Spaced Invaders 2 or Plunkett and MacClane 2. And Disney, could you please not do anymore superhero movies? You stink at it.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 3:41 PM, ishiki wrote:

    Abrams didn't write either of the star treks,

    He did write some of the first two seasons of fringe and some early episodes of lost, but not most. He wrote Super 8 which imo was his best movie.

    But after starting the show he typically passes those shows on to different showrunners. Which imo means he didn't write the best episodes of fringe. But he also didn't write lost when it became worse as well.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 3:56 PM, Ben734 wrote:

    Minor correction; the Phantom Menace did not get 'terrible reviews.' In fact, it received 57% positive reviews, 43% negative, according to rottentomatoes.com.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 4:15 PM, Sandy1Q wrote:

    Chapter 7.... "A Split in the Force", Leia and Luke have a parting of the ways in what direction the Republic should take. Luke leaves, Leia clones Jedi females and declares herself Queen. Luke returns to battle Leia and her daughters

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 4:27 PM, AlexzGreat wrote:

    What a terrible article. Even a brain dead dictator will not pay for such transparent propaganda.

    Also the author is confused about reviews and popularity. It's the ticket sales that matter not what some self-proclaimed pundits think about a movie.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 4:38 PM, Monsterstomper5 wrote:

    There are some people who will hate it no matter what they do.

    Looking back in time at the Original Star Wars, you find a bunch of snarky comments, aggressive, abrasive and sometimes obnoxious people who somehow manage to come together as a team and defeat the bad guys. With a healthy dose of mysticism thrown in. It had the virtue of having never been tried before. Up until then, science fiction had consisted of 'well-trained' well-ordered people exploring the cosmos (okay, Star Trek also had its share of snarky comments, but everybody was 'trained' to be there.)

    The problem is the "Oooh" factor. How to recapture the Oooh factor. Everyone now knows about the Force. Everybody has seen Jedi battles and mind-games and aliens and Sith Lords. What 'new' thing can they do, to make people sit up and take notice?

    J.J. Abrams cannot afford to get lazy with this. "Into Darkness" was just Lazy. He 'thought' he knew what the fans wanted, but he was wrong. The fans want to be dazzled. They want new encounters, new adventures, not just rehashes of stuff they know. Star Trek survived all the years since the series was cancelled because the fans themselves wrote 'new content'. If Star Wars is to survive, that is what has to be presented. And please, please don't copy somebody else's work.

    There is nothing worse than recycled garbage. If it was garbage before, then changing the characters won't make it any less garbage. I am so tired of seeing the same scenes recycled from one movie to the next.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 5:36 PM, nickhronis wrote:

    Leigh Brackett was the original screenwriter for Empire Strikes Back based on an outline by George Lucas. Brackett was a very well known sci-fi writer and also wrote for Howard Hawks "The Big Sleep" & "Rio Bravo" among others. She died shortly after delivering her script to Lucas. Lawrence Kasdan wrote the subsequent drafts and both shared screen credit. A great lady and a great writer deserves to be remembered for contribution to Star Wars.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 7:31 PM, EC82 wrote:

    Come on, seriously? First of all, as someone else pointed out, Kasdan did not write "Empire" single-handedly, he took over for the late, great Leigh Brackett. Secondly, the last time Kasdan wrote anything mildly successful was in 1991, with "Grand Canyon"; that was 23 years ago. Could he still have a great screenplay in him? Maybe. Is it likely to come out because someone wants to satisfy Disney by doing a rush job? Hm. Less likely. Thirdly, Abrams did not write "Lost" and "Fringe," he barely came up with the ideas; he's a producer. His last movie was "Super 8," which was great for 45 minutes and then truly wretched with one of the most ludicrous third acts in film history. His films as a writer have hardly been massive blockbusters.

    But most importantly -- it's been eight years since the last "Star Wars" movie. If no one can come up with a decent script in eight years, there's a problem.

    This is a rush job through and through. It's being done to satisfy Disney's need to justify the remarkably lofty valuation on Lucasfilm. There is nothing about this film that is going to be made to satisfy a filmmaker's sense of storytelling ... everything about it is going to be to make a bunch of money with merchandise. It already stinks of desperation.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 8:43 PM, johnybravobadass wrote:

    Someone please tell me, do we really need any more Star Wars movies? It seems to me that Disney is just trying to cash in on what Lucas has already made a fortune on. In my mind, Return of the Jedi tells the end of the story in a way that doesn't leave me wondering what happens next. Once the dark side is defeated, where does the story go from there?

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 8:52 PM, krusenj wrote:

    1. Star Wars was okay...in its time.

    2. The cynical frat boy treatment of Star Trek must have Roddenberry turning in his grave. The new take is so opposite of the franchise's original belief system. That saw an optimistic future.

    3. If you've seen one Abrams creation, you've seen them all. Lost, Fringe, Cloverfield, ad nauseum, pick one, you've seen 'em all.

    4. Look for the same silly frat boy takes in any new Star wars. Yawn.

    5. They should have gone with Joss Whedon for both franchises instead. Those would have been great movies.

    6. I could barely tolerate the new Kirk, the "new" story lines for Star Trek and I think that there is nothing appealing about yet more Star Wars. Let's stop beating those dead horses and come up with something fresh, new and inspiring. I'd even settle for exciting.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 8:53 PM, TMFMTHead wrote:

    I personally do not consider the Star Trek re-boot al that great. The first movie was OK but the most recent was blah at best.

    Of course Star Wars was completely ruined with the last three movies, so there is really only one direction it can go.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 9:14 PM, drkjedi35 wrote:

    First of all, movie making is a business. If its going to make money, its going to get made. And these Star Wars movies will break records at the theater whether they are good or not. If you don't want to see them, don't go to the theater. Its that simple.

    But the truth is, at some point in time you will ALL see the new movie. And the one after that. That is why Disney bought the franchises. They know that by the time it is said and done, they will double (or triple) their investment. The overseas market is going to eat these movies up. And don't be surprised if its in 3D and IMAX too. That ensures that it hits more screens in China. Disney knows that they will make double overseas what they will make here.

    Abrams and Kasdan don't matter...because it is Star Wars. No matter how good or bad the movies are, they will still be blockbusters. Don't believe me? Just look at the box office take for Episode I.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 9:43 PM, pattershow wrote:

    I appreciate this move to enable genuine creative talent to fuel the storyline for that long time ago, far-far away galaxy, but if Disney really wants to turn away from the Dark Side of the Force, they'll slash the budget on CGI special effects and bring in the Hensons to Muppetize this production. Dependence on CGI leads only to the dark side of the toilet bowl...

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 11:15 PM, Nicklebase wrote:

    Star Wars has nowhere to go but UP, really. I hope they can come up with something worth talking about 30 years later. I don't even consider episodes 1-3 worth viewing never mind owning! I think Abrams stinks as a director and that he ruined Trek more than the script did :-( I watched Into Darkness and found I had been ripped off as a Trek fan with a horrible script that was no where near the characters and a director that should've been in middle school cause it sure looked like he didn't know how to light the scenes, use effective angles or close holes. Please Disney, have a heart on us fans. It doesn't have to be about money all the time. How about respect? You do know it's earned, right? Unfortunately SW's respect is very low but it can be brought up.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 11:31 PM, Charismatron wrote:

    Started reading and smelled something Motley with the comment that the Star Trek reboots received a "strong" reception, when actual fans and those with an interest know this isn't the case.

    Of course, another Foolish article!

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2013, at 4:41 AM, boethius70 wrote:

    All I can say is if I even see a HINT of lens flare in the new "Star Wars" I will go ballistic.

    I sincerely hope Lucas has nothing to do with any of the new series. He took his baby seals and clubbed them to death long ago, not caring even a little bit what the fans wanted. Eps. I-III were wretched excrement, at best. I've known people who worked with Lucas and he has been intensely ego-maniacal for many years. He is terribly caught up in the cult of personality around him.

    Personally I'm not terribly optimistic about Abrams and would have liked to see Disney take a big risk with another, perhaps younger and more visionary director. Whedon would have been a pretty solid choice however it's likely he'll be caught up with the "The Avengers" for several years to come.

    They should focus on creating a great story and go from there. I'm afraid Abrams will be too obsessed with creating over-the-top CGI action sequences instead of creating an entertaining, enjoyable film with believable three-dimensional characterization. If Disney wants to make more money than they've ever made on any movie in history, focus on making us fall in love with the series again.

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2013, at 9:10 AM, teamfubar wrote:

    One of the biggest problems with the prequel trilogy that never gets talked about is the fact that the ending was written and everything in the movies had to work toward that ending (which is the beginning of the original trilogy). Yes, you can talk about all the bad stuff taking us to the ending (Jar Jar, midichlorians, Hayden Christensen, etc.) but the freedom of the original series was lost in telling the story that takes us the end. "Luke and Leia were Padme and Anakin's children? Yawn, knew that." "Obi-Wan and Anakin fight to near death? Boring, knew that." There isn't much room for "No, I am your father" moments. Add that to the fact we knew most of the characters, so little character development was needed or used.

    All of which gives me hope for the new trilogy. The beginning is there, but the sky (or space) is the limit. Development of new characters and story lines that can go pretty much. anywhere they want. I just wonder if teddy bears will be able to beat the New Republic?

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2013, at 12:39 PM, gbarce wrote:

    Motley Fool is part of the hype and propaganda machine of Disney and Marvel so all their writers don't really have any objectivity--or credibility.

    These articles oversell all the Disney/Marvel projects so that when you actually watch the movies you can't help but be disappointed.

    I love the Star Wars movies and am hoping for the best -- I hope the actual movies don't disappoint

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2013, at 2:32 PM, imrahil74 wrote:

    This is not a step forward at all. Lost had more plot holes than a movie about Swiss cheese written by a group of kindergarteners with ADD.

    The Trek reboot was clearly for people who knew NOTHING about Star Trek. It was like "Let's make a Star Trek movie but not for those Trekkie nerds." The first Trek Abrams did was a soulless action movie that had no place in the Trek universe. I didn't bother watching the second, but have heard it wasn't very good.

    These new Star Wars movies will be all lense flares and nonsense with this hack at the helm.

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