'Disney buys 'Star Wars,' Denzel takes 'Flight'

There are two reasons that the surprising news on Tuesday that Disney was buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion hit the movie world and the nerd world so hard:

Number One: George Lucas had said publicly many times before that he would not do any more "Star Wars" movies, so padewans everywhere had already put their "Star Wars" dreams to rest and assumed that meant there would be no more movies period. But in a video that Lucas himself released to YouTube after the announcement, he says that he's not contradicting himself. It's just that he's turning the franchise over to Lucasfilm co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy, who will continue to make "Star Wars" movies with Disney.

Number Two: "Star Wars" is inextricably linked to multiple generations' childhoods. Everybody my age agrees that the original trilogy was several jumps to lightspeed better than Episodes I - III, but kids today are very attached to the new "Star Wars" movies (despite the fact that the major drama propelling them forward were tariffs and maneuverings in a Galactic Senate, but I digress).

It was also amazing to see movie fans go through a virtual Kübler-Ross model of The Five Stages of Grief and Loss: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

There was no shortage of denial. Even I couldn't believe it at first. After seeing the news being reported on Twitter, I clicked on multiple articles, did a Google search, found tons more, and decided it was real. I then tweeted the news out myself. The first response? "I doubt the veracity of this."

Stage 1: Denial

Stage 1: Denial by Eric Melin

There was certainly plenty of anger.

Stage 2: Anger

Stage 2: Anger by Eric Melin

As for bargaining, there was a lot of that going around. It was finally time to look deep within our souls. How much do we defend the last trilogy and how strong of a hold does it really have on our heart? Is it "the greatest saga" or do we hold on to it out of a sense of nostalgia? Those who had never even considered the thought of more "Star Wars" movies were now looking back at how their expectations hadn't been met before and wondering aloud "Can it really get any worse?"

Step 3: Bargaining

Step 3: Bargaining by Eric Melin

Stage 4: Depression. The truth sinks in. Yes, this is happening. There will be an Episode VII in 2015. Disney will be in charge of it, just like they are now in charge of Marvel, Pixar and The Muppets.

After what they did to The Muppets...

After what they did to The Muppets... by Eric Melin

Lastly, and this is where I'm at: Acceptance. Let's look on the bright side. Was Lucas really the best steward of his own legacy after the staginess of the last trilogy? Were the "Star Wars" films anything other than kids' adventure stories? Doesn't Disney have a stronger reputation -- hands down -- than anybody of delivering solid family entertainment since the 1930s? Maybe they are the best people to put in charge of the "Star Wars" universe.

Step 5: Acceptance

Step 5: Acceptance by Eric Melin

Where are you on this emotional roller coaster or does it affect you at all?

In other movie news, the big opening of the weekend is a new drama starring Denzel Washington that's not exactly the kind of movie that the previews might suggest. In fact, the official synopsis from Paramount Studios calls "Flight" a "action-packed mystery thriller."

It's not. "Flight" is directed by Robert Zemeckis, the man who gave us "Back to the Future" and "Forrest Gump," but that doesn’t mean that this is a film for the whole family. It's a straight-up adult drama dealing with serious themes and full of drug use, sex and boozing, and it only has one "action" scene in it.

The trailer makes "Flight" look like a mystery surrounding a heroic pilot, played by Washington. After he miraculously lands a damaged plane and saves 96 passengers’ lives, it’s discovered that there were traces of alcohol in his system. The question you would think the plot turns on is "Was he drunk when he piloted the plane?"

But we know from the first scene that the pilot is an alcoholic, so the film then tackles his addiction head on. The question really becomes: How long can he fool himself and how much worse will his life get before he wakes up to his problem? "Flight" is a harrowing look at the denial that all alcoholics must face, and its devious trick is casting Washington. He carries authority, and acts like he’s always in control. No matter how many times he makes horrible decisions, we still root for him.

Sometimes the story veers into familiar territory, but the subtle, fully realized performances of Washington and co-star Kelly Reilly make "Flight" an impressive adult drama about one man’s downward spiral and the struggle to break it.


If you're in the mood for something more adventurous and less depressing than "Flight," however, you need to head on down to Liberty Hall and catch Martin McDonagh's out-of-control black comedy "Seven Psychopaths." I wrote about the movie, which breaks every narrative convention in the book and is uproariously funny, in a past blog, so check it out there.


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