In their newest entry of Half in the bag, Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman talk about the blu-ray release of Star Wars, the new documentary The People vs. George Lucas (featuring director Alexandre Philippe), and what happened to George Lucas after 1988 as well as other issues like whether he has actual talent or he is just a hack who got lucky.
Mike has made many short films before, but he got famous (at least among Star Wars fans) after his 70-minute video review of The Phantom Menace (TPM) went viral. Before this review he had made similar reviews of the Star Trek: TNG movies, in which he opines that there are now two Picards with completely different personalities: one from the movie and one from the TV series. I would suggest you watch all these reviews and especially for the TPM review. I guarantee that will be the best 70 minutes of your life you’ll rarely get elsewhere.
When we look back, the change in George Lucas is very drastic that one can think that the likely explanation is that somebody kidnapped George and replaced him with a doppelgänger. However we like to think about this explanation, I would say that this changes was a consequence of aging. This has been discussed so many times before. As we grow old we gradually change into a completely different person.
You see, back in the 70s George Lucas was one angry bastard. He was a young director in his early 30s, eager to make his mark. He was mostly driven by the rebellious spirit of youth in his early works, and this is also apparent in Star Wars. George introduces Han Solo as a character with dubious morality by making him shot a debt-collector without giving any shit, and the danger of Mos Eisley as a port city is shown by making Ben Kenobi sliced an agressive vagrant’s hand off. Darth Vader casually strangle a Rebel captain and throw him to the wall. He strangle a colleague with his mind. Grand Moff Tarkin mercilessly destroy a planet with billions of inhabitants. This is show the audience what is at stake: The villains use not only brute force and mystical powers, but are also technologically more advanced. By showing murder and violence we understand the importance of this struggle against the Empire. It look tame compared to the works of other directors, but compared to Lucas’ later works it has some edge and tells about a certain stage in Lucas’ life. The prequel trilogy composed mainly of cartoon characters.
As a young man with no money he also has to look for funding and thus he is still willing to listen to people around him. The rough-cut of Star Wars was reportedly so slow and unoriginal his colleague joked that he is making American Graffiti in space. It is Marcia Lucas (Lucas’ then wife) who then mercilessly edit it into the Star Wars we know. Her editing gave her an Oscar too.
But as one grow old and wealthy, one start to think differently. You start to think about making movies that your kids might like and making everything light-hearted, hence the more politically-correct version of “Greedo shoots first” and the extended singing sequence in Jabba’s palace. Your concern also shift to selling stuff than producing new stuff.
And who want to stood up and criticize you when you’re George Lucas, the head of a multi-million entertainment industry, creator of one the most lucrative franchise?