George Lucas has thoughts on the current state of Star Wars. The franchise's creator has made no secret that he's disappointed that Lucasfilm, the company he sold to Disney in 2012 for $4.06 billion, hasn't followed his outlines for the direction of the series. Most people understand that once you've sold something, it no longer belongs to you. Lucas, however, seems to want to have his cake and eat it too.
In Disney CEO Bob Iger's new memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, he bittersweetly recalls meeting with Lucas for the first time after receiving notes on how the filmmaker would have produced the sequel trilogy. Iger writes, "Now, in the first meeting with him about the future of Star Wars, George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we'd gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start."
It is easy to have sympathy for Lucas. However, as Iger understood, and as many fans need to understand, Lucas' feelings on Star Wars under Disney ultimately don't matter.
Lucas could have made the sequel trilogy himself, but he didn't. Lucas had talked about making a grand saga for years -- sometimes nine films, other times twelve. Either way, with the money Lucasfilm made with the Star Wars brand, he could have funded an entire sequel trilogy himself. He simply chose not to.
Lucas gave his company away and sold his notes to Disney with the understanding that Disney could do whatever they wanted with the property. If he didn't feel satisfied with these conditions, he could have avoided selling it and made the films himself. But he chose not to. He elected to sell. If he has regrets about selling, that's unfortunate, but he made a pretty superb payday as a result of the deal.
However, many of Lucas' ideas did make it into the final product. The outline provided direct inspiration for the new core characters (Rey, Kylo Ren) as well as the fates of many legacy characters -- most notably, Luke Skywalker, being alone and in exile at the first Jedi temple.
Admittedly, though, there were differences from Lucas' outline. But this is to be expected. Lucas went from being the head of an entire company where he called all the shots to expecting an even bigger company to bow to his requests. It would be unreasonable for Lucas to expect Disney to obey all his wishes for the franchise's future. A company ultimately has to think about the best decision for all parties involved. Under Disney, the production of Star Wars became a collaborative effort. Yet, when Lucas owned the franchise, no one questioned his singular vision, as can be seen in many behind-the-scenes documentaries.
Which brings us to the next point...
Lucas Has Very Little To Do With Why Star Wars is Good
This stance is a little more controversial, but George Lucas, despite starting the series, has also held the franchise back. While Lucas is responsible for countless decisions that led to Star Wars' success, he also almost ruined it time and time again.
Lucas had complete creative control over the prequel trilogy -- and undeniably created the three worst received films in the Star Wars saga. Of the original trilogy, Lucas only directed A New Hope. Many of the best moments from the three original films came from directors Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett, as well as producers Gary Kurtz and Howard Kazanjian. Ironically, the film many fans tout as the best of that trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, was the one Lucas was least involved in making.
Plus, while Lucas did serve as A New Hope's director and writer, he needed a lot of help on the film. Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck helped him rewrite the fourth draft of the script -- and, indeed, the original film went through several, drastically different drafts before reaching the screen.
In addition, Lucas' first cut of A New Hope was a notorious disaster. Lucas' then-wife had to re-cut the movie. And it was her work that ensured it was as entertaining as it was. Before that, the film was horribly paced. It only succeeded because people came in to help ensure it worked.
Once Lucas became more successful, perhaps he didn't feel the need to ask for help -- or perhaps no one around him questioned his judgment. But this ultimately leads to the most important reason we should discount Lucas' opinion about Disney's Star Wars...
Lucas Doesn't Think Your Feelings About Star Wars Matter
This is not to say that Lucas hates his fans. Far from it. He has expressed his gratitude to fans for loving the franchise. However, over the years, he has often acted in ways that indicate he doesn't take fan opinions into account when they gets in the way of his own vision.
Consider this: in the 90s, Lucas re-edited the original trilogy to create "The Special Edition," which Lucas claimed were the definitive cuts of his classic films. However, many fans did not care for his changes. They wanted to see remastered versions of the films they grew up with without CGI thrown haphazardly on the screen.
Lucas could have done what his friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg did with the E.T. Special Edition: release an edited version of the film alongside the original release. Instead, Lucas just released the new Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy. To date, no earlier cut has received an HD release. If Lucas cared about what fans wanted, he could have easily had earlier cuts of the films restored for audiences, but he didn't. He very deliberately avoided responding to fan outcry about the Special Editions and chose not to address any of their legitimate concerns.
So Lucas is disappointed with how Star Wars turned out? Well, so what? We're disappointed about the Special Editions. We're disappointed about Jar-Jar Binks. Those were decisions made under Lucas. In the vast scheme of things, Star Wars has survived despite Lucas, not because of him. Lucas deserves credit for coming up with the original idea for Star Wars, but not so much that fans should believe that Bob Iger, J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson ruined his perfect creation.