November 13, 2013 – In another sign of the changing of the guard, Lucasfilms’ three-decade tradition of releasing a Star Wars film in May is now officially over. Consider these past release dates:
● Star Wars (later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope) (May 25, 1977)
● Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (May 21, 1980)
● Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (May 25, 1983)
● Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (May 19, 1999)
● Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (May 16, 2002)
● Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (May 19, 2005)
The Walt Disney Co.’s acquisition of Lucasfilms just over a year ago would, as some critical observers predicted, lead to enormous changes in the Star Wars universe. With the future of the Star Wars franchise exclusively in Disney’s hands, there are tremendous competing pressures to deliver a spectacular “Star Wars: Episode VII” production while also maximizing Disney’s return on investment. Several billions of dollars are at stake here.
And so the sudden departure of screenwriter Michael Arndt in October, 2013 and the ever-changing rumors on casting calls and possible plotlines, all pointed to the very real possibility that director J.J. Abrams could never complete Episode VII by the hoped-for May, 2015 deadline. Disney recently confirmed the official release date to now be December 18, 2015 – a full two years away.
While some traditions are important, I support a later release date so long as the extra time actually improves the storywriting, casting, film production and editing. But much remains to be seen, and all the fans and observers can do now is to watch, hope — and wait.