In the most recent video conversation between George Lucas and new Lucasfilm head honcho, Kathleen Kennedy, it is asserted by the moderator that one of the themes of Star Wars is “letting go,” insofar as these videos feature George Lucas basically saying goodbye to his most famous creation. But what is the subtext of these interviews? And what does it mean for the future of Star Wars?
Though interesting, and seemingly fairly genuine, the conversations between Lucas and Kennedy are pretty static and safe and end up coming off as a representation of how little Lucasfilm (collectively) seems to understand how to communicate with its fans. On the one hand, it’s nice for them to present a large amount of transparency in this process, but on the other hand, there’s not much happening. The words “excitement” or “preservation” and “the future” pop up numerous times and the videos largely come off as The Lucas and Kennedy Mutual Admiration Society.
Some of the interviews are dedicated to very inside-baseball discussions of the film industry, which really, for most science fiction fans, is uninteresting. For those who are unaware of Lucas’s scruples, his entire career as a filmmaker can almost been viewed as a big middle finger to the Hollywood studio tradition. Lucas doesn’t really like doing things the way everyone else does them, but now with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, it’s almost like Lucas has thrown up his hands, saying “if you can’t beat them, then sell Star Wars to them.”
Both Kennedy and Lucas reiterate that Disney acquiring Star Wars is not a remotely bad thing, since they clearly know what they’re doing. And as both assert, Star Wars is a lot like a Disney movie anyway. Conversely, and bizarrely, Lucas also claims here that Star Wars is popular because it’s based on “human behavior” and the “human psychology.” (Presumably this is where lines like “I don’t like sand. It’s course, and rough, and irritating and gets everywhere,” come from. Human nature.)
Kennedy also roundaboutly asserts that Star Wars is somehow subversive of traditional hero stories insofar as things don’t end happily for everyone in the movie. Lucas also claims Star Wars is about the “dark and light inside of us.” All of this isn’t really anything new, but it’s sort of weird for these vaguely metaphysical ruminations about Star Wars to be happening side-by-side with a discussion by media moguls about what an awesome idea it was for them to get willing taken over by an even bigger mass-media giant.
There’s something weirdly Philip K. Dick-like about these philosophical platitudes, to the point where it feels sort of like a very carefully designed propaganda message. Now, I don’t actually think it is propaganda. I don’t actually believe Lucas or Kennedy are cynical, evil, plotting people. Instead, they just exist in this world where vague pop philosophy is commonly paired with big business decisions. Where once Lucas could have styled himself a filmmaker, now his predominant identity is as an executive.
The scary part about this is what we’ve kind of always known this about Lucas and Star Wars in general. He’s great, but not really all that reflective or deep. We’re really the ones putting the depth into Star Wars, which has always been the case, and will likely be the case going forward. And these repetitive conversations with Lucas and Kennedy remind us of that.
However, there is one, extremely instructive comment made by Kathleen Kennedy in the second video when she says “This is not (emphasis mine) a series of books like Harry Potter, we’re you’ve already got a template.” I like this, because Lucas basically has to sit there and agree, despite the fact he’s has been constantly trying to convince us for the past 15 years that he always knew the story of Star Wars. Now, his new “keeper of the flame” is essentially saying that’s not true. Star Wars is whatever it wants to be and what’s great about it is that she wraps it up in a genuine compliment to Lucas. She’s actually thanking him for letting her do it.
For me, the subtext of these interviews is quite simply this: though a creative person, Lucas isn’t all that reflective, nor in touch with the things he’s created. Kathleen Kennedy on the other hand, seems slightly more in touch; not with the soul of Star Wars, but rather with the way its body might now operate. Kathleen Kennedy is the Emperor to the Anakin Skywalker that George Lucas left limbless after Episode III. She’s giving Star Wars another chance at life and what remains now is to see if it will keep breathing.
Now the question is: Will one of the new directors or writers of the next Star Wars films be the new hope? Or will Star Wars continue to stagger around, breathing heavily, and clawing at the days when it was once great?
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.