If you follow Star Wars, you’ve probably have read or heard the news of Disney CEO Bob Iger admitting that creator George Lucas felt betrayed when the creative direction of the new trilogy was unraveled.
Given how the films in the new trilogy were received by some in the fanbase, I cannot say that I’m surprised.
The old movies were poetic at best. There was a story there. It was a story about a young man growing up on a remote desert planet and eventually becoming a freedom fighter. That young man not only had to free the galaxy from the grip of a intergalactic tyrannical government but, he also had to free his father who was once a hero turned puppet of a dictator. Along the way, he found two droids on the run, learned of his heritage from an old hermit, made friends with a scoundrel and his furry co-pilot, learned more of his heritage from a wise creature, and discovered that a princess was his own flesh and blood.
To this day, that story, told in three films, still resonates with people. Several people have dissected it from college students working long hours on their dissertations to fans giving their own views on the films. Fans like myself.
When I was 10-years old, I became a fan of Star Wars. My first Star Wars action figures were a Han Solo with Jabba the Hutt. An elementary school friend and I pretended to be Jedi Knights fighting the Empire. Me and my friends in my neighborhood would talk about Star Wars almost constantly. In terms of favorite characters, Luke Skywalker was cool but, Han Solo was (and still is) my favorite and Princess Leia was my childhood crush. R2-D2 and C-3PO were the droids that I wanted to have. I believed in having the Force. And yes, I did own a toy lightsaber I bought from Tomorrowland in Disneyland (this was before Disney acquired Star Wars).
As I got older, I collected Star Wars books (the Han Solo Trilogy written by A.C. Crispin, the Young Jedi Knights series written by Kevin J. Anderson, and the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole were my favorite novels). I also played the video games like the Dark Forces series which centered around stormtrooper turned Jedi Knight Kyle Katarn and Shadows of the Empire that centered around Dash Rendar. Both the books and the games introduced me to the Expanded Universe and I was introduced to new characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn(An Imperial Admiral) , Corran Horn (X-Wing pilot turned Jedi), the Solo children. (Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo who were originally Han and Leia’s children), and (another favorite character and Emperor’s Hand turned Jedi and later wife to Luke Skywalker) Mara Jade. The Expanded Universe also fleshed out more stories of characters like Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, Chewbacca, and many more. Star Wars was more than just a movie or a story about standing up to evil, it was a phenomenon. It was a part of my life and almost like a second religion.
But then along came the news Disney’s acquisition of the franchise.
As I write this, I think back when Disney purchased Star Wars for $4 million. I remembered reading an article that said that Disney was going to do away with the Expanded Universe. Okay, I thought. It can’t be too bad. At least Chewbacca will live again after getting killed at the beginning of the New Jedi Order. But when I saw what Disney was planning, it left a bad taste in my mouth. The Expanded Universe was not only no longer canon but the Disney brass was going to be making new stories and characters. Some from the characters or elements from the Expanded Universe may appear, others might not see the light of day. All those years of building an universe that was born from a man who grew up in Modesto, California was going to be warped.
No wonder George Lucas felt betrayed when he was told that his story was going to go a different direction. I can only tell you how I was feeling when I was heard that the House of Mouse was going to do away with a part of my childhood.
But one may wonder if Lucas saw this coming. After all, he did agree to sell the three stories he had ready for the new trilogy and he was made aware that Disney might not go through with his vision. And it wasn’t his first run in with studios wanting to claim his creation. Ever since the inception of A New Hope, he wanted to own Star Wars as his own and he was successful. That was why he was able to have Star Wars on several platforms including 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. And it was with that that the more mediums were made including books, comic books, and video games. When he decided to sell Star Wars, maybe Lucas thought that Disney would overlook the possibility of going the other direction honor his wishes.
But when Bob Iger, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and film director J.J. Abrams revealed their plans for the new trilogy, Lucas probably felt the same way Obi-Wan Kenobi did when he found out that Anakin Skywalker betrayed the Jedi Order and became Darth Vader: Betrayed.
And this is not a new story. A matter of fact, this story has repeated itself in different incarnations. This story started in 1938. Two young boys from Ohio created a comic book about a young man who, like Luke Skywalker, was a farmboy who had to leave his simple life to grow up to be a hero and develop an archaic sense of justice. That hero would become Superman. Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster hadn’t the slightest clue about how much Superman would make. They sold the character to National Comics which would later become DC Comics for $150. However, they were not given the rights. Shuster and Siegel must have felt betrayed as Lucas did. However, DC eventually relented and decided to pay royalties to the families and heirs of Shuster and Seigel.
Another comic book creator by the name of Bill Finger went through a similar thing. In 1939,, a comic artist by the name of Bob Kane wanted to piggy back off the success of Superman so he decided to make a superhero name the Batman who was a blonde haired man that wore a red shirt and had black wings. That’s when Bill Finger came in. Finger helped Kane flesh out the Batman and also created an ensemble of flamboyant characters including Robin, Catwoman, Joker, Penguin and many others. Batman became a success but Bob Kane took all the credit while Bill Finger became destitute. Years later, in a recording to a writer, Bob Kane (like Bob Iger) admitted that Bill Finger should have gotten credit for creating Batman. In addition, it took the efforts of Marc Tyler Nobleman and Bill Finger’s granddaughter to finally have DC Comics credit Finger for the creation of Batman.
At the very least, Lucas got $4 millon dollars when he sold Star Wars. That was more than what Shuster and Seigel got for Superman and definitely more money than Bill Finger was given. But just by his reaction, as recalled by Iger in his memoir The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Lucas could have given a damn about the money. Then again, that could be refuted by the late Carrie Fisher in this article.
But one thing everyone could agree to was that Lucas was just a man who wanted to make movies. Period. In a documentary, when asked why he makes movie, Lucas responded with a shrug:
“I make movies because I have to.”
With how Disney decided to market Star Wars, it is true what is said in the 1 Timothy 6:!0 in the Holy Bible: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
Dave Ramsey once said that “money is amoral. It doesn’t have any guiding principles of its own. Having money or not having it doesn’t change who you already are. When you earn more money, it just makes you more of who you are.”
It can be argued that some studios or corporations crave money from someone’s idea. And in addition to that, they just allured to the idea of having more and more. They never take into account of the hours and sacrifices that creator made. Creators, the real ones, don’t care about the money. I mean, they should be given what they are deserved but its not about the money. Its about exercising what they were brought on this Earth to do.
I can only speak for myself. If all I ever wanted to do was make a crap load of money, well I might as well be a conartist and just hoard money. And that’s why I switched majors from Biological Sciences to Creative Writing. I originally wanted to be a doctor but only because it made a lot of money but I flunked out of Chemistry. Writing is my true passion. Being a creative weirdo is my true passion. I could care less how much I made as long as I was able to manage it and live while doing what I love.
I’m a Capitalist at heart. I am all for making a wage for the work done but only in the name of the spirit of Capitalism. Adam Smith argued that real wealth came from not hoarding gold but liberating people’s gifts. Smith believed that wealth came from people, not gold. George Lucas saw Star Wars as his work of art. Disney saw Star Wars as a cash cow. Lucas wanted to make more movies. Disney wanted to make money.
The backlash against Disney Star Wars has gotten so bad that even the prequel trilogy is getting some love. I enjoyed the prequel trilogy. It was not just a story about Anakin Skywalker and his path to eventually become Darth Vader. It was a story about corruption and how it can poison a government which can also poison the very people it was sworn to serve. It was about a war which both sides, Republic and Seperatists, had strings pulled by Darth Sidious who was also Chancellor (and later Emperor) Palpatine. It was also a story that put to question the rigidness of the Jedi Order. If the old trilogy was about the fight against tyranny, the new trilogy was about the morality of political and religious institutions.
As for the new trilogy as created by Disney? It is not about any of that. Its just about a young woman who all the sudden knows how to wield a lightsaber and beats up an enraged young man who wants to be like his grandfather. Now don’t get me wrong, I like some of the characters in The Force Awakens. Rey is a very interesting character, almost like an enigma. Poe Dameron is like a Han Solo who already has morality and a sense of justice. Finn develops a sense of justice and becomes grows to be more heroic. Kylo Ren, is a guy who has a badass lightsaber and is a lot like Vader with all his limbs. But the story and the themes do not align. It’s not Star Wars.
But here are the things that are Star Wars.
Luke growing up and having to learn how to not only be a Jedi but a man. That’s Star Wars. Han Solo having to push aside his selfishness and pursue the things that really mattered in his life. That’s Star Wars. Princess Leia taking the fight to the Empire after it blew up her home and discovering the Luke was her brother and Vader her father. That’s Star Wars.
In my opinion, the only films that captured the essence of George Lucas’ story were Rogue One and Solo. Rogue One was good because it took place right before A New Hope and it told the story of how the Rebel Alliance came across the plans to destroy the Death Star thanks to Jyn Erso who wanted to fight the Empire for hurting her family. Solo was great because it told a story of a young Han Solo who wanted to leave the mean streets of Corellia with his girlfriend O’ira and be a pilot. That is Star Wars.
But, what did Rey want? Maybe she wanted to find out about her origins but they should have showed that in the beginning. In A New Hope, Luke had a thirst for adventure and wanted to know more about his father but Uncle Owen torpedoed those ideas. It would have been cool to see Rey trying to make sense of how she has these odd powers or why she is an enigma. Almost like: “Who am I? Am I meant somebody or just some other scavenger trying too survive?” We do see some of that in The Last Jedi but they would have planted those seeds in the first film. Keep in mind, that its just my opinion.
Going back to George Lucas and the controversy surrounded Bob Iger’s admission, I often told my sister that Kathleen Kennedy should have not had a hand on the creative side behind Star Wars. At best, she should have just done her job with running the operations or the day-to-day and let the directors and producers do their job. Maybe we’d have a different Star Wars with the same characters but better story telling. It would have been a Star Wars that was Star Wars. A story of discovery, learning, struggle, growing, and prevailing. Maybe that was what George Lucas wanted. At least that’s how I see it. But then again, I know that Disney sees this story differently from a their own galaxy that is far, far away.