Friday, January 20, 2012

George Lucas

George Lucas is retiring.
Depending on what side of the fence you're on, this is either somewhat sad news or cause for celebration.

Lucas is easily one of the most polarizing individuals in various circles. While everyone agrees that he's an important person in the history of filmmaking, many people also assume that he's some kind of terrible, egocentric, literally-evil hack writer that only does things for the money.

In 1996, just before the release of the Star Wars Special Edition films, Mark Altman—the at-the-time editior of Sci-Fi Universe Magazine—said this after a preview screening:
"For those who grew up on Star Wars - a really seminal film for a lot of us - it's kind of a shock to see it butchered. It's like watching your childhood being raped."

And thus began the "George Lucas raped my childhood" paraphrase/quote. It's been a huge internet meme and somewhat of a geek mantra. There's even a song about it.

There's also a facebook group about it. This is what's written in their "about" section:

In 1977, George Lucas created the Star Wars Trilogy, an epic saga which would come to define a generation. Star Wars would play an integral role in the childhood of millions of children worldwide.

But nearly 20 years later, the descent began. In 1997. The Star Wars trilogy: Special Edition butchered the original films fan hads grown to love. He made Greedo shoot first.

1999 truly saw the beginning of the end for Star Wars. One word. Jar-Jar (or is that two?) How about two more? Jake. Loyd.

It was all downhill from there.

No sets, no story, awful dialogue which no actor could salvage. But that's ok. Because George Lucas had computers. And money. And computers.

It was all downhill from there.

I want my childhood back.

Give me back a badass Han, Lak Sivrak, matte lines on my snowspeeders, and a band in jabba's Palace that doesn't look like a drag review.

Really? "Butchered?" Greedo shooting first "butchers" the movie for you? I'm not fond of it either, but how exactly does that "butcher" the entire movie? That entire scene takes literally one minute, and the change is around one second. And it butchers the movie?

"No sets, no story, awful dialogue... but that's ok. Because George Lucas had computers. And money." This seems to suggest the reason why people seem so intent on the idea that Lucas is such a terrible person: they assume that Lucas didn't care that he was making a bad movie, and was in it entirely for the money.
Why couldn't he have simply made mistakes with the prequels, or merely had a difference of opinion? Why should we assume that he was being greedy?

"Give me back a badass Han, Lak Sivrak, matte lines on my snowspeeders, and a band in jabba's Palace that doesn't look like a drag review."
I actually had to look up who Lak Sivrak was. His name wasn't even mentioned in the movie, he has no speaking lines, and he gets less than a few seconds of screentime. He is literally just some guy in the background of the cantina scene. And this is the reason the Special Editions are so terrible?

"...matte lines on my snowspeeders..."
The matte lines around the snowspeeders were never supposed to be there; they were a limitation of the available special effects tech at the time. Look at these comparisons (top=old, bottom=updated):

In those last two comparisons, the snowspeeder is partially PASSING OVER the AT-AT's leg. And  the "Lucas raped my childhood" people would prefer THAT one? That goes beyond what's objectively good or bad; that's just people complaining because something isn't the same way they remember it. Who cares that it's a far, far better version of the scene? Not them, apparently. Their childhood memories are far more important than anything else. And that's the real clincher. Take a look at the language used: "give me back a badass Han... matte lines on my snowspeeders..."
Those people are treating Star Wars like something they own. Like it's their property somehow, and George Lucas is some kind of vandalistic intruder.

Take a look at's listing for the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray. The user reviews are completely skewed to the point where the average score is a mere 2.5 out of 5 stars, and most of the reviews are 1-out-of-5s.

That's lower than all four of the Twilight movies. Literally. Even the worst-reviewed Twilight film is a full star rating higher than the Wars saga.

Do people really hate Star Wars that much? Honestly? Look at the review scores. 1,062 people gave it a 1, but almost no one gave it a 2 or a 3. How does that work?
No one who reviewed that Blu-ray set probably actually thinks that Star Wars is only worth 1 out of 5 stars; they're just venting their frustration.

In an interview with The New York Times, Lucas shed some light on various aspects of his relationship with Star Wars fanboys.

“I think there are a lot more important things in the world” than feuds with fanboys, Lucas says with a kind of weary diffidence. But then he gets serious, even a little wounded. Lucas explains that his first major features — “THX 1138” and “American Graffiti” — were forcibly re-edited by the studios. Those were wrenching experiences he has compared to someone keying your car (he loves cars) or chopping a finger off one of your children (he has three and loves them too). Afterward, Lucas set out to gain financial independence so the final cut would forever be his. “If the movie doesn’t work,” he vowed, “it’s going to be my fault.”

In the last decade and a half, Lucas has given “Star Wars” several “final” cuts. For the 1997 special edition, he made Greedo, a green-skinned alien, fire his blaster at Han Solo because Han’s murdering Greedo in cold blood — as the 1977 version had it — struck him as a violation of his own na├»ve style. For the new Blu-ray version of “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas added Darth Vader shouting, “Nooo!” as he seizes the evil emperor in the movie’s climactic scene. Lucas made the Ewoks blink. And so forth.

When fanboys wailed, Lucas did not just hear the scream of young Jedi; he heard something like the voice of the studio. The dumb, uncomprehending voice in his Socratic dialogues — a voice telling him how to make a blockbuster. “On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie,” Lucas says, referring to fans who, like the dreaded studios, have done their own forcible re-edits. “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”

Lucas seized control of his movies from the studios only to discover that the fanboys could still give him script notes. “Why would I make any more,” Lucas says of the “Star Wars” movies, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

As it happens, I'm currently taking an English class focused entirely on studying the Harry Potter books in-depth. Yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds. At some point, the class discussion wandered towards Star Wars (being a related fantasy franchise), and one of my classmates said "I never watched Star Wars because I never understood why they did the whole movies-out-of-order thing." Another of my classmates immediately said "it's because George Lucas wanted more money, so he changed the story and said there was more before the first movie." I immediately countered with "No, he had the vague story for the whole saga before the first movie was released." The second classmate replied "Well, the thing is, I think George Lucas lies."

The conversation went on from there (and I think I technically ended up winning the debate), but that was a surprising example of just how deeply-embedded the Lucas-hate is in general society. For one reason or another, people just assume that Lucas is a bad person. And that hate apparently reaches Lucas, to the point where it became a large factor in his decision to stop making movies and retire.

I'm actually really pissed off at the internet and geek culture now. For all the arguments about George Lucas being some kind of satanic monster, the people making those arguments are the ones most deserving of all that vitriol. All the douchebags that whine and complain that Greedo shoots first can't even stop and realize that for every minor edit to the Star Wars saga, there's a huge contribution to filmmaking.

George Lucas created ILM, and revolutionized visual effects.
He revolutionized and set the standard for sound in film with THX.
Out of ILM spun Pixar, thus George Lucas is the godfather of modern CG animation in film.
Digital film and film editing were completely revolutionized by Lucasfilm. If you've ever used Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, you have George Lucas to thank for that.

Biggest of all, George Lucas gave us an epic fantasy story wrapped in a science fiction package that tapped into the very heart and soul of humanity. If he hadn't created Star Wars in the first place, no one would have loved it enough to get pissed off at the fact that it's 1% different than it was when they watched as a kid.

So now the people obsessed with blaming Lucas for the raping of their childhood have their way. Their comments have actually hurt him, and he's retiring.
Hey, people: go die in a fire.

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