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January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)" 
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Post January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
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Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:44 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I've decided that the difference between fans and fanboys is that fans can separate their feelings about the work from their feelings about the people behind it. Fanboys can't, or at least won't.

I haven't heard much about Red Tails, but every time I've heard it mentioned, the name "George Lucas" hasn't been far behind. I would bet that a significant percentage of potential viewers are aware of his involvement.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:03 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I don't despise George Lucas, I just have absolutely no faith in his ability to generate anything of quality at this point. On Star Wars specifically:

I think it's crappy that the original trilogy isn't available. I don't think he's got a responsibility to make it available to us, but it speaks to his disrespect for film history that he doesn't feel like it's worth doing. The changes are arguably minor (though I, like many, would argue that the Greedo change is pretty significant), but they're jarring. It's not the quantity, or even necessarily the quality (though the CG is looking pretty amateurish at this point)...it's that it just doesn't fit, and it's obvious that it doesn't fit, and it pulls me out of the films every time. This would be true for any classic film -- I don't want modifications to The Godfather or Close Encounters either! I don't enjoy those films simply as a combination of their stories and their visuals, I enjoy them as a snapshot of film history, and it's incredibly disappointing that this particular snapshot of film history, so beloved by so many of us, is no longer available.

Add to that the new trilogy demonstrating that he's completely lost whatever magic he had when he was younger, and it's no surprise that he's somewhat of a pariah.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:26 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I completely agree that it's good that Lucas made the prequels. Few movies manage to put so much jawdropping imagery together. It's too bad he didn't make more.

Unfortunately he pandered to the kids with Jar Jar Binks and worse, by making Anakin way too young to plausibly do what he does in the first movie.

The philosophical problem that I have with all the changes he made is that he doesn't get to rewrite history. Star Wars was a huge phenomena when the movies came out originally, and future generations need to be able to see what the fuss was about. In practice I don't care too much because the changes are indeed fairly minor. That guy falling off of his dinosaur in Mos Eisly isn't funny, though.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:58 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
ccarollo wrote:
I don't want modifications to The Godfather or Close Encounters either!


Which version of CE3K are you referring to? :)


Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:35 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Not trying to nitpick here, since I like the prequels (love in the case of III), but I remembered that I saw you wrote somewhere in a Reelthought about star-rating that if you were to watch and review Star Wars again, Episode I,II, and VI would get a half-star decrease?

I'm OK with all the changes (honestly I didn't notice about who shot who first until I read these articles), except Vader's "Nooo!" at the end of VI. I felt it really cheapened the moment. This is one film where I will not watch the Blu-Ray tweaked version.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:59 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
James Berardinelli wrote:
ccarollo wrote:
I don't want modifications to The Godfather or Close Encounters either!

Which version of CE3K are you referring to? :)

Heh, okay, touche. :) Still, I don't mind at-the-time (or at least very close to at-the-time) re-edits or "director's cuts". If Lucas had done the same for the original trilogy, they would stand alongside the originals. It's more the fact that the movies that represent that slice of cinematic history no longer exist that's so galling.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:38 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
ccarollo wrote:
I don't despise George Lucas, I just have absolutely no faith in his ability to generate anything of quality at this point. On Star Wars specifically:

I think it's crappy that the original trilogy isn't available. I don't think he's got a responsibility to make it available to us, but it speaks to his disrespect for film history that he doesn't feel like it's worth doing. The changes are arguably minor (though I, like many, would argue that the Greedo change is pretty significant), but they're jarring. It's not the quantity, or even necessarily the quality (though the CG is looking pretty amateurish at this point)...it's that it just doesn't fit, and it's obvious that it doesn't fit, and it pulls me out of the films every time. This would be true for any classic film -- I don't want modifications to The Godfather or Close Encounters either! I don't enjoy those films simply as a combination of their stories and their visuals, I enjoy them as a snapshot of film history, and it's incredibly disappointing that this particular snapshot of film history, so beloved by so many of us, is no longer available.

Add to that the new trilogy demonstrating that he's completely lost whatever magic he had when he was younger, and it's no surprise that he's somewhat of a pariah.


Taking recent events into consideration, a remake of 'The Godfather' would be interesting to see. By this I mean we ought to apply the same arguments defending the new GWTDT to 'The Godfather': There are actors today who could do their parts justice, technology is virtually no object and it would be interesting to see how an already well known director handles the material.

Maybe a total reboot of 'Star Wars' would do some good :)

I'm glad that JB has decided to point out the difference between 'fans' and 'fanboys'. I could use such definitions to defend my position regarding GWTDT, since it appears that I am overly passionate about the movie. Liking the movie isn't the only reason why I was appalled; there's more to it than that. But even I can see how over the top some people are being about Lucas, even people on these very forums.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:26 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I don't know George Lucas personally, but I'll post exactly what I would tell him if I met him face to face:

First off, American Graffiti is a masterpiece. It is one of the greatest films in American cinema history, and there's a part of me that would be just fine not having Star Wars had Lucas been able to make five or six more films like American Graffiti.

On the CGI enhancements to the original trilogy:

I don't think it takes away much, but I can't say it adds much either. Star Wars gave us the same great feeling back in the 1970s without all the CGI, so I'm leaning toward it not being really necessary.

On Han meeting Jabba in Star Wars:

The scene doesn't tell us anything we don't learn elsewhere in the film. In fact, it slows down the film. Lucas was right to leave it out the first time around.

On Greedo shooting first:

This is a real screw-up, because by altering this scene Lucas completely neuters Han's character arc. In Mos Eisley, he's a cocky wiseass who's only out for himself. Of course he'd just go and shoot Greedo. By the end of the film, he's become the traditional hero, flying in and saving the day. Greedo shooting first diminishes Han's character development.

Vader shouting "Nooooo!"

Film is a visual medium first. The shot composition in the end scenes of Jedi told us all we needed to know about the conflict going on in Vader's mind. Just get rid of the dialogue.

Why the prequels failed:

Lucas made the mistake of trying to tell a big story (the rise of the Empire) against a backdrop of a few small stories (Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan). It should have been the other way around. Star Wars succeeds because it is ultimately about a boy becoming a man in the shadow of an oppressive regime. We grow to care about the characters because of their hardships. Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan go through...not much at the end of the day.

Imagine a different set of Star Wars prequels where Qui-Gon, Mace Wiindu, and Jar-Jar don't exist, Yoda is a minor player, and Anakin and Obi-Wan are the Riggs and Murtaugh of the galaxy, kicking ass in the name of the Jedi. And then in Episode III, Anakin turns to the dark side. I think that would have been better than all of that political crap and a hackneyed love story.

And finally...

While I think it would be nice to have the original cuts on Blu-Ray for those who want them, I'm happy with my non-anamorphic laserdisc transfers. They're rough and grainy, just like a lot of the old serials, and they add a little extra charm to Star Wars. To be honest, I prefer watching the films that way - with a few ragged edges.

I'd have no problem telling George Lucas any of this.

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Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:04 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
James, I love you. I love this article, since it's pretty much what I always tell people who insult Lucas and say the prequels are the worst films ever. Really, if they think they are the first films ever, they haven't seen many movies, now, have they? Of course they are not perfect, of course they have some awful acting - although I agree with your assessment of McGregor and McDiamird - they're great -, but they're entertaining, visually stimulating and add to the overall Star Wars mythos.

So yeah, pretty much everything you've said already.

On a sidenote, every time I watch the Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks annoys me less and less... maybe - gasp! - I'm getting USED to his presence in the movies? Oh god....


Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:52 am
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Did the prequels really fail? They all made assloads of money. The kids love them. The diehard fans bag on them, but Star Wars isn't just for the diehard fans.

Han frying poor Greedo under the table is also later paid off when he quick-draws and shoots Vader on sight in The Empire Strikes Back. Unless you're already aware that Han has a cold-blooded streak in him, it kind of comes out of nowhere. It may sound like a nitpick, but I would tend to argue that any change that doesn't obviously improve the movie probably shouldn't be made.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:08 am
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I never minded Jar Jar myself, and I certainly don't understand where the accusations of him being a "racial sterotype" come from.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:09 am
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Vexer wrote:
I never minded Jar Jar myself, and I certainly don't understand where the accusations of him being a "racial sterotype" come from.


People said this? For real?

The problem when somebody makes such an accusation is they then often make idiots of themselves attempting to explain WHICH stereotype they mean.

People are funny.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:38 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Ken wrote:
Did the prequels really fail?


Financially, no. Artistically, yes.

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Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:53 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Dragonbeard wrote:
Vexer wrote:
I never minded Jar Jar myself, and I certainly don't understand where the accusations of him being a "racial sterotype" come from.


People said this? For real?

The problem when somebody makes such an accusation is they then often make idiots of themselves attempting to explain WHICH stereotype they mean.

People are funny.

I wish I was joking, that just proves that some people have WAAAYYYYYY TOO much time on they're hands.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:59 am
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Financially, no. Artistically, yes.

Seems like George Lucas would be the last to think so.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:35 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
While I have no love for the Star Wars prequels, I do think that the vocal and personal criticism of George Lucas is a symptom of the ridiculous sense of entitlement that people seem to have nowadays. You see it mainly in the realms of sport, but I've noticed it in 'discussions' of films, TV and games as well - people want everything NOW, they want it to their own exacting standards, and if they don't get it then they feel perfectly entitled to vomit insults, threats and defamations all over the internet.

Lucas made the prequels (and amended the originals) in accordance with his own vision. I don't care for some of it myself, but it's HIS vision. If it doesn't chime with yours, that's a shame but it's too bad. Go and make your own generation-defining sci-fi series.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:35 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
J.B. makes a lot of good points about fanboys and who "owns" Star Wars, but I have to disagree when he says that Ep. I-III are "underrated" and suggests that they are on the same level as IV-VI. I actually feel that the prequels' reputation are pretty well deserved. I would not go so far as to say they are a complete failure as some fans might passionately suggest, so much as simply mediocre. It is hard to describe what the difference is between Eps. I-III and IV-VI - both are cheesy, with bad acting, and loads of special effects - but I feel that unlike the originals, the prequels lacked any emotional impact, that behind the special effects, instead of a beating heart it was just a green screen. It was effortless to root for the boyish Mark Hammill, who may not have been much of an actor but was at least charming, or the roguish Harrison Ford. By contrast, the sullen and leaden Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman were almost impossible to get behind. And without that emotional core, it was just like watching a good fireworks display, impressive in the moment but forgotten five minutes later.

It is not just my or rabid fanboys' opinion that the prequels were inferior. It is the "popular" consensus which Berardinelli and Lucas lament. You can equally look at Rotten Tomato scores, which are generally a good indicator of how a movie is received. Eps. IV & V tower above the others at 94 and 97 percent, VI is strong but reduced to 79, III (80) opens up a gap over II (67), and I at 61% brings up the rear. Broadly speaking, in my experience, this is probably the order the average moviegoer would put them in.

I don't think it's a question of impossibly high expectations either. Ep. I had massive expectations, but go back and watch it today, and I don't believe Jar-Jar, Anakin, or the CG have aged any better. The Bladerunner phenomenon is not going to happen to Ep. I. The span of time between now and 1999 should be enough to lay the expectations argument to rest.

Last, J.B. suggests the prequels were much better received by young audiences. I was 13 when Ep. I came out, but even back then, I remember leaving feeling distinctly unimpressed. Like the group of immature teenage boys I was with, I didn't hate it but it was more like meh and we went back to playing Counter-Strike or whatever we did back in 1999.

Not that it's important, but I'll note that in no way am I a Star Wars fanboy, just a film buff who likes to see the bar get set a little higher than the prequels. I read the Times piece on George Lucas and honestly, I don't think it's a tragedy he's "retiring" (from blockbusters.) I don't think it would be a bad thing if Hollywood "rebooted" the Stars Wars franchise 10 or 15 years down the road and did Episodes VII-IX with a new creative team (a bad Hollywood habit I usually despise.) This could be a great move from Lucas too: freed from the expectation (and pressure) of what others want him to make, maybe he'll even start making good movies again. But given his stated hope of following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola, the prognosis is dim.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:27 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I got these films on Blu-Ray recently when they came out, and watched them back-to-back, so my current feelings are very recent. I watched them in the order 4-5-1-2-3-6, which turns the prequels into a flashback, and, IMO, minimizes their impact on the total viewing experience. In some regards, I both agree and disagree with JB. For one, I just can't get too riled up about Lucas' changes to the original films. To me, these are all minor changes, not worth worrying about. I'm sorry if your experience is ruined by these changes, but I simply can't share your passion (and I was one of the biggest SW fans in the world in 1977).

But I've never been able to agree with JB on the quality of the prequels. Granted, JB has a point that when you watch all six films back-to-back, some of the flaws of the prequels are minimized, since you can focus on the broad story and don't need to focus so much on the flaws. Certainly, the art design and CGI are wonderful. But I still wince whenever Jar-Jar or Jake Lloyd appear on the screen, and Hayden Christenson is so bad, he takes me right out of the movie when he tries to say that awful dialog.

Bottom line for me: taken together as one large saga instead of six individual films, the whole of these six films tell a remarkable story with great power, but I still have to hold my nose during significant stretches of the prequels. I give Lucas credit for the vision to put it all together, but I wish that someone else would have written his screenplays, and casted his actors.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:02 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Evil_sheep wrote:
It is not just my or rabid fanboys' opinion that the prequels were inferior. It is the "popular" consensus which Berardinelli and Lucas lament. You can equally look at Rotten Tomato scores, which are generally a good indicator of how a movie is received. Eps. IV & V tower above the others at 94 and 97 percent, VI is strong but reduced to 79, III (80) opens up a gap over II (67), and I at 61% brings up the rear. Broadly speaking, in my experience, this is probably the order the average moviegoer would put them in.


How well the prequels were received is in large part determined by age and degree of passion. The inevitable media backlash that occurred at the time TPM came out has colored the popular perspective of the film.

The freshest perspective comes from those who were too young to see the prequels theatrically - those who were born around 2000 or later. (I'm sure there were some 5-year olds at RotS, but I doubt they really absorbed it.) Ask a 10-year old what they think of the series and, assuming they have seen it, you're likely to get a positive reaction and no specific differentiation between any of the episodes. They'll like some better than the others, but not for the same reasons that those of us who have lived through the series' history do.

I love Drew McWeeny's series about showing the STAR WARS films to his kids. I think this is highly representative of how the current young generation reacts to the movies. They come to them without baggage and end up loving them from start to finish. Here's a link to his RETURN OF THE JEDI piece, which is the last in the series, but includes links to the other five parts (at the bottom).


Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:00 am
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