As we prepare for the pending release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, I had to pause and think about what will be the second live-action Star Wars film to release without any impact from series creator George Lucas. While it has been reported that Lucas was consulted on visual aspects and such for the film, he did not have a hand in the writing, producing, or directing of the film which has been the case with all Star Wars productions since he sold the franchise along with other properties to Disney.
Many attribute what have been perceived as lackluster Prequels for the absence of Lucas as Disney paid top dollar to get the franchise and wants to do things in the manner that they feel is best for their investment, but at the same time want to show some semblance of respect to the creator even of this stops short of any significant involvement on the films.
Growing up, “Star Wars” was the cinematic masterpiece that fueled my imagination like that of so many others, and also changed the way that movies were made and marketed. The original films were iconic and cherished and the 17-year interval that followed before the arrival of “The Phantom Menace”, only fueled fan’s appetites for more films.
As we all know, that despite financial success, the Prequel films were and have been widely blasted by fans, and have not had the same cultural impact or significance of those that preceded it, and caused Lucas to go from a beloved individual to the target of vicious barbs, criticism, and complaints by many fans who feel he destroyed “Star Wars” with his most recent offerings.
While I agree that the Prequels are not as good as the original films, I still find them to be very entertaining and are filled with enough action and great FX to hold my interest. Yes, Jar Jar Binks aside, the films for the most part achieved what Lucas set out to do and with the amount of money earned by the films, obviously enough people liked what they saw.
For me the biggest reason for this aside from the lower quality of the Prequels comes down to the Internet. The net did not exist when Lucas made the original film series and as such fans obtained their news from television, radio, newspapers, and magazine, much of which slanted things in a very positive light when dealing with Lucas and his creations.
“The Phantom Menace” arrived on a wave of hype and expectations that no film could possibly achieve. I remember Lucas himself telling anyone who would listen that the Prequels were different than the originals as it was a different era, and advances in technology combined with the different tone of the story would create films that have a different look and pacing compared to what fans would expect.
No sooner had the film arrived, then the net was flooded with hate towards Lucas, Jar Jar Binks, and numerous other criticisms. In the three years that followed before “Attack of the Clones” arrived, the net was filled with sites and message boards where fans eagerly exchanged theories, gossip, rumors, and barbs with one another as well as a measurable amount of venom at Lucas. This pattern continued for “Revenge of the Sith” which now had the rise of social media adding to the mix and giving fans an even larger platform to spread the hate. I joked on the radio that there are numerous people in Hollywood who would love to create the so called failures and disappointments of the Prequels when the final box office numbers were tallied and were very impressive indeed.
To me the biggest issue that Lucas had was being surrounded by Yes Men like Rick McCallum who produced many of his pictures. Being self-financed, Lucas wrote, directed, and produced his films and had no input from a studio or any other sources so he made the movies that he wanted. Unlike the originals where other Directors and Writers were involved, Lucas ran unchecked as nobody had the stones to tell the boss that many of the choices made for the films were needing some change, and as such, Lucas continued to work away and was sheltered from any criticism or differing opinions until the public saw the film, and when they did, they did not hold back which surely came as a shock to Lucas. The Internet allowed millions of people all over the world an easy forum to post their dislikes over and over, and made it easy to vilify the man that they had once held as icon. One has to wonder how the original films would have endured if Internet Trolls had been around in 1977 as frankly, the man behind “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” deserved better than he ended up with from a fan’s perspective.