George Lucas Charlie Rose YouTube

It was only a matter of time before George Lucas allowed the anger and jealously of J.J. Abrams’ extremely-awesome take on Star Wars to burst forth for all the world to see. That moment came when Lucas, who was paid $4 billion dollars by Disney, called the company a bunch of “white slavers.”

Variety reported Wednesday:

Lucas, who has always been protective of his series and even refers to them as his “kids,” hasn’t been looking back well on the deal with Disney (via Collider).

“I sold them to the white slavers that takes these things, and…,” Lucas said before laughing and deciding it better not to finish.

The father of “Star Wars” also opened up about why he and Disney were split on their decisions for the franchise’s future.

“They looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans,’” Lucas said. “They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. … They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway — but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up,” he said. “And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”

Lucas apologized when some lawyers from Disney started screaming in his ear, but the damage is already done. He showed his hand.

Here is the truth: George Lucas — the guy who has a “ranch” that we might as well call Skywalker Plantation — is much more of a “white slaver” than Disney will ever be.

George Lucas surrounded himself with yes-men and created his own fiefdom, where computer experts were holed up inside dark rooms for years to make monstrosities like Jar Jar Binks. Men who might as well be called indentured servants toiled away so finicky Lucas could barge in and criticize their hard work.

Note: Watch the behind-the-scenes specials on the prequels to see how people cower in fear when Lucas comes around. Watch as otherwise-talented men bow down and submit to Lucas’ stupidity because he somehow managed to bring the original trilogy into existence.

Speaking of the Star Wars movies, let’s rate them:

Episode I: Horrible. Lucas called it “bold.” It’s also “bold” to take a bowel movement in the middle of Times Square, but it’s still unacceptable.
Episode II: Horrible.
Episode III:Barely passable. Lucas must have received help with the script. Someone intervened behind the scenes. There is no doubt.
Episode IV: Classic. Young George Lucas, saddled with setbacks, takes part in a truly collaborative project and creates a winner.
Episode V: Great movie. Note that it was directed by Irvin Kershner with a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.
Episode VI: Good movie, but shaky. We see the divisions between “white slaver” Lucas and writer Kasdan on full display.
Episode VII: Bravo. J.J. Abrams and Kasdan begin to “make things right.” A return to form.

Notice how ungrateful George Lucas, after taking $4 billion dollars, turns his nose at the idea of giving fans what they want.

Lucas is still steaming all these years later because he tried to shove half-baked prequels down the world’s throat and the feedback was, “It looks like someone has isolated himself on Skywalker Ranch for far too long…”

The kicker, not picked up by most media outlets, comes when the guy who sells merchandise like Watto sneered at American capitalism. He then had the gall to say he cares more about the craft of writing than Hollywood.

“Whenever there is a new tool, everybody goes crazy and they forget the fact that there is actually a story and that’s the point. You’re telling a story using tools. You’re not using tools to tell a story. You understand that? The other thing that got abused [after Star Wars came out], naturally in a capitalist society, especially with an American point of view, is the studios and everything said, ‘Well, wow! We can make a lot of money.”

I almost feel sorry for George Lucas. What a pathetic attempt to revise history.

When rational human beings think of a Top 10 list of movies where a director allowed story to suffer as he got lost in his desire to fool around with new technology, the prequels will always make the list.

I honestly did not want to rehash the prequels, but since George Lucas has the nerve to accept a $4 billion dollar check and then call the guys who wrote it “white slavers,” then his ego needs to be chopped down like the losing party in a lightsaber fight.

Make sure to catch the part of Red Letter Media’s review where they cover Lucas’ private screening of The Phantom Menace. It is incredibly telling.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

  1. Okay, first of all, I agree the “white slavers” comment was in bad taste. I agree that Lucas having no one in a position (or willing enough) to disagree with him when making the prequels was bad for that movie series. I’m also pretty sure that I don’t agree much with Lucas on politics.

    But, this essay leaves out really important information: Why Lucas expressed his disappointment in “The Force Awakens.” Specifically: “They [Diseny] wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different, make them completely different with different planets, different spaceships, to make it new.” So, we’re slamming Lucas for having creative differences with Disney? (I agree the slaver comment is in bad taste, but the majority of this article criticizes Lucas disagreeing with Disney, not his awful analogy.)

    Now, for the record, I do agree that “The Force Awakens” is overall a better movie than the prequels, and is certainly a better trilogy opener than “Phantom Menace.” But, Lucas does have a point. “The Force Awakens” plays it safe and takes no real risks (except for that one major spoiler scene in the final act). Jakku is Tatooine with the serial numbers filed off. As Han points out in the mission briefing, the final battle is yet another destroy the Death Star routine (the third time in this franchise — even more, if you count the various non-canon tie-in media). “The Force Awakens” is not an original movie.

    The reason it works (and I can honestly say that it’s among the series’ best) is that it takes these tired elements and revamps them, using them is new ways, having great new characters, wonderful set pieces, good scoring, some moments for the long time fans, and keeping the movie fun without undermining the dramatic moments. It also helps that the other movies rhyme and parallel each other, so having film that uses an old play book is part of the franchise’s DNA. (Even so, while you can argue that it was better to make a less inspired movie over making a more creative failure, I think that generally failure when trying to go beyond the limits is more deserving of praise then simply riffing off a proven formula.)

    As far as the whole “give the fans what they want” mentality, that’s very tricky ground. What the fans want may or may not work for making a good story. For example, looking at the Spider-Man franchise (which has a subculture of fans who aren’t getting what they want), “Spider-Man 3” had Venom in the movie over the director’s objections on the grounds that that was what the fans wanted. While I think Sam Raimi pulled it off and made a great (if flawed) movie, general consensus is that Venom ruined the movie.

    One could counter-argue that the “Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows” was an instance of giving fans what they wanted worked, but that would be missing the point that it took what the fans wanted (Peter Parker and Mary Jane as a married couple) and told an overall good story about it. (And by good, I’m not saying perfect, but I think Dan Slott went beyond the cheap junk food stories he usually writes and tried to tell something that had more meaning and was “about” something. On that front he succeeded and turned in a story I’d argue will be a worthwhile read even when the “Secret Wars” event ceases to have any relevance.)

    How does this all relate to “Star Wars?” Those project succeeded or failed not because of whether they were “for the fans,” but on the quality of the stories themselves. Your opinion seems to be that J.J. Abrams was supposed to make a “Star Wars” movie for the fans (PS: “Star Wars” is not a fans-only club, but I digress). It wasn’t Abrams’ job to make a movie for the fans. His job was to do his best to make a great movie period. The fact that he did that and made a movie that the fans loved is a fortunate bonus (and I’m saying this as a fan who is very pleased that the movie can be accurately described as being “for the fans”).

    As far as the prequels go, I think Lucas gets really shafted. At worst, he simply made two or three bad movies. And he hardly “forced” them on anyone. Fans are free to see or not see them as they wish. And are the really that bad? While “Attack of the Clones” has some really bad love scenes, the rest is actually fun (esp. Obi-Wan Kenobi and the stuff about the genesis of the Clone Wars). “Revenge of the Sith’ was the best of the lot.

    And “Phantom Menace” has been the most unfairly treated, in my opinion. As far as I can tell, it was so overhyped and people had such unfair expectations that when we were given a merely okay movie with a few flaws, the public flipped. (We’ll never know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that in the environment “Phantom Menace” was released in, even “Force Awakens” wouldn’t have been labeled a disappointment, at best. I’m also pretty sure that we all — myself included — view the original movies through rose-colored glasses. If we look at them objectively, are the really that much better than the prequels, much less unassailable classics? While I agree they are better and can be considered classics, it’s something worth thinking about. After all, is it fair to analyze the prequels but not see if the original movies can be held to the same standards?)

    Getting back to Lucas himself, in his apology, he did say that he’s still overall happy with Disney being the trustees to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. It could be him just trying to cover his rear, but if we’re going to assume everything that he says accurately reflects what he thinks, we’re obligated to extend that benefit of the doubt to when he retracts what he says, until there’s evidence to prove otherwise.

    I’m not saying Lucas is a saint, that he’s always right, or that he hasn’t ever changed his stance on things or made attempts to revise the history of his franchise, since I know better. But, in this case, I think we got so wrapped in his awful analogy and preexisting gripes against him that the reason he made the comments in the first place has been lost, and it was actually a worthwhile thing to consider as well.

    1. George Lucas’ comment is so toolish that I will now take on the prequels in this post. I didn’t before, but I’ll do it now. First, we must return to something you said the other day:

      “I’ve heard of the Red Letter review and have considered making time to see it, since “Phantom Menace” is the one of those movies were I’ve never really understood the sheer level of dislike it’s received. On the other hand, I genuinely like the movie (for what it is) and am not really eager to see something that would ruin that.”

      Here you admit that you have avoided one of the most awesome take-downs of the prequels in existence because to do so would risk forever changing your view of the movies. This is truth-avoidance. Just as I, a Catholic, should not refrain from clicking debates between the late Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza because I “genuinely like” … my faith, you should not refrain from watching Red Letter Media’s reviews. The things we love should be able to stand up to harsh scrutiny.

      Moving on:

      1. “‘The Force Awakens’ is not an original movie.”

      Neither was the original trilogy, which Lucas admits he cobbled together from old Buck Rogers films, Westerns, etc. Lucas, the dolt, doesn’t even realize that the best parts of the prequels were all the elements from the original trilogy he stuffed into them to attract guys like me (e.g., Bobba Fett, R2D2, C3PO). Seriously…Annakin invented C3P0? He ‘invents’ a droid (that can barely walk) to help his mom, when in OT it specifically says it’s made for diplomacy. How dumb can Lucas get?

      Lucas himself said he poached elements from the OT because the movies were like poetry…scenes were supposed to “rhyme” with each other (all this is in Red Letter Media reviews), but then when J.J. actually makes good “rhymes” then it’s “not original.” Ummm, okay George. Whatever you say. Maybe my midichlorian-count isn’t high enough to understand. **cough**cough**

      2. “And he hardly ‘forced’ them on anyone.”
      Red herring. People know what I meant by “forced” (no pun intended). Again, this is a man who surrounded himself with yes-men so that no-one would question his horrible script, horrible direction, and horrible editing. And then when even HE knew it was bad he called it “bold.”

      I haven’t even started talking about George Lucas’ wife and how she saved his butt when it came to the original trilogy. If you want to know another reason why the prequels stink, then just go back to Lucas’ divorce. Read the spot-on article: The ‘secret weapon’ behind Star Wars.

      3. “Your opinion seems to be that J.J. Abrams was supposed to make a “Star Wars” movie for the fans.”

      Again, a red herring. I mocked Lucas’ outright dismissal of the idea that a world-wide cultural “force” like Star Wars deserves a movie that its legions of fans would want to see — as opposed to just shoving as much crap into each scene as possible because that’s what George Lucas wants to do. As with all movies where there is a large fan base, there is a balance between giving them what they want and staying true to the director’s overall vision. Lucas digs in his heels (Love Jar Jar, damn you! Love him. Love him!) while J.J. honestly struggled with how to be the “director” but also honor the fans’ wishes. He knocked it out of the park.

      4. “And ‘Phantom Menace’ has been the most unfairly treated, in my opinion. As far as I can tell, it was so overhyped and people had such unfair expectations that when we were given a merely okay movie with a few flaws, the public flipped.”

      I would argue that “The Force Awakens” had much more pressure on it to succeed. It had to overcome the stink of the prequels and it had to be successful enough to warrant Disney’s $4 billion investment. The public didn’t flip because of too much hype — the public flipped because The Phantom Menace is a horrible movie.

    2. Okay, I think you made some fair counter-arguments, even if I don’t agree with everything. I’ll be posting a response to your points after I’ve had a chance to reexamine the original articles and posts, and had a chance to think through my opinions in light of what you’ve said (a thoughtful post deserves a thoughtful reply, after all).

      I will concede your point in regards to the Red Letter review. I’m intending to find time to see it and, on my end of things, will table further discussion on “Phantom Menace”‘s merits (or lack thereof) until them (even if I find it more enjoyable then “Attack of the Clones”).

    3. Here is one more thing to consider prior to watching the Red Letter Media Reviews: If I had to pick one thing George could have done that would have made the prequels more palatable to guys like me, it would have been to either go all-in and make a “kids” movie, or to strike the same tone as the OT. One of the things that bothered me about the prequels is that it alternated between slap-stick humor that was painful to watch, and long discussions about trade embargoes, political jockeying, etc.

      At times I felt as if I was watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit with the cartoonish nature of it all, and at other times there were monotonous and meandering conversations about the fate of democracy. It was off-putting and weird.

    4. Spoilery reply warning

      I agree with some of your points WebLurker. Though it doesn’t effect the overall excellent quality of the movie, I always found myself wishing I would have seen new toys in the toybox…or at least old ones that were in the later OT…I almost felt like we didn’t see A-wings and TIE-Advanced’s because they weren’t in the first movie either…really? X-wing and TIE re-colors…really?! Millennium Falc…wait…np there 😀

      I haven’t conceded the main villian’s quality either..he’s weak. Asking people to come help so you can stab them and throwing a temper tantrum at some random console made me laugh and I’ve seen those scenes made fun of quite often (I looked over at my son and said…that’s you when you don’t get a new game…LOL…I was just kidding of course, my son is far more mature than Kylo Renn) I know Abrams wanted to do ‘the villain is growing’ thing…yawn. Losing to ‘I’ve never held a lightsaber, but I can beat you now ’cause I got all calm and the force that permeates and binds us also teaches us swordplay…c’mon. His only movie accomplishments are capturing Rey and not getting killed by the ace pilot when we thought we were looking at a badass not a poser. Seriously, he makes me think of Dark Helmet. We need the badass power-stick stormtrooper that tossed his rifle and took Finn on…I hope he isn’t dead. though he probably is.

      Plot is good though. Just derivative. I’m not going to begrudge a movie, including the original Star Wars for doing an old plot well, or recycling plots well and representing them on screen in an enjoyable way. There is one thing that bothers me though, and thats when folks say an original plot can’t be done or is a toss-up. Bull. Many Sci-Fi plots are quite original and have never been copied. Sure, everyone borrows elements to some extent. For me, if Star Wars 8 is a strict derivative plot of Empire….I’ll be very, very disappointed.

      You should watch the Red Letter Media reviews if only for entertainment alone, they were meant to be ‘films’ in their own right. They are not some heavy, long winded overbearing deconstruction of the prequels…They are a fun, enjoyable and insightful um, deconstruction of the prequels. They pretty much laugh at the silliness of the prequels rather than having this ‘you ruined my childhood’ reaction some fans have that’s just pathetic. I think they nail the basic core of the problem with the prequels. The original Star Wars is a passionate collaborative work, a different Lucas, working with limited resources to build a quality film from a time when film was built to entertain rather than provide social commentary.

      The prequels are a work of Lucas’ ego. It’s a work controlled only by him, by a man that is trying to recapture the glory of his previous work…as if that work was the result of his vision alone. I know it’s personal, but many believe that the quality of Empire came from his ex-wife, a woman who has won multiple awards including the academy..and if you really understand the true quality of film, a woman more accomplished than Lucas. The prequels could have used a good editor, from the very beginning of concept even. Who knows how great the prequels could have been, had Lucas put the truly important things first in his life.

    5. For your consideration. 😉

      “Let’s rewind a bit, and talk about something that comes up over a dozen times; Chewie’s bowcaster. The movie is like a freaking infomercial for the epic tons of fuck you and everything around you for the next twenty feet that this badass piece of weaponry dishes out like second helpings of your grandma’s world famous mashed potatoes.

      We see time again Chewie dealing heaping truckloads of fuck that guy and his entire lineage with this death-dealing weapon of pure carnage. He hits a Stormtrooper in the breadbasket and sends that poor sod flying twenty feet back into a wall as his armor shatters on the ground. Han makes a point of asking Chewie if he can try it out, and then proceeds to obliterate five (two*) troopers with one easy shot. Let’s not mince words here. Chewie’s Bowcaster is like the unholy love child of the original fucking crossbow and a howitzer. The Empire should have just strapped this piece of weaponized fuck you to the front of an asteroid, aimed it Alderaan, and saved themselves the trouble of housing a giant space station.

      So…after being shown the pure unadulterated hell that spews forth from this hand-held death cannon in a deluge of destruction and demise, we can all agree that being shot with this thing tops a long list of things you don’t want to happen to you. Well, it happens to Kylo Ren. And, what does he do? Well, he doesn’t get thrown through the air like every other fucking thing that gets hit by this murder machine. In fact, he just kind of takes a knee for a minute. He doesn’t get instantly wrecked while careening through the air hoping for the sweet release of death. He gets up, and proceeds to walk it the fuck off.

      But, he doesn’t just quit there. He doesn’t just walk off what everything else in the universe instantly dies from. He goes out to find a couple bitches, and tear them apart. The amount of control, the amount of pure Force power to stay standing after taking a shot like that is mind-bending. But, he doesn’t just stay standing. He goes out and fights. He should have been dead right there, or at least screaming in pain as his insides fought to be outside his body. But, he fights. He’s using untold amounts of pure Force energy to keep his insides inside, to keep himself conscious, to keep his legs, arms, and body moving, all while fighting two people who, until this point, haven’t really been spending a ton of energy. They’re practically fresh.”

  2. I’ll leave this link here. If anyone wants an enjoyable read, and understanding of Lucas himself, and more importantly, how someone with obvious talent and ability can get buried by Lucas’ ego and selfishness, here’s a biography of Marcia Lucas, the on;y person to win an academy award for Star Wars, and the reason a lot of stupid things were not in them and why a lot of great things were:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20100131135422/http://secrethistoryofstarwars.com/marcialucas.html

  3. While Lucas was certainly entitled to speak his mind, he’d have done better to keep his mouth shut.

    The prequels are indeed quite awful films. There are not a lot of redeeming things in them. I think Abrams’ Star Wars has done far more to ensure the longevity of this franchise, which let’s face it, up till now was still largely coasting on the strength of the original three films.

  4. Wow. I’ve seen plenty of cases of people not being happy with newer installments of works they were involved with (Frank Oz in regards to recent Muppet offerings, Gene Roddenberry towards the Star Trek movies made without him at the helm, too many comic creators to count, etc.), but I’ve never seen anyone use the “white slavers” line. This completely outdoes his “I’ll never make another Star Wars movie because fans were mean to me” whining from some years back. Man, Lucas must really be butt-hurt about the reaction to the latest movie. Can we look forward to similar reactions every time Disney puts out a new Star Wars movie or will it just be saved for the main series instead of the spin-off flicks?

    The inherent problem with Lucas is the same with James Cameron post-Avatar and so many others: he bought his own hype and lacks all objectivity. He was never a particularly great screenwriter or director; he could be a great idea man, as well as good at producing and casting, but he was never great like Spielberg or the other filmmakers that emerged during the 70s. (Let’s not forget that oft-repeated story of Harrison Ford saying, “Geez, George, you can type this s***, but you sure can’t say it.”) The “father of Star Wars” had help every step of the way. You hit the nail on the head; it was a collaborative effort. It wasn’t just Kasdan and others working on the original movies; Lucas also sought advice and feedback from peers like Spielberg. That’s fine; a lot of people in Hollywood would be better off if they took a step back and took input and constructive criticism rather than just insisting “I know what I’m doing; I’m right dammit!”

    But it’s like you said, Lucas ended up surrounding himself with yes-men by the time of the prequels (and he ignored people who still tried to tell him the truth, like the animators who expressed severe reservations about Jar Jar). No matter the career, you can’t really function if everyone around you just nods along. And it’s truly ironic that Lucas complains about Abrams and others ignoring what he had suggested and written out; I recall Kasdan saying exactly that when the prequels were coming out.

    “I almost feel sorry for George Lucas. What a pathetic attempt to revise history.”

    Evidently, George thinks he can revise history the same way he updates the original trilogy.

  5. Okay, Douglas, I’ve compiled some feedback to the points you made on my counterargument post. Hopefully I’ve explained myself well

    Point 1: “Neither was the original trilogy [an original movie], which Lucas admits he cobbled together from old Buck Rogers films, Westerns, etc.”

    I think we’re using the phrase “original movie” differently. I meant “not an original movie” as in the plot shamelessly borrows from a very specific movie and creates very new content that isn’t a riff off of something we’ve seen before. Plot-wise, “Force Awakens” is basically the “New Hope” formula with a few variations.

    Of course “Star Wars” falls into the same genre as “Buck Rogers” (in fact, Lucas originally wanted to make a Buck Rogers movie) and has elements of other genres (up to parallels with Joseph Campbell’s ideas on the classic hero story). I don’t have a problem with that, since one can use the same general ideas to make new original stories.

    Borrowing another “Spider-Man” analogy, both the “Spider-Girl” series and “Renew Your Vows” graphic novel deal with the idea of Peter Parker and his wife raising a daughter. The former presents the scenario from the teen daughter’s perspective and is largely interested with how she follows in her father’s footsteps. RYV is from Peter’s perspective, and explores the changes becoming parent bring to one’s life, as well as the dividing line between the obligations to family and work/calling/whatever. So, the two comics use the same starting idea, but create original stories by examining the subject manner in different ways. “Force Awakens” doesn’t quite do that, which leads into my next response:

    “Lucas himself said he poached elements from the OT because the movies were like poetry…scenes were supposed to ‘rhyme’ with each other (all this is in Red Letter Media reviews), but then when J.J. actually makes good ‘rhymes’ then it’s ‘not original.’”

    First of all, I’m not sure that making the prequels rhyme with the original movies as much as they did was the best idea in the first place. The stories already parallel each other as it is (the fall of Anakin Skywalker vs. the rise of Luke Skywalker and the fall of the Old Republic and rise of the Empire vs. the fall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic); we didn’t need every single rhyme that the movies had.

    But, the thing about the prequel movies is that the plots are very different from the original movies they rhyme. So, we have familiar elements filtered through a new prism. Abrams takes the same prism, but uses different flashlights. “Force Awakens” follows “A New Hope” almost in lockstep. So, the tradeoff is, Lucas’s rhymes may not been as good as Abrams’, but Abrams barely tried to make the rhymes fresh; “Phantom Menace” (good or bad) is distinctly its own movie; “Force Awakens” is a hybrid of a sequel and a “New Hope” remake.

    I guess the question remains: is it better to try and make something more original that may not be what the fans want, or is it better to try and make something the fans want, but doesn’t try to break past the limits the previous movies set? “Force Awakens” is a good movie (and I’ll admit that, as a fan, I have no regrets how it turned out), but it only settles for being better than the prequels and being like the originals. It doesn’t try to be anything more.

    The prequels took the risk to do something different, to be their own thing, to do more than rehash. If they failed then they failed, but Lucas deserves credit for trying, just as Abrams deserves credit for pulling off a good movie that that’s taking the franchise into a bright future.

    P.S. “…Annakin invented C3P0? He ‘invents’ a droid (that can barely walk) to help his mom, when in OT it specifically says it’s made for diplomacy. How dumb can Lucas get?”

    Anakin didn’t “invent” Threepio; he took the remains of a protocol droid and repaired it for use beyond the manufacturer’s intent (remember, there are other “threepio” model droids in the movies, including “Phantom Menace” itself). It may have been too much of a coincidence, but it didn’t contradict anything in the OT. Of the list of dumb decisions Lucas made, this isn’t one of them. The discrepancy regarding Leia’s age when her mother died, though, belongs on Lucas’s “dumbness” list. We can rationalize explanations, but we shouldn’t need to in the first place.

    Point 2: “Red herring. People know what I meant by “forced” (no pun intended).”

    What did you mean by “forced”? I took it to mean “forced on the public,” but, in your counterargument, you seem to mean that he “forced his (bad) ideas on the production team.” If you meant the general public, do you have any examples (for example, there’s a fair argument that the Special Editions have been “forced” on the public the way the theatrical cuts have had so few home video releases and the former have been treated as the “official” versions of the story). If you meant the production team, then how should we analyze the movie with that in mind?

    Point 3: Sorry about this turning into a red herring. Let’s see if I can articulate what I was trying to say without going down a rabbit hole.

    I have two struggles with making something “for the fans.” First of all, which fans? In “Star Wars” you have the fans that love the original movies and hate the prequels, vice versa, and those (like me) who love both (and that’s not counting the sub-cultures that revolve around the tie-in media, some of which believe that Disney betrayed “Star Wars”). Which part of the fanbase should the movie be made for? Also, in practice, trying to predict what fans want is not very good (“Spider-Man 3” was tailored to what Sony thought the fans wanted, and it blew up in their faces).

    Now, I’m not saying that fan feedback shouldn’t be taken into account, and that the powers that be should go out of their way to provoke the fanbase. What I’m saying is that fan service alone does not make a good movie. Good storytelling makes a good movie. You have to make choices, since you can’t please everyone, so you should choose what makes the best film.

    The second problem is that “The Force Awakens” needed to be more than just “for the fans.” It needed to be for the wider movie-going audience. The people who are curious about the movie, those who like watching “Star Wars” on occasion but aren’t rabid fans. “Star Wars” isn’t just for a single club; it’s for everyone, and everyone deserves a fair chance to enjoy the movie.

    I think my problem is that making a movie “for the fans” is viewed as the acid test for a franchise’s success. That just seems lazy and stagnant and is often used incorrectly, ruining the film.

    “I mocked Lucas’ outright dismissal of the idea that a world-wide cultural “force” like Star Wars deserves a movie that its legions of fans would want to see — as opposed to just shoving as much crap into each scene as possible because that’s what George Lucas wants to do.”

    Did Lucas want to make a bad movie that the fans didn’t want to see? That makes no sense. Besides, I think he meant that the movie shouldn’t be built only on fan service and nostalgia, which is a fair point worthy of discussion.

    I kind of feel like there’s a bit of a double standard here. We the fans found the prequels disappointing and can express our disappointments all day long. But once Lucas, who has a closer and more emotional connection to “Star Wars” then we ever will, is disappointed with a movie and expresses himself, we criticize him being a poor sport?

    The slaver analogy was bad and Lucas should’ve thought before he spoke, but why are we dismissing his opinions as unfounded? Just because we dislike some of his movies?Fine, he dropped the ball with the prequels, what’s that got to do with his opinion that “Force Awakens” should’ve been looking forward, not looking back? That’s the question and no one’s tried to answer it.

    “As with all movies where there is a large fan base, there is a balance between giving them what they want and staying true to the director’s overall vision.”

    That’s a fair assessment. I guess my ramblings on the whole “for the fans” thing is mostly my problem, so when it’s cited as a good thing, my first reaction is: “Is it actually used well, or simply as a crutch to misdirect the audience from bigger problems?”

    “J.J. honestly struggled with how to be the ‘director’ but also honor the fans’ wishes. He knocked it out of the park.”

    Agreed: He hit that sweet spot. If only he had had the decency to do that with “Star Trek” (a franchise where some “for the fans” stuff is needed!). The only things I’m saying is that A.) I don’t think that “Force Awakens” was a good movie just because it was “for the fans” and B.) the movie, like all movies of its kind, needed to be more than just a trip down memory lane. Evidentially Lucas disagreed with the rest of us that “Force Awakens” succeeded in those regards and I think we should hear him out.

    Point 4: “I would argue that “The Force Awakens” had much more pressure on it to succeed. It had to overcome the stink of the prequels and it had to be successful enough to warrant Disney’s $4 billion investment.”

    That’s actually the reason I think “Phantom Menace” had more pressure. A general impression I got while waiting for “Force Awakens” was: “It will be better then the prequels. Anything would be.” So, in that regard, I think the bar was set lower then “Phantom Menace,” since the latter was being made before “Star Wars” had had a true flop, when there was no reason to believe it would be an example of bad franchise making.

    I was only a kid when “Phantom Menace came out, so I can’t say exactly what the general consensus was, but I got the impression that no one was even dreaming that the movie would be bad; it was inconceivable. Also, it was merchandized and advertised far more aggressively than “Force Awakens” was. And most of “Force Awakens” marketing seemed to be on the original trilogy stuff and less on the new. Unlike “Phantom Menace,” which happily spoiled everything, “Force Awakens” was really cagey about what was going to happen. So, instead of a movie where people went in expecting the Second Coming, I think a lot of people went in not knowing what to expect. I know I didn’t. And we were blown away, and the rest is history.

    As a side note, I remember seeing an article in “Star Wars Insider” (the official magazine) with a defense for “Phantom Menace.” (Yeah, I know, an official publication defending the most hated geek/nerd movie they ever made. Shocking, isn’t it.) I can’t remember everything it said, but the article’s thesis statement was that audiences went in expecting to see “A New Hope” all over again and didn’t. The thing was that not only was “Phantom Menace” not supposed to be “A New Hope,” but that it wasn’t supposed to be “A New Hope” in the first place. If that’s true, that could factor into “Force Awakens.” Abrams was promising that it would be like “A New Hope” and it was.

    Looking forward to any counter-responses. And a belated Happy New Years!

    1. Thank for your response, Weblurker. I appreciate it. I don’t want to get into “book,” “counter-book” responses for those who like to read the comments, so I’ll just address a few points.

      1. “‘Force Awakens’ is a good movie (and I’ll admit that, as a fan, I have no regrets how it turned out), but it only settles for being better than the prequels and being like the originals. It doesn’t try to be anything more.”

      Again, Force Awakens had to overcome the stink of the prequels and “begin to make things right” (the first line in the movie). That was its job. The overwhelming feedback from fans and general audiences is that J.J. Abrams nailed it.

      2. “I was only a kid when “Phantom Menace came out, so I can’t say exactly what the general consensus was, but I got the impression that no one was even dreaming that the movie would be bad; it was inconceivable.”

      I will say this as someone who was in the Army when the first trailer came out and I got in trouble for wearing my camouflage in a “Darth Maul” pattern — it was conceivable that The Phantom Menace would not be any good, but guys like me had hope Lucas would deliver. Oh well.

      Read this: ‘South Park’ takes a swipe at ‘The Phantom Menace.” Entertainment Weekly asked Trey Parker and Matt Stone how they knew before the movie even came out that adding a Jar Jar Binks-inspired joke into their own big screen debut would work.

      “When we saw this thing going, ‘Is the people gonna die?’ in the first ‘Star Wars’ preview, we looked at each other and said, people are going to HATE that thing,” Parker tells EW Online. … When we saw the second trailer with all the black stereotyping that went into the thing, we said, ‘Alright, we’ve got to do it,'” recalls Stone. Since racism within the military is a running gag in ”South Park,” the Jar Jar joke was an easy addition. As many racism jokes as we tried to get in, George Lucas still floored us (by including) the most racist stuff ever,” sighs Parker. “He does it so much better than we do.”

      I promise you that years from now I will be able to recount most, if not all scenes from The Force Awakens. When I was flipping through the Red Letter Media reviews again this weekend and the point about not remembering “Dexter Jettster” came up I laughed because I really did forget all about him…and most of the movie.

      Episode VII has set the stage well for Rian Johnson and I am highly confident he is going to deliver one heck of a movie. When these three movies are done people may actually beg Disney to do a prequel reboot. I’m joking, but if Lucas keeps making “white slaver” comments then I wouldn’t begrudge Disney for going that route.

  6. Phantom Menace was and is a disaster on many levels, several of which have been mentioned here, including the incongruous slap-stick-for-children juxtapositions against political theory, and appalling ethnic stereotypes (not just Jar Jar either).

    But the biggest reason was that the villain, Darth Maul, never earned his stripes as a villain, and therefore gave the viewers absolutely no reason to care about his fate, or worry about the threat facing the Jedi. This failure by Lucas was wholly derivative of his loss of nerve since the original trilogy had ended — note the change to “Solo fired first // NO, he fired second…” in the numerous reissues.

    By the time Lucas made Phantom Menace, he could not bring himself to personify real evil on the screen, the way de did so well with Vader in the original trilogy. Vader, as we all know and remember, was truly menacing by nature of killing people at close range (choking them to death from a few feet away) and killing whole civilizations from afar (death star planetary destruction, which was deployed even though Leah gives up the location of the rebel base. And let’s remember the sight of Luke’s foster parents after imperial forces visited their dwelling: burnt skeletons, obviously burned alive in a macabre home invasion.

    Vader was the real deal, and seeing him brought down is at the very heart of the dramatic tension of the original trilogy.

    Darth Maul? He had scary red face paint.

    In other words: Who Gives A Shit.

    In 2011, I wrote an extended demolition of Zach Snyder’s movie “Sucker Punch”, which committed this very same sin, a lot.

    I like Zach Snyder, but with Sucker Punch he pulled a Lucas when it came to the bad guys, and without compelling bad guys, all movies fail.

    1. This failure by Lucas was wholly derivative of his loss of nerve since the original trilogy had ended — note the change to “Solo fired first // NO, he fired second…” in the numerous reissues.

      This is a very good point. It was that kind of weird mindset that helped ruin the prequels. Think of all the tinkering Lucas did with the OT over the years…jamming it full of unnecessary junk that cluttered up scenes just because he wanted to add 10 digital robots to the background. That’s what he did with the prequels. He neglected to add real humanity to the prequels because he was too busy trying to see what his digital toys could do. Sad.

    2. I think that Palpatine was the real villain of the prequels. Each movie did have its own side villain (Maul, Dooku, and Grievous), but they were the minions. Their job was to carry out parts of Palpatine’s plan. If Vader’s defeat was the dramatic tension of the originals, then Palatine engineering his rise to Emperor and the Sith’s domination of the galaxy was the dramatic tension of the prequels. And Ian McDiarmid delivered.

      Darth Maul was the Boba Fett of the prequels. He’s not a really interesting character in and of himself. His popularity is solely based on the fact that he looks cool (which he does). The reputation they ostensibly have for being among the best in their careers owes more to fan belief and the tie-in media than the movies themselves (although Maul makes a better showing then Fett did in any of the movies thus far).

      That said, if you want a more interesting Maul, you might want to check out “The Clone Wars” season five. They brought Maul back (he was apparently only mostly dead in the movie). It was a weak explanation about how he survived and the show was canceled before his story was completed done (if the comic adaptation of that lost story is to be believed, he went out with a pathetic whimper). But, in the so-called Shadow Conspiracy multi-part story, Maul gets to be the mastermind and it’s milked for all it’s worth. It’s actually the best set of episodes in the series (of the one I’ve seen).

      (P.S. Tarkin was the one who decided to destroy Alderaan, not Vader. I don’t doubt that Vader supported him, but that wasn’t his call. If you love Tarkin, James Lucino’s novel of the same name might be for you. It asks how someone could become a sociopath like he was in “A New Hope” and provides a chilling answer.)

    3. “Think of all the tinkering Lucas did with the OT over the years…jamming it full of unnecessary junk that cluttered up scenes just because he wanted to add 10 digital robots to the background. That’s what he did with the prequels. He neglected to add real humanity…”

      The scene where Luke meets Biggs in the hanger was a Special Edition change to “A New Hope.” That was real humanity, not junk, and actually made the movie better (Biggs dying in the battle now carried the emotional weight it should). In “Attack of the Clones,” the confession scene on Tatooine was expanded with extra dialogue. While I think that the scene is still stilted at best, thanks to the weak performances and awkward lines, the intent was to add depth to the characters and the filmmakers deserve credit for trying.

      Also, for what it’s worth, while many of the changes are unneeded (like the expanded Mos Eisley in “A New Hope”) a lot of them are really subtle (like taking the matte lines of the Rancor, fixing minor production errors) or allow the movies to fit together better (like Ian McDiarmond as the Emperor in “Empire Strikes Back”).

      “…without compelling bad guys, all movies fail.”

      Not all them. “Citizen Kaine” is one for the greatest movies of all time, with no central villain. “Inside Out” is not only is compelling without any villain, but is more compelling because of that fact. “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Big Hero 6” have weak villains and succeed in spite of that. “Star Trek IV” is one of the best movies in its franchise, and there’s no villain. In fact, “Star Trek” (2009) is one of the most popular installments in the franchise despite having the worst villain (and believe me, of all the problems “Star Trek [2009] has, Nero is the least of them).

      Besides, Palpatine, not Maul, was the main villain in the prequels, and he was compelling. While he could’ve been fleshed out more, citing that the movie failed on that front would be like saying “Force Awakens” had bad villains, since Capt. Phasma had only a couple of scenes. Plasma isn’t the main villain, Kylo Ren was.

    4. Palpatine only resonated (barely…) in the prequels because of his role as Vader’s mentor, which only proves my point further: Vader was so ruthless and powerful a villain that we cared about all those around him and his origins — his mentor, his childhood, his childhood friends, his love interest, Palpatine’s boring political maneuvers… But the farther Vader is away from the action, the worse the movies are.

      And to say a character whose names starts with “Darth” is off the hook on carrying any Star Wars movie is ridiculous. Darth Maul was such a let down as a villain that Phantom Menace is beyond redemption on this point alone.

      This being a blog meant to be the cross section of politics and entertainment, let me clear about what exactly went wrong with Lucas after Joseph Campbell died and the years ticked by: he became Jimmy Carter. Meaning, he lost the ability to comprehend evil. Palpatine becomes evil, and even Lucas’s revisionism couldn’t alter this outcome, but Lucas kept the prequels far too sanitized to offer viewers real portrayals of evil men. Just as Jimmy Carter contorts himself into imagining that every evil dictator and despot around the world is merely misunderstood, Lucas waters down the alleged evil-doers in the prequels by having them do little to no evil or to have them perform impersonal acts of aggression (far short of evil).

      Lucas got drunk on the redemption of Vader in ROTJ, and that plot resolution is certainly the stuff of high art (thanks, Joe, once again). But happy endings make no sense without a rough ride before you get there. Vader’s redemption was so powerful precisely because of the distance he traveled to get there. Lucas forgot this a few decades ago and has made trash ever since.

  7. Hey, sasoc, some responses to your points.

    “Palpatine only resonated (barely…) in the prequels because of his role as Vader’s mentor, which only proves my point further…”
    I thought Palpatine worked as an effective villain outside of that, but if you disagree, okay.

    “And to say a character whose names starts with “Darth” is off the hook on carrying any Star Wars movie is ridiculous.

    There was Darth Sidious, but if you meant the person going out there, kicking butts and taking names, okay.

    “Darth Maul was such a let down as a villain that Phantom Menace is beyond redemption on this point alone.”

    I don’t see how. As I noted in my last comment, a movie can be redeemed from a weak villain (like “Guardians of the Galaxy”). Besides, if the critics are right, the thin plot and confusing politics (am I the only person who found the political stuff easy to follow?), and boring lead characters are worse flaws than Maul being underwhelming. And, if nothing else, they did give Maul one of the best lightsaber duels in the franchise.

    “…Lucas waters down the alleged evil-doers in the prequels by having them do little to no evil or to have them perform impersonal acts of aggression (far short of evil).”

    Okay, let’s see, Palpatine organizes the Clone Wars for the sole purpose of becoming emperor for life. I repeat, he started a war, killing millions or billions of people just to gain power. That’s evil. And before that, he was accepting illegal extensions to his term, powers, etc. Anakin mass murders in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” not very impersonal. I didn’t see the villains as being watered down. If there are any specific examples, that might help me understand your viewpoint here.

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