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Can merger return 'Star Wars' to its glory days?

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Thu November 1, 2012
"Star Wars" creator George Lucas meets a group of "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in 2010. Click through and see what the original cast is up to now: "Star Wars" creator George Lucas meets a group of "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in 2010. Click through and see what the original cast is up to now:
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'Star Wars' cast then and now
Han Solo played by ...
Harrison Ford
Luke Skywalker played by ...
Mark Hamill
Princess Leia played by ...
Carrie Fisher
Darth Vader voiced by ...
James Earl Jones
Chewbacca played by ...
Peter Mayhew
C-3PO played by ...
Anthony Daniels
R2-D2 played by ...
Kenny Baker
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi played by ...
Alec Guinness
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • On Tuesday, the Walt Disney Co. announced its $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm
  • Reports state that George Lucas will simply serve as a consultant and map out basic plotlines
  • Some fans say that taking control away from George Lucas will save the franchise

(CNN) -- "Star Wars" fans have suggested new movie titles -- "Star Wars episode VII: Attack of the Mouse" -- and last minute Halloween costumes -- Jedi Mouseketeer for him and Disney Princess Leia for her -- since learning of the Walt Disney Co.'s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm on Tuesday.

But beyond the clever "Star Wars"-Disney mashups, there appears to be a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the big merger and the announcement of "Episode 7." Targeted for release in 2015, "Episode 7" will kickoff a planned trilogy of live-action "Star Wars" films, to be released "every two to three years," Disney said in a press release.

Despite reports -- and the hopes of some passionate fans -- that George Lucas will simply serve as a consultant mapping out basic plotlines, we're not yet sure how involved the "Star Wars" creator and Lucasfilm founder will actually be in future installments.

Though some fans are convinced that Lucas' involvement, or lack thereof, will affect "Episode 7's" ability to return "Stars Wars" to its pre-"Phantom Menace" glory days.

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Since the prequel trilogy turned some fans off, "Star Wars" has introduced "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the successful animated series that airs on Cartoon Network; video games; comic books and toys.

"There's still a lot of rumbling discontent with the last three 'Star Wars' films and the way the franchise (has gone) over the last five/six years in particular," said Den of Geek editor Simon Brew. "It's been pillaged to an extent."

However, he added, "If you have an interest in 'Star Wars' on the big screen, than this is about as good a piece of news that's come through in the last 30 years."

Gawker's Drew Magary isn't sold.

"I don't think I'm alone in dreading the idea of paying another goddamn red cent for a 'Star Wars' movie ticket after Lucas made three terrible movies and went back to monkeyfart with the older, better ones, ruining them in the process," Magary wrote. "Now the series is finally free from Lucas' ambling, simplistic vision."

There is a lot of criticism directed at Lucas. Some of it is deserved and some of it isn't, Brew said, adding that there's a sense that, by focusing on the business side more than the creative side, Lucas has "been cheapening what he created." Regardless, he says, the filmmaker's genius is palpable.

That said, "taking (the impending films) away from his control and cutting them fresh would be the more positive way forward. ... It got to the point where (Lucas) held 'Star Wars' back. ... There are so many new, interesting voices in science fiction," Brew said. He pointed to franchises like "Batman" and "James Bond," which he believes have flourished thanks to new voices.

Whether Disney is able to do with Lucasfilm what they've done with Pixar and Marvel, which earned more than $1 billion at the box office with this year's "The Avengers," remains to be seen. But many fans agree that new screenwriters and a new director alone could aid the "Star Wars" universe.

A dedicated fan and webmaster at TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, Philip Wise said he "couldn't be happier" about the news and Lucas' muted new role.

"The fans that care about the story a lot and the movies a lot are happy that (Lucas will) be creatively involved, and even more happy that he wont' be actively involved in the directing and maybe even the writing," he said.

The potential for something great outweighs the potential for a train wreck at this point, Brew said. He noted Paramount's success with J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" in 2009. (The sequel, "Star Trek Into Darkness," is due out in May 2013.)

The worst case scenario of bringing a new "Star Wars" trilogy to life, he added, is that we "could end up pretty much where we already are, or halfway between the old films and the new films."

Gawker's Magary compared his love for the franchise to "rooting for a sports team that never wins anything (or more accurately, a sports team that won three titles 30 years ago and hasn't won a game since)."

Disney knows how crucial "Episode 7" is, Brew said, specially with the promise of an additional two films in the bank.

"The potential at this point," he said, "is as pure as it's been for awhile."

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