It seems we have Walt Disney, or more appropriate his corporation to blame for the relative poorness of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy thanks to their forceful backing of a 1998 change in copyrighting law that saw the period of copyright protection extended to “the lifetime of the author plus 70 years” (having originally been just 28 years).
Because of that change, George Lucas was able to continue his vice like grip on the Star Wars universe, like a beardy Darth Vader, only with more success in the taking-over-the-galaxy stakes.
George Lucas was completely within his rights to make those movies into the sterile, toy-marketing vehicles they were. He owned Darth Vader and could tell the origin story as he wished – and that’s the only version you’ll ever get to see.
He goes on to muse about what fantasy world delights would be possible if those laws had stuck to the original period of 28 years:
In 2011 the whole of the original Star Wars trilogy – all of its artwork, its characters, its music – would have left copyright protection and been available to aspiring directors and writers to build upon and make their own versions of.
There would be a treasure trove of new Star Wars stories for fans to enjoy.
But as CP Grey points out in conclusion, unless the copyright laws change once more, taking the power away from corporations (and authors of course) after a more reasonable time period, noone else will ever be able to tell the Darth Vader story, or the Yoda and Boba Fett prequels that deserves to be made. But then again, noone else will ever be able to give JarJar Binks his own film either, so I suppose it’s swings and round-abouts.
Here’s CP Grey’s take on copyright law in full:
Who knew learning about copyright could be so damn interesting?!