Stuart Berman reminded me of the original plan, which was a 9-episode epic cycle for Star Wars. At some point, Lucas made the decision to allow others, the novelists, the game creators, and even the fans to define what happens after Return of the Jedi.
It was a brilliant choice.
The original Star Wars was a phenomenon. Every kid of my generation played Star Wars, and played with Star Wars toys. I remember skipping school to see Jedi twice the day it opened. The Star Wars mythos resonates, giving us everything from lines quoted nearly 30 years later to, mmm, speaking like Yoda to names for wasteful defense programs.
I don’t know why Lucas made the choices he did. Rumors abound. But Lucas has done a great job of understanding that the tighter you squeeze, the more systems will slip
through his fingers. And so in some places, he’s taken very, very tight control. And in others, he’s let fans, everyone from the occasional quoters to the bloggers to fan film makers. (If you haven’t read The Darth Side blog, or seen Star Wars: Revelations, you should.)
Allowing fans to interact in non-sterile and chaotic ways is scary for a creator. It’s much easier to control every little bit of what people do with your trademarked characters. But when you do, you end up with a Mickey Mouse empire, with characters that no one cares about, because your commercial behemoth is unwilling to take risks. (Or it takes stupid risks like “Space Jam.”) Strong characters from Bugs Bunny to Winnie the Pooh have been crushed by their corporate masters’ strong grip.
I could attribute all of this to Lucas spending years honing the story of the Jedi and Sith, both lusting after power, for good or evil, and deciding that the problem is with power. But I think it may be simpler. Even after being the center of the story arc for so long, there’s still good in Lucas, and he decided that it was time to let go and let a younger generation continue the story.
It’s almost like I’ve seen that plot line somewhere.