George Lucas, in recent interviews leading up to Friday's release about "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," has likened his relationship to the now-Disney-owned franchise to that of a divorce or romantic break-up.
But as with many of his creative choices beyond the series’ first three installments, Lucas is wrong, at least in his metaphor. At this point, he's more like the cranky, if well-meaning granddad whose advice, unlike that of Obi Wan Kenobi, goes unheeded.
But, as Yoda might say, “Being Lucas, Lucas is." The "Star Wars" creator has inspired, over the last nearly four decades, the kind of strong, ambivalent emotions that only a powerful paternal figure (see Vader, Darth) could. One thing, though, is for certain: We wouldn't be here without him.
For Lucas, the fate of the new film should be a no-lose proposition. If the flick emerges as a disappointment after an unprecedented build up of expectations, the blame would fall squarely onto director J.J. Abrams and Disney, which paid more than $4 billion for the Lucas empire. A triumph would help the restore and extend Lucas' legacy, proving the enduring force of the universe he wrought a long time ago.
"Episode VII" boldly attempts to meld the new with the old, bringing back Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill some 32 years after "Return of the Jedi." The franchise seems in good hands with Abrams, who grew up on the original three films and updated the on-screen "Star Trek" with a winning mix of looking back and ahead.
The new "Star Wars" movie, whether a flop or hit with fans, won't erase the sense of betrayal many felt after the three prequels released between 1999 and 2005 – or after the tinkering Lucas did to various reissues of the original trilogy (no matter what he says, Han shot first).
What matters most, in the end, is that Lucas shot first.
It's time to forget the dark side of George Lucas as the new movie attempts to reawaken the sense of cinematic wonder he stirred in generations of moviegoers beginning in 1977 with "Star Wars" – and to give him his due as the granddaddy of a galaxy far, far away, yet so close to legions of fans.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.