Lucasfilm’s Misdiagnosis of Solo Shows They’re Of Touch With Star Wars

Times have been tough for Star Wars on the big screen lately, and Lucasfilm’s failure to maintain a firm theatrical slate shows how out of touch their approach to Star Wars movies has gotten. Numerous Star Wars projects lack release dates, have seen multiple delays, been indefinitely delayed, or been outright canceled, and Lucasfilm’s concern over the negative reactions to its creative decisions is a big reason they’re losing touch with how they should be approaching Star Wars movie production.,Lucasfilm once had an ambitious plan to release at least one new Star Wars movie every year, but following the polarizing reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and lukewarm or negative reception of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s overly-safe conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars‘ movie slate began to disappear to the point where there’s skepticism as to which of the few films currently officially in development will actually see the light of day. Lucasfilm’s Star Wars movie problem started long before The Last Jedi, though. Every single Disney Star Wars movie except for The Last Jedi had significant and highly publicized rewrites and reshoots late in production as Lucasfilm tried to adjust course in response to criticism.,Related: Everything That Went Wrong On Disney Star Wars Movies,Unfortunately, in their focus on serving a fan base, the franchise risks becoming iterative, overly self-referential, and out of touch with what the Star Wars brand was meant to be. Star Wars as we know it exists out of a refusal to deliver fans what they wanted, resulting in one of the biggest pop-culture feuds, covered in documentaries like The People vs. George Lucas. So long as Star Wars prioritizes mass appeal and fan service over daring creative choices and boundary-pushing filmmaking risks, the film franchise will be out of touch with the very elements that made it a pop culture fixture for over 40 years.,In a recent interview, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the decision to cast a new actor as Han Solo was a mistake: “There should be moments along the way when you learn things…Now it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.” Besides the disrespect shown to Alden Ehrenreich, who turned in a great performance as Han in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what even went wrong with that whole movie. It was released too soon after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in the box office shadow of Avengers: Infinity War, and had earned itself a lot of bad PR due to the highly publicized director change and extensive reshoots.,The original version of the movie was set to break outside the Star Wars mold a little bit thanks to the hiring of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and while that can be a scary prospect, their track record to that point was great, and a Han Solo movie demands a more punchy approach. Additionally, it was supposed to be a much lower budget affair and could have even turned a profit if  Solo‘s budget hadn’t ballooned thanks to reshoots. If the takeaway of that movie not doing well is that audiences don’t want the actor recast from Harrison Ford, this ignores repeated cases of self-sabotage far greater than anything Alden Ehrenreich could have done to the movie.,Kennedy’s comments finally confirm that Lucasfilm’s insistence on using a CGI version of Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian instead of simply casting a new actor is an over-reaction to Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s reception. While the idea of digitally replicated actors can work in small doses, such as in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, relying on CGI recreations of younger Star Wars actors ensures the franchise can never evolve beyond regurgitating the original trilogy over and over, literally using the video and audio from the original trilogy to craft an artificial Mark Hamill. There’s an obvious level of fan service that may appeal to some, but the reliance on digital actors just cannibalizes nostalgia, which certainly results in diminishing returns once the novelty wears off.,Related: Star Wars Canon Is Now Meaningless,One of the more unfortunate ironies is Lucasfilm’s disconnect from George Lucas’s filmmaking approach and his vision for the Star Wars franchise before he sold it to Disney. In another interview, Kathleen Kennedy talked about the development process for Rey’s parentage, saying anything related to Obi-Wan Kenobi was “off the table because it flies in the face of everything George created in the mythology.” This perspective also wildly misses the point. George Lucas refused to uphold such a strict standard for canon. The Vader twist in The Empire Strikes Back goes against what Obi-Wan told Luke about his father, the decision to make Luke and Leia siblings was made after they had already kissed in The Empire Strikes Back. The prequels especially come under fire for this, and while a lot of it has been repaired thanks to additional stories in books and animation, it’s clear George Lucas wasn’t nearly as concerned with canon.,Additionally, the prequels do a good job of showing the arrogance and blindness of the Jedi, leading to the fall of the Jedi Order. Lucas’s portrayal of the Jedi and the fall of Anakin Skywalker is a condemnation of the sanctity of the Jedi Code more than anything else. If anything, Obi-Wan’s experience with the fall of the Jedi order would make him less reliant on the more legalistic aspects of Jedi dogma. This isn’t to say Rey being related to Obi-Wan was necessarily the superior story, but that creative decision certainly shouldn’t be based on the Jedi Code saying Jedi are celibate. Obi-Wan violating that aspect of Jedi tradition could have a number of story explanations, from a failure to maintain his commitment to an outright rejection of Jedi legalism. Even if Lucas explicitly said Obi-Wan would never have kids, Lucas would often change his mind or go against previously established story.,Lucas’s lack of enthusiasm for the direction Disney took Star Wars is fairly well documented, but it’s not just a matter of creative decision-making; the entire approach to Star Wars is out of touch with Lucas’s filmmaking sensibilities. Lucas’s two Star Wars trilogies are distinctly different, and even within the trilogies, each Star Wars movie follows a different structure and genre inspiration. Under Disney, Lucasfilm puts a huge emphasis on making Star Wars “feel” like Star Wars, which was clearly never a motivation for Lucas, as he even drew fire for it.,But Lucas also constantly pushed for advancements in technology and filmmaking techniques to both expand the scope of what a movie can do while driving down the budget. Star Wars budgets under George Lucas were always in the low-to-mid budget range, with the original Star Wars costing just $11 million in 1977 ($52 million adjusted for inflation), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith cost just $113 million ($167 million adjusted for inflation). Comparatively, every Disney Star Wars movie pushes the upper limit of blockbuster budgets, costing $250 million or more for each movie. While the production teams, art department, and ILM’s VFX contributions are still industry-leading, they aren’t taking risks and pushing new boundaries with every movie in the way Lucas did with each new Star Wars movie pioneering the advancement of filmmaking technology. To be fair, ILM’s development of The Volume and the LED walls of “stagecraft” is an industry-changing development, but the reliance on more safe approaches to filmmaking and public emphasis on a return to things like practical sets and puppets over CGI would also be a regression by Lucas’ standards. Of course, Lucas’s push for the advancement of VFX technology drew criticism in some big instances, but the willingness to take those risks is the only reason any Star Wars movie exists.,Related: Disney’s Star Wars Sequels Disrespected Darth Vader Most Of All,Star Wars is one of the world’s most popular brands, to the point where being a Star Wars fan is hardly just a niche geek thing. That popularity over the years means millions of fans across multiple generations share similar entertainment touchstones, but it also means there are a lot of people with strong opinions about Star Wars, and they’re not all good. But the chaos of the “Star Wars discourse” isn’t isolated to just online fandom groups. It also penetrates office watercooler talk, particularly topics like Disney’s approach to the sequel trilogy and the handling of Luke Skywalker in those movies. While there’s a variety of opinions on each movie and show, the conversation tends to be split into a “pro” and “anti” crowd when it comes to Disney’s Star Wars, with each side hoping Lucasfilm’s creative decisions will align with their vision for the franchise. And Lucasfilm’s attempts to satisfy many of the opinions of the franchise after the polarizing reception to The Last Jedi resulted in an overly safe conclusion to the Skywalker Saga.,Going back to George Lucas, it’s always important to remember just how derided his creative decisions were, even back in the original trilogy when The Empire Strikes Back was criticized for being too different from the first movie, or the introduction of Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. This never deterred Lucas, which is most prevalent with the prequels, where elements that outraged fans, such as Jar Jar Binks, were embraced throughout the trilogy. Jar Jar even served a historic role at the end of the Galactic Republic.,Looking at the way Lucas moved forward with the prequels, ignoring demands from audiences to rely less on digital technology or write out Jar Jar Binks. Meanwhile, after The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm totally overhauled The Rise of the Skywalker and virtually wrote Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose out of the franchise. Instead of relying on storytellers to tell stories, Lucasfilm is too preoccupied and constrained by the opinions of critics and audiences, placing more importance on making Star Wars give people the same feeling it did 20 years ago than on making new Star Wars movies.,While Lucasfilm is making popular streaming Star Wars series for Disney+, the lack of theatrical Star Wars is like the brand is treading water and coasting on spinoffs out of fear of making another polarizing movie. Ironically, this is all happening as people continue to change their opinion on the prequels and Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor are talking about how good it feels to have the movies celebrated after years of public lashing. If Lucasfilm can begin making bolder decisions on the big screen and trusting its filmmakers to see them through instead of trying to micromanage the brand to be exactly what fans want, they’ll remain out of touch with what makes Star Wars Star Wars.,Next: Disney Star Wars’ Biggest Problem is a Focus on Canon Over Plot