Don't Force “Star Wars VII”

There's no reason to chance rushing the next installment of the tale from "a long time ago” into theaters.

The forces behind the much-anticipated extension of the "Star Wars" series reportedly are a year – though it might seem like light years to fans and moviemakers – apart on the release date of the next film. Producer Kathleen Kennedy wants to delay “Episode VII” until 2016 because of script issues, while Disney boss Robert Iger insists on meeting the original 2015 deadline, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

All involved might want to turn off the corporate lightsabers and heed some advice from Yoda: Patience you must have.

There's too much riding on the return of the vaunted franchise – from fans' outsized expectations to Disney's $4 billion investment – to force more “Star Wars” too soon and take a chance on disappointing everybody.

Not that time has always been on the series’ side. The 16 years between the end of the first three films and the start of the prequel trilogy in 1999 didn't bring out George Lucas' best work in the critical eyes of many of us raised on the originals.

While some latter-day “Star Wars” aficionados love the adventures of the pre-Dark Side Anakin Skywalker, older fans have struck back against Lucas in recent years. Many feel a sense of ownership of the series, and fault Lucas for, among other things, changing their – um, his ­­– films in rerelease and DVD versions. Many screamed, “Noooooo!” along with Darth Vader when that cry was added to his death scene in the Blu-ray edition of “Return of the Jedi” issued last year.

Lucas redeemed himself in the eyes of many by selling his creation a year ago this week to Disney, which has handled the Marvel franchise brilliantly, for the most part. Promises of new “Star Wars” flicks and related films for years to come have stoked excitement that’s burned brighter with constant kindling about possible cast members – including some big-name returnees – and the enlistment of J.J. Abrams (“Lost” and the recent “Star Trek” reboots) as director.

Perhaps the biggest – and most disappointing – news came last week when scriptwriter Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Toy Story 3”) left, sparking the reported push for a delay.

The script is now in the great hands of Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, cowriter of “The Empire Strike Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Kasdan helped put words in the wrinkly mouth of Yoda, who once told Luke Skywalker, “Stubborn and hard is your head. Soften it we will.” 

Cool heads are needed here. The sooner the new “Star Wars” is released, the sooner Disney starts to make back its huge investment. But a poorly received return might not bode well for future efforts.

Let’s hope the force – and hyperdrive – are with Kasdan and Abrams. But it doesn’t matter ultimately whether the “Star Wars” saga, which takes place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” returns in 2015 or 2016 – just as long as it’s as impossibly great as fans hope it will be.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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