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George Lucas Talks ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens': ‘They Wanted to Do a Retro Movie’

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One of the more interesting meta-narratives of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” mania has been monitoring the reactions of franchise creator George Lucas. It’s the first Star Wars film since Lucas sold Lucasfilm — and the rights to virtually all things Star Wars — to Disney in 2012, and though he’s been largely supportive, he’s also made a couple eyebrow-raising comments. In a newly released 50-plus minute interview with Charlie Rose, he made his most eyebrow-raising-est comments yet.

Around the 50-minute mark, Lucas discusses the inherent difficulty in seeing Star Wars handled by other people, calling the movies “his kids.” “I loved them, I created them, I’m very intimately involved with them,” Lucas said.

When Rose brings up the sale, Lucas — jokingly but unwisely — called Disney “white slavers.” “I sold them to the white slavers that take these things…” Lucas said, before trailing off and laughing.

Lucas later explains that he knew it was time to “move on” from Star Wars, and said he didn’t share Disney’s direction for Episode VII. “They wanted to do a retro movie, I don’t like that. Every movie, I work very hard to make them different. I make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships — to make it new.”

Judging “The Force Awakens” as “retro” is a common criticism of the film’s increasingly vocal detractors, who cite an over-reliance on familiar story beats from 1977’s original “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Of course, that notion hasn’t held the film back: It’s received nearly universal critical acclaim, and has made more than $1.2 billion at the box office.

On the more positive side, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has stated that Lucas “really liked” “The Force Awakens,” and the legendary director attended the Hollywood premiere of the film earlier this month.

The interview, part of PBS’ “Charlie Rose” series, can be viewed in full below.

Comments

  • Larry Tate

    yeah well good luck George glad you moved on.

  • James Arapostathis

    I can kind of agree with him on this. The Prequels while flawed in acting and some story points did feel different in most ways. The Force Awakens was way to close to A New Hope in its story points. I really hope Episode 8 tries to be alittle more original

  • Walter

    Hasn’t Lucas realized yet how badly he screwed up Star Wars when he was at the helm? For the franchise to endure, it had to be in control of a fan who loved the story and understood it. Abrams is the one. He saved Star Wars.

  • salfie

    I tend to agree with him too. The prequels weren’t competently directed but they made attempts at trying something new. I honestly wonder what he would’ve done if Jar Jar hadn’t been so poorly received. Parts 2 & 3 seem like he was curbing some of his impulses. Jar Jar was such a big character in the first film and didn’t even factor into the third. I honestly wish we could’ve gotten his entire vision, though I know that’s impossible (art isn’t created in a vacuum).

  • Ian

    Ep 8 will bring balance ;)

  • salfie

    While Episode 7 is an entertaining film it isn’t a “necessary” film. The ending from Return of the Jedi was perfectly satisfactory as was the beginning of A New Hope.

  • Ian

    As was The Last Crusade

  • salfie

    Spot on. Episode 7 is vastly more entertaining than Indy 4 but your point is inarguable.

  • Romdude

    I think he needed to be high while he was doing the prequels, he probably would have made them better. He made the prequels kid friendly but only had bangs, whistles and clowns. Anakin turning to the dark side was just too laughable and the way he was whiny was exactly the way Lucas wanted him to be. The way Lucas wanted the deathstars to blow up in the deluxe editions of the original series was also hilarious. He should have handed over the reigns a long time ago. If you want to see what Jar Jar was supposed to be, then let him make a kiddie cartoon. So glad they made Clone Wars and Rebels. Rebels is kind of like a kiddie series but still has way more emotional depth than the prequels.

  • Queefer Sutherland

    I would have liked Lucas’ darker approach in the sequels if they hadn’t been so poorly written and acted, and full of a distracting overuse of FX. I thought his approach was pretty ballsy in parts, but they were so poorly executed! Disney went with the more popular approach, and will soon be breaking Avatar’s hold on top box office.

  • salfie

    I don’t mean only Jar Jar but his approach in general. I thought Naboo and the underwater city were genuinely interesting things to do in a Star Wars movie.

  • mel

    I concur. And I’ll go ahead and call this new movie a bullshit cash grab as well. Nothing new or original. Star Wars: The Nostalgia Awakens.

  • dei1c3

    “One of the more interesting meta-narratives of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” mania has been monitoring the reactions of franchise creator George Lucas.”

    I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. I consider TFA like an accomplished student who blossoms into a well rounded person when they finally get out from under their controlling parents. The old parent’s comments about what he does or doesn’t like are really meaningless to me.

  • The Dread Pirate Steve #812

    It sorta had to be nostalgic to succeed tho’. Even if you loved every second of the second trilogy, you have to admit that there’s a lot of negativity in the reactions. Not all of it’s fair but it’s there and it’s vocal. For a successful movie you had to back away from them and come out of the first trilogy. The best way to do that is to homage the structure of A New Hope and they did that VERY well…

  • DangerZone

    As noted in the interview, I think Lucas has and will always be an innovator in some form or another. No one gets it right 100% of the time, but I think he was pretty spot on about his intentions for the saga as a whole, and I actually would have liked to see Abrams or Kennedy actually use some of his ideas for the sequels.

  • Garrison Tweed

    GL”Their my children, i love them.”
    Disney”Here`s four billion dollars.”
    GL”They`re are all yours”

  • Blade X

    IMO, Jar Jar came off much better and a little more competent and useful in the CGI CLONE WARS animated series, while still maintaining his annoying and comic relief characteristics.

  • PretenderNx01

    If you look though, you can see a lot of repeating story in the Phantom Menace. Young guy watches as mentor gets cut down by Big Bad who is secretly working for Palpatine, big space fight scene at the end where they blow up the bad guys. Then after that it was all filling in the blanks and not much more.

  • PretenderNx01

    Yeah that’s the thing, there is an interesting story in the prequels but it’s buried under so much nonsense and bad direction I can’t really care enough to find it. Episode 7 may be “retro” but the acting really sells it.

  • PretenderNx01

    Which is what he tried to explain with the “white slavery” comment. He wasn’t calling Disney slave owners just that he call the movies his children then he sells them. :p

  • Pol

    Would you rather have a poorly told prequel that is kinda original, or a well done sequel that recycles many tropes from previous films? In the case of Star Wars prequels vs TFA, the conclusion is clear; the prequels were so bad, acting so wooden, dialogue so poor, visuals so video gamey, and story so devoid of tension and intrigue, that most people much prefer the new Star Wars film…despite the fact that no-one can get really excited about seeing the Death Star destroyed for a third time

  • Pol

    George Lucas would have been justified in his criticisms if he had never made those prequels the way he did.

    The biggest difference between the Lucas prequels and the Lucas original trilogy, as well as JJ’s TFA, is a thing called characters. Young Lucas understood the importance of creating characters you care about. About characters and plot being more important than special FX. We need to want to revisit the characters we see on screen.

    DId anyone in the world feel they wanted to revisit Qui Yong Liam Neeson or Yar Yar Binks or Anakin Christensen Skywalker? Did anyone buy the friendship between Obiwan and Anakin? Did anyone buy the romance between Anakin and Padme?

    Lucas is right that TFA lacks originality. But I want to revisit Rey and Flin and Poe and Kylo, because they were not just soul-less objects you place in front of a green screen.

  • vsoriano

    I think “The Making of Star Wars” book makes essential reading to really make sense of the Star Wars franchise as it stands now with Episode 7. Many comments here focus on The Prequel as failures, mostly as a response to comparisons to The Originals due to fans’ association of their childhood to these films. That the Prequels weren’t well acted via woeful dialogue isn’t really a surprise – the book highlights repeatedly that George HATED dialogue but had to write it out of necessity. But whilst I also don’t like the prequels as much as the originals, they are far more essential than Episode 7. I enjoyed 7 immensely but I could sense the lack of aesthetic or originality from it – even John William’s score had less of an impact because of a lack of psychological motif and overarching theme. It’s a pity that nostalgia is winning out over originality. The Prequels may have repeating motifs, but has anyone realised that The Old Republic had a nice sheen and veneer produced by over abundant CGI (ie. on purpose)… and when The Empire took over, the universe became dirty and run down. With Episode 7, there is a retro…somethng… what is it. Rey and Finn are the only things original about the new films. I hope they produce new legends and modern day fairy tales…. not nostalgic rehashes.

  • Lamia

    The prequels weren’t ‘necessary’ either – and in the form they actually took they were regrettable: three boring, bloated, wooden and often annoyingly kiddish movies that have aged badly. E7 is a great improvement on that and fit to sit alongside the original trilogy.

  • Lamia

    Perfectly summed up. If the next film is a remix of Empire, I will join the chorus of complainers, but I don’t mind that TFA went over ANH’s patterns because it was so well done and a good way of re-establishing trust and affection following what Lucas did to the saga with the abysmal prequels.

    Like you, I want to see what happens to the new characters, and with the best will in the world I could never care about the characters or the story in I-III.

  • Robert Dassler

    How fickle fandom can be. After the prequels it was all “We want proper Star Wars like the Original Trilogy” and now after TFA it’s all “We want experimental Star Wars like the Prequel Trilogy”. Sheesh. Make up your minds.

  • Maho

    Whereas I hope they do both… produce new legends AND play on nostalgia, and I think The Force Awakens was a good step towards doing just that. Did TFA hew a little too closely to A New Hope’s plot? Probably, but it did so in a way that, to me at least, still felt fresh and updated… and it completely hooked me.

    It was like I was that little kid again, sitting in the theater in the 80s watching Return of the Jedi when it was first released. If the Disneyfied version of the Star Wars universe can consistently elicit that kind of emotional response from me, sign me up!

  • vsoriano

    I think if they can actually get the folk doing Rebels and who did Clone Wars together, then Lucasfilm can actually achieve the mythology that George set out to achieve (ie. via Western serials). I think that Asohka Tano is the best creation post Prequel and would bridge the gap I think is missing from Episode 7. Watching the video interview, and reconciling what I read in “The Making of Star Wars” – you definitely need a very deep concerted effort from the writers to really go for original aesthetic. Nostalgia can only go so far…. I really hope that Rey’s arch is new and original. No more Death Stars please. And if they do respect the family drama – then I hope she is Luke’s daughter rather than Kylo Ren’s sister… it just won’t respect the drama arch of Han/Leia from Ep 5 and 6. Far better off creating something new from Luke who was the effective loner at the end of Ep 6.

  • unpaidpundit

    There is no world building in “The Force Awakens,” more like world recycling. George Lucas has an original vision that the current owners of the franchise can not match. The prequels have some flaws, but they are solid entertainment in which something interesting is always taking place on the screen. If the general public hated the prequels as much as the ignorant and pretentious media critics, the “Star Wars” franchise would be dead. No one would have been interested in seeing “The Force Awakens.”

  • MBURNS

    I would rather have a competent if unoriginal Star Wars movie than the garbage that were the prequels. Just removing Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks and the awful acting and dialogue made this movie a win for me.

    I think people nostalgic for the prequels need to be reminded of awful crap like this:

    “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.”
    “It’s over Anakin. I have the high ground”
    Padme: “It’s only because, I’m so in love.”
    Anakin: “No, *little laugh* no, it’s because, I’m so in love with you.”
    Padme: “So love has blinded you?”
    Anakin: *nervous laugh* “Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.”
    Padme: “But it’s probably true.”

  • unpaidpundit

    Something that is very odd about the world building in “The Force Awakens” is that technology does not seem to have advanced since Luke and Leia were in their twenties. Military forces are still flying X-Wings and Tie fighters.

  • Spyder

    Yeah Lucas was all about the new stuff each movie and new planets that’s why five of the six movies he made had large parts take place on Tatooine. Even when it made no sense to include it like the prequels. That’s also why his prequel trilogy relied almost solely on established characters. And let’s face facts the most questionable source of what Lucas wanted to do when making Star Wars is Lucas himself. This is the same guy who still claims he always wanted Greedo to shot first and the only reason he didn’t was an editing error. Which sounds plausible until you realize Lucas was the editor and the script states Han shoots first.

    Not to mention in ever behind the scene special for the prequels Lucas would drone on about how the movies needed to rhym with the originals and that he was referencing the old scene right down to the cuts, whipes, character reactions and dialogue.

    Lucas really needs to stop doing these interviews each time he sounds more and more like a bitter ex. I think he truely convinced himself no Star Wars movie could make fans happy and that his prequels were good but the fans were too demanding. He then sold it to Disney thinking haha they’re going to rip your movies apart just like mine. Only to have his bubble burst in epic record setting fashion.

  • Spyder

    Yes because real world military never does that unless you count the F-15, the stealth bomber, the SR series spy planes. The B-series bombers which started in WW2 and had their last incarnation in the 80s. It also makes more sense than the much more sophisticated tech that shows up in the prequels some thirty years in the past.

  • stevencowlishaw

    I’m sure George Lucas would’ve made a better movie, but he wasn’t really that great either. I’m sure Episode 7 wouldn’t have been A New Hope 2 at least.

  • Gregory A. Swarthout

    Your question is an example of a false dichotomy.

  • http://chunksie101.blogspot.com/ E.r. Baine

    No offense, if you are white, and you never had aa studies you are not going to understand what George Lucas means. Disney is, in philosophical terms, the white slaver. There is nothing that Disney can do to get away from this term. It is what they represent in society, that is their role in society. They are no different than the WB, Universal…any entity run and owned by Caucasians that make money off of other people’s property, buy the property out and make money off of it, are white slavers. Technically, this would have to mean that George Lucas is a sell out, so to speak, just like what Kanye West alludes to in many of his songs himself being owned as a slave through consumerism, selling himself to the devil and blah, blah, blah. Normally though, you would get a black person referring to Disney and these kinds of entities as White Slavers of society. No offense to George Lucas, I don’t think he has reached Bill Clinton status yet. Bill Clinton is the only white guy to date who can use terms utilized in hard core black studies, and get away with it.

    People are just going to complain that he got money out of the deal too, it is too out there a concept for most people to understand. But he means well, I like that he said it. Now he is nearly hip-hop. Almost there, not there yet.

  • Hi there

    Stop trying to make sense of it…there’s no explaining the level of sophistication on display in the AI of Star Wars alongside manual, or in some cases computer-targeted weapons systems that frequently miss with energy-based weapons, firing at pilots limited by human reaction times and body limitations. There’s only going so far with the “rules” for SW before it all falls apart, and it isn’t a great distance.

  • Hawkman

    oh, man this post, so beautiful. My sides hurt I’m laughing so hard…I mean, going Lucas/Disney to and through Kanye, and then the Bill Clinton coup de gras…I’m in tears, man, thanks for this. “nearly hip-hop” LOL

  • DANIEL CRAIG

    This is basically a generic Star Wars now. People who think the film was good are living in a delusional land far far away…..

  • Romdude

    Had it been made correctly. The battle should have been fought underwater for example with interesting new tactics only useable underwater. The giant seamonsters could have been used as well for a titanic battle. My point is it could have been better and should have been better rather than Jar Jar accidentally blowing a non-imposing droid tank vehicle.

  • Romdude

    You’re setting up a new group of characters and have to pass the torch. If the spoilers in other articles are to believed, there were some reasons why there were some similarities.

  • Romdude

    Why bother commenting when it’s so obvious you only wanted to pontificate? No explanations? Wide encompassing generalization? Can’t tell if it was out of arrogance or downright conceit. Seeing your posts in other articles, it seems the former but please do explain.

  • Romdude

    Why bother commenting when it’s so obvious you only wanted to pontificate? No explanations? Wide encompassing generalization? Can’t tell if it was out of arrogance or downright conceit. Seeing your posts in other articles, it seems the former but please do explain.

  • salfie

    TFA is a better acted and directed movie. I definitely feel as though the prequels have more interesting stories in their broad strokes. Others disagree but I’m able to pick things I like from movies without endorsing or dismissing them wholesale.

  • Gregory A. Swarthout

    *sigh* You make it sound like “poorly told prequel” and “well done sequel” are the only two options. Certainly both a well told prequel and poorly done sequel are also options. The only pertinent question is whether the audience would prefer a sequel or a prequel as either could be done poorly or well. Googling “false dichotomy” would have given you all the explanation you needed. Sorry/not sorry for assuming a base level of intelligence.

  • Romdude

    Thank you, I appreciate your time in explaining.

  • MVW

    C3PO with a red arm – indicadive of it being a cash grab