Roger Ebert predicted the Disney takeover of Star Wars 29 years before Lucasfilm was all but consumed by the monolithic company. A lot has happened to the franchise in the past 7 years, but famed film critic Ebert talked about Star Wars being a perfect fit for Disney way before it became a reality.
A video from 1983 features Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert taking on fellow critic John Simon's harsh opinion on the Star Wars franchise. While Siskel and Ebert enjoy the world that George Lucas created, Simon absolutely hated it, proving that The Empire Strikes Back certainly had its critics upon release, much like the current trilogy, with The Last Jedi facing some very harsh reviews.
It would certainly be interesting to hear what Ebert thinks of the new Disney Star Wars takeover now that it's actually happened. Would he have given Solo and Rogue One a thumbs up? Perhaps he's pointing that thumb way down from Heaven in the direction of The Last Jedi. We'll never know. The Star Wars 9 final trailer has been met with as much hate as it has praise, showing that Star Wars fans are once again divided.
While Siskel and Ebert would probably be first in line to snatch up Star Wars tickets if they were still here with us, critic John Simon, who is alive and living through his 90s, apparently doesn't bother with the new trilogy. He stated back in 1983 that the Star Wars movies are "completely dehumanizing," before declaring that they were made for children or "childish adults." We've been hearing this a lot lately, with Star Wars Rebels voice actor Freddie Prinze Jr. going on a rant about the exact same subject.
Siskel and Ebert are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to Simon's critique. Roger Ebert goes as far as to call Simon "old at heart" because he can't find the joy of using his imagination while watching the movies on the big screen. Simon once said this about Star Wars when it first hit theaters in 1977.
"I sincerely hope that science and scientists differ from science fiction and its practitioners. Heaven help us if they don't: We may be headed for a very boring world indeed. Strip Star Wars of its often striking images and its highfalutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a "future" cast to them: Human beings, anthropoids, or robots, you could probably find them all, more or less like that, in downtown Los Angeles today. Certainly the mentality and values of the movie can be duplicated in third-rate non-science of any place or period."
On the news segment, John Simon continues his rant by complaining that there are too many special effects, making it basically a cartoon, which he says "Walt Disney" could have made on a "drawing board." As for the cartoon argument, Roger Ebert argued that the whole movie going experience could be considered a special effect and enjoyed the fact that the Star Wars movies were able to take him somewhere else. However, before talking about the special effects background, Ebert predicted the Disney takeover of Star Wars. He explains.
"These are the sorts of movies the Disney people should be making and the kind of movies Disney made 20, 30 years ago."
Roger Ebert was spot on about Disney and the Star Wars franchise. Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for a little over $4 billion and reignited the stories with 2015's The Force Awakens. While the movies have been divisive, they have been a good fit at Disney, who have even gone as far as to expand their theme parks for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, allowing fans, like Ebert, to use their imaginations and immerse themselves in the fun. John Simon would not have enjoyed one second of it.
Speaking of John Simon, Roger Ebert later wrote about him in his memoir and did not really have anything kind to say about the fellow critic. Ebert said, "I feel repugnance for the critic John Simon, who made it a specialty to attack the way actors look. They can't help how they look, any more than John Simon can help looking like a rat." That's a pretty harsh way of talking about another film critic, but Ebert was never really one to mince words. Regardless, he and Siskel were defending the Star Wars franchise back when Return of the Jedi hit theaters and one has to wonder what they would think of everything now. The video of Ebert predicting the future was provided to us by ABC News.