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Was Lucas Just Lucky?

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Was the success of Star Wars due to George Lucas' talent and vision, or was he just lucky? My friends and I have debated this many times since the Special Edition was released, and our consensus is that the latter was the case. This actually ties into a previous thread about whether Lucas ever really had a grand, sweeping vision from the beginning. I think the two questions are intimately linked. I think most people here would agree that the Prequel Trilogy is pure crap. Sure, it had decent moments, but the films were garbage overall. They pale in comparison to the OT. Oops, make that the OOT, since Lucas has "improved" those films too. This begs the question: what the hell happened to Lucas? Was it really that success and having an army of bootlickers and sycophants surrounding him got to his head? If so, how exactly did that destroy any talent that he had? God knows that there have been plenty of "artist" types who had enormous egos, yet still produced quality work. How exactly did George lose it?

I'd like to suggest another theory: that Lucas never really had it at all. Personally, I think he was just an idea man, much like I think Gene Roddenberry was. He came up with wonderful concepts: a sweeping space saga, patterned after movies of another era; the Force, a wonderful way to link his space movie with the mythical tales of the past; the Death Star; a story of a rebellion against a tyrannical Empire. All of these are wonderful ideas. Yet an analysis of the films' histories reveals a damning pattern: with the single exception of Star Wars itself, the less George Lucas had to do with a given film, the better it was. The PT is just one big example of what happens when Lucas had things entirely his way. The result is crap. Over-done special effects, a disjointed storyline, horrible dialogue, stupid plot twists, etc.

Looking at the OOT is more interesting, in this regard. George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars. The special effects were groundbreaking, the story uplifting, the dialogue was a little cheesy but delivered with real skill by the film's stars. Hundreds of talented people contributed to the film, from actors to cinematographers to modelmakers to conceptual artists to the composer. Honestly, how much of what we think of when we hear the words "Star Wars" actually came from George Lucas himself?

Next came The Empire Strikes Back, my personal favorite, and of many fans. And guess what? Lucas had much less personal involvement than with any of the other films. He didn't direct it, he didn't write the screenplay, he just wrote the story and executive produced it. The film had the best dialogue of any of the movies, the love triangle that was set up was well done, the effects were even better than in Star Wars itself, and the revelation of Luke's paternity, something which could have killed the film if it was done poorly, was very well done and just added to the film. God, what a great movie!

After that we got Return of the Jedi. While there is much to like about Jedi, it also has several problems. A lot has been said about the Ewoks, too much to go over here, except to say that they utterly emasculated the Imperial forces. The Imps, who are supposed to be scary, threatening, and Nazi-like, possessing the most powerful equipment the galaxy can provide, are smashed by anthropomorphic teddy bears armed with rocks. While the confrontation between Luke and his father, and the Emperor, were all well done IMHO, the whole brother/sister thing seemed a little too far-fetched for me. The worst thing about it is that it nullified the wonderful love triangle set up in Empire. Even before Ben reveals that Leia is Luke's sister, the whole thing is forgotten. Didn't Luke like Leia? One certainly gets that impression watching Star Wars and Empire. Yet in Jedi it's like that didn't exist. It's as if the sibling plot twist was invented to "justify" the love triangle's disappearing act. Am I the only one who thinks that Luke's decision to confront his father, suicidal as it was, would have been more compelling if he had just had his heart broken? Luke's nobility in trying to turn his father back to the Light was wonderful, but wouldn't his willingness to go to his own doom have been deeper, more compelling if he had lost Leia to Han? If Vader and the Emperor had tried to play on Luke's hatred, anger, and jealousy to try to turn him to the Dark Side? And wouldn't Luke's berserk, rage-fueled attack on Vader have been that much better if Vader had threatened the woman Luke loved? I know many will disagree with me on this aspect, but it seems to me that it could have been so much better. Now don't get me wrong, I like Jedi...but it's the weakest entry in the OOT.

And lo and behold, Lucas actually co-wrote the screenplay, Ewoks and all. He also wrote the story and executive produced. What a surprise. He wrote the PT, screenplays and all, and he directed all three himself. They stank, how shocking.

What about Lucas' other movies, you say? How about Indiana Jones? All three of those were directed by Spielberg. Lucas wrote the screenplay for none of them, and the only one he wrote the story for by himself was Temple of Doom.

And don't even mention Howard the Duck.

I kinda wish I had gone with Darth A-Hole instead.

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I am convinced that Lucass released the SE, PT and EU just for $$$$$
"A Jedi can feel the force flow through him".
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i am not going to even read all that and say yes he was.
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Yeah, I guess I did write an awful lot to answer a question that has a simple answer, didn't I?

I kinda wish I had gone with Darth A-Hole instead.

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lol you did indeed, but thats ok welcome to the boards
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Welcome to the board. I read your post, but honestly it sounds a lot like fanboy rhetoric, although it was nice to read a post on the internet with proper sentence structure and grammar.

The majority in the world don't have 1/10 of the talent that George Lucas has in his little toe. To deny the impact that Lucas, not his films, has had on culture much left cinema, is a shortsighted and wrong.

Give the man his due respect. I don't really understand how anyone can come on a Star Wars board just to bash Lucas. None of us would be here without him and yet here we are, nearly 30 years later still talking about it.

Put on THX-1138 or American Graffiti and tell me you aren't looking forward to a non-Star Wars George Lucas movie.

Seriously, get over it.
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Once again, welcome to the boards. Yeah, your post did have a lot of things that have been hashed, rehashed, and even re-rehased by many people (myself included). I agree with TheCassidy that it's nice to have decent sentence structure to go along with it. I don't agree that it was simply fanboy rhetoric because you presented it in an intelligent manner with evidence without resulting to petty, unbacked insults.

Anyway, the reason I replied to this post at all was to say that your ideas for Jedi kick ass. I don't mind the Ewoks, I'm talking about Luke. Luke seems like the perfect little hero in Jedi, and, yes, at the end of the story, hero is what he should be going for. But there's really nothing going on with the character, if you think about it. He's just the stalwart, "I have to save my father!" guy. I think there should have been more insight into his personal life (i.e. Leia), and I've always thought the whole twin thing just seemed to come out of nowhere and that, since it was there, there should have been a bigger payoff to it since you could have the exact same story without it. I think it would have been better if, even though Luke has matured as a Jedi, he was still a young man, and he still had feelings and was still able to carry on, even though he had lost the woman of his dreams. In other words, he just needed more, like the Luke of Empire had. He had several motivations in that one: to become a Jedi, to help his friends, to avenge his father and Ben. And those desires very often conflicted with one another. Much more interesting than, "I have to save my father," with nothing else.

So, to sum up, I enjoyed your post. It really made me think about things I've never thought about before.

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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welcome to the boards dude! I like the ideas that you have for Jedi. That would have been a much better story to go with. I still would have keeped the line that yoda gave about a sister, I just wouldn't make leia the sister. The reason why I'd leave it in is it would have set up forthe next trilogy somewhat. I also would have tried to have anakin turn without having him die.
On the subject of Lucas, yeah he is more of a storyteller than a film guy. He fell in love with film becausee he could use it to tell stories. Sure THX and american Grafetti were good, but he had help on Grafetti (I know I'm spelling the word wrong). And THX was really different for that time. I am looking forward to seeing what he'll do next though
"Who's scruffy-lookin'?" - Han Solo
"I wish my lawn was emo so it would cut itself." -sybeman
"You know, putting animals in the microwave is not a good idea. I had to learn that one the hard way." -seanwookie
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Very interesting post, Darth Asshole... I must admit I agree with you in many points, such as the fact that if we give Lucas too much control - or input - over the movie, we risk a flop. Over the years I've changed my opinion from "George is a Genius" to "George was so damn lucky back in 1970s". The more I learned about how the movies were created, the more convinced I am. It appears that the creative input done by other talented people, who worked on these movies could - if we sum everything up - be decisive factor that lead to their success. I'm not saying that Lucas wasn't needed at all - hey, give the man some credit he deserves - but the point is that he seemed to have a lot of luck to have those people working with him, rather than having the whole thing (I mean plot, dialogues, etc.) laid out neatly in his imagination. Even the fact that Ford changed few lines "in the last moment" proves that OT wasn't made exactly as Lucas could have planned ("Everything proceeds as I have forseen"), but in several cases pure luck decided that these ad hoc changes were the right thing needed.
In the case of Prequels there was far less improvisation. The technology allowed George to execute most of the things he wanted, and this also meant he had even more control, I'd say even more than during making of ANH. If you read the first drafts for OT, you will see that a lot was changed over the time and many of these changes are thanks to the members of the crew - another proof we can't say he had everything planned from the beginning. Some of these changes were forced by technology limitations in those times.

BTW: Darth Asshole, are you by chance related to Major Asshole, from Spaceball One? Hail Skroob!
I saw the original theatrical release of the Old Trilogy on the big screen and I'm proud of it...
How did I accomplish that (considering my age) is my secret...
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It was a boring post. And a common misapprehension is that the Ewoks licked the Empire in a fair fight. You don't really see how that battle concludes - it moves off into the forest. Who knows, maybe the Empire might have been toasting Ewok butt further off into the woods?

Welcome.
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LUKE: Dad, where are your eyebrows?

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welcome to the boards!

i'm as big a lucas-hater as the next guy, and somewhat subscribe to your theory, but the bottom line is that Lucas was still incredibly involved in all the SW films. even as executive producer, he made contributions we'll probably never even know about that contributed to the value of the whole.

my version of the theory is that when he's worked best as a collaborator, he's done his best work. not that the SW movies are better when he's less involved with them.

and ya know what? i would NEVER take the original Star Wars away from him. sure, he collaborated on it, and got great help. but that movie was a sheer act of amazing creativity and willpower into an industry and a culture that had never seen anything like it--they'd seen the pieces he put together to make it before, but never mixed in exactly the right way.

in other words, whether the tales have been exaggerated into some kind of iconic form by time and the LFL hype machine, Star Wars was more entirely George's baby, and a much bigger risk, than any of the other SW films, and so he deserves any and all credit he gets for it. We take it for granted now, five movies later...but man. what an amazing thing to do.
Pop Geek (my blog)
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But still, let's face it, George is much better as a story man, an idea man, but others should execute it. There's no one around who would say that the actual stories (not the dialogue, but the ideas, the concepts) belong chiefly to anybody but George Lucas. Many other people have designed spaceships and creatures and then created them, but the concepts, for the most part, belong chiefly to him.

That being said, if he is the one to execute his ideas, experience is shown that he works better under pressure. That is, his products end up being better when he has to work his ass off to get it. As was said in Empire of Dreams, the making of Star Wars was hell. His cast and crew balked, a lot of his ideas took forever to turn into reality, the studios were threatening to shut him down, and Lucas ended up getting severe health problems. I'm not saying that health problems are good, but he was forced to think creatively to solve his problems as there were many, and Star Wars is now a classic. With the prequels, he has everything he wants right there in his lap and can do anything he wants with the snap of his fingers. Just film it on blue screen and fix it in post. It's the solution to every problem. See the difference?

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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With the prequels, he has everything he wants right there in his lap and can do anything he wants with the snap of his fingers. Just film it on blue screen and fix it in post. It's the solution to every problem. See the difference?

Well, that idea is more attributed to McCallum - but Lucas is guilty of that sentiment.

Look, Lucas is a hell of a good director. Is he Spielberg, Scorcese, Hitchcock etc. good? No way. But, like I said, rewatch THX or AG and tell me the man isn't talented as a director. By the same token, look at 'Sky Captain' which was shot entirely in front of blue/green screen and look at the Prequels. Lucas gets decent performances out of his actors. Are they great? Nope, but the performances work thematically which is something many, many people overlook. Look at LXG - that movie was horrible, as was Sky Captain, and I don't see people still beating THAT dead horse.

Ease on the Lucas bashing and I'll ease up on the Lucas defending!
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Well, I wouldn't call what I said Lucas bashing. Bashing, as I see it, is taking the negative side of the issue and beating it into the ground without reason or argument. In my post, I said what I thought Lucas was good at and what conditions I think would improve his abilities to do his job, and then I went to the other side and gave my opinion on what I think he lacks. Of course, it's all theory on my part. I have in interest in film making, but I have never actually worked on one, so I'm not the resident expert. But I like to believe that my opinions have some grounding in reality.

This is bashing...

"man lucASS sucks! the prqeuels sucks! he is so dooing rick mcalum up the butt!"

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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Originally posted by: Gaffer Tape


This is bashing...

"man lucASS sucks! the prqeuels sucks! he is so dooing rick mcalum up the butt!"


yes you are correct

"A Jedi can feel the force flow through him".
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Originally posted by: Gaffer Tape
But still, let's face it, George is much better as a story man, an idea man, but others should execute it. There's no one around who would say that the actual stories (not the dialogue, but the ideas, the concepts) belong chiefly to anybody but George Lucas. Many other people have designed spaceships and creatures and then created them, but the concepts, for the most part, belong chiefly to him.


agreed...i was posting more to refute the idea that the better SW movies are the ones he's been "furthest away" from. i don't think he's really been that far from any of them, although I know there was that period where they filmed ESB and he wasn't literally on set every day. but even then, i'm sure he was poking in on ILM, stateside meetings, etc.

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That being said, if he is the one to execute his ideas, experience is shown that he works better under pressure. That is, his products end up being better when he has to work his ass off to get it. As was said in Empire of Dreams, the making of Star Wars was hell. His cast and crew balked, a lot of his ideas took forever to turn into reality, the studios were threatening to shut him down, and Lucas ended up getting severe health problems. I'm not saying that health problems are good, but he was forced to think creatively to solve his problems as there were many, and Star Wars is now a classic. With the prequels, he has everything he wants right there in his lap and can do anything he wants with the snap of his fingers. Just film it on blue screen and fix it in post. It's the solution to every problem. See the difference?


this is an interesting theory--i think part of it too could also be that in his younger days, basically everything before and including ANH, he had to prove himself. he was working his ass off to get his career going, to make the movies he wanted to make the way he wanted to make them. once he had the huge success of ANH, he wasn't "hungry" anymore; he had the power and money and control to do whatever he wanted to. at that point, i do think he got progressively less able to make solid creative decisions, and yet also lost access to anyone who would truly collaborate with him creatively.

as for the mccallum buttfucking theory...THAT'S a new one.
Pop Geek (my blog)
Entertainment Geekly
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It might also be because Lucas is from an Indy film background, which are traditionally low-budget and require the filmmakers to think around problems creatively. Even when he was working on American Graffiti for Universal, elements of his background showed up. That film had a small budget, and he filmed it in less than a month. And Star Wars had a modest budget as well. So while neither of those films were independent films, he had to work under similar Indy constraints. So it's rather ironic that now that his films are independent again, what he makes seems less and less so.

To refute my own theory, though, control is also a huge element of being an Indy filmmaker. You can do whatever you want to and are in control of most aspects of production. And we all know the hassles he had on Star Wars at not being able to control certain elements he was used to controlling. So now he is back to independent films and is able to control everything again.

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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Sorry for going a little off-topic:
In my opinion "Sky Captain" was intended to be cheesy and corny, as it was based on 1930/40s comic books and early sci-fi movies. There had to be scenes where action is broken with some dialogue, where female plays "I'm so emancipated and sassy" and the male goes "I'm p*ssed but still charming" style. Go and watch those silly 1950s "aliens ate my livestock" flicks.
You could just as well say "those halos coming from radio stations are so unrealistic", but these images had to represent art deco posters'n'stuff.

BTW: the moment when Gwyneth almost clinges to the chick of her Flyboy (while he reads the map in the cockpit) is far more sexier (in elegant old fashioned way) and romantic than stiff love scenes in Prequels, having dialogues uttered with Fran Dreschner-like voices of main characters, lol (somebody please dub young Anakin!)
I saw the original theatrical release of the Old Trilogy on the big screen and I'm proud of it...
How did I accomplish that (considering my age) is my secret...
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Originally posted by: Darth Asshole
Was the success of Star Wars due to George Lucas' talent and vision, or was he just lucky?


Let's face it.

Star Wars was *never* the "great story" people make it out to be. Yeah, it's entertaining and I enjoy watching it once a decade, but when compared to the whole science fiction genre, Star Wars is pretty mediocre. Just off the top of my head, here are some sci-fi stories I consider superior to Star Wars:

- Gattaca - Deep Space Nine - Babylon 5

And if you include books:

- The Forever War - Mote in God's Eye - Hyperion - Foundation - Caves of Steel - Man Who Sold the Moon



In the grand scheme of things, Star Wars is just a middling piece of literature from a not-so-talented author. Naturally if you expect more, you're going to be disappointed.

troy
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That's what happens when you create two topics that are essentially identical.

You get identical responses.



And no, not trolling. I'm expressing my honest opinion on the matter.

troy
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George was not lucky (there's no such thing as luck according to Obiwan) but IMO, I think his skills have diminished as he's gotten older. Hitchcock was a genious and his later films stunk. Has anyone seen Frenzy? Oh man, I thought that one stunk. Plenty of athletes stay around way past their prime and I think some of that is true of Lucas.

George was a lot younger and more eager back during the OT and I think he burned out. That's why I think he's made some questionable decisions. IMO, it seems like he kind of went through the motions with the first two prequels, like he was saving all his creative energies for Sith. I really don't understand why he wrote all three films when he basically hates writing. He could have found a million writers who would have killed to write the prequels. I think he would have actually been better off having other people write and direct eps 1 and 2 and then he should have directed and co-written ep 3.
George Lucas was seduced by the dark side. The OOT ceased to exist in his mind and became the Special Editions...." "They're more maching now than movies. Twisted and evil."
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I agree alot with this thread on many issues, but I think it is too extreme to say he was lucky, but it is too extreme to say he is a genius.

To me, IMO, I think Lucas can do many things well, and many things he does not do well. Unfortunately on the prequels, he tried to do everything, and his flaws showed in all of the films.

Lucas, is very good storyteller. To me the six movies in Star Wars are all interesting. He definitely has a great imagination, and has created a whole universe on his own. He is very good at pushing technology as far as it goes. The special effects in every Star Wars movie are better. He definitely knows what he wants when he is trying to achieve something. As much as I hate Jar Jar Binks, and I really hate him, he was the first all CG character, which was a wonderful achievement at the time.

The things Lucas is not very good at is: Writing dialogue. In the originals, he wrote the story and had someone like Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett wrote the screenplay. He is not very good at getting great performances out of the actors. He is an editor, not a director. If you look at ESB, Kershner did a great job because he got the best performances out of Ford, Hamill, and Fisher.

Now most people will argue, "Lucas wrote and directed the original Star Wars, how do you answer that?" True, but that movie was lightning in a bottle. It is a classic that changed movies. To me it is one of the things that everything went right, and a great movie came from it. I think Lucas deserves most of the credit, but as you see the others movies from Star Wars, you begin to see his flaws. Johnathen Demme did Silence of the Lambs, Andrew Davis did The Fugitive, and Kevin Costner did Dancing With Wolves, and they were all classic movies, but they never topped that again, but that doesnt' mean they are horrible directors, lightning struck once where everything went right, and the movie was a classic.

To me the original Star Wars and Empire Stikes Back are the only truly classic Star Wars movies. I think they are because they had the most collaboration. Gary Kurtz was the producer, can you see Kurtz letting Jar Jar ruining the first 40 minutes of The Phantom Menace, he would have said to George this guy is ridiculous. Lucas had Lawrence Kasdan write ESB, and Irvin Kershner direct it. This led to many other ideas to make a Star Wars movie great. Kershner said once that Lucas did not like Han Solo saying to Leia, "I know" but he fought to keep it in and now it is a classic line.

After ESB, ROTJ was downfall of great Star Wars movies. The other 4 are all good in their own way, and I can still watch them endless just because they are Star Wars, but everytime I watch ROTJ, TPM, AOTC, and ROTS, I say, "Damn if he would have done this and this different, man this would be a great movie. " I also think that Lucas started to cater too much to kids. The ewoks, Jar Jar, C-3PO' head making jokes during the clone wars of AOTC! Everytime I watch ANH & ESB I think they are perfect, and wouldn't change a thing.

My point is that Lucas tried to do everything on the prequels, and by parting ways with Kurtz after ESB, he began to the era of more "yes men."
Just watch TPM documentary on DVD and watch how everyone is afraid to give an opinion after they watch a rough cut. The only one who questions him is Ben Burtt from the original crew. Sometimes you need other input, because no one is right 100% of time.

I love George Lucas and respect him alot for giving us 6 Star Wars movies to watch for the rest of our lives, but calling him lucky it too strong. He deserves credit for many things, and deserves criticism for other things. The one regret I have about the saga, is if he stuck with the original crew of Kurtz, Kasdan, and partially Kershner, how much better the movies would have been after ESB. Oh Well.....