Letting go of something you created can’t be easy,. But it must be especially difficult for someone who conjures an entire galaxy in his imagination, only to one day release his grip and leave it in the hands of another generation.
Page Six recently caught up with George Lucas and asked what he thought of that 88-second teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens—the first film to be made from the franchise without its creator’s involvement.
His response has fans gasping like Jabba with a chain around his neck. “I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t seen it yet,” Lucas said.
Since practically everyone has seen the trailer, it is somewhat astonishing that the man who invented Star Wars hasn’t taken the time to click on YouTube. In some circles, this is being criticized as a Bantha-sized diss. By literally not recognizing The Force Awakens, Lucas has again found himself on the bad side of a lot of Star Wars fans.
When pushed for an explanation at the 85th anniversary party for Bloomberg Businessweek (where Page Six chatted with Lucas), the retired Star Wars master implied he’s just one of those movie geeks who doesn’t like spoilers.
Why hasn’t he watched it? “Because it’s not in the movie theater,” Lucas told Page Six. “I like going to the movies and watching the whole thing there.” He added that he doesn’t intend to keep The Force Awakens off his radar forever: “I plan to see it when it’s released.”
Okay, let me play Greedo’s advocate. Lucas is in an impossible position here—and it’s doubtful that a quick red carpet chat or party interview is going to get him to open up about something that must evoke deeply complex feelings in him.
After a 15-year tug-of-war over the emotional ownership of this franchise, Lucas is aware of the love/hate thing he has going on with fans. At what point does a story stop belonging to the storyteller and start belonging to those who love it? For Lucas, that question actually has an answer: Oct. 30, 2012, the day Disney announced that it was buying his company, and that Lucas would be retiring from it completely.
The Page Six thing is the first sure sign we’ve gotten that Lucas’s claims are true—he really is out of the Star Wars business. And isn’t that what many of the prequel haters wanted? Lucas sold the empire to Disney for $4 billion—but he also gave Star Wars to people that fans thought could do a better job with it.
Before pelting Lucas with those stones Luke was levitating in The Empire Strikes Back, think of the pitfalls that surround a simple question like: “What did you think of the trailer?”
1.) If he gushes, that could easily be interpreted as evidence that he’s still involved. The new leadership of Lucasfilm wants to make it clear that he’s not.
2.) If he says, “Awesome! Looked cool!” that could be interpreted as flip or dismissive—or lead to follow-ups trying to get him to talk in more detail. (Return to pitfall #1.)
3.) If Lucas says, “I’m intrigued. I’d like to see more”—well, wait a minute. So he doesn’t love it? Is George Lucas talking smack on the new Star Wars? Is there uncertainty in the Force?
4.) Let’s be honest, “I love it!” is probably not what’s in his heart. It must be painful to create a world only to be exiled from it. Think of the dad who throws a massive birthday party for his teenager, then is told, “Would you mind staying upstairs when everyone gets here?”
There’s actually very little Lucas could say to shut down the conversation except, “Sorry, haven’t seen it yet.” And now that has blown up in his face, too.
It’s easy to sneer at George Lucas for not sharing our adoration of The Force Awakens trailer. When we care about something, we prefer to have that feeling validated by others who share our enthusiasm. Regardless of his current role, Lucas is still the father of Star Wars—and his opinion carries weight. If he doesn’t even watch it, he’s not just dismissing Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and the cast and crew; he’s dissing the excitement we felt watching those scant snapshots of this new story.
We’ve also gotten annoyed at people like Harrison Ford for not matching our passion for this thing he helped create. Han Solo is “as dumb as a stump”? WHAT?
This isn’t an effort to apologize for or defend Lucas. His vision of the prequels frustrated a lot of people, and those feelings are valid. It takes some effort to damage a brand as massive as Star Wars, and to alienate fans as devoted and passionate as the ones who made this world worth the $4 billion Disney paid for it.
But after telling him we don’t want him at our Star Wars birthday party, all Papa George has said is, “I actually had other plans anyway.”
And now we’re pissed.