When Disney first bought out Lucasfilm and acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise, I sighed in resignation. There it was, I thought, the final nail in the coffin of the beloved cinematic universe of my youth, a series that from here on out would feature cameos by Goofy and would be nothing more than an excuse to expand a theme park. Disney, I figured, would kill Star Wars once and for all by making it -- corporate.
But then I took a second to think about it and suddenly things suddenly looked a little different. George Lucas had already hammered all but that one last nail into the coffin of his creation by making three horribly written, overly stylized, poorly acted, unnecessarily convoluted, heartless and soulless prequels. He had been hammering away at that coffin for years by constantly tinkering with the original films we all fell in love with: adding and subtracting to and from them whenever the mood struck him, needlessly updating their effects as his love affair with technology blossomed into an obsession, making Greedo shoot first. He did all of this despite the fact that those films had not only been ostensibly finished products for years into decades, they'd become an indelible part of the public consciousness. In essence, George Lucas had already ruined Star Wars. Disney couldn't do any worse by the series.
Now we know for sure: Not only did Disney not do any worse, thanks to its desire to make Star Warsentertaining again, the company and the ridiculously competent director it hired to relaunch the franchise, J.J. Abrams, created an absolutely terrific movie in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The film manages to recapture the magic and, yes, fun audiences felt watching the original trilogy. It feels lived-in and whole. The emotion and wonder is there. The humor is there. It's mercifully devoid of senate hearings, trade disputes and Jar Jar Binks. If we draw a direct line from Return of the Jedi, in fact, it's a film that feels like the first entry in the Star Wars saga in 32 years. And that was intentional, because whether it was done for financial reasons or creative ones, when Disney took over and brought Abrams aboard, they all knew their, ahem, "first order" of business was to right the ship -- the ship George Lucas himself had all but capsized.
Well, knowing what we know about George Lucas, given all that he's shown us over the past couple of decades, you can imagine how he's taking all of this right now.
In a new interview with Charlie Rose, Lucas criticizes the new -- vastly improved -- Star Wars movie and expresses resentment over who Disney is, what the company did with his creation, and how it didn't listen to him about the direction the series should go. "I sold (my kids) to white slavers," he says, chuckling a little before deciding not to finish the sentence. "They looked at the stories (Lucas's ideas), and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans,’” Lucas says. “They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. … They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway — but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”
Except that Lucas didn't go his way. He certainly didn't take the four billon dollars he made off the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, put on a happy face and be gracious toward the movie that's now poised to become the biggest film of all time -- the movie based entirely on his creations. No, Lucas, because he's a surly, self-righteous prick, couldn't help himself and had to shuffle off to the corner and passive-aggressively sulk, waiting for someone to finally walk over and ask him why. He feels slighted because, after years spent systematically disassembling the legacy of his own creation to the point where people started to consider him the primary enemy of it, somebody came along and chose to take up the mantle and exclude him from the process. Well, tough shit, George.
The problem with Lucas is made perfectly clear at the very beginning of his quote to Charlie Rose. After all this time, he still considers Star Wars his "kids." I give him credit for the independent spirit that, as someone with an auteur's eye, made him fight tooth and nail in the mid-70s to get Star Wars off the ground and make it exactly what he wanted. The problem, though, is that even after it was released and became a global phenomenon, Lucas still behaved as if the film, its sequels and everything else it spawned was still a personal project he was playing around with in his garage. He refused to accept that he wasn't the father of the super-smart introvert kid he could study with alone in his bedroom -- he was the father of the quarterback prom king he had to share with the world.
Lucas can't share, though -- not with other creative types and apparently not with the fans either, the very people who made him breathtakingly wealthy. He derides fan service or consideration like it's beneath him and beneath the wondrous thing he created. He made changes to his original movies nobody asked for or wanted and made three new films utterly devoid of the very qualities that drew millions to the original trilogy. He overwhelmed those films with CGI because he was infatuated with that he could do technologically instead of thinking about whether he should do it. And he was able to justify it all because he never really took the fans into consideration. Star Wars was still all about him, even when it wasn't and hadn't been since it was seared into an entire world's childhood. Now, he derides Disney for doing nothing more than returning Star Wars to its rightful place: with the fans.
Who knows, maybe George Lucas is jealous. It's well-known that he got tired of being a punching bag for the fans, even though he refused to even consider why he had become that. So maybe now it burns him up to see Star Wars succeed on an unprecedented scale by being everything he didn't want. Honestly, who the hell knows what he's thinking? The important thing is that it doesn't matter anymore.
From the bottom of our hearts, George, thank you for your brilliance and dedication-to-craft 40 years ago. Now kindly shut the fuck up and go away.