Saturday, June 2, 2012

George Lucas, westerns, Star Wars

George Lucas made the movie THX1138 with the idea that it wasn't a movie about the future---it was a movie from the future. This meant that they didn't explain anything. People in the future would understand what was going on even if people today wondered what they were doing.

I don't know how clever this was on Lucas's part. The trick in science fiction is to have the main character be an outsider to whom everything has to be explained. There was the old movie Just Imagine about a man from 1928 resurrected in 1978; there was Woody Allen's Sleeper, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the cartoon Futurama that use the same trick.

And it goes the other way, too. There was Jim Jarmusch's western, Dead Man, where the main character is an accountant from the east, or the western I just wrote about, Bad Company, where the main character is a middle class draft dodger from a good home in Ohio.

They didn't have to do this with most old westerns. They were all the same and the audience didn't need any explanations.

I saw a documentary about George Lucas vs. his audience. Star Wars fans have a confused love-hate relationship with the rich bastard.

Maybe Lucas just wasn't cut out to be a director. Ron Howard talked about meeting Lucas when he was first cast in American Graffiti. Lucas knew Howard was in film school. He told Howard how great it was working with animation because you didn't have to be around actors.

The acting in Star Wars really was pretty bad. Lucas said that Alec Guinness helped a lot working with the actors, but the performances in that thing were terrible. Especially Mark Hamill. He was so whiny. He's mainly done voice acting in cartoons and video games since then. And there was Natalie Portman. People have commented about how bad her acting is. One critic noted that she can look "utterly stranded" on screen with none of the tools actors generally have at their disposal. She has done passable work with better directors, but not with Lucas.

On the other hand, maybe Lucas's life as an artiste was wrecked by the success of Star Wars. Perhaps those Star Wars fans destroyed his hopes and dreams. Did he sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of his fans? The directors of The Blair Witch Project had trouble progressing in their careers because of the unexpected success of that movie. How could they meet audience expectations after that? There was Alfred Hitchcock who was very limited in the type of films he could make because of audience demands. Was George Lucas made a slave to his Star Wars fans, like Princess Leia chained to Jabba the Hut? 

When Lucas finally returned to directing after thirty years, what did he do? He made another couple of Star Wars movies. The least creative, least risky thing he could possibly do.

And what are they, anyway? He said he regarded the first one as a "Disney film". It wasn't intended for adults, and this is what people said later in defense of obnoxious character, Jar Jar Binks. Children liked him, and it is a children's movie, after all. Although others retorted that the movie included a scene where the characters stand motionless and discuss trade policy. What kind of children's movie has crap like that?

Bringing back the Star Wars series is like bringing back The Brady Bunch. It was a kids' show. When you reunite the cast, do you make it in the spirit of the original children's show, or do you make it for the aging weirdos who are still watching it after forty years?

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