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The Retiring Mr. Lucas

Posted by: Casimir at 10:16 am on Saturday, January 21, 2012

George Lucas has announce his retirement from “blockbuster” movie-making. Again. Those of us who have followed his career closely know he’s made this promise before, and instead we get less-than-stellar offerings like Crystal Skull, the prequels, and Howard the Duck.

But this time might be different. In the past, when this promise was made, it was the result of his frustrations with “the system” in Hollywood. And who can blame him? It’s a notorious system that values fast cash over talent and recycled ideas over craft. However, according to the many articles that have arrived in the lead up to Red Tails, Lucas admits that in addition to his frustrations with the studios (Nobody would bank Red Tails? Seriously? Mr. “I Made Star Wars” was turned down?), he’s equally put out and angry with his fanboy base. And that’s why he’s “retiring” from making blockbusters.

This lead to some interesting discussion in my circles, and I’ve been pondering his reaction.

On the surface, his response is not surprising for Lucas. He basically says “These are my toys, I’ll play with them how I want to, and if you don’t like it, I’ll take them and go home.” Okay, Mr. Lucas. Yes, empirically speaking (no pun intended), you own all the rights and you can do with these films as you wish. But subjectively, perhaps even philosophically, that’s not the case.

Someone asked me today what that means. Why is Star Wars, specifically the original trilogy, so sacred that people get upset when Lucas tampers with it, either directly (Han shot first) or indirectly (Yoda hung out with Chewbacca)?

For example, Batman is a beloved character the world over. James Bond is a long-standing film character. And yet neither of these two fictional gentlemen spark online petitions when a new interpretation is brought to page or screen. (The “New52” notwithstanding.) Of course, the obvious answer is those characters have been imagined and re-imagined by numerous writers, artists, actors and directors. There is no single interpretation that is held as being sacred. Speaking as a Bat-fan myself, I certainly have my favorites, but there are some versions of Batman I can’t stand. Star Wars, by comparison, has always been one vision. (I’m not counting the “expanded universe,” as that barely cracks the mainstream.) Few creators maintain as much control over their imaginary worlds as Lucas, much less those as successful.

And yet, the visceral connection so many of us feel towards Star Wars is more than just an appreciation for continuity. In the same discussion, Harry Potter was brought up. How would Potter fans feel if J.K. Rowling went back and changed the books or movies? Well, they’d probably be upset, and yet I can’t believe for a moment the number of Potter fans come anywhere near those of Star Wars. I have no evidence to back this up, but the Potter stories came about during an age of fractured distraction. There are so many entertainment and communication outlets vying for our attention now. The idea of a “shared” experience is much smaller than it was in 1977. When the original Star Wars trilogy was released, we all shared the same few TV stations, listened to the same songs on the radio, and we all saw the same movies. When an event like Star Wars happened, it touched almost everyone. I doubt Potter fans can claim the same.

All of this is old news, but I think Lucas’ recent comments put these ideas under a new light. Lucas claims these films are his creation, and he can do with them as he likes. Again, he has the letter of the law on his side. Yet I would argue that through luck and timing, Lucas has done what few have ever been able to do. Lucas has created something greater than himself. Something so great, in fact, his creation now belongs to the world.

Nobody gets upset when yet another version of 1992’s Last of the Mohicans gets tinkered with, or when Blade Runner gets another “director’s cut.” That’s because, as excellent as those films are, they didn’t mold lives and philosophies. Many of us that grew up with Star Wars can attribute much of our individual personal character back to the original trilogy. When Lucas starts to alter the films, he’s really altering US, and that makes people angry.

To me, Lucas’ comments come off like those of a spoiled brat who didn’t get his way. He should be grateful that he got the chance to help mold countless lives, and maybe show us all a little more respect for us and his creations. No one denies he should be able to make new films as he sees fit, but perhaps a little gratitude is in order.

Besides, that pile of money he’s sitting on was made by us.


About the Author: Casimir
Not satisfied with the limited options available at retail, award-winning customizer Cason Pilliod has been crafting his own toys since he was a child. His passion for toys merges with his background as a theatrical prop designer, allowing him to find unique customizing solutions, which he shares with the ever-growing customizing community via Inanimate Objects. Cason is also an armchair pop-culture historian, Swing dancer, DJ, daddy, and was once a Muppet wrangler, so he's got a unique spin on life. He also worked for Microsoft once, but let's just keep that a secret.



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