George Lucas is the creator of the Star Wars franchise, and the fans owe him an enormous debt. On the other hand, there has been a backlash against him in recent years. In the 1990s, there was excitement about the prospect of a new trilogy of prequels, but that turned to frustration when the movies came out and weren’t what fans thought they should be. Rage only grew when Lucas began adding things to and changing the original trilogy. The fan base turned on Lucas, saying he had lost touch with the franchise and ruined Star Wars. In fact, there was a collective sigh of relief when it was announced that Disney had bought the rights to Star Wars and would make a new trilogy without George Lucas.
Many Star Wars fans blame Lucas for ruining the franchise, but it could have been much worse. Over the years, Lucas has been involved in the development and production of Star Wars movies, video games and TV shows, and not always for the better. In a few instances, Lucas wasn’t able to do what he wanted, and that was a good thing. Here are 16 times when Lucas came close to making Star Wars even worse.
16. HE ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT
The first way Lucas almost ruined Star Wars is that he almost didn’t make it at all. Lucas really started out wanting to make a modern version of Flash Gordon movie serials from the 1930s. Flash Gordon was a pulp hero who traveled through space, having adventures. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Star Wars fans), the rights to Flash Gordon weren’t available, so Lucas decided to create his own science fiction adventure.
Even then, it wasn’t a straight line. In the 1970s, Lucas was friends and partners with Francis Ford Coppola, who was developing Apocalypse Now. Lucas was heavily involved in Apocalypse, helping to develop the script; the character of Colonel Lucas was even named after him. He was planning to direct Apocalypse Now, but his movie American Graffiti did so well that 20th Century Fox agreed to make his dream project, Star Wars.
15. THE SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece, but if Lucas had his way, the sequel would have been much worse. Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a 1978 science fiction novel written by Alan Dean Foster when everyone thought the first movie would be a bomb. The sole purpose of the novel was to make a story that could be adapted as a cheap sequel to Star Wars.
First, Foster set the story on a foggy planet so sets could be hidden and cheap to build. Only Luke, Leia and Darth Vader returned to avoid having to cast too many actors. Lucas even ordered a space battle cut from the novel to keep from having to film it. It would have made a weak Star Wars movie, so we can be glad it was never used.
14. A MORE ANNOYING JAR JAR
Jar Jar Binks takes the crown of the most annoying Star Wars character in almost every poll ever made in the last 20 years. With his clumsy behavior, annoying voice and child-like sensibility, Jar Jar has inspired hatred from fans for decades. While almost no one but George Lucas thinks the character was a good idea, Jar Jar could have been a lot worse.
In his original concept, Jar Jar Binks would have had elastic bones that let him twist and stretch like a cartoon character. He would have also changed shape in different gravity, turning him into a squashed or stretched out version of himself. If a Looney Tunes version of Jar Jar doesn’t make your eyes roll, try this. Lucas also thought about a goofy lizard/dog pet called a blarth that would follow Jar Jar around and cause more chaos. Mercifully, the blarth was cut as well.
13. LUCAS ALMOST RUINED YODA
The Jedi master Yoda is one of the most popular and enduring characters in the Star Wars universe. First appearing in The Empire Strikes Back, he was memorably performed and voiced by Frank Oz, who also voiced muppets like Miss Piggy. If Lucas had gone with his first ideas, Yoda wouldn’t have been as good.
The first bad idea was to have Yoda played by a live monkey in an alien costume. Of course, the test footage was a disaster with the monkey freaking out over the appliances. When Lucas finally hired Frank Oz to perform Yoda, Oz naturally expected to voice the character. Instead, Lucas went on a long search for a voice actor for the role before he reluctantly went with Oz. Of course, Oz did a masterful performance, no thanks to Lucas.
12. THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL
In 1978, the disastrously bad TV movie The Star Wars Holiday Special aired. It brought back the cast of the original movie and centered around Chewbacca’s family – ridiculously named Itchy, Malla and Lumpy – celebrating “Life Day.” The movie was so badly received that it’s never been officially released or rebroadcast. Lucas himself didn’t write or direct the TV show, but came up with the idea of making a variety show about a group of Wookiees who didn’t talk.
With all the hatred piled on the Holiday Special, you would think it would be quickly forgotten and kept separate from the “real” Star Wars universe. In fact, just the opposite happened. Lucasfilm decreed the Holiday Special canon and the characters and setting have been included in official Star Wars continuity until Disney bought the franchise and made all previous material non-canon.
11. HE ALMOST RUINED THE SCRIPT
If you thought Star Wars was locked in once he got the deal to make the movie, you’d be sadly mistaken. While George Lucas is the creator of Star Wars, he struggled with the writing. In fact, he labored eight hours a day. Yet his first attempt at a Star Wars script was a disaster with a different storyline and characters than the final draft, and which readers found baffling.
His second draft wasn’t much better, although it was an improvement, and completely changed the story again. In the end, his final draft of the movie was still so bad that the studio bought the movie based on his track record, not the story. The final version we saw on the screen was written all the way up until right before filming, showing that if it had been approved earlier, Star Wars might have been a complete mess.
10. NO SEQUELS
Star Wars told a self-contained story about a farm boy recruited to rescue a princess and destroy a space fortress. If it had been left as a single movie, there would have been no spin-offs, new characters, and (most importantly) a larger storyline about the Jedi and Sith, and the Skywalker family to build off of. That’s why it was a close call that George Lucas almost didn’t make a sequel at all.
Though Lucas had written a longer and more complex story for Star Wars, he eventually cut most of the material and made the first movie about the most climatic part. When the movie was a smash hit, he wasn’t sure if he should make a sequel, but the runaway profits from the original made him decide to make one anyway. He even briefly considered selling the sequel rights and walking away but decided to stay aboard.
9. HE COULDN’T AFFORD EMPIRE
When 20th Century Fox bought Star Wars, Lucas requested the rights for any potential sequels. To try to be independent, Lucas decided to finance Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by himself. He took out bank loans and used the earnings from the first movie, but the movie still went over budget, forcing him to ask Fox to guarantee another loan. Thankfully, he finished the movie and launched an empire.
If the movie had failed, Lucas would have gone bankrupt, and the entire Star Wars franchise would have ground to a halt. It would have been less risky for everyone if Lucas had just stayed under the studio umbrella and let someone else finance the movie instead of trying to do it himself. Still, it was a gamble that paid off.
8. STAR WARS: UNDERWORLD
In 2005, Lucas announced a live-action TV show entitled Star Wars: Underworld. The series would have been set on the city-planet Coruscant during the gap between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Fans were really excited at the thought of new stories told in the epic universe, but the TV show never happened, thanks to Lucas.
According to reports, Lucas hired writers to create scripts for the show and told them not to worry about cost. The series ended up with 50 completed scripts and concept art was also produced, but cost was something to worry about after all. No network would pick up Underworld because of the expense. Thankfully, they put the series on hold instead of trying to produce a cheaper version of the show. A cheap Star Wars show would have been worse than nothing at all.
7. MORE PREQUEL CAMEOS
One of the most divisive elements of the Star Wars prequels turned out to be the many characters who appeared as younger versions. While Boba Fett’s origin in Attack of the Clones has been popular, revealing C-3PO was built by Darth Vader and Wicket the Ewok showing up in the podracing audience were less so. If Lucas had his way, we would have seen even more unnecessary cameos.
In his original draft of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Lucas planned to have a young Han Solo appear as the adopted son of Chewbacca. Lucas also shot a scene where a young Greedo appeared in The Phantom Menace, but the scene was cut. He even thought of adding a young Lando Calrissian. The one thing they have in common is that they all answered questions no one asked.
6. DARTH VADER’S REAL FATHER
Who was Anakin Skywalker’s father? If you’ve seen the prequels, you probably think the answer is “no one.” That’s what his mother Shmi Skywalker said in The Phantom Menace, but that wasn’t George Lucas’ original plan. In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine described a Sith legend about Darth Plagueis who learned to create life. In his original draft, Lucas meant for the story to lead to a revelation that Palpatine used the same power to create Anakin, making him Darth Vader’s father.
Thankfully, Lucas and others realized that having an “I am your father” moment in Revenge of the Sith wouldn’t have the same impact as Darth Vader’s in Empire Strikes Back. In fact, it would come across as pretty lame, pulling the same reveal in the prequels they did in the original movies.
5. DARTH VADER’S BROTHER
Boba Fett is one of the coolest characters in Star Wars, one of the only good things to come from The Star Wars Holiday Special. Though he had few lines, his powerful and mysterious presence hooked fans for decades. Some of the mystery of his origin was taken away by his clone origin in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, but it could have been much worse.
According to Lucas’ ex-wife Marcia Lucas, George Lucas seriously considered having a reveal that Anakin Skywalker and Boba Fett were actually brothers. We don’t know too much more detail, but we can only imagine Anakin and Boba as bros, charging down the battlefield together. Or maybe Boba would have been a little kid running after Anakin, headed out of the Jedi Temple. Thankfully, Marcia convinced Lucas the idea was too hokey, saving us all.
4. HAN SOLO WAS FROZEN FOREVER
One of the few things about the prequels that all Star Wars fans can agree on is that Darth Maul was awesome. A whirling enemy of lightsabers and gymnastic skill, his greatness was cut short by his death at the end of The Phantom Menace. Sadly, the same thing almost happened to Han Solo. It’s hard to imagine Solo staying around for only two movies, which would have happened if things went as Lucas planned.
After Empire Strikes Back, Harrison Ford was one of the few who hadn’t agreed to a third movie. That, combined with Ford’s unhappiness with the character, meant there was a big chance he wouldn’t come back. To solve the problem, Lucas had Han Solo frozen in carbonite, planning to leave him frozen forever. Fortunately, Ford agreed to the sequel and defrosted Solo to fight another day.
3. STAR WARS: FARMVILLE
No one can say George Lucas has been shy about licensing Star Wars. In fact, Lucas has made more money from action figures, comic books and bath towels based on the franchise than he has from the movies. That’s caused him to agree to a lot of things thrown his way, but one we can be glad never happened is Star Wars: Outpost.
Outpost was nothing less than Farmville for Star Wars fans. It involved players building an outpost, buying and trading resources and choosing to help the Empire or the Rebellion. Farmville was a much loved but now loathed game for Facebook that had annoyances like in-game purchases and asking Facebook friends for help. Fortunately, the project was killed when Disney bought Lucasarts and we didn’t have to endure messages begging us to send our friends kyber crystals.
2. STAR WARS KIDS
When Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, they immediately announced plans to create a new trilogy. At that point, George Lucas revealed he had already developed plans for a new trilogy and turned them over to Disney. Ultimately, Disney decided to commission new scripts and rejected Lucas’ treatments for the movies. Why? Because his trilogy kind of sucked.
Lucas’ new trilogy would have focused on the rebuilding of the Republic, which would have been less dramatic. It’s not as interesting to see something being built up than the threat of something being torn down. The new trilogy also would have focused on the children of Han Solo, Leia and Luke Skywalker. Disney had flashbacks to the young Anakin in The Phantom Menace yelling “yippee,” and scrapped that idea as well. Fans around the world dodged a huge bullet on that one.
1. STAR WARS DETOURS
By the time Disney bought Lucasfilm, it seems like George Lucas had decided the time had come to bring Star Wars to television. Not only had he introduced Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but he had also been developing an animated series called Star Wars Detours. However, Detours would not have continued or expanded on the Star Wars universe. No, it would have been making fun of it.
Star Wars Detours would have been a parody series set between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, produced by the creators of Robot Chicken. Apparently, they got as far as producing two seasons of episodes, but Disney shut down the project because it felt Detours wouldn’t let young viewers take the characters seriously. After all, how seriously could you take Darth Vader if you saw him tripping and falling over his cape every week?
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