George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, calls risk-averse Hollywood creatively bankrupt—‘there’s almost no original thinking’ 

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First there were sequels, then there were prequels. Later came reboots, spinoffs and live-action remakes.

The latest wannabe blockbuster, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, just bombed at the box office. Soon, two films will compete over nostalgia baiting as Eddie Murphy reprises his role from Beverly Hills Cop and Michael Keaton returns as the titular poltergeist in Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, both based on movies from the 1980s. 

As budgets for movies, TV series and even video games balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the entertainment industry has sought to mitigate risk by investing in proven, bankable properties with built-in fandoms like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings. 

Now one of Hollywood’s greatest icons who helped give birth to the sequel frenzy is savaging Tinseltown over its creative bankruptcy.  

“Nobody knows what to do. The stories they’re telling are just old movies,” said George Lucas, speaking with France’s Brut Media during last week’s Cannes film festival.

Attending as recipient of this year’s Honory Palme d’Or, the creator of Star Wars and swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones—who sold his production company to Disney in 2012 for $4 billion in cash and stock—didn’t limit his criticism just to the film industry: “It’s not just in movies, but in almost everything, there’s almost no original thinking.”

The criticism is surprising given Lucas practically invented the big budget blockbuster sequel craze with the second and third entries in his original Star Wars trilogy. He later returned with a trio of prequels that were generally panned due to cringeworthy dialogue, poor acting and an overreliance on computer-generated special effects. 

Disney’s Bob Iger pledged to now prioritize quality over quantity

At the time The Phantom Menace debuted in movie theaters, the first theatrical release of a Star Wars film in 16 years ensured it was a pop culture phenomenon. When The Force Awakens arrived at the end of 2015, there was still high hopes among fans for the trilogy helmed by Disney. In other words, both Lucas and Disney were at least offering a product where there was still plenty of demand.

Now the Star Wars franchise, like many others, has been diluted with disappointments that cashed in on the IP without rejuvenating the franchise, and anticipation over upcoming new entries has since plunged.

There hasn’t seen a theatrical release since the sequel trilogy completed with 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, the third season of The Mandalorian fared poorly last year, and Disney’s Star Wars-themed hotel based on its sequel trilogy shut its doors in September after just 18 months amid a dearth of fan interest.

Disney CEO Bob Iger in particular has been called out for having gone back to the well once too often, plundering his library of content for more spinoffs and remakes rather than tell all-new stories. Moana is already getting a live-action remake, despite only coming out in 2016.

Now he has promised investors to prioritize quality over quantity after a need to drive streaming subscriber growth resulted in shows like Secret Invasion, the worst critically received Disney+ MCU series according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Critics will now be closely following box office forecasts for December’s Mufasa: The Lion King, an origin story to the beloved 1994 animated film, which itself got a live-action remake five years ago.

At Cannes, Lucas explained that today’s studios are too risk-averse to gamble on a new idea. “If you go in and say ‘I’ve got something that you’ve never seen before, and you don’t understand it,’ it’s very hard to get a deal,” Lucas said. “The big studios don’t want that, they want something that is like something they’ve seen, because they don’t have an imagination.”

Ironically in the very same interview where Lucas bemoaned a lack of creativity, he admitted the idea for his magnum opus came in part from his childhood fascination with space opera Flash Gordon. Fortunately for movie goers, he failed to secure the rights and in 1977 released his epic Star Wars instead.

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