Here’s something George Lucas has about people being obsessed with Star Wars: “Come on. They’re only movies.”
That quote comes from a biography of Lucas called Skywalking by Dale Pollock, originally published in 1983, just as Return of the Jedi concluded what that book calls “the first Star Wars trilogy.” It might have been fashionable in the prequel era to knock George Lucas for revisionism, but history proves he always had three trilogies in mind.
Now that Star Wars is sort of doing what Lucas wanted back in the ‘80s, how close will The Rise of Skywalker be to what he originally intended? And, in answering that question, do we all need to lighten up a little bit?
Star Wars Was Never Written in Stone, It Just Seems That Way
The memory of misinformation about Star Wars is strong. For example, I remember working at a bookstore in 1999 and having a customer demand that I show him the “original George Lucas books of Star Wars.” Because The Phantom Menace was about to hit theaters, this person was sure that all of Star Wars had been based on a series of books that anyone could read. Of course, his confusion is well-founded. In 1999, there had been far more chatter about Star Wars books than movies, and most confusingly of all, the very first Star Wars book, ever, was called Star Wars- From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by George Lucas, and it was published in 1976, six-months before the movie came out in 1977. So, from a consumer standpoint, Star Wars was a book first.
Except that it wasn’t. The 1976 Star Wars novelization may say “by George Lucas” on the cover, but it’s fairly common knowledge now that it was ghost-written by prolific sci-fi writer and novelizer, Alan Dean Foster. (Who has gone on record saying George Lucas was a great guy who paid him really, really well.)
The point is, even in the early days of the first film, and the tangential media released around it, you can tell there isn’t a solid plan for the overall story of Star Wars. Some tantalizing well-considered mythology, yes, but a complete story arc of 9-episodes, plotted out specifically? No way.
Lucas Even Admits the Prequels Weren’t Really Planned.
In the 1999 book, The Making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Lucas is candid about not-having the specifics of the prequels laid out ahead of time.
"“That backstory was sketched out in a rudimentary fashion when I wrote the first trilogy, and there were certain things I knew even then….a lot of the story points were there. But the actual scenes and many of the characters were not.”
So, basically, this means George Lucas threw some shit together on a legal pad about the prequels in the seventies, and then in the nineties dusted it off and added Jar Jar Binks. The point is, he had specific characters in mind (I.E. Anakin Skywalker) and the idea that the Force was complicated. But, the rest, he seemingly made up as he went along. Why does this matter if we’re talking about Lucas’s original plan for the sequel trilogy? Well, George Lucas is great, but he has a pattern of basing huge epic movies off of very loose outlines, and everything about the formation of the prequel trilogy proves it.
Details About Lucas’s Sequel Trilogy Are Vague but Deeply Weird
In 2018, an excerpt of a book called James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, rocked in the internet. In it, George Lucas specifically says that his original vision for the sequel trilogy would have involved creatures that lived on another plane of existence. Here’s the exact quote:
"“The next three Star Wars films were going to get into a microbiotic world. “But there’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force."
So, it seems, that on some level, George Lucas planned for the sequel trilogy to get metaphysical and physical at the same time. The Phantom Menace established that the midichlorians are creatures in everyone’s blood that communicated with the Force. And, in The Clone Wars episodes “Overlords”, “Altar of Mortis” and “Ghosts of Mortis” it was revealed that three beings on another plane of existence — called simply “Father,” “Son,” and “Daughter” — were actually god-type people keeping the Force in balance. Relevantly, these episodes of The Clone Wars are still real-deal Star Wars canon, and George Lucas was totally involved in them, because back then, he was still running Lucasfilm.
The idea that the sequel trilogy would deal with another plane of existence doesn’t just come from George Lucas. In 1983, in an interview with Maria Shriver, Mark Hamill outright says that he thinks that if he returned to any future Star Wars movies it would be different.
"“It’s either going to be on another plane of existence or not the same character” —Mark Hamill, 1983.
So, from a certain point of view, Luke’s return in The Last Jedi, and his existence as a pseudo-living ghost broadly check with what he said about how it all might work out in 1983. Because we know Lucas works from loose outlines, if you squint, some of this is shaking out about the way Lucas, sort of, intended.
but What Are Other Writers Doing With George Lucas’ Stuff?
For cranky loyalists, this has been the drumbeat since The Force Awakens debuted. George Lucas has publicly said that he gave his story ideas to Lucasfilm in 2012, and that they went in a different direction. On Charlie Rose in 2015, Lucas described selling Star Wars as a “break-up” and said:
"“They looked at the stories and said, we want to make something for the fans…it’s a family soap opera…it’s all about family problems.”
While Lucas makes it really clear that Disney wasn’t interested in adapting his outlines, the fact that he mentions the idea of “family” so much is very telling. We know George Lucas met with J.J. Abrams before The Force Awakens, and we know the same thing happened before Abrams tackled The Rise of Skywalker.
Even if Lucas says he’s totally done in 2015, it seems fairly clear, that at some point, the people actually making these movies have listened to him. Hell, he even apparently directed one scene of Solo.
So where does that leave us? George Lucas’s original stories for episodes 7, 8 and 9 were either huge family dramas or about struggles between Force-beings on another dimensional plane. The Rise of Skywalker does have a family name in the title of the film, and it does feature the return of a character who we previously thought was dead; Emperor Palpatine. And, when you consider that Luke Skywalker is set to appear from beyond the grave, too, the idea that a huge portion of the movie could take place in a kind of metaphysical Force-dimension doesn’t seem that crazy.
If anything, the answer to this question seems to be just as complicated and simple as Star Wars itself. The Rise of Skywalker will be a lot like George Lucas’s original ideas only way more specific. On the other hand, to George Lucas, it won’t look anything like what he had in mind. But, that’s not how the Force works, right? They’re only movies? Aren’t they?
The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December, 20, 2019.