It's not exactly a great time to be a part of any major fanbase. If one fanbase isn't quarrelling with another over the internet then it's probably too busy arguing internally with itself over some minor detail or major entry. There's no better example of that than the fans that surround Star Wars. That's because, In general, there are two types of Star Wars fans: those who enjoy the franchise in its entirety and those who enjoy the franchise before Disney acquired it. So let's explore the franchise by dividing in half and analyzing what they did well, and it can't be said that one or the other did nothing well.
They both have their flaws and it'd be impractical to avoid talking about it so, while this list isn't meant to divide or spark argument, we will be occasionally be forced to highlight the flaws of both Lucas' work and Disney's. The main purpose of this list however, is simply to showcase the good that everyone involved brought to the franchise, ensuring that it will survive for years to come. So now that that's clear, let's take a look at why fans fondly remember Lucas' trilogies and why some eagerly await everything Disney has yet to bring.
20 LUCAS ERA: IT WAS BOLD
George Lucas created Star Wars. He decided what was myth and what wasn't and -- whether or not it was because he'd introduced that world at a time when the Internet wasn't a thing -- he didn't really take audience expectations and desires into consideration. He just allowed himself to create.
Forgetting the fact that A New Hope itself was bold idea at the time, Lucas was unafraid to create things like Midi-Chlorians and build on that. In fact, in an interview Lucas stated that he would have gone further in the sequel trilogy, introducing the concept of The Whills; powerful beings who literally controlled people through the Force. He could be bold because it was his world and the audience were invited to see it, not control it. Even if it didn't always work out, it was always interesting to see.
19 DISNEY ERA: INNOVATIVE
In part because of the passionate fanbase, Lucasfilm under Disney doesn't generally leap into new developments like Lucas did, which is limiting. Those limits however, force the creatives to innovate with everything that has already been established. If it weren't for those limitations, we would never have seen things such as the well executed last act of Admiral Holdo, demolishing a First Order ship using hyperspeed in The Last Jedi.
It's undoubtedly due to Disney's acquisition of the franchise that John Knoll felt he could pitch his idea for Rogue One, giving us the powerful story behind what would have otherwise remained an annoying two meter wide plot hole. They may not be able to expand the world as much as they'd like, but they have a knack for filling it.
18 LUCAS ERA: VILLAINS
Darth Vader is an iconic film villain and has been for decades. Fans still feel a swell of excitement whenever he shows up on screen and the voice of James Earl Jones is heard. The original trilogy built him up and turned him into a well-developed character that ultimate saw redemption. The prequels, while nowhere near as powerful as the originals, gave fans characters like General Grievous and perhaps most famously, Darth Maul.
None of the films following Disney's acquisition have managed to captivate audiences in quite the same way, though they have come close. Even that is mostly because a number of the villains in the sequel trilogy seem to draw inspiration from Lucas' originals, which is a testament to what Lucas was able to create.
17 DISNEY ERA: TAKES CHARACTERS IN INTERESTING DIRECTIONS
The Lucas era was predominately good versus evil. Vader was evil until Luke compelled him to turn back to the light. It was always the Jedi versus the Sith. No more. We've seen new characters who seemed to travel along the same paths, only to distinguish themselves by veering off in another direction. In this way, Jyn Erso and the rest of the squadron was able to acquire the Death Star plans in Rogue One and Kylo Ren was able to tear himself from his masters in The Last Jedi.
While Erso's story already reached its conclusion, Ren's story isn't over yet and he seems to be in control of his path now, though caught in a different struggle between good and evil, which is something we haven't seen in many Star Wars film characters before. It'll be interesting to see where the sequel trilogy takes him in Episode IX.
16 LUCAS ERA: CHARACTER GROWTH
If there's one entry on this list that's likely to divide fans, it's this one. Some people can appreciate the simplicity of a character that just seems to head in a straight line toward success. Others like to see characters struggle in their journey, they like to see those characters lose and restore belief in themselves or the world around them and we got that in the Lucas era films with almost every one of the characters involved.
Luke Skywalker went through an entire character arc and it was clear and kept us hooked every step of the way. Even Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy saw one of the most dramatic journeys we've see in this franchise so far. Disney hasn't exactly provided any such growth in their characters. At least, not in the same cinematically suitable way that Lucas did.
15 DISNEY ERA: BETTER ACTING OVERALL
Aside from Ewan McGregor's performance, people aren't overly fond of the quality of acting in the Lucas era, especially where the prequels were concerned. The Disney films were taken just a little more seriously. There was a standard that was being met with the performances of actors like Andy Serkis and more recently, Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian.
For whatever reason, the actors involved in Star Wars under Disney seem to take their roles a little more seriously. Understandably, that might not necessarily be such a great thing going forward, but in what we've seen so far, it's almost perfect.
14 LUCAS ERA: COHESIVE OVER-ARCHING STORY
George Lucas had an extensive plan for the Star Wars franchise and it showed in the original trilogy and the prequels. Each subplot had a beginning, middle and end and almost nothing went to waste. The reason this could happen was because there was really just one creative mind dictating the entire thing and putting all the right galactic building blocks in place.
That's where the sequel trilogy stumbles, purely because there are multiple creative minds trying to lead the different plot points in different directions. Simply put, J.J Abrams and Rian Johnson clearly had different ideas of where the characters could go, just as Colin Trevorrow probably would have if he hadn't left the project.
13 DISNEY ERA: BALANCED TONE
What the Lucas films didn't have was a singular direction for tone and atmosphere. Even the original trilogy would stumble in places, like it did in Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace when those films attempted to appeal to kids. Childish humor would often be interspersed throughout otherwise heavy, dramatic scenes. That's an issue that doesn't seem to hinder Disney's Star Wars films.
The sequel trilogy and the anthology films all possess comedic scenes but none that completely disrupt the tone each film as a whole tries to establish. It stumbles from time to time but it's far more well balanced than the Lucas films were.
12 LUCAS ERA: BETTER COSTUME DESIGN
The Lucas era was filled with exotic creations trying to bring to life different alien worlds full of culture and variety and it showed in things like costume design. Take for instance, the look of Darth Vader himself back in the day, whose costume was truly unique. In later years, we got interesting things like the garb of Queen Amidala, which looked regal and interesting (and uncomfortable).
We can understand that the design of each character in the sequel trilogy is largely dictated by the setting. They're limited to little eccentricities like Admiral Holdo's hair because, why would she or anyone else there be dressed in a big, extravagant costume? Still, they've had the opportunity to innovate in costume design, but those opportunities passed by, like in Solo: A Star Wars Story. None of the designs really captured attention like the ones present in Lucas' films.
11 DISNEY ERA: BETTER VISUAL EFFECTS
We'll admit that this one isn't entirely fair because Lucas is known for being innovative in the world of visual effects. His company, Industrial Light and Magic, is still very much the one filmmakers turn to. The effects of the original and prequel trilogies might look pretty bad by today's standards but back then they were remarkable. Still, the fact remains that the effects in Disney's films are far better, which should be expected since they own ILM now as well.
Everything seems to blend well together, which helps to draw the audience in. Immersion isn't really a problem for Disney's films because everything from the ships to the aliens in the background seem so lifelike, you could almost reach out and touch them.
10 LUCAS ERA: LIGHTSABER BATTLES
With regard to the lightsaber duels, the original Star Wars films, as well as the prequels, seemed to improve with each new film. The styles were unique and exciting to watch, so much so that people constantly re-enact them in real-life schools and clubs. If you watched the films in order, it was easy to get the sense that the martial arts of both the Jedi were almost lost after the Empire nearly wiped them out, so it made sense that Luke wouldn't be as adept at using his environment.
The style that Kylo Ren generally uses in the sequel films is more akin to Darth Vader's combat style in A New Hope. It's not as exciting to watch. Even the battle between Ren and Luke in The Last Jedi, while exciting for dramatic reasons, wasn't as visually arresting as the battles of the prequels. It makes sense to the story, but that doesn't make it any better.
9 DISNEY ERA: GROUNDED DIALOGUE
George Lucas cannot write compelling dialogue, something that he himself has acknowledged. It may not have been as obvious in the original trilogy but it was a glaring flaw of the prequels. Disney has no such issues with dialogue in the sequel and anthology films. The dialogue in those films are far more believable than anything Lucas delivered in the past.
The characters just sound far more human and grounded and the Star Wars universe is that much more believable for it. When they talk about loss, family or even the dark side and the light, it's more organic. Lucas's trilogies weren't completely absent of organic sounding dialogue, but they were uncomfortably lacking.
8 LUCAS ERA: SPENT TIME BUILDING
Lucas spent a lot of time raising questions he would only answer much later, if at all. He created interesting characters and often only hinted at their complicated backstories. We wanted to know more but we were content just wondering because Lucas clearly had more to tell and more to introduce to the world he was building.
In contrast, Disney so far has spent a lot of time looking back and answering questions that Lucas raised. In fact, the entire anthology series so far has been focused on answering old questions, some of which didn't actually need answers, which was the case for Solo: A Star Wars Story. It tried to expand in the sequel trilogy but whatever questions we had seemingly perished in The Last Jedi.
7 DISNEY ERA: FAITHFUL TO THE MYTHOS
Fans had problems with the some of the things The Last Jedi introduced when it came to Force powers, like the way Luke was able to project himself halfway across the galaxy using the Force. As Rian Johnson proved in a tweet, that was completely faithful to what had already been established in the expanded Star Wars universe.
In its effort to fill in the gaps of Lucas' story, Disney has remained totally faithful. It's difficult to appease fans and one way to fail is to diverge too quickly from what this passionate fanbase knows. So far, Disney has managed to get everything right, including avoiding talk of things like Midi-Chlorians, which most fans choose to pretend, doesn't exist.
6 LUCAS ERA: WIDER VARIETY OF LOCATIONS
Across six films, Lucas took us across the galaxy to a wide variety of planets and moons. Each one had its own native race of beings with its own culture and style, each one had its unique flora and fauna and it made the galaxy feel gigantic. We saw life-giving planets and moons like Naboo, Felucia and Endor among others, as well as more hostile planetary bodies like Mustafar, Geonosis, Tatooine and Dagobah.
Disney doesn't have quite the range in planets so far. Jakku is essentially Tatooine and other settings are either planets revisited from the Lucas era or ones that share striking similarities with things we've already seen. There are exceptions of course and we'll get to those, but the point stands that Lucas' galaxy far, far away is much more diverse in its environments.
5 DISNEY ERA: UNIQUE LOCATIONS
We mentioned that Disney has continued to innovate and while oftentimes, as we said, that means toying with things that have been well-established, that also means thinking outside the box when it comes to locations. We might not see a lot of unique planets but when we do, they stand out more than anything Lucas introduced to the franchise. A perfect example can be found in The Last Jedi.
The third act of the film took place on Crait, a mineral planet whose surface was covered in crystalline salt. When it shifted, it revealed a red mineral beneath. It's an impressive place, visually but it goes beyond that. There's wildlife on the planet; the crystal-covered foxes that inhabit the caverns. If that's any kind of indication of what's to come, there's plenty to be excited about.
4 LUCAS ERA: MUSIC
It isn't just powerful visuals that make for a great film, the music that fills it is equally as important. One of the greats in Hollywood is John Williams, who has composed pieces for Star Wars since A New Hope in 1977. Without a doubt, some of the most tense or exciting sequences throughout the Lucas era were exemplified thanks to Williams.
There are several perfect examples such as the famous "Imperial March" or "Duel of the Fates" from The Phantom Menace. As of yet, nothing has really stood out from the Disney era in terms of music. Why that is anyone's guess since John Williams is still the composer behind those films, with the exception of the anthology films, with which he plays a slightly lesser role.
3 DISNEY ERA: KNOWS HOW TO DO CUTE ANIMALS
Depending on how old you were when you first saw Return of the Jedi, you might not have liked the Ewoks. They were meant to appeal to kids which is why they were brought to the forefront of the story, which isn't generally seen as a good idea. Rudimentary weapons versus the armor and weaponry of the Empire? It doesn't make much sense. Bringing cute creatures in can help charm the audience but it has to be done correctly.
The Last Jedi knew how to introduce cute creatures. They filled the screen but behaved like animals and were limited to a few brief but chuckle-worthy scenes. We are of course talking about the porgs. They were likely introduced to sell toys, but they weren't intrusive to the film experience. It was more of a passive role, which is how it should be.
2 LUCAS ERA: GREAT FOR MEMES
You won't have to scour the Internet for too long before finding a plethora of hilarious memes created from different lines and scenes from Lucas' Star Wars films, specifically the prequels. Part of the reason for that is definitely the fact that the dialogue in those films were stilted and oftentimes melodramatic. The people of the Internet seem to constantly challenge themselves to turn as many lines as they can into a different meme.
You can't really do that with the Disney films, at least not for the same reasons. They do exist, of course -- because this is the Internet we're talking about -- but they're definitely not as popular. In its own weird way, the unnatural dialogue of the prequel films have helped immortalize the films.
1 DISNEY ERA: INCHING TOWARD STANDING ON ITS OWN
Anyone can easily write their own Star Wars story with all new characters, new settings and new stories. Disney could do that easily but it knows better. The sequel trilogy has slowly been bidding farewell to the classic characters -- Han, Luke and next year, Leia -- so that future films can begin completely new stories and continue to develop Rey, Finn and Poe.
George Lucas left a great fictional world for Disney to continue to develop and it's has chosen the right pace at which to build. There's no doubt that if they continue to be careful, perhaps more so than they have been in the past two years, they might be able to offer something superior to the films of the beloved Lucas era.