|Posted on January 5, 2012 at 4:35 PM|
“No one raped my childhood, least of all George Lucas. And, quite frankly, if some metaphorical version of George Lucas wanted to have sexual congress with some metaphorical version of my childhood, it would be the most beautiful, consensual of lovemaking.” -- Joe Nussbaum, Director George Lucas in Love
We watched a documentary the other evening entitled “The People vs. George Lucas.” The premise of the film – as you can probably gather – is that George has wronged the fandom so repeatedly, thoroughly and mercilessly, that it has now become an us -- I’m counting myself as a fan -- versus him mentality that must be presented to the world for adjudication.
The phrase, “George raped my childhood!” is one that I frequently hear from my business partner, Allen. “George Lucas Raped Our Childhood” is even a song. (Here’s the YouTube link…)
Somehow, through the merchandising and the new films, the special edition edits, and the new characters (*cough* Jar Jar *cough*), George has not only somehow ruined the Star Wars universe, he has actually gone back in time and buggered our childhood memories.
As a child of the 70s, I have literally grown up with Star Wars and it has played a pretty constant role in my life. I’ve seen every film in the theater – from the original 1977 release through all the re-releases through the modern trilogy – and have purchased the films in multiple formats (Beta, VHS, Laser Disc, DVD and the latest Blu-ray release). I had a miniature X-wing fighter, we made up Dungeons & Dragons-type dice games with the action figures battling, we played light saber fighting. Yet, far contrary to feeling like George has violated my childhood, I feel like he helped to make it great. Also, while it might be swimming against popular Star Wars opinion, I happen to have really liked Episode III, mostly-really liked Episode II and find several parts of Episode I quite entertaining. If I had my druthers, the prequal trilogy would have combined Eps I and II, had Ep III and then an Ep III.5 that followed Vader around as he traveled the galaxy hunting down Jedi. That movie would have been epic. But I digress...
If you have yet to see the documentary, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Even kinda-Star Wars fans -- Dana stayed with it for the most part – will be entertained with the way it is presented, with a giant combination of fan interviews and fan films from some of the world’s most passionate Star Wars lovers/haters. Below are some of my key takeaways from the doc and points that jogged my own memories throughout the film. I’ve thrown in some pertinent quotes and split it up into the four parts of the doc.
“The most remarkable thing about Star Wars people standing in a line-up on those opening days, within that line-up, you’re going to have screenwriters, directors, composers, visual effects artists, you also going to have physicists, astrologers and astronomers, linguists, people from all walks of life doing everything they’re doing. And they’ll say Star Wars inspired me to do this. That guy (Lucas) and his work unlocked a generation’s imagination.”
Star Wars is definitely the first film for me, where I left the theater wanting to be one of those characters on screen. I wanted to be Luke, learning to use a lightsaber, during the Death Star trench run in my X-wing. I left wondering what would happen to Vader with his ship spinning out of control out into space with no Death Star to return to. No other film had captured my imagination to yearn for more and make up stories about what those characters I watched on screen did after the credits rolled.
Episode 1: A Nerf Herder from Modesto
The first part of the film starts off with some background on Lucas. He was a mediocre student, got into a horrible car accident, and discovered filmmaking. The details help to understand some of the decisions and motivators in his life that caused him to long for the control of his projects. He was totally embittered with his dealings with the studio and their forced edits of THX1138 and American Graffiti and vowed to have more – total – control over his films.
Many people share their experiences of seeing Star Wars in the theater in 1977 and the impact that Star Wars had on their lives. I can remember seeing Star Wars. It was in Carmel, California. My parents dropped me and my cousin off at the theater while they went shopping. We walked down some stairs into the theater that was relatively uncrowded. What I remember most is the Imperial Star Destroyer flying overhead at the opening and just being on near sensory overload from the awesomeness of it. When the movie was over, we ran out, told my parents how amazing it was, and then went right back in and saw it *again*.
They showed clips from a lot of different fan films and parodies and the ways that fans recreate Star Wars in the way that they imagine it and that Lucas gives fans the tools and sand box to create and play in.
“There is something about our love for Star Wars that is different for our love of other things.”
Episode 2: The Great Tinkerer
“So what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that's what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won't last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you'll be able to project it on a 20' by 40' screen with perfect quality. I think it's the director's prerogative, not the studio's to go back and reinvent a movie.” – George Lucas
With the films having just undergone a recent edit for the Blu-ray release and then the upcoming release of the films in 3D, it is clear that George loves to go back and tweak, change, polish and redo.
Much of this great debate rages between the Special Editions releases vs the Original Films.
“That’s the part they didn’t tell us about when they told us how cool the special editions were going to be. The parts they told us about were ‘We’re gonna dress up the special effects. We’re gonna do neat things with the explosions.’ It’s also going to lie to us about these characters.”
Han shot first (1977). Then he shot second (1997). Now they shoot at roughly the same time (2011, Blu-ray). While technically a subtle detail, it seems to massively impact the rogue character of Solo, who would shoot first and ask questions later. (Also, how frickin’ lame is Greedo to miss a point blank blaster shot from like 3 feet? Dude! You're a bounty hunter! Spend some time on the range!) Even worse for me personally is the new addition of Vader’s “No…NOOOOOOOO!” to the climactic end of Jedi where he hurls the Emperor down the chute. While it MAY add some full-circleness to his whole “NOOOOOO!” moment (also horrible, just horrible...) when he found out that Amidala died at the end of Ep III, I still think it is totally unnecessary and just SO un-Vaderlike. (Read my lightning review of the Blu-ray disc release here.)
More damning was the testimony that Lucas himself gave to the Congress back in 1988 when he was lobbying against films being colorized.
“In the future, it will be even easier for old negatives to become lost and be ‘replaced’ by new altered negative. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural thinking must not be allowed to be rewritten.” -- George Lucas Congressional Testimony, 1988
Apparently, tinkering is only OK by Lucas when it is Lucas tinkering on his own films.
There was also a lot of footage and discussion on the worldwide merchandising phenomena which is Star Wars.
Episode 3: Revenge of the Geeks
Centered on the hype that surrounded the May 1999 release of Episode I. I can’t imagine another film EVER having the hype of Episode I. Star Wars fans had been waiting 16 years for this movie, and it had been building up to an EPIC proportion. I can remember thinking, “Please don’t let me die before I get to see that movie.”
And Lucas *killed* it with the trailer. It was cut amazingly, it had tension, it had action, it had all the classic music and sound effects cues, there was tons of lightsaber. People were paying to see movies just to see the preview and then walking out after the trailer ran. I flew out to California to see it with my friends and the atmosphere inside the theater was electric. You could literally feel waves of excitement and love and emotion pouring off people. Everyone in the theater was EXACTLY where they wanted to be at that second.
The Lucasfilm logo and then – wait for it, you’ve waited so long, and here it is, it’s about to happen, you are here and there is going to be a new movie! – the classic STAR WARS text and big note of the score. The crowd exploded. You’d think that Earth just won some galactic soccer match where people in California actually cared about soccer. Then, the opening crawl. And…what the?! Taxation of trade routes and senate debates? WHAT?!?
“Lied to myself that I liked it.”
“Just realizing it’s not growing on me.”
“18 years, man…is this the *best* you could do?”
The reactions of people on the film. Mass disappointment. But, it’s likely that NO movie could have lived up to that hype. No movie can stand the weight of 16 years worth of a fan’s imagination and hopes and dreams. I dare say every fan had a different expectation of what the story should be. (Though, I doubt ANY of them involved trade route blockades and taxes and senate hearings. We can watch C-Span for that.)
Then there was the massive offense which was Jar Jar and the backlash of hatred. (A hysterical video at the bottom of that post if you haven't seen it.) A huge generational difference in Star Wars fans is that kids seem to like him. Like really and truly like him.
“These movies are for children. And when we saw the original films, we *were* children.”
Another big difference seems to be that for new viewers, it’s ALL Star Wars; all 6 films, the Clone Wars, the games, the books. To older viewers, Star Wars is the original trilogy.
“Lucas has been far more gracious to his fans than his fans, perhaps, have been tolerant of Lucas.”
They talked about control and how Lucas is so tightly in control of his universe and creation. And it made me think a bit about Tiger Woods. In retrospect, it seems difficult/impossible to think that no one knew what Woods was doing with ALL of those women. Yet, when you are on Team Tiger, and you’re pulling down that big check and you are getting to run in his circles, it can be tough to look the meal ticket in the eye and say, “Hey, man. What you’re doing is wrong and you need to knock it off.” Same with George. It was like no one at Lucasfilm wanted to step up and tell him that, “Hey, this isn’t working.” Yes, it is George’s film, but when you have an entire movie making empire working for you, perhaps you should ask for and listen to feedback and critique.
Of course, there is that *one time* that Lucas lost a bit of control. And that produced the “single worst piece of television ever to be put together.” This, of course, was the Star Wars Holiday Special.
“Viewing it is considered a war crime in some countries.”
I can remember watching the Holiday Special the SINGLE time that it aired. Sure, I was confused. Sure I wondered what was happening. But it was Star Wars. That bit of film atrocity involves Chewbacca trying to get back home for the celebration of Life Day. And roughly 25 minutes of the special are filled with unsubtitled Wookiee growling. Besides an amazingly bizarre and disturbing scene where Chewie’s Grandfather Itchy watches some version of what can only be space porn starring Diahann Carroll, the “special” also features Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman and Jefferson Starship. (On the plus side, it did have a brief animated short that officially introduced Boba Fett.) If you hate yourself, you can watch the video here on YouTube…
Episode 4: A New Hope?
Breaking the chain of Star Wars love; can we get over being fans of the film? Can we let go of the hurt and the Jar Jar enough to just love them for what they are: movies about space wizards?
“And they’re like Sith Lords. They now are just consumed with hatred of Star Wars. That’s how you can tell they’re Star Wars fans is that they *hate* Star Wars so much.”
“When we get down to it, none of us have any huge right to complain about three movies we don’t like ‘cause he gave us those three movies that we love forever.”
“In George’s mind, he gave us what we wanted. He gave us *new* Star Wars. We never said we wanted *good* Star Wars. We just said we wanted Star Wars.”
Totally encapsulating the George has turned into the Emperor theme is this quote by Lucas himself.“I was sort of fighting the corporate system, which I didn’t like, and I’m not happy with the fact that corporations have taken over the film industry. But now I’ve found myself being the head of a corporation. So there’s a certain irony there, is that I’ve become the very thing that I was trying to avoid. That is Darth Vader. He becomes the very thing that he’s trying to protect himself against.”
At the end of the film, it’s clear that the hatred so many hold towards George and the new films is all really coming from a giant place of love, because we SO love the original films and hold them so dear. For many of us, the original movies are more than just movies; they stand for and define this perfect moment in time in our lives and this moment of utter, amazing wonder and discovery.
“It was the thing that we harken back to as being most pure in regards to our cinematic experience. It’s the foundation.”
We hate the new films – and therefore George for making them – because we LOVE the old films. And this hate is confused and conflicted because we all still want more new Star Wars.
Special Feature: People vs. Star Wars 3D
Interviews at Comicon this past year asked fans what they think about the upcoming re-release of the films in 3D. The biggest gripe seemed to be that the films would be released in order of Episodes I – VI and not in the original order rather than they were being transferred into 3D at all.
Some key comments:
“Don’t sell a gimmick, sell the movie, sell the quality.”
“Have trust in ILM that when these movies come out, they’ll be pretty awesome.”
“I don’t agree with it. But I’ll still go see it. Definitely.”
Yeah. That last one. You only get so many chances to see Star Wars on the big screen. And you wouldn’t want to miss one. Even if it’s in 3D.
Feel like George DID rape your childhood? Go ahead. Share your pain here in the comments section. Go on; you're amongst friends.