J.J. Abrams says he understands George Lucas' Star Wars: The Force Awakens criticisms. As the first new Star Wars movie in the Disney era, The Force Awakens was under an inordinate amount of pressure to perform well, both critically and at the box office. The film needed to justify the Mouse House's $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm and show audiences were still interested in stories set in a galaxy far, far away. Ultimately, The Force Awakens succeeded at its goals, as it earned positive reviews and grossed more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office.
Though The Force Awakens brought Star Wars back and kicked off a new era, the movie wasn't without its detractors. One of the more common critiques of Force Awakens was that it featured very obvious parallels to A New Hope, lifting key plot beats from the original film. That aspect of The Force Awakens was very disappointing for some, including none other than Lucas. Upon seeing Force Awakens, Lucas felt it didn't have anything new and lamented the lack of "visual or technical leaps forward." Now, Abrams has taken the opportunity to respond to Lucas' thoughts.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Abrams was asked about Lucas' unflattering take on The Force Awakens. It goes without saying Abrams wished Lucas had a higher opinion of the film, but he remains grateful for the Star Wars creator all the same:
I’ve only had gratitude for George. It’s probably a complicated thing for him. To decide you’re going to sell this thing that you created, that was your baby, to anyone — that must be more complicated than signing a check and smiling about it. But he’s been incredibly gracious. He’s been super-generous.
He came over, we had a meeting when we first started working on this [new movie], talked through a ton of different ideas and stories, and heard from him what was important. And we’ve done nothing but try and adhere to some fundamental aspects of the story. It wasn’t a difficult thing to try and do. And again, he was really gracious. So I’m only grateful. Do I wish that [Force Awakens] had been his favorite movie of all time? Yes, I only wanted to do well by him. I would just say that I have nothing but profound respect for the guy and am still truly, even more so now, working on these movies in awe of what he created.
Even before The Force Awakens came out, Lucas was publicly discussing his disagreements with Disney. According to him, the studio wanted "to make something for the fans," leading to them discarding Lucas' original treatments for a sequel trilogy. Though The Force Awakens is inherently a "safe" blockbuster, it arguably needed to be just that in order to get the franchise back on track. The idea behind it, in Abrams' words, was to take viewers back to "a Star Wars that we know" and ease them into a new story. Nevertheless, Lucas was still upset Disney didn't stick to his ideas, and it's something Bob Iger wishes the company handled better. Since Lucas was always looking for ways to push the envelope, it makes sense he would feel let down by The Force Awakens, which was extremely beholden to old school Star Wars.
There clearly aren't any hard feelings between Abrams and Lucas, as the two met before Abrams started writing the Rise of Skywalker and talked about midichlorians (among other things). So, it isn't surprising to see Abrams took Lucas' critiques in stride. He knows better than most it's impossible to please everyone when it comes to Star Wars, and that definitely includes the franchise's own creator (who's probably the toughest critic of them all). Since Abrams says he took greater risks with The Rise of Skywalker, it would be nice if Lucas gave the Skywalker saga finale a resounding thumbs up.
Source: Rolling Stone