Is it possible that we are only now understanding what "Star Wars" really is?
For the Gen Xer, this is an existential question. Wookies and tauntauns and Luke's lightsabers are strands in our social DNA. Boring parties spontaneously become enjoyable when we can find someone to join us in mocking Episode I (or II or III, for that matter).
We know "Star Wars" begins with the scroll and pumping brass of "A New Hope" and ends with those annoying Ewoks cheering the blasted filaments of the Death Star in the skies above Endor. Full stop. Other "Episodes," novels, comics, TV series, video games, etc. – at times enjoyable, at times tragic – are really only cultural womp rats – targets for the implacable purity of our derision. We, the real curators of the "Star Wars" legacy, know they are all just fuel for George Lucas's ever-expanding wallet.
But now, with Lucas selling his entire franchise to Disney with the open endorsement that the Big Mouse could make "Star Wars" movies for "another 100 years," that entire worldview is up for revision.
Yes, Lucas might be doing this solely for money. If so, he has become the Jabba the Hutt of his own universe.
Yet we must also consider another possibility. That maybe, Episodes IV, V, and VI were never meant to be a part of a sacred orthodoxy. That maybe Lucas is more J.R.R. Tolkien than Stanley Kubrick – that his vision for "Star Wars" is now and has always been an expansive one. Perhaps it is truly an entire universe in which Luke and Han and Leia occupy only a small but important part.
Are Frodo and Samwise and Aragorn diminished by "The Silmarillion," the Tolkien epic set thousands of years before the events of "The Lord of the Rings"? Or does that book merely give us the full scope of Tolkien's remarkable vision?
The difference, of course, is that Tolkien jealously guarded his own universe. He was the sole creator, and he did not trust it in the hands of others. Lucas, meanwhile, has farmed out the expansion of his universe to others, providing the core inspiration and structure, but allowing other writers to pen his "appendices."
This process can, of course, lead to a dilution of the purity and focus of the original vision. Then again, Episodes I, II, and III suggest that, perhaps, the sanctity of the "Star Wars" legacy might be safest in others' hands.
Indeed, imagine what a true "Star Wars" fan, weaned on the original films and now a filmmaker in his or her own right, might do with Episode VII, which is reportedly slated for release in 2015? A generation of Joss Whedons are salivating.
The inspiration for "Star Wars" came from serials like "Flash Gordon." Lucas, it seems, saw his own creation unfolding in a similar way – organically and without a defined endpoint or circumference.
In the right hands, that could be an exciting prospect.