Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why George Lucas Deserves More Credit and Less Blame

*I'm going to try making this a weekly thing. I'll try to keep the topics varied, so don't expect a Star Wars related rant every week, maybe just once a month or so (joking). Also, the poll wasn't working earlier this week, but it is functional now, so vote on that if you haven't already.

Am I the only one sick and tired of the George Lucas bashing these days? I read, watch, and listen to a lot of movie news/reviews and people seem to rip on Lucas out of nowhere. He may deserve to be poked fun at here and there, but people need to come up with a better way to bash something rather than say something like, “At least George Lucas didn’t direct it.”

I’ll start by acknowledging Lucas’ faults. Was Jar Jar Binks annoying? You bet. Was some of the CG necessary? No, absolutely not. Was the monkey/rope swinging scene from the latest Indiana Jones stupid? Yeah, pretty much. And was that extended music sequence at Jabba’s Palace in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi ridiculously goofy and unfunny? Oh yeah. Lucas has made mistakes (as every director/writer/producer has) and he may say the wrong thing at times, like the quote to Scorsese (on the set of Gangs of New York) that big sets are a thing of the past because a computer can do everything now. I’m not even sure he said that, by the way, but it’s certainly reported enough on websites and it sounds like something he would say anyway, so I’ll go with it.

Lucas certainly loves his CG. I can think of a few scenes in the prequel trilogy that could have benefited from some practical effects (he didn’t really need CG to create floating fruit in the dinner scene from Attack of the Clones), but I can tell you that those movies could not have been made at all without CG. Of course, some might argue that we would all be better off if he wouldn’t have made the prequels or “fixed” the original trilogy. But before I get into that, let’s just realize that without Lucas’ involvement Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) wouldn’t have been able to create such realistic and amazing CG for countless films today.

Now let’s get down to the meat of the Lucas hate: the prequels. I, obviously, love the prequel trilogy (PT) and I consider Episode III to be the second best Star Wars film (behind Empire). I accept that people don’t care for the new movies, but I don’t necessarily understand it. There might be too much CG in them, but did people really want him to break out the ping pong tables and start gluing legos to them? Remember, Lucas was using the most advanced special effects available when he made the original trilogy (OT). It stands to reason that he would use the best special effects available for the new films. And some of it just doesn’t work and looks cartoonish, but when you have so much more going on, like amazing lightsaber battles, full on Jedi war, complex space fights, etc., then you tend to look past that one minor character that looks completely out of place next to a human actor.

I realize that the problems with the PT don’t end with the use of CG. People have trashed the movies for their acting (mainly directed at Hayden Christensen’s whiny performance in Episode II) and the plots. The whole galactic politics aspect of the trilogy left some people bored and/or scratching their head. While I admit that I didn’t go into Episode I expecting a subplot about trade routes and political power moves, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film. But the plot details are all an opinion issue. Point being, I’m not out to convince people that the prequels are as good as the beloved OT. I’m trying to convince people that Lucas isn’t completely to blame here.

Has anyone stopped and considered that maybe the prequels weren’t as magical to you as the originals were because you’ve aged? When you get older you become disillusioned and you also start to look back at the past with fonder memories than you used to. Was everything really better years ago? Or was it that Lucas had created something special back then that no one was expecting? I think it’s a combination of those two problems. The anticipation was so high for Episode I that there was no way everyone would be pleased by it. This isn’t Lucas’ fault. Sure, he could’ve made these movies just like the originals, but how boring is that?

I want to move onto another classic series that some people have claimed Lucas has “ruined” lately. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; I agree that the title is kind of stupid, but this movie was thoroughly enjoyable, despite its flaws. What angers me about this film is that everyone who hates it makes statements along the lines of “Spielberg tried to make a good movie, but Lucas forced in all this alien crap and stupid CG stuff and ruined it.” So Spielberg was making this perfect Indiana Jones movie while Lucas was whispering in his ear the whole time, saying “More aliens and CG, Steve! Let’s get stupid with this one!” No one thinks that maybe some of the beloved scenes from the older Indiana Jones movies came from Lucas. How about giving credit to both Spielberg and Lucas for the good and the bad? I guess it’s easier to like Spielberg and blame it all on Lucas. He’s been the whipping boy for a decade now and I think it’s time for a break.

This has become longer than I anticipated, so I’ll finish up with this: Maybe George Lucas has indeed ruined a classic series for you, be it Star Wars or Indiana Jones, but please remember that those series’ wouldn’t have even existed without Lucas. And, you have to admit, having a something ruined is better than never having it at all. You hated Episode I? Imagine if Episodes IV, V, and VI never existed. You can thank George Lucas for those films and the great memories that come with them.

**For those of you who share my viewpoint and/or my love of Star Wars, I recommend you check the Forcecast podcast from (also available on iTunes). The lengthy weekly show contains all the information you could hope for from the Star Wars world, along with some very funny segments (my personal favorite is the always hilarious “Billy Dee Williams Quote of the Week”). The best part of the show, though, is the fact that the differences between the OT and the PT come up often and the hosts (Jason and Jimmy) are willing to admit that there are parts they don’t care for from each trilogy. They even poke fun at Lucas himself at times (Jason does a great Lucas impression). These are not blind fan boys. Lately, they’ve acknowledged the rivalry between Star Wars and Star Trek and this has led to some great discussions. I say discussions rather than rants because the hosts are actually Star Trek fans, so it’s more about the comparison of the two series’ rather than a childish “Star Wars is the best!” argument. Though Star Wars is favored over Trek, of course, and rightfully so.


  1. There was nothing seriously wrong with the prequel trilogy it was all just a little disappointing. Interested to hear your opinion that Episode III is the second best of all the films. For year I have said Empire is the best but it does have a problem that all the other films especially Episode II & III have. They can not exist without episode IV. The only film that can exist on its own is episode IV and to a lesser extent episode I. I think we need to enjoy them as tow complete works rather than six individual films. This leads to another question if you decide to watch the series from start to finish do you watch them in the order they were made or the order they are set. The logical answer is the order they are set but I actually think they work better to watch them in the order they were made.

    On the subject of the use of CGI; I am not against CGI, I think it has its place but I also think it makes filmmakers lazy Lucas being the main culprit. He uses it when it isn’t necessary and he does things because he can not because they are needed to be done. I think he needs to made a small film with no CGI to relearn the art of film making and regain the passion for it.

  2. NO WAY! There's someone out there who doesn't buy into the BS about George Lucas? There's another human on this planet that understands the prequels? I... need.. a.. minute... You have no idea how refreshing it is to finally read someone who gets it! Lucas has been a whipping boy for much too long and absolutely no reason. We wouldn't have movies the way we do today, CGI or not, without Lucas. his contribution to the medium and industry are virtually unmatched. And everyone wants to piss on him for it. Why? The prequels were great and those who despise them or were 'disappointed' obviously watched them with a chip on their shoulder. They wanted to hate them. I'd love to go into a big, long novel about how rich the prequel story is but now is not the time. And as far as Indiana Jones goes, Kingdom was fine. People went into these movies with expectations and for some reason, when they didn't get what they wanted, they turned into little children and pouted. Loved what ya said and it's great to see there's someone else out there who GETS IT!!!!!111

  3. I’ll start by acknowledging Lucas’ faults. Was Jar Jar Binks annoying? You bet. Was some of the CG necessary? No, absolutely not. Was the monkey/rope swinging scene from the latest Indiana Jones stupid?You're blaming the monkey/rope swinging scene in CRYSTAL SKULLS on Lucas alone? Not Spielberg?

    As for me, I love the ORIGINAL TRILOGY. And I love the PREQUEL TRILOGY even more. Were they perfect? Did they have flaws? Of course they did. I have yet to come across a movie that didn't have some kind of flaw. Did I have any expectations for the PT? No. I didn't know what to expect. And I obviously was not disappointed.

    As for CRYSTAL SKULLS, I also enjoyed it. It's not my favorite Indiana Jones movie, but I still enjoyed it.

  4. The most interesting part of all of this that people always forget to mention is the fact that Before directing The Phantom Menance (1999), George Lucas's last directorial credit was Star Wars (1977).

    That's 22 years. In that time he wrote, produced and collaborated with others but at no point did he dedicate himself to a project like Star Wars.

    Wouldn't any director take a misstep or two after 22 years of abscence from the director's chair? I think maybe the most intriguing question is WHY did George Lucas decide to direct the prequels?

    Surely there were no shortage of amazing collaborators who could have worked on the project with him. I wonder if he felt as if he needed to prove to the world that he still had it...

  5. I'm getting sick and tired of the complaints about CGI. It's like reading about the complaints silent film directors made about sound. Reading these complaints is like visualizing someone with his or her head stuck in the sand, trying to ignore the present and future.

    CGI is here to stay, until Hollywood comes up with a new way to deal with special effects. Deal with it.

    As for the Prequel Trilogy, I loved it. I loved all three movies. I especially loved ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but I sometimes get the feeling that many fans cannot deal with the moral ambiguity of the PT. And it is a lot more obvious than the moral ambiguity found in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or JEDI.

  6. Surely there were no shortage of amazing collaborators who could have worked on the project with him. I wonder if he felt as if he needed to prove to the world that he still had it...

    Lucas had proved that he still had it with the Prequel Trilogy. He didn't need someone else to direct the films.

  7. Some of you have touched on why so many people disliked the prequals and lucas. The fact of the matter is if these same old 30 year old internet bloggers we alive in 1977, and were armed with the mass media of the internet, they would have printed exactly the same thing. They would start with criticizing C3P0. What happened is a that a small segment of these 30 year old bloggers were allowed to spue their insignificant oppinions online and quickly gained momentum for the those with "light minded" brains. I beleive these Lucas haters liked the prequals, but were suaded when they read the blogs on the internet and accepted the text as fact and professional criticisim. After that, the mass media of the internet colaborated in massing an army of lucas haters. To be fair, if the internet existed in the 70's, Star wars would have not survived. They would have "trashed" it by the same type of people who started "trashing" the prequals. These 30 year old "cyber idiots" are so selfish that they believe lucas was concentrating on making them happy. Lucas motivation was to sucessfully continue the franchise and invite and inspire new younger fans so that the new generation can be inspired as we we were in the 70s. The prequals were not necessarily targeted at 30 some year olds who now are fathers, pay bills, have mortages etc.. I would just urge everyone to be self serving by being your own "Man". Do not accept what you read on the internet as fact, but only entertainment. Draw your own conclusions, facts, and believes on what you think rather than what a faceless blogger prints.

  8. To be fair, if the internet existed in the 70's, Star wars would have not survived. They would have "trashed" it by the same type of people who started "trashing" the prequals.

    Despite being constantly trashed, the Prequels managed to survive. All three movies were successful and have their fans. And if the Internet had existed back in 1977, I suspect that "STAR WARS" would have survived, despite any bashing on the Internet.