A few days ago, I started an entry with the above title that...after several driveling pages...wandered far astray from my original topic (or rather, from the idea I had set out to blog about). As I was at the car dealership at the time and my car was ready to go, I set aside the damn thing "for later" and have let it stew on the design board without alteration.
Rather than take the time to clean THAT one up (it's got a lot of Forgey-stuff about creative agendas as relates to SciFi RPGs), I'll try to get back to my original idea: George Lucas is an f'ing genius.
Now, of course, this seems like a no brainer statement, right? I mean, even the folks who hate-hate-HATE the prequel films (or even Episodes V and/or VI) generally admit they would rather have a world WITH Lucas creations than without. In other words, bad Star Wars is better than no Star Wars.
If you like Star Wars, that is.
So then what's the point JB? Why the "duh" topic?
'Cause Lucas doesn't get ENOUGH credit...that's why.
Currently, I'm "grounded" from re-watching Star Wars films for a couple weeks (this is my punishment for the aforementioned speeding ticket from Spain), but just PRIOR to that I was re-watching the prequel films with the audio commentary running so I could get some insights into what the hell Lucas was thinking.
Turns out (if one believes what Lucas and co-commentators say) that Lucas WAS thinking throughout the whole process...and thinking a lot. "Visual jazz" is the way he describes the filmmaking process...and make no mistake, Lucas is a filmmaker first and foremost. Storyteller? Eh...only with regard to film being a "story told with pictures." Lucas was NOT setting out to create a mythology, nor a franchise (though the franchise model, firmly established by earlier films, was probably taken for granted as part of the over-all revenue stream). What fans (like myself to a certain degree) have read into the films, or wished for the films, is nothing more than wishful thinking and Our Own Problem. George Lucas had his own agenda when making the prequel films, and it had little to do with making a trilogy that was faithful to the backstory implied by the first trilogy.
[and just by the way, Lucas isn't the first storyteller to write prequels that don't quite jibe with the earlier written stories. I need look no further than Marion Zimmer Bradley's own Darkover series, specifically the excellent "prequel" novel Heritage of Hastur. In the foreword, MZB writes that if the story seems to be different from that recounted in the later (chronologically) Sharra's Exile, it was due to faulty memory and/or wishful thinking on the part of the characters doing the recounting...a sentiment I think Lucas would be happy to ascribe to his own "lapses" of continuity!]
And here's the funny part...as I watched The Phantom Menace listening only to the DVD commentary, I began to see the film through Lucas & Co.'s own eyes, and I found myself absolutely falling in love with the visual spectacular that is Episode I. This is a great film...and that's something I never thought I'd ever write.
Granted it probably helped that, without the normal sound, I was not subjected to the clunky dialogue (and often clunky delivery) rife throughout the film. But you know what? There's plenty of clunky/dumb dialogue in the original films. Lines like "Not this ship, sister." and "...made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs..." and that whole scene where Luke tells Leia that she's his sister are just as wince-worthy as "Good call my young padawan!" and "This party's over."
George Lucas is not a writer of literature...hell, he's not even a (decent) writer of screenplays. Only the 1st film ever received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, and I'd guess that was more to do with what was DONE with said screenplay, rather than what was written...the translation of the script into sheer visual magic and spectacle.
And ALL of Lucas's Star Wars films do that.
Even f'ing Jar-Jar Binks who I hated as much as anyone the first time I saw the film...even HE was palatable as I went through the movie with an eye to just what exactly the character was. There WAS a real person in a costume for much of the film, seamlessly interchanged with the CGI character. A movie magic masterpiece that gets completely over-shadowed by the character's ridiculousness and pseudo-Caribbean dialect.
All six of these films are space opera fantasy of the highest order, and they DO have both rhyme and reason to them, trying to walk a line somewhere between gonzo SciFi serial and more serious morality play. There is really good stuff in there to see, once folks lose their attachment to what they feel the movies SHOULD look like and simply enjoy them for what they are: the best space opera films of all time. Better written than Avatar. More serious than Starship Troopers. Possessing more depth and heart than Riddick. Grander in scope than Serenity. More heroic and fun than the Alien films. And, yes...far more imaginative than ANY of the Star Trek films, even the slick new J.J. Abrams one.
These are the best SciFi films of all time. George Lucas is the master of this particular type of filmmaking. Maybe someday, he'll give us another trilogy dealing with the children of Luke and Leia and Han...I'll tell you I would pay to see such a film in the theater, regardless of what the reviews said. And if they happened to completely ignore the "Expanded Universe" stories that have come out over the years...so much the better. F continuity anyway...I want spaceship dogfights, planet-killing super-weapons, and laser sword duels. Give me those plus aliens that smoke hookahs and get liquored up before flying their starships ("one more for the road, bartender...my droid does the flying")...I'll buy into it all.
I only wish we saw more of it on the screen.