It seems trivial after the rampant controversy over whether or not Star Wars: The Last Jedi was actually a brilliant meta film on the franchise as a whole or an illogical mess, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens had its own debate over its quality. Was Disney’s first attempt a fun rebirth of the franchise or a tired retread grasping at nostalgia? It appears that George Lucas was on the side of retread.
According to Disney CEO Bob Iger in his new memoir, Lucas was not a fan of the new film at all. Lucas “didn’t hide his disappointment” with the film, citing the fact that there was “nothing new” about the J.J. Abrams film: “In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to (Lucas) to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, ‘There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.’”
Lucas’ displeasure with the way Disney handled The Force Awakens isn’t exactly new news. After screening the film before its release he very diplomatically said: “The fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.” That’s in line with the comments Iger makes here, though this is obviously actual confirmation of Lucas’ negative view of the film. Iger does defend Disney’s approach to the movie, however:
He wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars… We’d intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do.
That’s entirely true too. After the prequel films, it’s hard to argue that Lucas pushing for newness with the franchise was the right decision. It could be argued that The Last Jedi is the perfect counterpoint to this: a film that pushed the boundaries of Star Wars and suffered a revolt from the fans. Obviously, there’s a happy medium somewhere in here, but Disney knows that nostalgia and formula sell, which is probably why Abrams is at the helm once again for The Rise of Skywalker.