ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Rogue One*

George Lucas was responsible for the big bang that started the Star Wars universe, providing the creative spark that created one of cinema's most successful franchises and ignited the imagination of millions. But, if you love something, you have to be prepared to let it go, and Lucas did exactly that four years ago.

In 2012, Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney for $4 billion. Lucas handed over the creative freedom of the galaxy he created, a move which was met with indifference; here was the man who started it all with A New Hope (1977), but also the same man who, years later, failed to deliver with the prequel trilogy.

However, following the successful release of , the case may now be settled — Lucas was right to sell to . The anthology is arguably the best prequel of the lot, delivered in a way that it's hard to imagine Lucas could've achieved had he continued to be in full control.

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'Rogue One': The Best Star Wars Prequel?

The prequels are generally ridiculed [Credit: Lucasfilm]
The prequels are generally ridiculed [Credit: Lucasfilm]

Although Lucas directed A New Hope, he handed over directorial duties for the two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). However, after 22 years away, he returned to the helm for the three prequels — The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) — as well as writing the screenplay for each.

Many of the flaws from the prequel trilogy were down to a combination of a poor script and poor direction, not to mention questionable casting choices. If Lucas were still in charge, it's unlikely he'd tell the Rogue One story, where characters face true peril in a narrative that breaks boundaries and expectations.

In short, it's unlikely Lucas would produce a film that would result in all its lead characters meeting their demise, and thus missing out on any future instalments. Yet this was fundamental to the emotional pull of the movie, and fitting for the death mission Jyn Erso and crew faced.

Instead, Disney gave the opportunity to a young director who added his own unique imprint on the franchise, while also keeping the tone relevant. Gareth Edwards exercised restraint, using references and call backs to the main saga when necessary, but not overdoing it. This subtlety worked well for Rogue One, which felt simultaneously distinct and drenched in everything there is to love about the Star Wars franchise.

'Rogue One' is the first Star Wars anthology [Credit: Disney]
'Rogue One' is the first Star Wars anthology [Credit: Disney]

Lucas did have the idea of standalone movies before Disney, a concept he was toying with before the studio's purchase of . Many, though, have accused him of placing merchandising at the forefront of his decision making. Apply that influence to the anthology series, and it's unlikely a finite story like Rogue One would've seen the light of day (Jar Jar Binks origin story, anyone?).

The Star Wars Anthology: Disney's Experiment

Following the release of The Force Awakens, the jury was still out on whether Disney could deliver something truly innovative and fresh, and finally remove the bad taste of the prequels. Although an enjoyable film, J.J. Abrams played it safe with Episode VII, essentially recycling the core themes from .

However, the anthology series is where the studio's strength lies. Disney's monopolization isn't something that should be encouraged — they also own Marvel Studios and Pixar — but their financial might opens up the doors of experimentation, trying different formats and genres within the Star Wars universe.

With billions in the bank, they were able to produce a war film in everything but name in Rogue One, knowing that they can afford to take risks with their big budget blockbusters. And a risk it was; as well as featuring a female lead and a wonderfully diverse class, killing every single lead character is a move unheard of with big franchises in modern cinema.

'The Force Awakens' was Disney's first Star Wars film [Credit: Disney]
'The Force Awakens' was Disney's first Star Wars film [Credit: Disney]

While Lucas made the concept of a prequel mainstream, he couldn't successfully deliver on the idea. Rogue One, however, is the perfect example of a prequel done right. It gives enough fan service but shows restraint, it links in with the main trilogy in clever ways, fixes plot holes and, most importantly, actually enhances the story that follows.

It'd be unfair to be too harsh on Lucas. He did create , after all, and for all its flaws, the prequels did have some finer aspects (Anakin's backstory, for example, did add extra depth to the original trilogy).

But ultimately, Lucas made the decision to let go. Following Rogue One and the direction Disney is taking the wider universe, setting the Star Wars universe free looks like a decision well made.

Do you think the decision to sell to Disney has been vindicated by Rogue One?


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