The Star Wars franchise is a strange beast; it spans generations and has a myriad of tie-in media. With only two exceptions (The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rebels), George Lucas has been a guiding hand in all the canon-media and this leads to a perplexing paradox: how could the man who brought us The Empire Strikes Back have also delivered up Attack of the Clones? The answer is very simple: The Rule of Two.
For those who are not familiar with Star Wars lore, to prevent infighting among the power-hungry dark-side order, there can only ever be two Sith at one time. There is the Master who holds power, and the Apprentice who craves power. Darth Sidious is the Master for the majority of Star Wars, weaving a plot of infinite complexity with a lofty goal as his ultimate end. His means are his many Apprentices: Darth Maul, Darth Tyrannus, and Darth Vader. These agents are the way through which Sidious’ plans come to fruition. Without them, Sidious would risk exposing his plan, as it would necessitate personally attending to matters himself.
Meanwhile, all his Apprentices have vision as well, but do not have the long-range planning that Sidious does. Together the Master and his Apprentice form a perfect duo, and together they achieve ultimate power.
So what does all this have to do with George Lucas and narrative creation? Everything. In the original series, George Lucas was new talent and thus was forced to work alongside a team of writers and editors to bring his vision to life. It remained his vision, but it was achieved with the help and guidance of others. In The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas is credited as “creative consultant.” Again, it is his vision of a story, but with the aid of other people writing the script and directing the scenes he achieved cinematic brilliance and set the high-water mark for all science fantasy to follow. The Master and his Apprentices did well.
Then we get to the prequels.
I will be the first to say that the prequels are passable at best, bantha fodder at worst, and overall in dire need of edits. That is exactly the point: George Lucas created, wrote, and directed all of the prequels by himself, with no creative checks on his vision. Without anyone to correct him, Lucas’ vision of the galaxy was mired in bad dialogue and all that he wanted to show, but was not necessary for the narrative. When viewed as a summary, the prequels are brilliant story telling. When viewed in minutia, the prequels barely shamble through their runtimes. The Master was without Apprentices, and so the plan was brought to the brink of ruin.
As if to prove the point, Star Wars: The Clone Wars arrived in 2008. In it, everything that was wrong with the prequels was fixed, and much of the credit for this masterpiece lies with Dave Filoni, head writer of the show. Fresh of production of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Filoni and his crew were able to execute a stunning vision of Star Wars, guided by George Lucas himself. The reviews speak for themselves and The Clone Wars remains a sterling example of all that TV can be.
Of course, the other aspect of the Rule of Two is that the Apprentice must kill the Master once the Apprentice is strong enough. Darth Disney showed up in 2014, and deftly took over Lucasfilm. Though George Lucas remains, he is thoroughly removed from the creative process. Now Dave Filoni helms a new show, Star Wars: Rebels, and J.J. Abrams directed the first of a new trilogy: The Force Awakens. Both have received almost universal praise. The Apprentices have become the Masters, and only time will tell if the Force is with them.