There are a lot of mixed feelings towards George Lucas these days after three poor prequels and the ill-judged efforts at a ‘special edition’, among other things. It’s trendy to hate him.
Personally, I don’t. I feel sorry for him.
This is all speculation, but the way I see it, Lucas created something great, the kind of work that any writer dreams of creating: something that millions upon millions of people adored and that became a fixture of the cultural landscape. Only, his creation grew beyond his talent. A lot of what people loved most came from other people working off of his original ideas (Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasden, Irvin Kershner, etc). Later, with the Expanded Universe, he saw audiences eating up completely new stories set in his world, but which he had had little or nothing to do with.
Then when he tried to add to it, with the prequels and the special editions and such, the same people who’d been so excited about the EU and so on hated them. I saw a footage once of the first full-screening of The Phantom Menace for the principle filmmakers, and no one seems very excited about it. Lucas himself sounds anxiously disappointed, like he knows it wasn’t what he intended it to be.
This great, brilliant, personal masterpiece…and seemingly everyone else who touched it was making more of it than he could. Star Wars was his world, and here other people were doing his world better and getting praise and adulation for things he never would have done or thought of. Again, the work had grown beyond his talent. I imagine it must have been like a teacher when his student starts to contradict and correct him, only more personal.
In a word, the whole experience must hurt him badly. What must it be like to know that you made one of the great works of modern fiction, but that audiences don’t want you involved in it?
His was certainly the wrong reaction, by clumsily annotating the originals and trying to seize full control back when he clearly lacked the ability to handle it. But pity is not reserved only for those who have never done wrong. Let us all pray that we never find ourselves in such a position, or that if we do, we at least take a lesson from his example and strive to avoid his mistakes.