George Lucas created Star Wars. He’s the godfather of the entire saga. He built that universe and expanded it through two trilogies over a 30-year period. J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Kathleen Kennedy, and a handful of executives from Disney can put their heads together and churn out whatever they want, but without input from Lucas, for better or for worse, it’s not really Star Wars.
The new sequel trilogy has helped fans to realize this and forgive the prequels that they used to hate so much. So, here are George Lucas’ 5 Best (And 5 Worst) Star Wars Creative Decisions.
10 Worst: Filling the Special Editions with terrible CGI
This is most obvious in the Mos Eisley scene. First, we’re bombarded with terribly rendered CGI creatures plastered all over every square inch of empty space on the screen. At one point, a giant reptilian creature walks right into the frame from right to left over Luke, Obi-Wan, R2-D2, and C-3PO, and instead of our favorite characters, we’re treated to an entire frame of reptilian legs.
It’s not just bad CGI; it’s bad composition, too. It’s distracting. Then, we get the most egregious change of all: right before Han shoots Greedo across the table in the cantina, Greedo shoots first and narrowly misses Han. Aaargh!
9 Best: Unexpected plot twists in the prequels
The problem with prequels is that you know how they end. It’s a fundamental flaw in the concept of a prequel and it’s why so many of them end up sucking. Solo: A Star Wars Story’s big climactic sequence revolved around whether or not Han could make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, but the whole time, we know he’s going to make it, because he’s been bragging about it for 40 years.
Star Wars fans went into Revenge of the Sith knowing that it would end with Anakin becoming Darth Vader. So, Lucas threw in some extra twists to keep it unpredictable, like Palpatine lying to Anakin about how Padme died. The final nail in Vader’s coffin was made of a lie.
8 Worst: Explaining the Force with midichlorians
The Force was a mystical power running throughout the galaxy that could be mastered by anyone. Certain bloodlines, like the Skywalkers, were more sensitive to it, but the point was that it was a spiritual thing. And then George Lucas went and introduced the idea of “midichlorians” in The Phantom Menace.
All of a sudden, someone’s sensitivity to the Force could be explained away with a simple reading of their blood for a “midichlorian count.” If they had a lot of midichlorians, they had strong Force abilities. The mysticism of the Force went right out the window and fans were furious.
7 Best: Keeping Darth Vader alive after Episode IV
There’s no way that George Lucas could’ve known for sure that Star Wars would be a tremendous success at the box office and warrant a dozen sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. In fact, industry experts expected it to crash and burn. As far as Lucas knew, the first one would be the only Star Wars movie he’d get to make.
So, a lesser visionary might have jumped the gun and killed off Vader after the Death Star explosion. Then, if there was no sequel, at least that one would stand on its own. However, he had faith in his vision and kept Vader alive. Imagine if the rest of the trilogy had been made with Vader already dead. It would’ve been terrible.
6 Worst: Casting Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Although some Star Wars fans and critics have realized that they responded too harshly to the prequel trilogy when it was first released, one aspect that everyone agrees was right to be maligned in the first place is Hayden Christensen’s wooden acting.
George Lucas’ dialogue is tough to deliver anyway, since he’s openly admitted that he’s not great at writing it (and has often gotten cast members like Carrie Fisher to punch it up on-set). But Christensen took the cake with droll, meme-able deliveries of lines like, “I don’t like sand.” Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for the role of Anakin – it would’ve been far more exciting.
5 Best: Framing Anakin as a tragic hero
While the actual execution of the prequel trilogy left a lot to be desired in some areas, George Lucas’ overall concept for the prequels was pretty great. The original trilogy had framed Darth Vader as a villain before redeeming him in the final moments of Return of the Jedi.
Then, the prequel trilogy promised to go back and show how Anakin Skywalker went from a promising, bright-eyed, young Jedi Padawan to the most evil Sith Lord in history. Instead of a Brightburn-style origin story taking Anakin from creepy kid to tyrannical adult, Lucas decided to frame Anakin as a tragic hero. It was an excellent decision.
4 Worst: Killing off Boba Fett
George Lucas has said that he was unaware how popular Boba Fett had become in the Star Wars fan base between the releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Maybe if he’d known, he wouldn’t have given Fett such a lame, insubstantial death scene so early in Return of the Jedi.
A malfunctioning jetpack accidentally activated by a partially blinded Han sends him flying into the Sarlacc Pit to get eaten. If Lucas was making these movies today, when Twitter and Reddit are around to make fans’ opinions of movies abundantly clear, he would’ve done it differently.
3 Best: Starting with Episode IV
When he was first conceiving Star Wars, George Lucas was inspired by the old sci-fi serials he grew up on like Flash Gordon. The opening crawl, the multi-part storytelling, the cliffhanger endings – they were all taken from those serials. He planned nine chapters of the story (or twelve, or six, depending on which version you read) and decided not to start at the beginning.
Since you could usually drop in on any parts of these serials and follow the plot, he decided to pick the most exciting one that would stand on its own, and that was Episode IV, later retitled A New Hope. If he’d started with The Phantom Menace, the Star Wars saga would be nowhere near as beloved. Release order is still the best way to watch Star Wars.
2 Worst: Creating Jar Jar Binks
You’d have a hard time tracking down a Star Wars fan who actually likes Jar Jar Binks, the Gungan who says things like “yousa” and “meesa.” Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar, has opened up recently about the toll that the backlash against his character had on his mental health, and it’s easy to empathize, because it wasn’t Best’s fault that Jar Jar was so terrible.
Best did a great job of playing the character that was written for him – it’s just that the character who was written for him was a cheap joke at best and a racist caricature at worst.
1 Best: Revealing Darth Vader to be Luke’s father
Darth Vader’s name means “dark father” in a combination of languages and some fans have speculated that this was intentional. However, George Lucas didn’t always know that Vader was going to be revealed to be Luke’s father.
That decision came during the writing process of The Empire Strikes Back, and it’s easily the most memorable moment in the entire Star Wars franchise and it always will be, because it defines the saga. Kept under wraps by giving everyone (including Mark Hamill himself) a fake script that said Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father, this is arguably the greatest plot twist in film history.