A Force of One

The was originally posted on Filmography



A great article on how George Lucas has ruined Star Wars (via Kottke). I’ve been talking to a few of my friends about this of late. Not really Lucas-bashing in the same way, but certainly not looking kindly on his attempts at the new franchise. And it is a franchise, now at least. I went to see Episode I and II on the day of release (I took a day off work in the first instance), and was a little overwhelmed. It was only when I saw the films again that I felt disappointed. I don’t feel that disappointment towards the original trilogy.

Now, this may be down to the fact that I’ve seen them so many times, that I have a nostalgic link at a psychological level, or it could be that they’re pretty good films. You could argue that the new films are not aimed at someone like me, I’m too old. I cringe at some of the bad lines and scenes in the two films I have seen. There aren’t any moments where I cringe in the original three (except in the re-mastered versions, but let’s not go there). So I don’t think most of the arguments stand up. The new films just aren’t as good as the originals. Some people argue they never could be, but why not? There is/was far more room for exploring the characters and universe to a much greater degree in this trilogy than there were in the originals. I always liked the idea of a love triangle between Bail Organa, Anakin and Amidala for example, acres of dramatic tension right there, and it's not like Lucas didn't hire actors more than capable of handling it.

During our discussions my friends and I return to the same points; Lucas can't direct, he can't write screenplays, he's too obsessed with CGI and he has too much control. Let's not forget that he only directed A New Hope of the original three films. He found it too stressful and handed over directing duties to Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi) for the other films. Neither did he write the other films. He called in help in the form of Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, who are credited with giving both of those movies their depth and full characters. He didn't write the Indiana Jones movies, he just came up with the concept and overall story, but didn't write the screenplays. He called in Jonathan Hales to help give the script for Episode II more emotional depth, but has gone solo for Episode III (which is a bad sign going on previous experience) apparently he hasn't gone solo, or so this article states (via Binary Bonsai).

He's been criticised by the many actors who have worked with him for giving no feedback after a take, simply saying “again.” He also comes from the Alfred Hitchcock school of directing, believing actors should be treated as cattle (though in Lucas's case it is more like three dimensional objects to be manipulated in a computer). This is a man who doesn't wait for a perfect take, he just takes whichever one he wants from whichever take and combines them in post-production. I'm amazed some of the actors have stood for it. Most of the people he casts are world class, some are Oscar nominated, most are critically acclaimed, but they end up sounding more like automatons.

His reliance on CGI is overwhelming. Anyone who has seen some of the Making of documentaries will have seen him attacking storyboards with different colour markers, one for CGI and one for live action, and splattering the CGI marker all over. I can stand CGI when it's necessary, but he does it for vast scenes where it must have been easier to build a set, scenes where it's so easy to tell it's CGI you might well be watching a cut scene from the latest LucasArts blockbuster.

And that's before you get to the fact that nobody seems to question him. There's a reason: he has you removed. I remember the story of one guy who was banned from Skywalker ranch for talking behind George's back. We all know he has too much control and doesn't take criticism well because someone should have stopped him when they heard C-3P0 wisecracking in the middle of the final battle of Episode II, someone should have stepped in and suggested a re-write of the cack-handed confession of love by Amidala, someone should have pointed out that Anakin comes across as a spoiled kid not a frustrated Jedi.

Will I be going to see Episode III? Oh yes.

Update: I very much agree with Anthony Lane's assessment of the franchise (via Kottke) so far, and it looks like we will all be disappointed with the new film.

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