Mmmm! That's good Ultra Nerd!


In Defense of George Lucas Haters

My friend Eric wrote a really insightful and pointed critique for Moviefone about George Lucas. First of all, I highly recommend that you read it and follow anything he writes because he's a damn good author and his opinions on pop culture are always interesting.
And now I would humbly offer a rebuttal.

In Defense of George Lucas Haters;
or, the Fine Art of Marketing
Let me begin by saying that I don't hate George Lucas. No matter what he has done recently or what he may do in the future the man made Star Wars. It's a gift to the world and he deserves nothing but admiration and gratitude for it. However, this does not make him infallible. The fact that so many people thought it did is one of the reason I think the Prequels were such a colossal train wreck. And I take great issue when someone makes a statement like "But George Lucas didn't betray you; in fact, he didn't do anything wrong. The problem is not George Lucas, the real problem is you." I think that George has done a couple things that can absolutely be seen as wrong and a betrayal. I will try to outline them below as eloquently as Eric laid out his argument.

His New Movies Aren't As Good as His Old Movies!
Well, they're not. That's a separate issue entirely though. I can't help but notice Eric doesn't try to defend his new movies, he just gets upset that people don't like them. It's a poor excuse to say that just because someone gets old their work suffers. There have been many artists, writers, and directors who not only maintain the quality of their work but improve it through a lifetime of accumulated lessons and experience. Look at Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, and Clint Eastwood for just a few examples of directors who have aged like fine wine. I think it's more reasonable to say that some people as they grow older become more comfortable with telling one kind of story or they lapse more easily into their old tried and true techniques which to the audience seem stale and blase. Sometimes the style that made a creator great becomes their one-trick-pony and eventually we don't care to see that trick any more. And some people do legitimately get bad as they get older. However, this is not a hard and fast rule and I don't think that's the only element at work with Lucas. While I believe his faults as a director are more apparent now and things like his wipe transitions seemed charming in the original and distracting in the Prequels it's not just that Lucas has aged. And this is not the reason people hate him.
Let's go back to one of the first points that is made in Eric's article. It is far too briefly touched upon and bears repeating: "The problem lies with the fans and the amount of faith they foolishly placed in one man." That's at the heart of the issue, in my opinion. The original Star Wars was Lucas' baby and without his unrelenting pursuit of it the entire genre may very well have still been laying dead next to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. George deserves credit for making the world see that the space adventure film was a film worth seeing. He combined elements from the works of many other creators and incorporated things that were subtly familiar with a science fiction atmosphere that made them fresh and unique. Looking at classic elements of the hero's journey and the fairy tale through the lens of space was brilliant on his part and he won't hesitate to tell you that.
But at the same time there were hundreds of artists who contributed to Star Wars and made it what it was. Not just the fresh-faced and energetic young actors who he cast as the leads or the brilliant older thespians who brought all their gravitas and charm to the project but also unsung heroes. The world they lived in, the places and creatures and ships they saw were the vision of Ralph McQuarrie. He was the production artist. He did these:
Think Star Wars would be different without him? You bet your Lightsabers it would! Ben Burtt the sound designer is another major Star Wars creator. He deserves much more credit than he's given. He's the one who thought of Darth Vader's breathing noise, he made R2-D2's electric chirping whistles (now we all know what a droid sounds like) and he designed the sounds of a lightsaber as it clashes with another and when it swooshes through the air.

Think about how iconic those sounds are and how different Star Wars would be without them. While you're remembering what these movies sound like let's take a moment to praise John Williams. Try and think of another film or series of films with a soundtrack that is as recognizable and emotionally evocative as Star Wars'. I bet you can't and I'd further bet that if you did that the soundtrack was probably also done by Williams. Not only are these musical pieces awesome when looked at individually but Williams also achieved what one music historian referred to as "the finest realization of the Wagnerian ideal and the best use of leitmotif in history". This is not even mentioning the modeling crew, the costume designer, and many, many more talented people who contributed to the dream. And as a young and unproven director Lucas needed all these people. He also needed the budgetary constraints that were imposed on him because sometimes imagination completely unfettered by technical and monetary limitations isn't a good thing.
And this is where one aspect of Lucas' fall from grace and harkens back to Eric's point "The problem lies with the fans and the amount of faith they foolishly placed in one man." However, in this case it is not the fans but rather everyone in Hollywood and around Lucas. They all assumed that the fans would swallow whatever Lucas fed them with a smile. Somehow his ability to make money made people think that he was a good director. Hollywood is good at confusing these things: making money and being a quality film maker. And George Lucas is SO good at making money. He built a marketing empire off of movies that were 20 years old. And this ability to make money clouded the minds of Producers and they gave him carte blanche on the prequels. No one questioned the man. He didn't get rewrites on the scripts and he could strike down anything without question. Moreover George himself was corrupted by this power. He was infamous for dismissing people who questioned him from the Prequels. He took on the role of the sole man responsible for them and now he must live with the consequences. My point here is that there are undoubtably things about the original trilogy that you love that Lucas had nothing to do with. He may have even fought against them (he did want Han to be a weird Lizard-man kinda like the Gorn).
Gorn Solo letting Greedo shoot first in a moment of lizard solidarity
And so I agree with Eric in that I think Lucas is given too much credit and unfairly put on a very high pedestal when the originals were much more collaborative than the Prequels. It's wrong to give him sole credit for all the good Star Wars. He did however make himself solely responsible for the horrid CGI upchuck that were the Prequels by removing anyone who questioned him and taking charge of nearly every aspect of production.
But this is not an article condemning the Prequels (the internet doesn't need my help with that) but rather defending those who are offended and feel betrayed by Lucas.

He's Just a Sellout!
Eric rails against people who complain about Star Wars merchandising while still buying it. It is hypocritical and frustrating and I'm as guilty of it as anyone (he typed, his R2-D2 Droid phone chirping with a text). But here is another aspect of Lucas falling from Grace. You see, the original Star Wars created iconic and beloved characters and images. They lent themselves well to merchandising (which we all saw) but they weren't designed to be cups and shoes and mobile phones. They were just designed to be memorable and original things: X-Wings and Darth Vader and the R2-D2 were just plain cool in their own right. And I've got no beef with people getting paid for being creative. Mozart and DaVinci both worked for money and not just for the love of it. Money is a necessary element. But between Empire and Jedi George made a fateful decision. He decided to change the movie in order to have things sell better.
That's right, cute little teddy bears would sell better than big scary Wookies.
Wicket W Wa$$ick
Besides, kids already owned a Wookie toy. The ending of Jedi would have made a lot more sense if giant wookies who are known to tear the arms off people and were led by an already established character (this would have given Chewbacca a pretty awesome story-arc) took to ambushing and savaging Imperial forces rather than the Care Bears. George put Boba Fett in the movie so he could keep selling Fett merch and consequently Boba Fett got killed like a total dweeb. There were a few more choice compromises that George made for the sake of merchandising and I'm sure there are more still that I don't know about. Changing your art, your vision, your dream for toy sales is SELLING OUT! And it wasn't the evil Hollywood moguls who did this, it was George himself because he was the one who makes money off toy sales. Now, isn't that a betrayal of the fans? Isn't it greedy to take advantage of the fact that people like your movies and will support them beyond just buying tickets? And this decision only effected RotJ in a minor way. The full effect of making films to sell things wouldn't be seen until Episodes I, II, and III. These movies were made almost entirely to be a showcase for toys. And I don't care what he uses the money for, it's still money made off fans who were nothing but loyal and enthusiastic. This is where we get to the feelings of hurt and betrayal. "Art" for the sake of sales and not for the sake of art is insulting. It not only discredits the fans but also the original work. The proof is in the pudding (or rather, the R2-D2 phone). I didn't buy this because R2 has rockets in the Prequels. I bought it because he was an endearing character. George didn't need to design things to sell he just needed keep doing what he was doing: making awesome movies. And he didn't. He decided to pander and to shill. That's a decision that lacks integrity and shows a lack of respect by the creator for the original work.

He Doesn't Give the Fans What They Want!
Well, I think people's issue is that he's spent so much time tampering with the originals and not even put out a nice, restored version of the originals. It's a gripe but a minor one. I am the proud owner of the originals unrestored and unedited on DVD and they are more than enough for me. I've never asked for more and I never will. He gave this fan what he wanted in this case. However, it is a shocking irony that for a man so devoted to selling he won't just give in and make a bajillion dollars on digitally restoring the originals and getting the nerds who are all clamoring for it yet another Star Wars DVD set to buy.

New Kids Won't Understand Why His Old Movies Are Great!
Some movies don't age. While they may not captivate a generation any more films like the Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Toy Story and Star Wars are as good and appealing to kids now as they were the day they came out.
Pictured Above: Timelessness
And as far as kids now not getting the original Star Wars I think this too can be at least partially blamed on Lucas. When the original were re-released in the late 90's they did EXTREMELY well. Kids loved them even two generations later. I know I did as did all of my younger brothers. Everyone flocked to the theaters. As predicted they bought the new toys in droves. And this wasn't due to a few crappy CGI effects that George stuck in there. It's because these movies are great and have an appeal that is multi-generational. It's like King Arthur or Romeo and Juliet. There are elements that resonate deeply within our cultural consciousness. Luke is a tremendous embodiment of the Hero with a Thousand Faces. And don't get me started on Han or Leia or Darth-freakin-Vader. I think the reason that kids now aren't connecting as strongly is because they are watching them side-by-side with the prequels and after you amp kids up on so much visual cartoonery and wacky Jar-Jar hijinks and lightsabers everywhere that the originals seem boring. These poor kids are just too over-stimulated to pay attention to the story or the characters. It's like feeding them a bucket of candy and then asking them to eat a really good sandwich. They don't care about the hearty, delicious sandwich with its layers that all compliment one another so wonderfully. They just want the non-filling, tooth-decaying sweet crap. It's an unfair bias. My young cousins love Star Wars and I attribute this to them not having seen the Prequels.
Now, if this is the case, if seeing the new movies helps ruin the old movies, isn't that a very real betrayal not only of the fans but of the artist's own work? Frankly, people wouldn't hate George Lucas nearly as much if Episodes I, II, and III had been called 'Clone Wars: The Phantom Menace", etc and they hadn't revolved around Obi-Wan and Anakin. If Lucas had just made another space opera trilogy without making it Star Wars there wouldn't be this rabid hatred. The undeniable fact is that George banked on the original to sell the new ones. He decided that this story should be told (I believe he did this purely to get rich) and that he would be the only one who would make any real decisions on every aspect of the films. Eric looks at Lucas as if he was a tragic figure who had too many expectations heaped on him by rabid and impossible-to-please fans. I maintain that George Lucas took that role on himself to line his wallet and with zero regard to how this new undertaking would effect his original masterpieces or how the fans would react.
As I've said, people should get paid for being creative and awesome but George made these movies not be good movies but to sell toys and cups and thousands of different Lightsabers. While you can try to blame the fans buying these things at the end of the day these were George's decisions. And as I said before, this was an unnecessary decision. R2 and Boba Fett don't need "help" to sell because they're cool. He didn't need to compromise himself or his product in order to get rich. That is what is so irksome. In Empire Yoda didn't do anything but instruct Luke in a swamp and he sells like hotcakes. He didn't need a highly choreographed lightsaber dance scene with Christopher Lee to sell. The Emperor didn't need a lightsaber. In fact, the things designed specifically to sell are the things that do the poorest in sales.

He's Not Allowed to Change His Old Movies!
Also, as far as Lucas going back and changing things in the original, I agree with Eric to a degree. I think that a creator has that right... but was it the right choice to make in this case? Probably not. It was a great moment for Han when he blasted Greedo. It was an establishing moment for the character. And sure, I know Han shot first but what about people watching for the first time? They lose out on the scoundrel. Also, I think it shows a fundamental lack of understanding in George that he conceived of and executed this change. If ANOTHER DIRECTOR had re-released Star Wars and made Han Solo shoot second do you think the reaction would be any different? Fans would still freak out. It's just a bad decision. The fact that Lucas himself made it is all the more frustrating. As film viewers we should look at things objectively and this was just an unnecessary change that doesn't fit with the character. Also, it makes Greedo no threat whatsoever as he missed a shot that he had readied from three feet away. Han didn't even need to shoot Greedo. He could have just walked away as Greedo shot recklessly into the cantina crowd.
And just because I have a good memory of it doesn't make it ok. I remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon as one of the greatest feats of animated story-telling ever and looking at it now it's pretty crappy. I still love the memory but that memory doesn't redeem the original material. It's just something special I have. And while Lucas cannot take that away from people it doesn't make changing the originals for the worse a good decision or even an ok decision.

So with all this in mind isn't it understandable that people feel betrayed by Lucas. We all still have this image in our head of the shaggy-haired kid in the desert trying against all odds to make the movie he dreamed of. And now his movies lack anything close to heart and soul. He just makes them to sell toys (you know the kid in the desert wasn't thinking about how well the C-3PO doll would sell). And so it's not only the fact that he sucks now that makes people hate him, it's the fact that he was once great. It's a fall from grace. A corruption of character. The tragic irony is that Lucas himself achieves what he couldn't do for Anakin in the Prequels: He took someone we viewed as a hero, one of the greats, someone who inspired and uplifted a generation and he got turned to the dark side and became everything we hate.

Besides, 'A New Hope' wasn't even that good, if we're being totally honest
And as for the last line of your review I am going to assume that was just a wind-up to get people riled. If it was meant with any sincerity I urge you to rewatch the original Star Wars. I'll loan it to you. It will take your breath away, I assure you.


  1. Nice try, but you are just a Lucas hater. Go watch Firefly.