George Lucas' Star Wars Sequel Trilogy could have happened. Would it have been better - or more readily received - than Disney's? When Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, he already had some ideas about where the Star Wars franchise should go. Indeed, he imagined the studio producing both a Sequel Trilogy, and a series of anthology films; according to The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, it was Lucas who originally came up with the idea of a Han Solo origin movie. He'd actually spent a year developing a treatment for Star Wars Episode VII before selling to Disney.
The Sequel Trilogy was the centerpiece of Lucas's vision of the future, which he saw as completing the story of the Star Wars Saga. Lucas presented his ideas to Disney, but the studio chose to go in a very different direction. Lucas doesn't seem to have been particularly impressed with the results, criticizing Star Wars: The Force Awakens as being far too "retro". As he complained, "They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that. Every movie I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new." He praised Star Wars: The Last Jedi for being "beautifully made," and was reportedly more complimentary about it. Still, even that film's harshest critics agree that its visual aesthetic is stunning, so that praise seems a tad lukewarm.
Star Wars is currently a subject of real controversy, with The Last Jedi dividing the fanbase, and Solo: A Star Wars Story dramatically underperforming at the box office. As a result, audiences are understandably wondering just what George Lucas's version of the Sequel Trilogy would have looked like - and, frankly, whether it would have been a lot less controversial.
- This Page: What We Know of Lucas's Sequel Trilogy
- Next Page: Lucas's Vision Could Have Been Just As Divisive
Lucas's Sequels Would Have Given Fans The Luke They Wanted
It's important to note that Luke Skywalker wouldn't have been the star of Lucas' Sequel Trilogy. One of the first details to be revealed was that Lucas's treatment centered on a group of teenagers, most likely young Jedi who were being trained by Jedi Master Skywalker. The elder Jedi Master would have taken Yoda's charge to "pass on what you have learned" seriously in Lucas's Sequel Trilogy, and taking on a Dumbledore role in the films - the powerful and wise master who's present in the background to provide support to the stars.
Not all Luke's students were teenagers, though. Mark Hamill has revealed that the relationship between Luke and Leia would have been far stronger in Lucas's Star Wars sequels. In fact, Luke would have actually been training Leia in the ways of the Force. As Hamill noted, "I always wondered, and I don't read the fanfiction, why she wouldn't fully develop her Force sensibilities... It seems like a waste of an innate talent that she should utilize in some way." It's possible we'd have even seen the Skywalker Twins fighting side-by-side.
Needless to say, this approach would probably have been a lot less controversial. Disagreement over Luke's portrayal has really sat at the core of Star Wars: The Last Jedi's critical fan-reactions; viewers were dissatisfied with the idea of Luke as a reluctant, broken figure who had even briefly considered cutting down his nephew while he lay sleeping. The Luke of The Last Jedi, so terrified of the Dark Side that he drew his lightsaber on his sleeping charge, feels a little too different to the character who believed even Darth Vader could be redeemed. The characterization doesn't exactly contradict - the arcs can be explained fairly easily, and every man has a moment of weakness - but it just wasn't what viewers of the Original Trilogy had imagined for the future of Luke Skywalker.
Lucas' treatment actually included the death of Luke Skywalker as well, but in a very different way. As Hamill noted, "I happen to know that George didn't kill Luke until the end of [Episode] 9, after he trained Leia." It sounds as though Lucas imagined a Campbellian arc for his young protagonists, with the death of their mentor serving as part of their Hero's Journey. Given how much Campbellian archetypes informed Lucas' original vision for Star Wars, that shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. It's hard to say whether or not this particular element would have proved controversial, though; that probably depends on how well the young heroes were realized. Disney seem to have felt the idea was too evocative of the young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, and feared it wouldn't be well-received. If the teenage (likely) Jedi weren't loved by audiences, then Luke's death to realize their Hero's Journey would probably have actually caused something of a storm.
Lucas's Sequels Would Also Have Gone Weirder
Lucas has always stressed that he would have avoided telling a nostalgic tale with the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, and instead would have told a brand new story. We recently learned just how strange and unusual that story would have been. Lucas described his vision like this:
"[My sequel trilogy] were going to get into the microbiotic world. But there's this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the one who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force."
The Prequel Trilogy introduced the idea of midichlorians, microscopic life-forms that tie an individual to the Force. As Qui-Gon Jinn explained it, "Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you'll hear them speaking to you." It was one of the most controversial aspects of the prequels, with many viewers feeling this added an unnecessary layer of science-fiction to the mystical realm of the Force. It seems that Lucas intended to double-down on the idea, though, diving into "the microbiotic world". At the same time, notice that Lucas doesn't suggest that the entire story would have centered on this concept, so it's important not to overstate the importance of this; it would have been one plot element in an entire trilogy of films.
In Lucas' view, not every fan would have approved of this approach. "Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it," he noted, "just like they did Phantom Menace and everything." Given how unpopular the midichlorians were in the Prequel Trilogy, he's probably right.
Page 2 of 2: Lucas's Vision Could Have Been Just As Divisive
Lucas' Sequels Were 'Part of the Plan'
Lucas frankly sounds to be extremely frustrated that he never got to the finish his story. As he complains in the same book, "All the way back to – with the Force and the Jedi and everything – the whole concept of how things happen was laid out completely from [the beginning] to the end. But I never got to finish. I never got to tell people about it."
Lucas may be overstating the case somewhat here. When it comes to the Original Trilogy, it was made up very much on the fly; he never had every planned out. Early drafts of The Empire Strikes Back don't include the idea that Darth Vader is actually Anakin Skywalker, while Luke and Leia weren't originally imagined as siblings (Luke's sister would have been introduced in Episode VIII, a character who lived at the other side of the galaxy). The prequel's core ideas had been around since the start, and the notion of a third trilogy surely solidified in the year's after Return of the Jedi, but it's not like he had a grand narrative completely laid out from 1977.
Still, that doesn't mean there wasn't a plan. Lucas had always toyed with the idea of more movies after Star Wars Episode VI in interviews, so there is a sense of purpose to his Sequel Trilogy that will have undoubtedly buoyed fans in a way Disney's hasn't.
Lucas is Controversial for the Prequels - and This Would Have Been Controversial Too
It's almost possible to forget that George Lucas has been every bit as controversial as Kathleen Kennedy in the past. After all, while The Last Jedi backlash feels incomparable, the Prequel Trilogy was just as derided by the Star Wars community. Fans objected to the clunky storytelling, the poor dialogue, and characters like Jar-Jar Binks. The Mr. Plinkett reviews from Red Letter Media played a key part in this; they were feature-length takedowns of each of the three prequels, covering their failures from filmmaking basics to Star Wars lore. These reviews became viewed as almost definitive, and the generation of science-fiction and fantasy lovers who'd grown up with Star Wars accepted them as almost Holy Writ. That controversy has died down as a new generation of Star Wars viewers has become mainstream; the generation of young adults for whom the prequels were part of their childhood.
There's no reason to imagine Lucas's Sequel Trilogy would have been any less controversial, especially given that it seems to have dived into concepts from the prequels that were heavily criticized. Given the current furor over Disney's Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, it's easy to romanticize Lucas; to imagine him as the talented filmmaker who couldn't put a foot wrong. In reality, Lucas is more than capable of dividing a fanbase himself, and he probably would have done so. It's impossible to know whether the Star Wars situation would be better or worse without his involvement.
Modern fandom has a strange of propriety to it, with people acting as though they somehow "own" the franchises they love. But in the case of Star Wars, the films have always really been aimed at children. That means the Original Trilogy is aimed at a different generation to the Prequels, with the natural result of dividing the fanbase along generational lines. It's possible what we're seeing with the Sequel Trilogy is the same effect, and that their reception will change as the current generation ages and takes its place among the fandom. If that is the case, these three films would always have been controversial, no matter whose vision they charted.