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Why Star Wars still needs George Lucas

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is by no means a bad movie. It's been critically and commercially successful and has sated fans of the franchise who waited so long for another installment of their favorite series. But it's not without its problems. The greatest criticism levied against the film, and one series creator George Lucas shared, was that it was too retro, too much of an homage (or even a direct rip-off) of what came before. And that's why Lucas himself should be involved in the rest of the franchise. No, wait, hear us out…

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The future

Most fans and critics disowned George Lucas after the prequel trilogy, and rightly so. He may have tried to defend himself on the grounds of making a fun movie for kids, but since when does making a movie for kids mean making a bad movie? Kids deserve quality, too. And why not make a movie both kids and parents can enjoy? No sense alienating the majority of your audience.

No, Lucas just screwed up the prequels and had trouble admitting it. But if the franchise continues with him in a role that isn't as powerful but still has influence, there could be a lot of good to come from it. After all, for all the bad ideas that Star Wars has laid out, there have been twice as many good, and Lucas deserves some credit for that as well. The original trilogy was superior to the prequels because it was a mix of Lucas's ideas and the collaboration and ideas of numerous others. He sets the ground work and others build on it…people like Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, Francis Ford Coppola, and his former wife Marcia Lucas, who all had a hand in developing the story in the original trilogy.

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Innovation

Lucas has stated he didn't like The Force Awakens because it borrowed too heavily from the original movies, and others have said it's almost a remake of Episode IV. There's a Chosen One living in the desert, there's an alien bar full of weird creatures, there's even another Death Star for the third damn time and, for no logical reason, everyone acts like the Force is mysterious and unheard of despite how the Jedi were apparently running the universe only a few decades previously.

What the franchise needs is a look to newness, because that's what drives the story forward. This is a new chapter, so make it new. New aliens and new villains that are way over the top. Compare Captain Phasma, a Stormtrooper in shiny army, to General Grievous, a four-armed, lightsaber wielding alien cyborg with bronchitis. Grievous clearly had a crazy story while Phasma just has a cool tailor.

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New ideas

Say what you will about George Lucas' ideas for the prequels, but he did have new ideas. We were introduced to wild new character designs like Watto, Sebulba, and even the dreaded Jar Jar Binks. Yes, we all hated him, but does he even have an equivalent character in terms of design effort in the new film? Only Maz Kanata, one single alien, receives any decent amount of face time with a wholly new design, and really she looks like the Jersey Shore version of Yoda. Unlike the previous movies, there are barely any aliens in The Force Awakens who are important to the storyline—really just Maz and the holographic Snoke.There are plenty of background creatures with cool new designs, but they could have all been replaced and it's doubtful anyone would have noticed.

Lucas's skill and value is in his insane creativity. A lot of it may be silly; no one needs a character named Sly Snootles, but his willingness to make any combination of goofy words and bizarre anatomy into a character is something J.J. Abrams seems to be lacking. Abrams gave us a slow-moving desert luggabeast and the so-fast-you-can't-focus-on-them rathtars aboard Han Solo's freighter. Lucas gave us the Gungan race, Sand People, Greedo, Admiral Ackbar, the Hutts, Salacious Crumb, rancors, Sarlaccs, and so much more.

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Dumb luck

After watching the prequels and comparing them to both the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, you'd be safe to assume three different filmmakers were involved in the three sets of films. Why were things so different between the originals and the prequels? It seems clear the difference was how much control George Lucas had. His total control of the prequels sank them like stones tied to bigger stones. So instead, Disney should make him a creative consultant.

As a creative consultant, the new movies would benefit from the dumb luck that has followed George Lucas his entire career. Just look at his film history—he's been involved in some hugely popular films, but the more control he has—the prequels, Howard the Duck—the more silly the movies get. Just let him have ideas with no control over how they're implemented and he'd be a valuable resource, a never-ending fountain of potential new aliens, new ships, and crazy new situations. It's what he does best, and when he does it, it works. For proof, simply look at where Star Wars sits in our cultural history—is there anything bigger? Not even close. George Lucas created that. He's the man at the end of the line and, for better or worse, he deserves credit. And more than that, he should have a place in its evolution.

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Nostalgia

Lucas's big criticism of The Force Awakens was how retro it was, and so many blogs have run down lists of how close it parallels A New Hope and even The Phantom Menace in certain ways. And why? Because J.J. Abrams is a Star Wars fan. He loves Star Wars and grew up on it, just like any potential other filmmaker helming the franchise would. And that is precisely why every single filmmaker on Earth with any interest in Star Wars would be hamstrung in a way George Lucas would never be—George Lucas is not nostalgic for Star Wars. He didn't grow up loving Star Wars, he made the thing. It's his. He doesn't want to relive his memories of it, he wants to expand it, grow it and watch it evolve.

No matter how much J.J. Abrams wants to make a new movie, some of his feelings about the old movies will come through and that's what we saw. Clearly he loved X-Wing dogfights. He loved the aesthetic of Darth Vader. He loved the idea of a world-destroying weapon, and the Han and Chewie dynamic, and all the things we all love about the franchise. And that's great, but it limits forward momentum when you're always looking to the past. Only George Lucas can keep his eyes forward because he made all that stuff in the past and doesn't need to revisit it. Give the man a job, Disney!