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Post #130810

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Lucas's filmmaking rut
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Date created
14-Aug-2005, 10:56 PM
It's hard not to get a feeling of deja vu when listening to George Lucas's recent comments regarding the state of his filmmaking career and future plans. It's like 1983 all over again.

Lucas has stated that Episode III will definitely be the last Star Wars film. He's glad to be finished with the trilogy, that the full story of the Star Wars saga is now on film and he move onto "other thing." He wants to make little, artsy, experimental films. To be a truly independent film maker. To be known for something besides big Hollywood blockbuster movies. I'm not buying it.

It's funny: he said the same things leading up to "Return of the Jedi" in 1983. Sometime after "Empire" he abandoned the idea of making a 9 episode saga and suddenly announced that "Jedi" would be the final Star Wars film. He said he wanted to complete the trilogy and move on to other things. He wanted to make artsy, independent "experimental" films and work outside the Hollywood establishment. He had all these big plans for the future. To direct "THX 1138" type movies. Like the ones he made during college. 22 years later, we're stilll waiting.

You got to wonder what holds Lucas back? The guy was a great director. A visionary. His creative peak was between 1971 and 1977. He made "THX," "American Graffiti" and "Star Wars." He was up there with Coppola, Speilberg, DePalma, Scorcese, etc... One of the most talented young filmmakers to come on the scene. And then his creative drive stalled. Was it success that ruined his artistic drive and love for directing films?

After the release of "Jedi" he decided to put Star Wars to bed. The world waited for Lucas to return to the director's chair and make more groundreaking films. Instead of "artsy and experimental," Lucas made a bunch of "Ewok Adventure" movies & cartoons, produced "Howard the Duck" and designed video games. He spent 11 years being Mr. Mom, raising his 3 adopted kids. Nothing wrong with that. But why state in interviews that the public is holding you back. And that the critics/filmgoers only think you can do commercial Hollywood projects?

And for 11 years while laboring over the SW prequel trilogy, Lucas constantly complained that he was "tied down" to his original story for the films. That Episode I "had to be" about Anakin as a child, Ep II a love story. And admitted the only story the found really interesting was Ep III, because it told how Anakin turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader. So why not just produce Episode III? Why even bother with the other two movies and waste 6 years? It makes no sense.

So now it's almost 2006 and Lucas once again has grand designs for the future. He talked about directing a movie about World War II pilots called "Red Tails." And then spending the rest of life producing independent, non-mainstream "experimental" films. Instead, he's put "Red Tails" on hold. He may only produce the project, if it's even made at all. Instead of making more "Star Wars" episodes, he's decided to once again tinker with the ones already made, by re-releasing them in "3-D," a gimmick that hasn't been cool since the

And he's going to make a "Star Wars" television series. Just like how Episode VI led to countless "Ewok" spin offs, Ep III is going to lead to a TV series about the Jedi who survived Order 66. I think "Star Wars' has always been too big for TV. It's meant for the big screen. And even IMAX. Not the wasteland that is television. Lucas is going back to the dried up Indiana Jones franchise one more time. In greenlighting "Indy 4," a film that has "ill conceived" written all over it.

To be fair, I think Lucas simply changed in 1981 when "Raiders of the Lost Ark" became such a huge hit. His sensibilities as a filmmaker were forever altered. As much as he would like to return to the daring, rules be damned upstart visionary he was in the 70's, the fear of losing money has changed all that. Now he's worried about box office receipts and keeping his corporation going.

It's a shame because when you look at "THX," "American Graffiti," the first two Star Wars and the last 30 minutes of "Revenge of the Sith" you can see that a great filmmaker still exists in there somewhere. Lucas should use his friend and "challenger" Steven Speilbers's filmmaking choices as a career guide. Speilberg's creative output is 10 times that of Lucas's. The fellow boy genius goes from making mainstream commercial movies to experimental ones. And he doesn't take 3 years making anything.

As Lucas said at the AFI awards, he's only really made 3 films. (I count four: THX, Graffit, Star Wars (Ep I to 6), and Indiana Jones (3 films, TV series). Problem is since 1981 he really hasn't had any new ideas. He's just been living off the past. Going back and "updating" THX, SW, Graffit and Indy. You get the feeling that Lucas lost his footing once he split up with Marcia Lucas & Gary Kurtz.

Oh well. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. Maybe Lucas will end up making 3 more Star Wars films and complain the whole time that he wished he was making "little, experimental" movies instead. I'm sure he'll be bitching during the production of Indy 4.

What do you all think? I saw a parody film that used a "New Hope" era pic of Lucas and had it captioned "George Lucas: 1944-1977."
Did George Lucas the auteur really die in 1977?