When the second teaser trailer for the seventh installment of the legendary Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, premiered on April 16, the internet went insane. According to the Star Wars official Facebook page, the trailer racked up approximately 88 million views on YouTube in its first week, not to mention thousands of reaction videos showing elated responses to the mere taste of what is to come. The incredible recognition the video received shows the generation-spanning emotional power the series possesses. More importantly it shows an eagerness among fans to forget the trauma of the infamously terrible prequels. The question is, how will The Force Awakens stand in the polarized legacy of the Star Wars franchise? Probably favorably, but on one condition: George Lucas’s role in their creation is as limited as possible.
Lucas is the original creator of Star Wars, the man who first envisioned the barren sands of Tatooine, the world-destroying technological glory of the Death Star, and the mystical properties of the Force. George Lucas both wrote and directed the first film in the original trilogy, and Star Wars would be nothing without the breathtaking scope of Lucas’s imagination… in prescribed doses, that is.
After the self-congratulation of the recent prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith), Lucas has proven that he is not to be trusted with complete creative control of the franchise. During production of the original trilogy, Lucas was still a new director at 20th Century Fox (one of the biggest film studios in the world) and many of his original ideas for the films were cut by executives and higher ups. The best-left-forgotten prequels were made almost 25 years later, when the original trilogy had long been recognized as one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, and George Lucas’ role in their creation had given him god-like status in Hollywood and the hearts of millions of Star Wars fans. Absolutely no one was ready to refuse Lucas’ assumption of complete creative control of the prequels, and Fox was guaranteed to make off like a bandit with the earnings. Unfortunately, Lucas’ vision resulted in muddled plot lines, boring cinematography, and forgettable characters with no real personality—unless you count the annoying, cringe-worthy manner of Jar Jar Binks, the most ill-conceived of all of his creations.
With Lucas firmly at the helm, there was no room for the collaboration that helped make the original trilogy so great. Each of the original films had a different director, and each screenplay was penned by a different team of writers. However, Lucas directed all of the prequels and wrote two out of three of the screenplays. With no one to tell him where he was going wrong, the prequels felt like first drafts, scripts completely unrevised for faultiness or inconsistencies.
Fortunately, Lucas is merely a creative consultant on The Force Awakens, and has admitted that his ideas for the film were ultimately rejected by Disney, who bought the rights to Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012. Instead, the giant media conglomerate has handed creative control over to J.J. Abrams, acclaimed director of many action and sci-fi movies including the two latest Star Trek movies, and Lawrence Kasdan, one of the screenwriters of The Empire Strikes Back. Also, the new film reintroduces Mark Hamill as Luke, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, all of whom are characters rich with personality. Most of the new characters are played by largely untested actors and actresses, though leading man John Boyega did an excellent job playing Moses in the hilarious British stoner sci-fi film Attack the Block. All in all, it appears that Disney is taking a fresh approach to the Star Wars franchise without forgetting to pay homage to its greatest characters. It will probably turn out great, as long as George Lucas keeps his paws off it.