A Company Out of Ideas: The embarrassment of Disney and it’s second-hander employees

As this article blasted onto the World Wide Web Matt Clark and I were hosting a podcast giving the Disney Company and the makers of the new Star Wars a large dose of tough love.  And they deserve all the criticism and then some that we broadcast.  We are in a new day of media, unlike the days of old.  Disney does not control everything—they are in fact experiencing a contraction period as their media empire is feeling the effects of small media types like Matt Clark and I who are not bound by contracts or addictions to swag buying our loyalty at any price.   Quite the contrary, Matt and I have both been huge fans and supporters of all things Disney for many years now.  We offered our endorsements out of real passion, not purchased manipulation—so that relationship was built on trust.  People like Matt and I were the best assets a company like Disney could hope for.  Out of our own free will, we cheered on their behalf in small ways that often avalanched into big market impressions by sheer opportunity.  But, what they are doing with their theme parks—regarding toy guns, and what they have done with Star Wars is really inexcusable.  They are free to take any position they wish, but Matt and I as fans are also free to reject their product and to let people know why.  Disney counts on word of mouth to maintain their strength of their product marketing, but it can also work against them.  And because of their betrayal of key fans like Matt and I, they asked for it.

It was the first time in my life that a soundtrack to Star Wars arrived in my possession and I was not in a hurry to listen to it.  I bought the soundtrack because I love John Williams and have most of his music, so I bought The Force Awakens out of respect.  But I have yet to open it and the film has been out for over a week as of this writing.  I just have no appetite for anything regarding Star Wars presently, which is a big shift for me.  It was only a short time ago that was playing Star Wars: X Wing Miniatures and was sitting in a swing on my front porch waiting for new products to arrive in my mailbox.  I enjoyed immensely reading about all the different characters and playing in the galaxy that George Lucas created.  By the time that The Force Awakens ended, nearly everything I loved about Star Wars was destroyed like a Death Star blasting away the history and life of an entire species in just a moment.  It was one of the only real bright spots I saw on the horizon of our cultural mythology, and Disney had purposely destroyed it.

We’re not talking about stupid people who work at Disney, or Lucasfilm.  Kathy Kennedy had been around Spielberg and Lucas for decades and if anybody had learned to make a great movie by their apprenticeship, it should have been her.  J.J. Abrams is a great director.  Industrial Light and Magic—is the best special effects house on the planet.  Everything in their tool box was great to make a new Star Wars film.  It seemed impossible to screw it up.  Instead, what happened was that they proved emphatically what I have been saying about the metaphysics of quality over the years.  A committee of people do not surpass the singular vision of a strong individual leader.  As bad as many proclaim the George Lucas prequels to be, or his special additions, they were vastly better than what Disney came up with considering all their incredible resources.  There was no excuse, yet they failed miserably.

It was hard for me to admit how terrible The Force Awakens really was, so I know other Star Wars fans will dance around the issue for months.  But in the context of years, they’ll slowly realize just what a travesty this latest Star Wars film was to a franchise that many loved.  And it was all consciously done by Disney; they watched the screening of the film and thought they had a great product.  They sold it to the world as their best work and it clearly wasn’t.  It was essentially a fan film made by a second generation of spoiled brats, who had hitched a ride on the coat tails of greatness as perpetual second-handers. Yet nobody noticed within all of Disney’s organization—that is alarming.

It was difficult for me to accept the recent Mad Max film, because in the original, Max had a little boy who was killed by a gang of thugs. In the updated version it was a little girl.  I was willing to overlook that slight change because the film had the original director in George Miller and the film was a dramatic improvement over previous installments.  But it was distracting.  If the movie hadn’t been great, I would have felt toward it the way I do The Force Awakens.  Characters matter and once an artistic entity offers it to the public for consumption, they have an obligation to maintain those characters to their audience.  If they violate that trust, they risk alienating their audience to the characters they’ve created.  Star Wars over the years—Lucasfilm through their publishing arm—did a great job of nurturing their characters along with a sense of continuity.  For instance, a character in the novel Rogue Planet which took place well before the Prequel films appeared as a major character in Star by Star which took place many years later—like 50 years in Star Wars time, and that character had traces back to the Jedi, but lured Jacen Solo to the Sith through mental torture that lasted over many novels.  It was then no surprise that Jacen became a feared Sith Lord.  It was a set-up by Lucasfilm so that the mythology they created could be enjoyed by fans across multiple platforms—movies, books, comics and video games.  You could always trust that most of the Star Wars content was following some kind of ultimate timeline.  So when The Force Awakens borrowed all those elements but changed the names cheapening the stories told before, the whole mythology fell apart instantly.

Then it becomes even more shocking that given all the material the filmmakers had to use, that Disney couldn’t even create a single original thought worthy of a movie.  Everything in Force Awakens is borrowed, from the comparison of the Lord of the Rings plot driving the lightsaber quest to find Luke Skywalker hidden on a remote island—to a third Death Star (this time called Starkiller Base).  Every act of The Force Awakens is nearly copied from A New Hope—the movie comes across as a remake of Robocop—or Total Recall.  The big difference is that there aren’t any memorable moments of wisdom in the new movie to solidify the content. At least in Phantom Menace there are lines of Jedi wisdom—in A Force Awakens, there is nothing—astonishingly.  The filmmakers robbed the Expanded Universe of content and the original movies, and then passed it off as an original work of art disgracing all the good minds that did create new plot devices in past installments.

It wasn’t that long ago that I bragged about Star Wars having an essential conservative moral to their stories.  After all, in the novels, Han and Leia, as well as Luke lived somewhat happily ever after.   They did save the galaxy many times, but they had fun together doing it.  There was a lot of pain, but there were a lot of laughs and they all did it together, loyally.  In the later novels, right before the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, a new Sith order had imbedded itself into the Galactic Senate of the New Republic and had begun to subterfuge politics into a New Sith Order—and they had the entire media under their thumb.  They were actually magnificent stories done on a huge scale, and Han, Leie, Luke and the Millennium Falcon and some of the children of the primary characters were rising up to become easy stars in their own way.  One of the greatest characters in Star Wars was Mara Jade who was an assassin who worked for the Emperor in the original trilogy and eventually became Luke’s wife.  They had a son named Ben who was a great character.   In Force Awakens, they named Ben after Han and Leia’s son who is the ultimate villain, Kylo Ren—essentially Darth Caedus from the Legends series.   I could literally go on and on.  If The Force Awakens had made a superior movie to the books, all could have been forgiven.  But they didn’t.  Instead the butchered the story in a very disrespectful way.  Han Solo, not in a million years would have walked out onto a bridge with no sides and confronted a bad guy—even if the bad guy was his son.  He NEVER would have done it.  He might have said, “hey kid, I’m going to blow this place up.  I love you—now get your ass out of here.”  But he never would have lowered his weapon and pleaded with him to come home like a guilty father trying to rescue a child from jail.  What Disney did was disgraceful.

I have a pretty good idea what’s at work here, so they deserve the ridicule.  Star Wars has been something I have valued, and these idiots just butchered it—so they get what they get.  Disney was more interested in making a progressive film than a good installment to the Star Wars saga.  They were intent to push out the conservative values of the founder, George Lucas—who these days is a flaming liberal.  But while he was building his companies, he was very conservative.  Disney as a company expected to rip-off and re-write the stories and outcomes away from conservative viewpoints to much more progressive perspectives.  This is why The Huffington Post and The White House love this new Star Wars and why people like Matt and I hate it.  Disney has declared war on conservative America and that has never been clearer than in their new Star Wars film.  I didn’t want to believe it was possible, but it is.  And just because I’m a fan doesn’t mean that I’ll give liberalism a free pass just because they put the name Star Wars on it.  If anything, that makes it more worthy of attack, which Matt and I are relishing in—and will continue for what Disney has done to something we both have valued for many years.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman


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