In 1977, the world was gripped by the launch of a whole new science-fiction/fantasy franchise: Star Wars! In the decades since, that franchise has become a cinematic juggernaut, and in 2012 its creator, George Lucas, chose to sell it over to #Disney. The result has been the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise, with a best-selling range of comics and novels, the blockbuster hit #TheForceAwakens, and the unique spin-off #RogueOne.
We've now learned that, just last week, Lucas got the chance to see Rogue One. It seems he was impressed.
Here's What We Know
We haven't heard from George Lucas directly, but at a press conference over the weekend Director Gareth Edwards talked about his reaction:
“I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I can honestly say I can die happy now... His opinion means the world to me."
George Lucas is still a cinema legend, although his star has lost some of its lustre in the last couple of decades; the Star Wars prequels were largely viewed as disappointing, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull received poor critical and fan reactions. As a result, when Disney bought Lucasfilm from Lucas, they chose to cut him out of the loop. Star Wars: The Force Awakens went in a very different direction to Lucas's own ideas; he'd originally planned for the next trilogy to be focused on a group of "very young characters". He clearly found watching The Force Awakens to be a very difficult experience.
"I gotta go to the wedding. My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, but I’m going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment, because it is what it is and it’s a conscious decision that I made."
With Rogue One, the original idea of spin-off movies had been Lucas's, but again Disney took matters in a completely different direction. The thing is, though, where The Force Awakens had a strong sense of homage to it, Rogue One seems to be its own beast. Tonally, it's being described as very different to the classic Saga; where Star Wars is classically science-fantasy, this is essentially a war movie. As a result, I suspect that it's a little bit more comfortable a viewing experience for George Lucas - it's so different to anything he'd have done, so he'll be able to relax and enjoy it a bit more.
Does This Matter?
With George Lucas no longer involved in Star Wars, it's tempting to conclude that his opinion no longer matters. After all, he wasn't that impressed with The Force Awakens, but that was still a blockbuster hit! What's more, The Force Awakens is generally viewed as better than any of Lucas's Prequel Trilogy. Just compare them on Rotten Tomatoes:
- The Force Awakens - critic score: 92%, audience score: 89%
- Revenge of the Sith - critic score: 79%, audience score: 65%
- Attack of the Clones - critic score: 65%, audience score: 58%
- The Phantom Menace - critic score: 55%, audience score: 60%
Also, compare that to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which got a critic score of 77% - but an audience score of just 54%! The reality is, George Lucas is no longer involved in Star Wars, and frankly, his more recent films have been rather less impressive than the Original Trilogy.
But Lucas is still important for two reasons. Firstly, as the creator of Star Wars, this is his 'baby'. He may have sold Star Wars off to Disney, but he still cares about the franchise. What's more, to many fans he is pretty much the embodiment of Star Wars. The seeds of this incredible franchise first grew in the fertile soil of his imagination, and as a result, he's deserving of our respect. To be sure, the franchise has now grown well beyond him, but that history is still there.
And that brings me to the second reason this matters: a symbolic one. Gareth Edwards made it pretty clear just how much it means to him that the creator of Star Wars had positive words to say about his film and this rings equally true for fans. When George Lucas seemed unimpressed with The Force Awakens, the news literally went round the globe - it didn't just get covered in the entertainment sector, but actually became breaking news.
It's significant, though, that in spite of his reaction to The Force Awakens, Disney still chose to arrange a private screening of Rogue One. Those are extremely expensive to arrange, and yet Disney clearly felt it was the right thing to do. They knew that the creator of Star Wars should be treated with the respect and honor that is his due, and in doing so, they also gave a respectful nod to all the fans who first fell in love with George Lucas's Galaxy Far, Far Away.
I am pleased that George Lucas isn't being kept completely in the dark as to the future of Star Wars. Let's be honest, whatever we think of his recent efforts, this is the man who created one of the most imaginative and entertaining science-fantasy franchises of all time. He deserves a bit of respect, and it sounds as though he's receiving it. Let's just hope that fans share his sentiments when Rogue One hits cinemas on December 16, 2016.