The Star Wars sequels have been criticized for the apparent lack of an overall plan, but the history of the George Lucas Star Wars movies suggests that planning the story in advance is not always necessary for them to work. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ record-breaking box office performance indicated that Disney’s release strategy for the Star Wars sequels would be a guaranteed success, neither Star Wars: The Last Jedi norStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was as successful or as critically acclaimed. The Last Jedi flipped a lot of what The Force Awakens had set up, while The Rise of Skywalker retconned a lot from The Last Jedi, leading to the conclusion that the sequel trilogy had not been mapped out in advance.

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In The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams set up many mystery boxes for Episodes VIII and IX to pick up. The biggest example was the mystery of who Rey’s parents were, but The Force Awakens also set up questions regarding who Supreme Leader Snoke was, how the First Order came to be, who were the Knights of Ren, and how exactly Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy fell. While those mysteries created exciting possibilities for the sequels, they also generated a lot of expectations. The result was a very divisive The Last Jedi, a movie that proved many popular theories and speculations wrong.

Related: Lucas' Original Darth Vader Plan Would've Avoided Several Sith Twists

The story of the Star Wars sequels became more complicated with The Rise of Skywalker, as many important reveals from The Last Jedi were either reinterpreted or entirely contradicted. However, those inconsistencies among the three installments were a symptom of other problems with which the Star Wars sequels had to deal, such as a strict release window of two years between each movie and changes in the creative team. The lack of a road-map style plan, one in the likes of the MCU, may have contributed to the Star Wars sequels' problems, but it is not the main reason behind the trilogy’s flaws. When considering the history of the Star Wars movies, the lack of an overall plan never got in the way of good, remarkable films. In fact, when George Lucas had the most well-planned trilogy, the Star Wars prequels, the movies ended up being heavily criticized.

George Lucas Never Had A Strict Plan For Star Wars

Once Star Wars was renamed Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope ahead of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas revealed that the story he had in mind for the Star Wars saga was much bigger than what audiences were currently watching. The Star Wars creator went on to say several times that he had an entire prequel trilogy planned, and that the only reason why he made the Luke Skywalker films first was the budget and technology limitations. That would make it seem George Lucas always had a complete roadmap for what the Star Wars saga would be like, but the Star Wars prequels proved this was not the case. Before the release of Return of the Jedi, Lucas briefed the movie’s creative team on what Anakin Skywalker's backstory would be like. The outline has significant differences from the story that was eventually told in the prequel trilogy.

For example, there was no Jedi Council, no Qui-Gon Jinn, no Order 66, and it was Anakin himself who would kill most of the galaxy’s Jedi. Padmé would have survived the main events of the movies, and she would have raised Leia for a couple of years before dying. The prequel trilogy turned out very different from George Lucas’ original outline, which shows how not even the creator of Star Wars had set-in-stone plans for the movies.

Some Of Star Wars Best Moments Were Not Planned Ahead

The reveal that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father, perhaps the biggest plot twist in pop culture history, only came to be during the final drafts of The Empire Strikes Back. That alone proves how the lack of an early outline for three films can actually be something positive for a franchise. There was nothing in A New Hope that made it impossible for Darth Vader to be Luke’s father, but there was also no clear setup for that reveal in the movie. Likewise, The “there is another” line was not meant to be about Leia, as it was only in the Return of the Jedi script that Leia Skywalker became a thing. Originally, the dynamic among Luke, Leia, and Han would be that of a love triangle, but not even the infamous kiss in The Empire Strikes Back prevented Lucas from deciding, at the last minute, that Leia would be a Skywalker.

Related: Every Way Clone Wars Retcons The Star Wars Prequels

The Prequel Trilogy Had A More Consistent Plan (& Still Had Flaws)

Compared to the original trilogy, the Star Wars prequels were much more consistent in terms of planning. George Lucas wrote and directed the three installments, which avoided any major change in tone and aesthetics. Unlike during the original trilogy, Georg Lucas knew exactly where the story of the Star Wars prequels was heading– as everything had to culminate with Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader and the death of most of the Jedi. Still, the Star Wars prequel trilogy was met with a lot of criticism, especially the first two installments.

The bad reception of the prequels by both critics and audiences made Return of the Jedi’s mixed reviews seem nothing in comparison, proving that having a plan or not is not what defines if a movie trilogy will be good. In addition, the fact George Lucas was mostly the only creative force behind the Star Wars prequels is one of the reasons why Episodes I, II, and III did not live up to the original Star Wars trilogy, as the collaboration between Lucas and other filmmakers was very positive for the Episodes IV, V, and VI.

The Star Wars Sequels’ Problems Were More Than Just Lack Of Planning

Right from the beginning, the Star Wars sequels were faced with behind-the-scenes issues that might not have been handled in the best way possible. For example, The Force Awakens’ original script by Michael Arndt was almost entirely rewritten, and even with such a significant change, the movie kept its planned 2015 release date. The Last Jedi’s production went seemly better, but then, Colin Trevorrow was fired from Episode IX a couple of months before Episode VIII hit theaters.

From then on, Lucasfilm had to rework what would become J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker while also dealing with the divisive The Last Jedi reactions. The result was an Episode IX that did not have its own identity, making all the other Star Wars sequels' problems even more noticeable. Had Lucasfilm spent more time on the development of each film, even if at the expense of the planned release dates, then the lack of a roadmap type of plan would have never prevented the Star Wars sequels from achieving their true potential. Lucasfilm is now taking its time with the next Star Wars movies, hopefully, to avoid similar mistakes being made.

Next: Why Rey & Kylo Ren Are More Powerful Than Prequel Jedi (It's Yoda's Fault)

Key Release Dates
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