Please note important comics-based update, below!
So after all these years, and all those movies, and all that hype and excitement and fanguish (why yes, I did just coin that term), and prompted by the already-infamous-yet-still-brand-new Darth Vader “Noooooo!”, plus the recent viewing of Episodes IV-VI with my family — I have finally figured out why I really kind of hate George Lucas.
So yes. Here we go, another nerdy blogger is going to write about hating George Lucas on the intertrons. Quelle surprise! But a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.
I remember going to see Star Wars (back when there was just the one) with my mom. I remember leaving the theater and walking to the car and being enthralled. I’m not sure how many times I saw the first one as I waited for Empire Strikes Back, but it was probably a lot, given that when Empire came out, I cut school in order to go downtown for the opening (back in the olden days, openings were matinees) — and subsequently spent the summer watching it over and over. The arguments among my friends regarding Luke’s parentage were long, loud, and filled with genuine emotion, and one night, we all went to the early show, didn’t leave, and watched it again. I think I saw it eleven times before school started that fall. I have no recollection of the first time I saw Return of the Jedi, likely because the wheels were already coming off — stuff went on and on, or appeared, kind of out of nowhere (that chase scene on Endor, for instance, can now be seen in its true light, as a brutal precursor to the seemingly eternal pod race in Phantom Menace), and like all my budding quasi-socialist friends (we were 18), I suspected the Ewoks reflected less about a galaxy far, far away, and more about Lucas’s increased understanding about merchandising. And yet: It was Star Wars. And it was still pretty damn good.
Fast-forward to 1999. I’ve just moved back to America after 14 years away, and George Lucas has finally made the first prequel — the movies that my friends and I used to talk about in tones reserved in other circles for prophecy and magic — and: BOOM.
Oh my God. Oh my God! I had to see it twice to make sure it was that awful, and oh my God. There is so much to be said (and has been said) about just what a terrible turn Lucas took with Phantom Menace (and I have already mentioned the endlessly endless pod race of endlessness), but I will say only this: Midichlorians? Are you fucking kidding me with this?! Either the force is “an energy field created by all living things [that] surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together,” or it’s something in communication with microscopic beings within our blood for which we are (and I quote) “symbionts.” Take your pick.
I so hated Phantom Menace that I never intended to see the other two prequels, but life and the advent of a child warranted otherwise. At some point I caught the boy up on the first three films with great joy, and ground my teeth through the prequels (only the last of which had any redeeming qualities, if you ask me. And Ewan McGregor deserves a trophy for being the only actor among a large group of excellent actors to actually do any good with his terrible role) and I seethed. Like any good old-school Star Wars fan, I have been seething for 12 long years, and every time he tinkers and changes and adds and subtracts and releases some new damn version, my fanguish grows and I hate George Lucas a little bit more.
BUT I FINALLY FIGURED OUT WHY.
Broken down into parts, the first three movies are not particularly great, certainly not by today’s standards. In light of my immersion in the cinematic world of Lord of the Rings, I find myself particularly bothered by the way that whole cultures pop up, unremarked, and then disappear, again unremarked, as so much set dressing. You never get anything on anybody who isn’t front and center to the story, and even then, you don’t get much. And then there’s (some of…) the acting. And, of course: Bechdel Test. Of course.
And yet! The sum is clearly so much greater than all of those parts, all of those flaws, even all of the moments of greatness — when seen in its entirety, all together, it told a story of such sweep and such emotion that it fell straight into people’s hearts and hasn’t let go since.
But Lucas didn’t make that story — he recognized it.
The stories are out there. If an artist is lucky, he or she gets to be the one to tell a particular story, and if the audience is lucky, he or she is skilled and respectful, and the story is served. That’s what happened in the first three (well… two and a half) movies.
But ever since, Lucas has been pissing on his own work, and jerking canon around because he felt like it, and disrespecting his audience — and disrespecting the story.
And that, my friends, is my bottom line. It was a long walk to get here, but at least I’ll be brief: I’m a writer. Stories really, really matter to me. Words matter to me. Truth-that-cannot-be-weighed-and-measured matters to me. And it matters that we try really, really hard to respect all of that. The stories, the words, the truths do not belong to us. If we’re lucky, we get to recognize them.
And stupid George Lucas was lucky! And then he messed it all up.
Though of course, as we discussed the other day, there’s always the possibility that this is what really happened:
We live in hope.
Oops, more credit where it’s due! Go read this by Lev, over at Library Grape — he definitely jogged my mind on all of this, particularly with regard to the differences between Lucas’s re-fashioning of his films, and the recent-ish remastering of the original Star Trek series.
UPDATE: Well, I never! On the very day that I decide to add to the endless stream of internet anti-Lucas sentiment, the extremely cool Shortpacked does the same! Click here to see one more reason (I really couldn’t go into all the reasons on my own) that the prequels suuuuuuuuuuucked. And then, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably geeky enough to want to click here to see the his fantabulous reaction to the recent abysmal DC Comics Starfire reboot.