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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where George Lucas Went Wrong (And Disney Can Make Right)

The original Star Wars movie (Episode 4: A New Hope) is considered a cinematic masterpiece almost universally. The story was the perfect combination of heroes vs. villains, good vs. evil, hope vs. darkness. The technical achievements were a marvel to behold in the days before all the current digital trickery. And while Star Wars is considered a classic, and rightfully so, the second movie of the original trilogy - The Empire Strikes Back - may have been even a better movie (even if it didn't actually have an ending).

With two great movies in his hip pocket, George Lucas had the Star Wars universe open to him, and beginning with Return of the Jedi, he began to take Star Wars in the wrong direction, a direction in which he could never quite recover from the misstep. His miscalculation was simple - instead of focusing on the human element of the first two Star Wars movies, actual people supported by robotics and creatures that had traits and personalities that you could actually care about, George began filling his movies with creatures that really held little interest for the movie audience. It started with the Ewoks. If only Return of the Jedi had more Luke and Darth with their incredible story to tell and fewer fury little munchkins running around, the movie would have been so much better.

There was forshadowing to Lucas's infatuation with absurd characters in both Star Wars and The Emprie Strikes Back. I never cared for the bar scene in the original Star Wars as creature after creature appeared with each just seeming like an exercise of imagination rather than a true character that added value to the movie. The Empire Strikes Back, gave us the first of Lucas's characters that fed off the grotesque and obnoxious rather than a fully developed character - Jaba the Hut. The character of the absurd manifested itself to completeness to the ridiuclous Jar Jar Binks who took up far too much time and space in the second trilogy.

As for the first trilogy, here is my story. Return of the Jedi, while fascniating with the revealing of the relationship of Luke and Darth Vader, left a bad taste in my mouth with endless shots of Ewoks that I couldn't give a rip about. Jedi left such a poor impression that I had no desire to see any of the Star Wars prequels, especially after those movies began to get ripped by true fans of the series.

Last Christmas, the Boy gave me the Star Wars prequel set on Blu-Ray. It took several weeks, but I finally watched the first movie. It was OK, but certainly not Star Wars worthy. The stage was set for the future movies but I found the kid horribly obnoxious and that Jar Jar Binks character just plain annoying. Again, fine performances by Liam Neesom and Natalie Portman were left unsupported in George Lucas's never ending quest to fill the screen with characters and creatures people really have no rooting interest in. It's almost Christmas again and I have yet to see the 2nd or 3rd movies of the trilogy.

But Star Wars is such a great franchise that it can be easily fixed if the Disney produced Star Wars 7 in 2015 is put back into the hands of someone who really understands and cares about what made the original concept great and keeps the meddlesome mind of George Lucas as far away as possible. What made Star Wars great - start with humans that you can care about like Luke, Hans, and Leia. Add some robotics who pretty much act like humans like C3PO and R2D2. Add if you do have to add alien characters, make them count like Chewbacca and Yoda. And start to turn Darth Vader back into his old self, the movie bad guy to end all all movie bad guys, and not some comedic shill for a franchise gone wrong.

Disney is perfectly capable of bringing the Star Wars franchise back to its glory. They did it with Marvel's The Avengers. It all starts with a director and we should hear who that is going to be within the next few months.

Don't get me started on what George Lucas did to Indiana Jones. I'll save that for another day. Really? Aliens? Surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator? 

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