It’s amazing how a new Star Wars trilogy has changed the way we think of George Lucas. Yes, the man created the franchise that has become one of the pillars of all geek culture. The Original Trilogy is still heralded as one of the best film trilogy series of all time. But then the Star Wars Prequels came out. I guess kids liked it at the time but, as the years came and went, more and more Star Wars fans realized how bad these actually were and, guess what? People were actually saying that George Lucas didn’t know what to do with Star Wars! In fact, fans were happy when Disney bought it from him.
Fast forward to today. Disney’s final entry in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy and, as a whole, this new series of films is problematic. I don’t like the Prequels but at least there was a running story throughout them. The Trilogy Disney made was unfocused as they would have different ideas. But, as a strange after effect from the Sequel Trilogy, fans have started to root for George Lucas once again to take control of the franchise. This is the same fanbase that hated George Lucas because of how bad the Prequels were! The Force is definitely strong with George Lucas now.
I will give all the credit where credit is due. George Lucas has a good imagination. He created a franchise that will live on for generations. But let’s not forget that there were times when he didn’t do Star Wars right. Here are five instances when this happened and, surprisingly, none of the entries is about Jar Jar Binks! Because that would be too easy!
The Prequels are Pathethic
Let’s start with the the biggest mistake Lucas made with Star Wars. And when I mean “biggest,” I mean three whole films that were poorly executed. Of course, I mean the Prequel Trilogy.
I did say that the Prequels outshine the Sequel Trilogy in terms of a general sense of story. Episodes I, II and III have a general cast of characters that we follow and their relationships grow as each new installment is released. But, if you watch them as films and not just as part of a grander story, they’re bad. They have generally boring plots and bad acting. The dialogue is especially bad with lines like the infamous “I don’t like sand” bit. The special effects, while maybe state of the art then, now look like cheap CGI you can see in last generation video games.
What makes them worse is, while they are generally interconnected, you don’t really have to even see Episode I: The Phantom Menace. That may be the film where you’re introduced to a young Anakin Skywalker, you know, the guy who’ll become Darth Vader, it really isn’t important in the grand scheme of things since you can basically jump into Episode II: Attack of the Clones and you’ll be just fine. In fact, there’s a popular method of what order to watch the Star Wars films called the Machete Order.
The Machete Order has you basically watching Episode IV and V first. Since Empire Strikes Backs ends with the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, you then see Episodes II and III next as kind of a flashback to Anakin’s journey to become the villain. You then close it all out with Return of the Jedi and see his redemption to becoming a good guy again.
I myself don’t subscribe to this notion. As much as I don’t like The Phantom Menace, you’re doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t see the awesome lightsaber duel between Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan while John Williams’ awesome Duel of the Fates plays in the background. Even so, the mere fact that you can even skip Episode I, the film that’s supposed to set up the entire store and not miss anything, shows how unimportant it is.
On the other hand, if you skip The Phantom Menace you also miss out on the entire midi-chlorians crap. Speaking of which…
The Introduction of Midi-Chlorians
To many fans, the introduction of Jar Jar Binks was the worst thing that came out The Phantom Menace. I humbly have to disagree. The actual worst thing that came out of The Phantom Menace was the idea of midi-chlorians.
For those who forgotten this exists or have blocked it out of their memories, midi-chlorians are little being that exist in every thing. They are the conduit to controlling The Force and, the more midi-chlorians you have, the more Force Sensitive you are. Basically, this is George Lucas’ way of adding a scientific reason as to why some people can control the Force better.
This was dumb. Really, really dumb.
Remember how Obi-Wan Kenobi talked about what The Force was during the first Star Wars film? The Force was just an energy that was binds everything together. It’s a very beautiful and poetic explanation to something that, well, shouldn’t be explained in the first place. Lucas then doubles down with account in Empire Strikes Back when Yoda explains that you have to “feel” The Force all around you because it is all around you.
I didn’t think any Star Wars fan wanted a scientific reason as to why some people can become Jedi or whatnot. I can tell you that, when I was a kid, I wanted to be one with The Force. I wanted to be able to move items as big as X-Wing Fighters with my mind. I wanted to use the Jedi Mind Trick on my friends. I can’t imagine any kid who watched the Original Trilogy that didn’t want to do this. And the explanation given by Obi-Wan and Yoda made it seem like anyone can absolutely do this.
But, according to the Prequels, no. You gotta have a high enough midi-chlorian count or it’s tough cookies for ya! In fact, the idea of midi-chlorians kind of makes Yodo kind of a dick. Oh, it doesn’t matter how small you are, huh? Well, you have a ton of midi-chlorians that allows you to do it!
The Creation and the Denial of The Star Wars Holiday Special’s Existence
Everyone wants to point at Disney and say how they’ve been whoring out the Star Wars license ever since they bought it from George Lucas. Well, that may be true but don’t think Lucas was any better. He so desperately wanted toys to be made out of Star Wars that he allowed Kenner to give him a mere pittance just so he could get some extra cash!
But another way Lucas pretty much sold out with the Star Wars license was with the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s something that Lucas regrets making. He regrets it so much that he wants everyone to forget it even exists!
The Star Wars Holiday Special is a really weird TV special that was made to fully capitalize on the success of the first film. They even manage to rope in all the good guys to participate. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher all had to appear in this special about getting Chewbacca back to his home planet to celebrate Life Day. Oh, and god bless Carrie Fisher for singing that extremely cheesy song! Man, she must have been so high then…
You hardly even see Luke, Leia and Han Solo throughout this 90+ minute monstrosity as they’re relegated to cameos for the most part. What we get instead is watching Chewbacca’s family messing about by watching videos and trying to avoid the inept Imperial Forces from finding out that they’re part of the Rebel Alliance.
The weird thing is the Star Wars Holiday Special is ultimately harmless. Yes, it’s a dumb TV special and it’s very goofy. I remember watching it as a kid and thinking it was fine and it’s kind of funny to watch, especially today in an era when fans take Star Wars so seriously. What’s doubly weird is that George Lucas has gone to extraordinary efforts to try to contain it. The Star Wars Holiday Special has never been re-released and only old VCR copies exist, leading to the only available versions being of terrible quality.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is an odd footnote in the franchise’s canon. George Lucas allowed it to be created yet he doesn’t want anyone to know today it ever existed. Ultimately, it’s the fans that suffer as this is still a piece of Star Wars history so George Lucas trying to get it excised from people’s memories is just wrong.
The Special Editions overwriting the Original Editions
I can understand why George Lucas doesn’t want the Star Wars Holiday Special to be viewed by anyone. He may have approved of it but he didn’t have a hand in its production. This was all made by other people.
I can’t understand why he wouldn’t want fans to watch the original versions of the Original Trilogy, however.
Ever since George Lucas created the Special Editions, there hasn’t been an official way to watch the original versions of the Original Trilogy. You can bother with old VHS tapes and even special DVD copies. But there has yet to be an official HD release of the Original Trilogy anywhere.
Because of this, we got the entire “Han shot first” movement because Lucas didn’t feel that a scoundrel like Han Solo would kill Greedo in cold blood. He’s a good guy after all! This wasn’t the only thing he changed as he added new CGI scenes that do nothing for the story. The film in the Original Trilogy that got the brunt of the changes was Return of the Jedi as it had a ton of new scenes, like the one in Naboo where we hear a Jar Jar Binks like voice exclaim “Weesa Free!” George Lucas not only had the nerve to remove the Ewok celebration song “Yub Nub” with some generic flute music but add probably the worst musical scene ever in a film.
Thanks, Lucas. I hate it.
But having the Special Editions would be okay if the original versions were also made available. After all, the original films were the ones that made Star Wars the cultural phenomenon it has become today. Yet, George Lucas flat out refuses to do so. And, no. This is not Disney’s fault. If you really believe Disney is the money-grubbing company it was, would you really think they would not make the “non-special edition” versions of the Original Trilogy available on Blu-ray and DVD shelves? They would do it in a heartbeat because they know everyone would buy it!
No, this is all on George Lucas. Even after the original Special Editions came out, he never stopped fiddling with the Original Trilogy. He kept on making little changes, like maybe updating Jabba the Hutt’s CGI model in Episode IV or making it so that Han Solo and Greedo would shoot at the same time but the lovable smuggler would jerk his head an inch to his right so the other bounty hunter would miss.
It’s like he’s been trying to “perfect” the Original Trilogy despite them being great. Because of this, he decided to not release the original theatrical cut of the films. It’s almost like he’s ashamed of them!
Kathleen Kennedy is The Chosen One
A lot of the complaints regarding the new Sequel Trilogy has been laid at the feet of current LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy. I agree that most of the problems stem from her managing and mismanaging the new series of films. There was no long-term plan for them and it’s painfully easy to notice.
You may think that it’s Disney’s fault for having Kathleen Kennedy handle one of the pillars of geek culture since she doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the material. That may be so. It would have been a good idea to have fired her so that someone who loves the franchise could take the reins.
But who gave her the reins in the first place? It was good old George Lucas himself! Yes, in Lucas’ mind, Kathleen Kennedy was the chosen one!
In retrospect, George Lucas had every right to put a tremendous amount of faith in Kathleen Kennedy. Her track record as a producer, before the new Star Wars films anyway, is stellar. She helped out on Raiders of the Lost Ark, which George Lucas produced along with Steven Spielberg. The first movie where she got a producer credit was in E.T.! She went on to produce films like the Back to the Future trilogy, Jurassic Park, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and many more big movies. That’s nothing to sneeze at!
If you told anyone a decade ago that Kathleen Kennedy, the woman responsible for such big, geeky movies, would destroy the Star Wars franchise for many fans, you would’ve been thought of as a crazy person. Yet, here we are now. Looking back in hindsight is a funny thing, isn’t it?
BONUS: George Lucas himself didn’t have a plan after Episode IV
This is kind of my personal opinion but there is a basis to it.
If you read through the entire thing, you may have noticed that I never called Episode IV by it’s subtitle, A New Hope. Well, that’s because A New Hope wasn’t in the original 1977 film! In fact, the entire idea that it was “Episode IV” was put in after some time as Star Wars was kind of its own standalone film!
Star Wars fans have known this for a long time as well as the idea that George Lucas was heavily influenced by old adventure serial films like Flash Gordon. Since they were serial short films, there’s a chance you may just come in the middle of the story, like what we see in the original 1977 Star Wars film. But that doesn’t mean that he already had an idea to make another two movies as well as a Prequel Trilogy when he was making it! That came much later when he realized that Star Wars was a big hit and he could make more movies!
In my mind, one of the greatest film franchises in all of geekdom came to be by the success of one movie. But what a movie it was!
How else do you think George Lucas kind of screwed up with Star Wars? Besides Jar Jar Binks, I mean. Let me know in the comments section below!