Happy Birthday George: My feelings on George Lucas
Has any name in pop culture created such a diverse spectrum of love or hate in the last 20 years other than that one? Being that it was his birthday yesterday and the internet was once again reignited with the flames of passionate debate I felt that as a lifelong fan of his work I would offer my own opinion on the matter. The fan’s relationship with George Lucas is a well chronicled one that was fleshed out even further in the excellent documentary The People vs. George Lucas” (which I advise seeing if you haven’t btw). You have the fans that feel he destroyed their childhood with a prequel trilogy that focused on effects and action over characters and a reliance on personal drama. You have the fans who think he’s nothing more than a commercialized businessman that shamelessly sold the Star Wars brand to the point of selfish overabundance, and then you have the fans who love everything he’s given to them.
Where do I stand?
Well to be honest I have a love for him that’ll never actually go away. You might say “But Paul you’re always talking about how awful the prequels are and how much you hate Indy 4! You’re not making any goddamn sense!”… and I’d have to direct you into the waiting room before I sat down and discussed George Lucas with you for a solid two and a half hours. Are there things that I can’t stand about George Lucas? Well, of course there are. For one I hate what he did with the Red Tails campaign which essentially came down to the fact that he had a terrible expensive, awful movie that no studio wanted to pick up. So what did he do? He went onto Oprah and told her that studios “didn’t want to pick up a movie with an all black cast” and that this is why he had a hard time selling the picture. I can’t even begin to go into the reasons about why that’s not only horrifically wrong but racially insensitive and reveals all you need to know about who this guy has become, so I’ll let you formulate your own opinions on that matter. I think he’s pretty hypocritical in the way that he spoke out against changes of films and the use of effects as “a means to tell the story instead of telling the story itself” and then going completely against those sentiments, but there’s more on that later. Here’s the quote:
Also yes I’m in the camp that finds the prequels lazy, poorly written and at times derived from extending the brand and selling action figures rather than bringing fans a truly inspired story (the fact that George Lucas finished these scripts in one draft without much of anyone to offer any creative insight or deflections speaks to where it went wrong as well). Do I think he purposely set out to do these things and to lose the essence of human emotion that was lacking throughout those movies? Absolutely not, and I don’t fault George Lucas for that. This is a guy who’s surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of “yes men” that bow to his every wish and wouldn’t dare raise their voice or offer a differing opinion. Hell the “making of” documentaries for Episode I have a short sequence where Spielberg comes to visit and even the legendary Steven Spielberg is nodding and silently agreeing with everything Lucas has to say. It’s shocking to see the kind of power this man encompasses around almost anyone and it’s this kind of power that wrongfully guided him into a different direction. Gone are the days where he had to fight through adversity and come up with creative changes on his own. Gone are the days where a tiny shoot for a movie called “Star Wars” ballooned into months upon months of tribulation and struggles that forced Lucas and his team to think on their feet. Those days are replaced by an infinite budget and a green screen that can do absolutely anything he wants it to do… and I think he lost his spirit and drive along the way.
There’s a part of me that really feels bad for him, honestly there is. I can’t even imagine the kind of pressure he was on after years and years of people begging for a new Star Wars movie when time after time he would drop little hints to the fans. How can you top a movie that isn’t just a movie anymore but a culture, a cinematic milestone and a brand? You can’t.. it’s impossible.. it can’t be done. Yet George stood up and took the challenge head on anyway, and I admire him for that. I think he’s seen enough bitterness and anger from fans to last a normal person an entire lifetime and I don’t think he deserves any of it. However I will say that there’s one aspect of George Lucas that I just don’t understand and can never get behind, and that’s the fact that he refuses to release the original prints of the Star Wars trilogy. That is something I find truly despicable and to be a tragedy for not only fans but cultural importance. I can’t find any reasoning behind this other than the fact that George believes his special editions to be the definitive versions of his movies that are the films he always envisioned while writing and directing the stories. That’s perfectly fine and I can understand that but Peter Jackson thinks the Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the definitive version and he’s not pulling the theatricals off of the shelves anytime soon… so why not give the fans what they want? Is it out of spite? Is he playing the “God complex” card? Is he mercifully sticking to his guns for something he said years ago, or is he merely just that out of the loop when it comes to his fans? These movies aren’t just George Lucas’s movies anymore, they’re ours.. they’re a part of history and a part of our culture and they need to be released for families to show their kids and those kids to grow up and show their families and so on and so on. It’s this subject where I really draw the line with George Lucas. I can dislike things that he’s done and dislike most of his recent movies and I can completely accept them as parts of the universe and as an ever existing landscape but I just can’t rationalize this decision.
When you couple those thoughts with the fact that this man gave birth to something so strong in my life and to movies that literally shaped my childhood and I.. I just can’t ever turn against him. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are the two most important pieces of my early childhood and George Lucas had a hand in both of those (albeit a much larger say in the Star Wars trilogy). So at this point I basically see the man who used to be and the man that he’s become as an old soul that lost his way. He’s like that really awesome Uncle who was the guy you looked up to and loved as a kid but eventually got fatter, older and more delusional and now he’s trying to convince you of impractical ideas that make no logical sense but you kind of go along with it because you loved him so much. I don’t think he gets enough credit for selling the rights to Star Wars and handing over the reigns to more accomplished filmmakers, artists, writers and visionaries that will take his property, his baby into a new generation for years and years to come. People don’t realize how difficult of a decision that was for him and how hard it was for a controlling man like that to not only sell his biggest asset but sell everything he’s known for. It’s a brave decision, a bold decision.. and it’s proof to me that the creator I loved is still inside the man he’s become. That’s one small step for George Lucas and one giant leap for fans across the world.
So with that my 5 year old self, my 13 year old self and my 26 year old self all just wanna say one thing… Thank you George