Lucas Wars

James Berardinelli's recent blog post is interesting:
It's becoming increasingly difficult to defend George Lucas. It's hard to reconcile the greedy corporate fat cat at the top of Lucasfilm's empire with the hungry filmmaker who transformed cinema and enthralled millions in 1977. Fans who once worshipped Lucas now revile his name. Lucas the god has become Lucas the devil. For those willing to defend Lucas, the release of The Clone Wars may be their undoing.

25 years ago, fans adored Lucas. He could do no wrong. Star Wars was fresh in 1983 and, while it was uncertain how long it would take before Lucas produced more stories in that galaxy far, far away, fans believed. In 1997, when the Special Editions were released, the lovefest was still in full swing. Old fans re-discovered the magic of Star Wars. New fans experienced it on the big screen for the first time. Lucas was 14 years older, with gray peppering his once jet-black hair, but no less an admired figure. Better still, everyone knew there was new Star Wars on the horizon. Then came 1999 and The Phantom Menace, dubbed by many as "the movie event of all time." (Considering the hype and attendant expectations, it seemed that way.) Suddenly, not only could George do no right but, in a hyperbolic statement of unrivaled vitriol, he was being accused of "raping" people's childhoods.
While I don't think I've ever gone so far as to say that Lucas "raped" my childhood, I have to admit that Lucas' involvement in a project is not a good thing in my book. The gratuitous double-dipping on Star Wars VHS tapes and DVDs aside (it's not like he's that much different than any other studio there), I can't think of anything Lucas has worked on in the past 15 years that's really been good. The Star Wars Special Editions weren't very special, and indeed some of the changes were mildly annoying (they were also part of the excuse for double-dipping DVD releases). The Star Wars prequels were entertaining, but severely flawed. Lucas can write a fine story, but his scripts (and especially his dialogue) aren't so great. His direction and ability to pull a good performance out of an actor doesn't seem very impressive either. And unlike the original Star Wars trilogy, he kept the prequels to himself (I think a large part of why we love the original trilogy so much is that other, better writers and directors, were allowed to work on them). The recent Indiana Jones movie was a bit of a mess too, and I tend to blame most of that on Lucas. Is that fair? Spielberg surely deserves some of the blame, but it seemed like all I heard about was how Lucas held up the production for this or that reason, including the rejection of Frank Darabont's script, which was apparently loved by everyone involved in the production except Lucas. Instead of Darabont, we got what appears to be a mixture of about 10 different scripts, and it shows.

I think there's probably a lot of wild, hyperbolic speculation about Lucas and his motives, but it's hard not to engage in that sort of thing. A cursory glance at everything he's done in the past 15 years shows a man in love with special effects... to the detriment of everything else. This even hurt the recent Indiana Jones movie.

How could Lucas get back in people's good graces? Perhaps if he worked on something new instead of constantly revisiting Star Wars and Indy, we might get back on his side. Instead, it seems like he's just run out of ideas.

From what Berardinelli says in his post, it seems the new Clone Wars movie is nothing special. This is a shame, because I really loved the original Clone Wars cartoons (I guess that's one recent thing Lucas worked on that was good). Indeed, I think I enjoyed them just as much if not more than the prequels. I'll probably end up seeing The Clone Wars this weekend, but I don't know how much I'll get out of it.