Let’s break this into two parts: the story/plot first, and then we’ll talk about the quality second.
PART ONE: The Story
“The movies are about how Leia – I mean, who else is going to be the leader? – is trying to rebuild the Republic… Luke is trying to restart the Jedi.”
“Darth Maul trained a girl, Darth Talon, who was in the comic books, as his apprentice. She was the new Darth Vader and most of the action was with her. So, these were the two main villains of the trilogy.”
Really quickly, I think this is a very nice outline, even though it is brief. The story would be set with two very clear goals in mind: Leia building the Republic, and Luke building the Jedi.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT FANS WANTED.
Sadly, the plans for this got put to the wayside due to real life concerns for Lucas and eventually, everyone got a bit too old to make this into a reality.
Regardless, whatever George Lucas’ faults are as a director of actors and as a dialogue writer, he does at least understand how to sink his teeth into juicy ideas for a sequel. In this case, Luke and Leia’s journey is a continuation of where they left off after Return of the Jedi; it paints both characters in a positive light and even though conflict would be inevitable, it would at least be true to the movies that came before and the characters.
As a bonus, there was already a clear outline for a villain: Darth Talon. Lucas even had a rough idea for her origin.
The catch is that it’s more of the same Jedi/Sith conflict we’ve already seen in six films. Now if it’s done well, I don’t think it’s that big of a problem, but after having played Star Wars: The Old Republic for years, I can safely say there are a lot of great ideas for problems in the Star Wars universe that don’t have to revolve around the Sith that can still have all of our favorite Star Wars elements. Secret Cabals pulling strings behind the scenes, programs designed to make artificial warriors, (like Powerguards) that can stand against Force users, or even Eldritch style abominations like the Terror From Beyond.
My only criticism of Lucas is that he believes in refrains, which means he may repeat himself a bit in his films. I think a little collaboration does him a world of good, and if Disney made one major mistake, it was not using Lucas’ notes and maybe a fresh writer collaboration such as Drew Karpyshyn/Timothy Zahn with a really good scriptwriter to bring it all to life.
PART TWO: Quality
George Lucas knows how to make a damn film! Even the prequels, with their faults, are still well crafted from a technical standpoint. He uses every tool in the book, and then creates NEW ONES just to tell the story he wants to tell. There are few, (VERY FEW) who have ever even attempted to come close to matching his work, and that’s typically with vast amounts of money and CGI, cribbing Lucas’ own technology, style, and techniques to do what he pioneered.
I think the sets, costumes, lighting design, hair and makeup, alien designs… with Lucas at the helm, it’s going to be really fantastic.
And the original trilogy was only matched by Lucas himself in the prequels, and finally, almost 30 years later, other franchises have managed to compete, and only one other Star Wars film, (Rogue One) has matched Lucas’ work. There is no doubt Lucas knows has the know-how to craft a fantasy epic; I still think he has put together some of the finest space battles seen on film.
If Lucas had done the sequel trilogy, I think it would be visually and technically right on point as a sequel to his beloved franchise. It would definitely “feel” like Star Wars.
The Unknown part to this is whether George Lucas, (after the criticisms of the Prequel Trilogy, the bombing of the CGI Clone Wars Feature Film, and his departure and “hands-off” time from the franchise) affected his work on a new trilogy.
It’s impossible to know if Lucas would have come back to the franchise willing to listen and collaborate more with the talent around him, or if he’s still be as driven to micromanage like he was in the prequels.
One of the reasons the original trilogy worked so well was because George Lucas was forced to collaborate; in Star Wars (A New Hope), he was a young, unknown director and the actors let him have it when they needed to. In Empire, he was fighting a battle with the Director’s Guild of America, and had to hand the directing reigns to his old mentor and leave most of the script up to Lawrence Kasdan. He came back for Jedi, and I actually like Return of the Jedi quite a bit, but the stark reversal in tone (including Ewoks and much more ‘kid’ humor), might have been too much of an over reaction.
So it’s hard to say. I’d like to believe that since Lucas was older now, he may have also gotten wiser, and maybe would have looked to have the majority of the work rest on another director’s shoulders with him supervising both the direction and the script… basically producing and being the creative head while someone else handles the day to day.
He started doing this with Dave Filoni on the Expanded Universe series of The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and pretty much anything that wasn’t an actual film, so I’d like to believe that as he was growing older, he was learning to trust the next generation a bit more.
This photo from the set of “The Mandalorian” could have been what the sequel trilogy video village looked like: Filoni or another director like Jon Favreau leading the charge with Lucas giving the occasional note.
People change over time, and Lucas changed a lot over the years since the ending of the Prequel Trilogy. He handed so much over to Dave Filoni that Filoni had carte blanche to write whatever he wanted, and Filoni did, even if it went against George’s canon. I think it’s important to remember because people often tend to try to associate Filoni’s visions with Lucas’, and they don’t always gel, because they weren’t supposed to.
”The novels and comic books are other authors’ interpretations of my creation. Sometimes, I tell them what they can and cant do, but I just don’t have the time to read them all. **They’re not my vision of what Star Wars is.”**
– George Lucas 2004
“The terminology of “Expanded Universe” was a careful one; it expanded on the world created in the core stories, but was never officially meant to be Star Wars canon, according to the Maker himself, George Lucas.”
~ Dave Filoni 2017
Still, I think Lucas liked Dave Filoni quite a bit, and I think an older Lucas who is a little more tired about the day-to-day grind might pull an Obi-Wan Kenobi and work with a “Luke Skywalker” who can eventually take his place and be trusted with new ideas.
Without help or a dose of humility, the bad part of a sequel trilogy would mostly come in the form of dialogue that doesn’t work and micro-managing of performers. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and of course, Harrison Ford were all brilliantly talented actors who turned in very questionable performances when Lucas directed them at times because he’s not great with performers.
I’ve known a lot of directors, and the fact is, many directors are clueless on how to talk to an actor about their process, how to work with an actor to get the best performance, how to effectively communicate what they want from a performer, etc. This is Lucas’ Kryptonite.
Left to his own devices, this is pretty much assured to be the weakest aspect of a trilogy he’d helm, IF he hadn’t absorbed and learned his lessons.
Sadly, George Lucas sold the rights to Star Wars to Disney, and they have squandered most of what they purchased.
Disney utterly failed to take what could have been a multi-billion dollar money making machine, and instead, chosen to spin Gold into Copper. Lucas remains a grandfather figure, but I call the “Sequel Trilogy” the “Fan-Fiction” trilogy because that’s exactly how it feels: like some cobbled together set of stories pieced together by different writers to rewrite Star Wars in their own image. It is very clear that Disney, (more aptly, Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm) did not want the franchise to have anything to do with Lucas’ visions except rebrand it in her own image.
Had it remained in George Lucas’ hands, I think we could have been assured of a few things:
- It would have been technically spectacular
- It would have had a positive story direction for Luke, Leia, and Han
- It would have had a clear villain right from the start, and finally,
- It definitely would have “felt” like Star Wars, because George Lucas created Star Wars; as the original author, he is the authority on what he wanted Star Wars to be.