Star Wars moves on to the next galaxy

Disney's $4 billion Star Wars deal leaves little certainty of a return of the Jedi to the Arab world.

People walk past a fountain showing the Yoda character from the Star Wars movies outside of Lucasfilms headquarters in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) *** Local Caption ***  Disney Lucasfilm.JPEG-028e3.jpg
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Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm promises to revive the Star Wars franchise - but a return of the Jedi to the Arab world is less of a certainty.

At least three more films in the sci-fi saga are in the pipeline following the $4.05 billion (Dh14.87bn) acquisition of George Lucas's film company.

But filmmakers based in the UAE say advances in computer-generated (CG) imagery mean that the North African locations used in previous Star Wars films may be redundant.

George Lucas used Tunisia as the setting for Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker, in the original film. Other locations in North Africa were used in subsequent Star Wars films, including the ill-received films released in 1999 and later.

But any new hope of a return to this region has been dashed by advances in technology, said the Dubai-based filmmaker Tim Smythe.

"You can do so much more on a computer now. The advancements since they shot in Tunisia are huge," he said. "I don't see why you would travel all the way to the Middle East and have all that expense."

Mr Smythe is the chief executive of the production house Filmworks, which facilitated the filming in Dubai of a portion of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

He says that location shoots are no longer necessary for films such as the Star Wars series, which feature futuristic settings.

"Your foreground is real, and your background is done on the computer," he said.

However, Mr Smythe said that movies such as Mission Impossible and the Bourne series do still rely on location shoots.

"If you're talking about James Bond, Bourne, or Mission Impossible - all action movies - then as much of the screen as possible should be real life," he said.

Ali Mostafa, the director of City of Life, one of the UAE's first major home-grown movies, said he was hopeful that portions of the next Star Wars films would be shot in the UAE.

The UAE's film industry is still growing, although several blockbuster productions have been made here. Film production gave Dubai's economy a Dh150 million boost last year, when also accounting for the TV shows and commercials shot in the emirate.

"It would be amazing if they got to shoot here in the UAE," said Mr Mostafa. "We have whatever type of location environment they really need, apart from rainforest."

However, Mr Mostafa said that there are currently no fundamental financial advantages to filming in Dubai. "There's no reason why [Star Wars] would [film here] for incentive purposes," he said. "We're working on our incentives".

Mr Mostafa argued that the rise of CG in film would never completely take over real-life images.

"Most of the locations in these films are done in studios. CG will always continue to complement film, but will never take over," he said. "I'm hoping George Lucas learns from his mistakes and goes back to the old school of doing things."