Last night Lena and I watched The People vs. George Lucas. I found it fascinating, inflammatory, and touching by turns. Lena fell asleep.
Mostly what I was left with was a question, what would I say to George Lucas if I had the chance? While I agree his prequel trilogy was not up to the standards of the originals, and the forth Indy film was pretty much an embarrassment, and the changes made to the first three movies were both unnecessary and ill-advised… I gotta say the “George Lucas raped my childhood” camp is pretty much missing the point. These folks are only upset because they were so delighted and entertained before. Despite their opinions today, Lucas did not travel back in time and ruin the fun they were having as kids. They still loved everything Star Wars, regardless of what came afterward.
Now I do believe that it is kinda shitty to take an experience that people had in their lives that they love and cherish, and then forcibly deny them that experience ever again. (Such as the changes made to the original trilogy.) However, there are two mitigating factors here. One, and most obviously, it really is George’s playhouse to do with as he wishes. Now almost any artist will tell you that there comes a time (generally just before you show your work to the public for the first time) when it is time to put down the paintbrush and walk away. After this magic tipping point anything else you do will just fuck it up anyway, and if your don’t like it you’re much better off starting again on another project. George hasn’t done this, and he’s certainly fucking it up, but really, it’s his work to fuck. Not ours.
The second mitigating factor is that despite all assertions to the contrary, Lucas has finally released the original theatrical versions of the first three films as bonus features in the most recent giant mega super director’s chrome ass immortal final ultra-cut boxed set. (Retailing at just under four thousand dollars.) You want your original childhood experience? Bang., there it is. While I balked at paying for all the stuff in that boxed set I didn’t want just to get the stuff I did, a buddy of mine lent it to me to watch. (I might have copied them by accident. I’m trying to figure out how to delete them now… you know, as soon as I have the time.) But the point is that it is now possible for everybody to be happy. The originals are in the public, so the old fans can be happy, and the revised editions are out there too, so George can be happy.
What I mean to say, is that mostly everyone can be happy. There is still the matter of the prequels. For me, this is sort of a non-issue. I am happier ignoring them, so I do. Now to me, George’s handling of the prequel trilogy would be relatively akin to letting Peter Jackson do LotR and The Hobbit, and then giving The Silmarillion to Eddie Murphy, a-la The Adventures of Pluto Nash. I attribute this to George being in a completely different head space during the making of these movies, indeed Lucas himself says that when he made the first Star Wars movie he was young, independent-minded, and idealistically tilted against corporate domination and its lowest-common-denominator philosophies. According to George, after Star Wars hit, he almost immediately became that thing he had most despised, a corporate hack. He likens it to Anakin’s journey through the movies, where the youthful idealist ultimately becomes the soulless machine he has always fought against. Looked at this way, you could say that A New Hope was made by a young Luke Skywalker, (striving not to become the beast) and the prequels were made by Darth Vader, having given in to the lure of the green side.
But all this brings me back to my original question. If George stopped me on the street and asked me what I thought… what would I tell him? (Actually my fantasy has him buying me a coffee in some trendy but low-key coffeehouse just outside the city, but that’s neither here nor there.) I think I would have to tell him thanks for all the fun I had with his movies as a kid, and how much the story of a person standing true to their ideals even in the face of destruction meant to me. I might say that the newer films weren’t really for me, but I understand that the kids really like ’em, so I guess they were a success. Lastly, as I patted him on the shoulder on my way out the door, I’d say sorry George, that everyone’s given you so much crap about all this.
May the Force be with you.