George Lucas Ignored Warnings About Star Wars Prequels Destroying The Franchise

The "Star Wars" prequel trilogy kicked off 25 years ago with the release of "The Phantom Menace," aka Episode I. At the time, hype was off the charts for George Lucas' first new movie in a galaxy far, far away in more than a decade. Despite being a massive financial success, the movie's reputation, and the prequel trilogy's reputation for that matter, are complicated. Many people hated the movies in their day. While the narrative has changed a lot, Lucas had people warning him that the story he planned to tell of a young Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader might ruin the franchise. He just didn't care to listen.

In a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone around the time that "Revenge of the Sith" was hitting theaters, Lucas explained that those around him at Lucasfilm were nervous about his plans for the prequels. Darth Vader had a scary mystique around him as one of cinema's truly great villains. Was showing him as a little boy on Tatooine going to ruin that? Lucas heard those concerns but decided that this was the story he wanted to tell, for better or worse. As he said:

"When I said I was going to do the prequels, everybody said, 'That's great, we get to see Darth Vader kill everybody.' And I said, 'That's not the story.' When I announced that the first story was going to be about a nine-year-old boy, everybody here said, 'That's insane, you're going to destroy the whole franchise, it's More "American Graffiti" all over again.' And I said, 'Yeah, but this is the story.'"

There is this idea that Lucas was simply enabled by "yes men" while making the "Star Wars" prequels, but that's not exactly true. Rather, the filmmaker decided he was going to do what he wanted to do, understanding that it might not resonate with everyone. In many ways, he knew what he was doing.

George Lucas wasn't just trying to make a hit movie

Lucas couldn't have possibly known just how vitriolic some of the reactions to movies like "The Phantom Menace" or "Attack of the Clones" would be. Or how much fans would hate Jar Jar Binks. People had an idea of what "Star Wars" was and the prequels challenged a lot of those ideas. Be that as it may, Lucas further explained in the same interview that he wasn't just doing what he thought would make these movies hits. He was doing what was creatively satisfying.

"I don't have energy to just make hit movies. I'm not going to make "James Bond Part 21" – I'm just not interested. Everybody said to drop the stuff about the Midi-Chlorians, it makes it too confusing. But it's a metaphor for a symbiotic relationship that allows life to exist. Everybody said it was going to be a giant turkey: 'This isn't going to help Lucasfilm at all.' I said, 'This is about the movie and the company is just going to have to deal with whatever happens.' That's one of the reasons why there was so much hype on the first prequel: Everybody was terrified."

In the end, everything worked out. The movies were all successful in their day, despite the mixed reception. More than that though, Lucas has lived long enough to see the narrative around the prequel trilogy change entirely. There is an entire generation of fans who grew up with these movies. This is "Star Wars" to them. That is in no small part thanks to "The Clone Wars," which Lucas even had a hard time selling to Cartoon Network some years ago. Now? It's some of the most beloved stuff in the franchise for certain fans, particularly younger ones.

The prequel era continues to influence much of "Star Wars" storytelling to this day, even though Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney back in 2012. Safe to say, the prequels did not destroy the franchise.