According to interviews, George Lucas plans on stepping away from directing big-budget blockbuster movies after the release of Red Tails, claiming that he is “retiring… moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff” and has accomplished everything he wanted to do as a filmmaker.
It’s kind of funny, in that on the one hand, you never really expect to hear a director just say “that’s it, I’m done” (and the article does hint that he may continue to work on smaller-budget films.) On the other hand, this is George Lucas, and really, most of us only know him for a handful of films to begin with. He wasn’t super-prolific as a director, and even as a producer, it’s still mostly Star Wars and Indiana Jones (he may still be on board for IJ 5, incidentally.) If he hadn’t made an announcement at all, and just quietly went away, would any of us have really noticed?
He also talks a bit about the reaction to the Star Wars prequels and the changes in the special editions, and there’s a certain degree of bitterness that shows up in his remarks. I can understand that. I don’t agree with making the changes; I think if you want the film to be what you wanted, you get it right the first time, and further that some of the changes clearly weren’t what he originally wanted (he could have filmed the characters shooting in any order he liked from the get-go). But while the people who objected have a valid point as far as the substance of their complaint, a lot of the fandom have gone beyond the substance and said some pretty vile things about him for it, and that’s over the line. (He did not “rape your childhood”, as I keep seeing all over the internet. He just made some mediocre edits to some good films, and made some prequels that failed to live up to the legends you built in your head. Grow some perspective.) So I can understand him no longer wanting to mess with the continual backlash from a segment of movie fans that, even before the prequels, was infamous for being unable to just let things go.
As to the announcement, well, like I said, I probably wouldn’t have noticed his absence if he hadn’t said anything. I don’t think he was ever as fantastic as people thought he was pre-1990s, or as terrible as people thought he was after. He’s just a guy who gave himself a tremendously hard act to follow, and made an error in judgment on how to handle his biggest franchise. For my part, I’m happy to consign my memories of Lucas to the 1980s, and watch the original-cut Star Wars films and Indiana Jones. And I’ll probably catch Red Tails at some point as well; it looks interesting, and it looks to be well done.