Star Wars. One of the four pillars of Geekdom (probably). Never has a community been so united over a common belief. Never has a backlash from fans been so great. Never has a man once considered a God fell so far from grace. It’s unanimous.
George Lucas fucked up.
A lot has been said recently about the selling of Lucasfilm to Disney, mainly outrage directed at George Lucas for selling out for a second time and thinking with his wallet again, with the dreaded Episode VII on the horizon. That’s the common belief: The Star Wars prequels are monkey turd and George Lucas should be doused in hot glue for making a CGI mockery of our beloved saga yadda yadda yadda. This is the popular view of thousands of Geeks that I may now possibly offend, but when I was a kid, I actually liked the prequels. This was in the time before my film palette had really matured, and mainly only with Episode I, but I liked it none the less. Not more than the original trilogy, but in that naive time before racist CGI stereotypes designed to sell merchandise began to offend me, George Lucas hadn’t really done anything wrong in my eyes.
Obviously I’ve seen the error of my ways since, but it highlights the pertinent issue regarding the Lucasfilm sale, and Star Wars as a whole: It’s for fucking kids. Star Wars and George haven’t upset me for a long time now, as I’ve realised that the franchise doesn’t belong to me anymore, because I’m 23 years old. My cousin (a small child) loves it. He loves the shit out of CGI Yoda and Jar Jar Binks and the rest of them. And why wouldn’t he? Kids are idiots. They can’t even operate fax machines, or navigate using ordinance survey maps. Kids eat that sort of thing up, and always will.
However, we still need to talk about George. Whether or not Star Wars is for kids or not, there is still a huge disparity between the original trilogy and the prequels, in terms of quality. Sure, I’m aware that the original trilogy pretty much stole every aspect of plot, character, design, and technique from other sources and very rarely or begrudgingly acknowledged the original creators. Despite this, and the various examples of bad acting and hammy dialogue, Star Wars worked. It had a certain magic. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It shouldn’t really be good as I think it is, but there you go. The greatest failings of the prequels is that it kept the worst points of the originals, but lost all of that charm and magic, leaving a collection of shit films. This is where George went wrong.
How did he lose that magic you ask? Yes, I am aware I’m talking to myself, it’s for dramatic effect, so shut up. Basically, George lost sight of the most important factor in the success of Star Wars, which was that all of the best work was achieved by other people. Gilbert Taylor, Irvin Kirshner, Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, Alan Hume, Peter Suschitzky and Richard Marquand are a lot more influential than Lucas, whom many believe had sole control over the whole series, when in reality he only directed A New Hope. Special mention must also go to the unnamed money men and advisors who basically told him what he could and couldn’t do with 20th Century Fox’s millions of dollars.
Fast forward to 1999 and George the God is a completely different animal to 1977 George the Relatively Unknown Movie Director. There isn’t anybody to tell him what to do. We have a budget of $115 million dollars for Phantom Menace as opposed to $11 million for A New Hope. Empire only had $18 million, and Jedi $33 million. The original trilogy had a combined budget of just over half the amount of one of the prequels. George clearly knew what he was doing. He had perspective. His box was screwed on right.
You know how the rest goes. He believed in his own hype. The overdependence on CGI was the least of the prequel’s worries.
This brings me to Disney. Is it the end of the world that they have bought a profitable and still culturally relevant movie franchise and all of the associated products? Of course not, they are a business, after all. Will Episode VII, VIII and IX be as bad everyone hopes/predicts? Not necessarily. Disney has a generally favourable track record, or is at least capable of making something half way decent. If a team is assembled with the same care and approach as Pixar has with their output, then it could potentially work. At the same time, why do you even care? Surely the damage is already done to the series. If somebody shoots you six times in the face, what difference does it make if they criticise your fashion sense afterwards? It won’t affect the originals, just like the prequels haven’t.
I know it hurts letting go, I’ve been through it, and it’s happened to countless other movies I love. It gets easier. The easiest option is just don’t go and see the sequels. It’s as easy a choice as that. And how bad did you feel for slating Lucas when you found out he’s going to donate the $4 billion dollars to his education charity? Feel like a dick, don’t you? Maybe we got George all wrong. Maybe we are looking at a jaded movie maker who genuinely loves the franchise he helped to create and has finally decided to try and move on and let others revive it without his input. An average auteur that lucked out but still maintained the best intentions, who thought he could make a difference in the world. Maybe he thought he was doing his absolute best by taking absolute control of the franchise. Maybe, after all these years, he has realised he fucked up.
This of course, leaves the franchise on rocky ground. I really wanted to write a 50,000 word rant on everything wrong with the prequels and remastered original trilogy, but it turns out I lack the strength to care anymore. All I feel towards Episode VII is apathy, and the Star Wars that lives in my head is very different from the one you see on the screen. Maybe I’m not saying anything new or insightful here, but Star Wars has never been an issue of black and white. The cynic in me sees a cinematic disaster on the horizon. The child in me almost entertains the idea of the smallest potential for A New Hope.