There will be some who say that after the Prequel Trilogy, we shouldn’t listen to what George Lucas has to say about Star Wars, which is ridiculous. Yes, those movies don’t work at all, but you can see Lucas trying to do something new both in terms of narrative and in terms of the technology. Again, he doesn’t succeed on either front, but he didn’t simply try to rehash A New Hope when he made The Phantom Menace. By comparison, Disney and J.J. Abrams played it relatively safe with The Force Awakens because they had to. The studio had just spent $4 billion to acquire Lucasfilm and they needed audience good will to make the investment worthwhile.
In his new memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger says that Lucas “didn’t hide his disappointment” over The Force Awakens saying there was “nothing new” about Abrams’ sequel.
“In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to [Lucas] to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, ‘There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward,'” Iger said via CNet.
Iger counters, “”He wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars…We’d intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do.”
Here’s the thing: both sides are right. Lucas is correct that The Force Awakens is not a bold movie that attempts to do new things. It’s largely a mashup of the Original Trilogy that leans heavily on A New Hope, but its secret weapon is that Abrams is great at character and casting. He didn’t need an amazing new story because we all fell for Rey, Kylo Ren, BB-8, Poe, and Finn.
Iger is also correct that they didn’t want to stray from what people already knew because that’s the Disney brand: here’s the thing you know and love. Disney is not in the business of challenging its customer. It’s in the business of making its customer feel comfortable and nostalgic because then they’ll pay more money. Making safe movies has been good business for Disney, and that’s likely how they’ll continue.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20th. Click here to keep up on the whole Star Wars timeline.