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Why George Lucas Was Disappointed With Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens may have made all of the money and revitalized the franchise, but one relevant party wasn't impressed: George Lucas.

Disney CEO Bob Iger recently revealed that Lucas was particularly miffed that his ideas for the sequel trilogy were largely disregarded, even going so far as to say that the creator felt "betrayed" by the Mouse House's treatment of his property. (via ComicBook.com)

The revelation of Lucas' extreme disappointment over the direction the franchise took beginning with The Force Awakens came during a passage in Iger's memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, which hit shelves on Monday. As one might imagine, there are several juicy bits in a book which covers a period of explosive growth for Disney, one which saw the entertainment monolith gain control of three of the most profitable properties in the entire world of entertainment: Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel.

Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, and as The Force Awakens was preparing to hit theaters in 2015, Lucas wasn't prone to hiding his feelings about how Disney had handled the first film of the sequel trilogy. In an interview with Charlie Rose that year, Lucas made an unfortunate comparison, saying that he felt as if he'd sold his "kids" (the Star Wars movies) to "white slavers" (Disney, apparently) before realizing that it would probably be best to discontinue that train of thought.

He then went on to say, "[Disney] wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new... Of course, the only way [to guarantee the films will make money is to] not take chances. Only do something that's proven." (via Screenrant)

The comments made by Iger in his memoir absolutely square with Lucas' remarks from 2015, and they also fill in a little shading and detail on what is destined to become a fascinating Hollywood story. According to Iger, Lucas didn't just have some vaguely defined ideas about how he would prefer Disney move forward with the franchise; he had fully developed outlines for the entire sequel trilogy, and these outlines were purchased outright by the House of Mouse.

"George told me that he had completed outlines for three new movies. He agreed to send us three copies of the outlines: one for me; one for [Disney Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel] Alan Braverman; and one for [Disney Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer] Alan Horn, who'd just been hired to run our studio," Iger recalled. "Alan Horn and I read George's outlines and decided we needed to buy them, though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he'd laid out."

Iger continued to say that when the deal to purchase Lucasfilm was being negotiated, it had been made clear to Lucas that he would be handing over creative control of the franchise — although, as its creator, his ideas would receive all due consideration. "[Lucas] knew that I was going to stand firm on the question of creative control, but it wasn't an easy thing for him to accept," Iger explained. "And so he reluctantly agreed to be available to consult with us at our request. I promised that we would be open to his ideas (this was not a hard promise to make; of course we would be open to George Lucas' ideas), but like the outlines, we would be under no obligation."

Iger went on to opine that Lucas may have taken Disney's purchasing of his outlines as an informal agreement that said outlines would be used to develop the story for the sequel trilogy — and that when the time came for Lucas, Iger, screenwriter Michael Arndt, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to sit down to hash out their ideas for The Force Awakens, Lucas was basically blindsided when it became clear that this was not what was happening.

"George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren't using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations," Iger remembered. "The truth was, Kathy, [writer-director] J.J. [Abrams], Alan [Horn], and I had discussed the direction in which the saga should go, and we all agreed that it wasn't what George had outlined. George knew we weren't contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we'd follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded."

Iger went on to admit that, while he was under no obligation to treat Lucas with kid gloves, he probably could have gotten Disney's stewardship of the Star Wars franchise off to a better start had he been a little more forthcoming with the creator in advance of that fateful meeting. 

"I'd been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn't think I had now, but I could have handled it better," he wrote. "I should have prepared him for the meeting with J.J. and Michael and told him about our conversations, that we felt it was better to go in another direction. I could have talked through this with him and possibly avoided angering him by not surprising him... Now, in the first meeting with him about the future of Star Wars, George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we'd gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start."

Ultimately, some of the concepts featured in Lucas' outlines did end up factoring into Disney's sequel trilogy. These included a young, female Force-sensitive (named "Kira" in Lucas' drafts) which would eventually become the lead character of Rey; the idea of an older, exiled Luke Skywalker; and a  menacing "Jedi killer" which would eventually be developed into the character of Kylo Ren.

But we submit that it's probably best that the bulk of Lucas' outlines were discarded. In 2018, Lucas offered a few details as to where he would have taken the trilogy had he retained creative control, and... well, you be the judge: "[The sequel films] were going to get into a microbiotic world," Lucas said. "There's this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force... If I'd held onto the company I could have done it, and then it would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did Phantom Menace and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would [have been] told."

Yes... at least. Well, all we'll say is that it's never easy for a creator to hand over his vision to others, but we are of the opinion that Disney has made smart choices with the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Sure, The Force Awakens was pretty much pure fan service — but The Last Jedi was just as risky as its predecessor was safe, and all signs point to The Rise of Skywalker being a thrilling, satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. Hopefully Lucas won't be all too disappointed by it, but if he is, at least he has all those billions of dollars to help ease the pain.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20.