George Lucas Was Right
June 29, 2012

So I was browsing through Netflix the other night, looking at their range of mediocre to abysmal choices of things I haven’t seen when I stumbled across the newish documentary “The People vs George Lucas”. With no better choices at hand I proceeded to watch it as I wrapped up some late night editing for a project I’m behind on at my “real job”. Let me rephrase that: I tried to watch it. I got about halfway through it before I had to turn it off and put on a Beatles album (FYI: A Hard Day’s Night) to wash away the taste it left in my brain. At its most basic, this was nothing more than what any Star Wars fan has seen thousands of times in every nerd/geek/fanboy forum online since the special editions were released in 1997 up through Revenge of the Sith in 2005. And honestly, I’m kind of tired of going over the same ground over and over and over (Han shot first, Jar Jar sucks, George doesn’t care about us, fans have equal ownership, ad infinitum).

To make it perfectly clear, I didn’t really care for the film. Decently made, but I didn’t see the point to it (even if you tell me at the end they defend George’s right to do whatever he wants with his films…who cares? That point was debated a decade ago). But it did really open my eyes to something I’ve never really thought about before: George absolutely did the right thing when he made the prequels. What did he do right, you ask? Well, going all the way back to Star Wars in 1977, George has continually said that these are kid’s movies. Made for kids. Now, most fans see that as a cop-out. An excuse, a shoddy justification for everything they don’t like about the prequels. And I’m not the first person to point out that he is right, these are kid’s movies. We fell in love with them as children. If you really go back and look at Star Wars today with a clear, cynical grown-up’s eye, you can see how juvenile the first movie was. How black and white. How simplistic.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

Somewhere down the line, “kid’s movie” became synonymous with “dumbed down crap”, but it wasn’t always that way. E.T. is a “kid’s movie”. Every Disney classic is a “kid’s movie”. You can say that The Wizard of Oz is a kid’s movie. But what we’re really saying is that these are family films- enjoyable for all ages. Now, the prequels are regrettably lacking in finesse. They definitely could have used a rewrite or two and a little better character motivations. But look around: kid’s today still love these movies. They like Jar Jar. They think the Battle Droids are funny. Go read Drew McWeeny’s great series on introducing his sons to the Saga: http://in-my-head.org/2011/11/07/recommended-reading-drew-mcweenys-film-nerd-2-0-star-wars-edition/

George made the right call here. He kept aiming that target in the same place he aimed it in 1977 and 1980 and 1983. And the kids that are enjoying the prequels today (and the Clone Wars, and the video games, and the toys) are going to grow up thinking just as fondly about all of this as we did 20-30 years ago.

I know what you’re thinking. I know, I know. You wanted to see something else. You want Jar Jar gone. You didn’t want silly Battle Droids and endless Jedi fighting. Or C-3PO’s antics. I get it, I really do. But let me point you in the direction of a comparable genre that didn’t take the path that Lucas did. No, this property at some point decided that instead of staying aimed at kids, it would grow up with them. It would evolve and start experimenting with just how far it could push the characters and the existing boundaries. It would get dark, it would get edgy. You know where I’m going with this: it’s comics.

At the same moment that Star Wars was capturing a generation of kids, comics was telling those kids that it was OK to never grown up and leave them behind like the previous generations did. No, once the 1980s hit continuity became king. If you weren’t on board from the beginning it became harder and harder to get on the ride. And every year less and less kids were reading comics. And comics responded by catering to that 80s generation’s every whim in a self-destructing feedback loop. So here we are. Comics exist almost solely as fodder for merchandise and movies and once the 40 and 50 year olds stop buying them the industry is pretty much going to die off (How’s that New 52 treating ya, fans?). Or move onto the web. And collectors alone can’t sustain all the toys or even movies when they are anything but a crowd pleasing, family friendly hit (looking at you, Green Lantern!) But Star Wars? Well, kids will be watching that just like they do the Disney films. Every seven years a new generation will pick it up, and the juggernaut starts up all over again.

Because George Lucas was right.

 

Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer
AFi Editor-In-Chief Jason Geyer has been part of the online pop culture world for nearly 20 years, having founded some of the very first toy sites on the web including Raving Toy Maniac, ToyOtter, and now Action Figure Insider. Along the way he helped pioneer online coverage of industry events such as San Diego Comic Con, E3, Toy Fair, and CES. He is also a former toy designer who is now a marketing genius. If he does say so himself. And he does.
Read other articles by Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer.

 

 

 

19 Comments »

  • Clutch says:

    The problem with comics is that they really shouldn’t have abandoned their sliding timeline. Unlike the Star Wars franchise and other movies you mention, modern comics somehow need to reinvent their characters every decade or so for some odd reason. As for Lucas’ work, I view the prequels as I do Power Rangers, the Ninja Turtles, and most anything else that came out post 90’s shortly before childhood/teenage nostalgia became the main reason why I collect toys. I eventually matured beyond the point where I could appreciate 90’s lines the way I do stuff from the 70’s and 80’s. Comics had an advantage over toys since their overall content changed very little from the 30’s through 80’s. Not so much nowadays. Otherwise, kids would still be reading ‘em and rolling the suckers in their back pockets.

  • demoncat says:

    lucas in a way is right for he made the star wars films as kids films. which now is like it or not is a generation thing those who watched the original in the seventies get to share that love with their offspring who like the prequels same as going on with the toy market for every thing old like star wars is still going and surviving picking up new generations from clone wars at least. comics has become more r&d for the next movie. thing more so with the avengers film just about sinking titantic

  • Shellhead says:

    Jar Jar still sucks, though.

    And so do “meta-chlorians.”

  • Jason JJJason says:

    I totally agree RE: comics, but the Star Wars prequels are just shit filmmaking. Yes, the simplicity of A New Hope is obvious, and I’d argue it’s greatest charm, but it’s Schindler’s List, tonally, compared to the prequels, with a million times the narrative clarity and precision of craft.

    Make new films aimed at kids to ensure generation interest, fine. Make garbage movies for any purpose, not fine.

    -JJJ

  • MisterPL says:

    Star Wars didn’t start growing up with comics. It started growing up with “The Empire Strikes Back.” That film took the franchise to a new level of maturity that involved more violence (Vader executing his own men), betrayal (Luke discovering the truth about his father), and a love triangle (Luke/Leia/Han).

    Lucas started retarding the franchise with “Return of the Jedi,” not the prequels. We got Ewoks instead of Wookiees long before the Trade Federation’s robotic stooges showed up. We got the safest possible cop-out of that love triangle that Brackett and Kasdan introduced. Worst of all we got an inexplicably neutered Vader, stripped of any treacherous ambition he had shown in the previous film, well before Jake Lloyd was born.

    But I do agree with Lucas; these pictures are for kids, primarily the kid in George Lucas who spent his time watching silly movie serials in Modesto. And that’s my problem with the last four Star Wars movies; they didn’t appeal to the kid inside ME the way the first two did. Star Wars didn’t need to grow up with me but it didn’t have to suck either.

    To be fair, plenty of films don’t live up to their predecessors. “The Matrix” is a good example of that. Regardless of how bad I think the sequels to that original film were, I’ll always have that film in my home video collection. Not so with Star Wars. Not only has Lucas undermined some of the best moments the original trilogy had to offer but he’s actually revisited those films to shoehorn them into the rushed and sloppy prequels.

    What troubles me is how Lucas backpedals. He likes to blame technology (or the lack of it) for the reasons why he made the OT films the way he did. As I recall, he didn’t cut the Jabba scene because he didn’t like the way Jabba looked. He cut it because the scene was redundant, having just been played out almost word-for-word in the cantina. He reinserted because it was a chance to get Fox to pay for his R&D on the prequels.

    And Lucas certainly had the technology to have Greedo shoot first, to put a faux-science spin on the Force, and to portray Anakin’s ghost in his twenties rather than as the older man Luke had just saved and would recognize. The truth is that like many artists, he just doesn’t know when to stop. He keeps revisiting the same canvas because he can, not because he should, painting over the first masterpiece that got him noticed in the first place and justifying his decisions with nonsense.

    The other thing Lucas is right about is that it’s his work and he can do with it what he pleases. But that doesn’t mean fans of the original works are wrong for feeling betrayed and disappointed that all this man wants to leave behind are fading memories and bastardized versions of his most beloved films.

  • I am glad to see someone taking a positive stand for George Lucas. Your article was spot on, as my children have embraced the Star Wars universe the way I did as kid, through the power and appeal of the prequels, not the the originals. The fact that these films can compete in the markey and minds of todays youths when you have so much out there: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Batman, and so many others that are great stories with fantastic visual effects, along with a ton of merchandise to keep the fires burning, should be a testament to what Mr. Lucas has been able to do. He still has the uncanny ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of the young and the young at heart, proving that the Force is still with him.

  • The fact that these films can compete in the markey….market, not markey. sorry

  • Jason JJJason says:

    I watched THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS last night and I don’t think anyone in it would consider me a true “fan” of anything, thankfully.

    I wasn’t aware people made shot-for-shot remake “fan films”, by the way. What on Earth is the point of that?

    -JJJ

  • Howard the Duck says:

    My only point of contention here is that Solo always has, and always will shoot first. Otherwise, great article and good point, Jason!

  • [...] George Lucas Was Right by Jason GeyerJun 29, 2012 – 21:51 [...]

  • Biffard Misqueegan says:

    great article.. it seems that u have to be a super-cynical gen-Xer to get any editorial credit nowadays. im always happy to see level headed older fans. i hate that we’ve all been painted as the prequel-hating lunitics of PvsGL.

    even a superficial look arcoss the web at fan vids, toy review vids, blogs etc and u will see that the majority of star wars fans online are under 30 – often under 20. basically ppl that came to be fans of Star Wars via the prequels. and at least 75% of all kids i know under 10 are big fans of the prequels and it’s tv offspring the Clone Wars. None of these ppl would be fans without the prequels!

    I hated PM when i first saw it – but the one thing that i really loved about it WAS the miticlorians! even as a kid i didnt care fore magical/religous bs and it bothered me that the force was ambiguously magic. but even then i suspected that it wasnt. Of all the things to dislike about PM ive never understood that critism.

  • unclemarsellus says:

    MisterPL: As for the neutered Vader in ROTJ, there is an explanation for that. He spends all of ESB looking for Luke and trying to turn him so he can defeat the Emperor. Vader knows he cannot defeat the Emperor on his own. (To insert the prequels into here, this is something he could’ve done had he not been dismembered and severely injured.) When Luke refuses, he is almost resigned to his fate as he knows the Emperor will discard him in favor of Luke. He’s outlived his usefulness and this is part of his tragedy. He couldn’t even be the Sith Lord he was supposed to be. That’s why he’s a little more conflicted in ROTJ; not just to foreshadow his turn. A far more inexplicable character change was Han Solo’s. Dude because silly and uncool in ROTJ. Lost some brain cells in the carbon freeze.

  • unclemarsellus says:

    Of course, he ends up defeating the Emperor on his own but just roll with me on that one. ;)

  • Lestat says:

    I think this is article really misses the point of why fans continue to be angry with George Lucas. The issue is not and never has been whether the movies are aimed at children or adults. Of course Star Wars is a family movie, I don’t think anyone is going to argue with that. The anger from fans comes from the fact that the prequels are a poorly executed, poorly written bastard cousin of the original trilogy. Kids movie or not, the prequels don’t measure up to the QUALITY of the original trilogy. Of course I can be dismissed because the prequels “would have never lived up to what I had imagined all these years”. In a way that’s actually true because I imagined the prequels would be good.

  • [...] to Eddie for forwarding this piece from “Action Figure Insider.” In it, Lucas is defended, which means soon the [...]

  • ferris says:

    I always took the “they’re for kids” line as an after the fact excuse for Jar Jar. I mean he’s right, kids like the character, but I’ve watched Phantom Menace with kids and the only parts they actually watched were the pod race and the various Jar Jar antics — during the endless boring stuff about the trade blockade and the senate and all the other walking-and-talking about nothing, they’d go off and play. What kid (or adult really) wants to listen to people talk about galactic politics?

    Also wasn’t the last prequel PG-13 or something?

    I didn’t think People Vs Lucas was very good either to be honest, and the prequels certainly aren’t the worst movies ever made, but I don’t buy the idea that he did a fantastic job with them and we’re all just privileged whining fanboys who can’t see it because of nostalgia. They have a lot of problems just as movies, never mind as Star Wars movies.

  • Boba says:

    DO you realize what you are doing, you putting up a flag for all those hater to come and pick on you! And I salute you for that. The prequels hate will fade away some day, but we just have to wait for the new generation to hit the internet, and some of them already did! So keep up the good work, keep on defending Lucas!

  • alex says:

    The new generation is also a very large generation (larger than the Baby Boomers and waaaay larger than the Gen-Xers). If one looks at the fancontent created on youtube, on tumblr, on fanfiction sites, there is a loooot of prequel content compared to OT content. Young fans create. Kids in their teens and young adults in their twenties do so.

    No, the prequels aren’t perfect but guess what? Neither is the OT. I came to the saga after it was done (I was 20 and I knew nothing about SW) and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t engaged at all in fandom that I was able to create my own opinions. The prequels have their flaws. But so does the OT. That is probably heresy to some but it’s the truth and I can make a list right now of things I don’t like in the OT (Black and white thinking for one and as someone who adores book series like asoiaf where there are no villains or heroes, only varying shades of human, I can’t with the monochromatic nature of the OT). As for the comment above re: nostalgia, you must be kidding if you think that your own decades-long expectations and childhood feelings attached to a formative experience has no effect on how you feel about the prequels and the OT.

    Valid criticism is fine (vitriol isn’t) and I sometimes agree but for me at least, I do take into account when said critic watched the OT. It’s proving to be an interesting sociological experiment *kanye shrug*

  • ferris says:

    “As for the comment above re: nostalgia, you must be kidding if you think that your own decades-long expectations and childhood feelings attached to a formative experience has no effect on how you feel about the prequels and the OT.”

    If you mean my comment, I actually didn’t see the first three until I was older than you were, and not long before Phantom Menace came out. I just meant it seems like anyone who criticizes the prequels gets dismissed by fans of them as having some kind of “nostalgia blindness,” and I’m sure some old time fanboys/haters do, but plenty of us just think there are much deeper flaws in the newer movies and significantly less of the good qualities that made the old ones so much fun (though yes, they clearly have their own flaws too). Not sure I really agree on the black and white thing that much either, but that’s a whole different discussion.

    My point was just that it’s quite possible to think the prequels aren’t very good movies without thinking the original trilogy is perfect. My problems with them are much more about their own dialogue, plot structure, tone and sense of humour than “living up to Star Wars” or “years of expectations” or whatever. Admittedly it’s hard to have the discussion without constantly bringing up or comparing to the first trilogy, since it’s more widely agreed to be a successful one.

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