There’s no doubting George Lucas’ legacy as the creator of the Star Wars franchise. Back in 1977, he single-handedly revolutionized the way we see science-fiction, spawning a saga that would become one of the most expansive and beloved fandoms in the world. As it is with any great filmmaker though, Lucas wasn’t without various flaws. As years went on, those flaws became more and more prevalent, leading to a level of fan vitriol that’s been unprecedented in Hollywood.
That all being said, we’re not here to talk about George Lucas the man. Having never met the guy ourselves, we can’t rightly judge whether or not he’s a good person. That’s not the goal here. What we’re trying to suss out is the reasoning behind some of the more ill-fated Star Wars decisions he made along the way.
It’s worth noting that we’ll be affording him a pass on a few things, most prominently Luke and Leia’s kiss in The Empire Strikes Back, based on the assumption that their familial relationship wasn’t yet determined at the time. We’ll also let go of the excessive use of green screens in the prequels, having come around in an era when the technology was just developing.
1. Ewoks and the Battle of Endor
This one has been beat to death, but we’d be remiss to not mention it. Here we have a race of diminutive teddy bears with spears that somehow managed to almost single-handedly take down the Empire’s most trained and elite soldiers. Looking back at a trilogy that is now almost four decades old, nothing ages worse than seeing a stormtrooper take a pebble to his allegedly armored head and watching him collapse in a heap on the ground. Sure, it makes sense that the Empire displaced a primitive native species when they set up camp on the forest moon of Endor, but why, just why did they have to be Ewoks?
2. Boba Fett’s death in Return of the Jedi
This one pretty much defines the term “anti-climactic.” Despite his limited screen time, Boba Fett had established himself as a bounty hunter that could at least be categorized as “competent,” and at his best, “incredibly good at his job.” This made it that much more ridiculous when he was killed by Han Solo who was randomly flailing around while Boba wasn’t looking, knocking the bounty hunter into the Sarlacc Pit to be digested for a millennia.
More than that, it was a death that was so unpopular, that the Expanded Universe novels immediately retconned it the first chance they got. And even while the Expanded Universe is no longer canon in the Star Wars universe, we can’t imagine Disney is done with Boba just yet.
3. Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side
The rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker is the crux of the prequel trilogy and was used as a vehicle for his eventual transformation into the fearsome Darth Vader. Unfortunately, the crucial moment when he bows before Emperor Palpatine just doesn’t quite land, thanks in large part to a payoff that feels far from earned. The basic reason behind Anakin’s turn isn’t a realization of his own sinister nature, or even a tragic fall from grace with nothing left to lose. No, he turns to the dark side because he was outsmarted by a scheme that really shouldn’t have fooled anyone with half a brain.
To the Star Wars saga’s credit, The Clone Wars gave us a far better look inside Anakin’s character than the prequel trilogy ever did, even going so far as to give him an apprentice of his own. But at the same time, you shouldn’t need a companion animated TV series to properly flesh out what amounts to your main character.
4. Jar Jar Binks (duh)
Listen, we get it. The idea of Jar Jar Binks functioning as a secret Sith Lord is an awesomely redemptive step forward for the most hated character in the entire Star Wars canon. But there’s also little in the way of tangible evidence to suggest that this was ever even a glimmer in Lucas’ eye when he wrote The Phantom Menace. This leaves us sticking to the original assumption that Jar Jar had no business in the prequels in the first place.
5. The Greedo shooting
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more controversial 27 seconds in sci-fi cinema. The scene: After we first meet Han Solo, we see the smuggler get pulled aside by a bounty hunter named Greedo. After the two trade barbs, Han slowly unhooks his blaster under the table, and appears to shoot and kill Greedo in cold blood, establishing him early on as a ruthless survivor. Multiple re-edits from Lucas though have sought to backtrack, citing a need to cling to “a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.” From there, it’s spawned a thousand debates as to what Lucas’ actual intentions originally were, why it’s important Han shot first, and why a shoddy edit in the extended version only made things more complicated.
One of the key distinctions between Star Trek and Star Wars lies in the difference between science-fiction and science-fantasy. The former leans into the “science” side of things, attempting to explain even its more fantastical elements with some semblance of real-world logic. For the latter, there’s more room to move around, and less concern for the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.
So when The Phantom Menace took the mystical power that governs the Jedi’s life philosophy and boiled it down to microscopic organisms in our blood, things felt a little … off. There was never any real need to explain how the Force worked outside of Obi-Wan’s mystical reasoning in A New Hope, making the introduction of midi-chlorians an ill-fated left turn for the canon.
7. Anakin’s age in The Phantom Menace
First things first: There’s no sense in blaming the actor who played Anakin in The Phantom Menace for anything. Jake Lloyd was just a kid who was undoubtedly excited to be cast in a Star Wars film. The mistake was made in deciding not to age Anakin up to at least a teenager in the film.
Meeting the future Sith Lord as a small child gave Lloyd an impossible task: To deliver an insanely nuanced and iconic performance that most kids simply don’t have the chops to deliver. Imagine an Anakin we first meet as a 16-year-old, who’s brash, bold, and just a little bit questionable in his morality. Going from an innocent kid in The Phantom Menace to Hayden Christensen’s Anakin in Attack of the Clones threw much of that important character development out the window, robbing us of a whole host of formative years for the young Jedi.
8. The focus of the prequel trilogy
There’s a strong case to be made that the Star Wars prequels focused on the wrong character entirely. Belated Media even based their own rework of the films around the idea that Obi-Wan Kenobi should have been the central presence, and it’s hard not to disagree with them. Think about it: Obi-Wan is Anakin’s closest friend and mentor, and it’s his own emotional journey that drives much of the early conflict we see in A New Hope. Making him the main character in the prequels serves that narrative, and ultimately puts a much more well-rounded protagonist at the center of the story.
9. The redemption of Darth Vader
Darth Vader’s arc seemed destined to take a redemptive turn, especially with Luke’s insistence that he still felt the good inside his father. That said, Vader’s final moments were far from enough in order to truly forgive him for his sins. Lest we forget, this is a man who slaughtered children in cold blood, almost murdered his own wife, exterminated the Jedi Order, and presided over a 20-plus year reign of terror in the galaxy, committing numerous other atrocities in that time. And yet, we’re still expected to be OK with him becoming one with the Force and chilling with his friends in the afterlife. Sorry Vader, one moment of clarity isn’t enough to undo a lifetime of evil.
10. The remastered edition is packed with unnecessary clutter
George Lucas’ decision to remaster the original trilogy was a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, some significant improvements were made to a variety of scenes, touching up outdated special effects, sharpening the contrast, and generally providing a cleaner print of each film. On the other, Lucas also crammed a host of unnecessary clutter in, stuffing poorly-CGI’ed creatures in the background of a handful of locales. In the scene where Obi-Wan first uses his Jedi mind trick on the stormtroopers, there’s even a giant animated animal that walks directly in front of the frame, obscuring your entire view of the action. Suffice it to say, we could have done without many of the additions in the remastered version.
11. The dreaded holiday special
Odds are, if George Lucas was in the room right now, he’d have a solid argument against most of the points we’ve made so far. Where we’d all agree though is that the Star Wars Holiday Special that aired back in 1978 is the franchise’s greatest sin ever. The special began with the best intentions, digging up unused Wookiee-centric story ideas from Lucas, and setting them in the context of a Christmas celebration. What we got instead was nothing short of a disaster so embarrassing, that Lucas himself disavowed the project entirely in the years following. It did mark the first ever appearance of Boba Fett, but that’s merely window-dressing in an otherwise awful affair.
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