Defending George as ‘The Force Awakens’

Instead of spending Black Friday fighting over flat-screen TVs at Walmart, I replayed “The Force Awakens” teaser trailer over and over on my phone, along with the rest of the world’s Star Wars nerds.

I analyzed and reanalyzed every detail: Is that Benedict Cumberbatch or Andy Serkis intoning ominously in voiceover? Who is that black-clad figure wielding the coolest lightsaber ever? Is that a droid or a soccer ball?

Then I took to Twitter to find out if I had missed anything. I texted friends and relatives to compare notes. I tried not to get too excited. “Remember the prequels,” I told myself, but it was no use.

In one of those spine-tingling moments that will go down in geek history, I and seemingly every other person on the planet was besotted.

In the days since the big reveal, relief and delight over the fact that “Star Wars: Episode VII” may not be the fiasco we feared has given way to gleeful mockery directed at “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, the man behind the best-loved sci-fi franchise of all time. (You may now start sending me hate mail, Trekkies.)

Dozens of comments on Facebook and Twitter express satisfaction that George can’t touch this new trilogy, J.J. Abrams be praised.

This hilarious version of “The Force Awakens” trailer, parodying the director’s much-loathed “improvements” to his original trio of films, has been circulating.

Also making the rounds, to great amusement, is this befuddling preview for an animated movie hailing “from the mind of George Lucas.” Turns out it’s based on a story he wrote and, yes, it looks pretty terrible.

I understand where all the George bashing comes from and I enjoy poking fun at his missteps as much as anyone. As far as my family is concerned, the filmmaker’s infamous prequels don’t exist and mention of a certain sequel with the words “Crystal” and “Skull” in the title causes physical pain.

Yet I can’t help but feel that Lucas doesn’t deserve such bitter backlash from the very fans who profess to adore his original creation.

This isn’t the first time I’ve defended Lucas. In 2008, I wrote a column arguing the director’s case. Ironically, it was just before the release of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Even so, I stand by what I wrote then:

(Lucas) has gotten a bad rap over the past decade for his megalomaniacal tendencies, a certain computer-generated abomination called Jar Jar Binks, his mysterious ability to transform capable actors, like Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson, into unfeeling blocks of wood and his inability to stop tampering with the “Star Wars” master prints.

These trespasses are not easily forgiven, but I can’t help but feeling that we have been a little too harsh on the master of the “Star Wars” universe, styling him in our imaginations as a scheming villain holed up at Skywalker Ranch, cackling as he dreams of new and better ways to annoy his adoring fan base.

… Perhaps it would be helpful, not to mention therapeutic, if we remembered all the things we used to like about George, his legendary contributions to the film industry and what his legacy means to us.

Lucas may be a control freak who doesn’t give a fig about what his colleagues or devotees desire, but it’s doubtful he would have accomplished all that he has if he wasn’t so uncompromising.

This is the man who almost single-handedly revolutionized independent filmmaking, championing artistic control with a savvy business deal that allowed him to preserve the “Star Wars” franchise exactly as he envisioned it and make a fortune off the licensing rights.

His technical contributions to the entertainment industry are innumerable. Since the debut of “Star Wars” in 1977, he and his creative team have aggressively advanced the fields of visual effects, sound, editing, digital filmmaking and video games. Industrial Light & Magic, THX, Skywalker Sound, Pixar –they all sprang from the mind of Lucas.

And it’s not as if his extreme wealth and power have driven him to the Dark Side, either. Lucas is a philanthropist, establishing an educational foundation and donating millions to his alma mater, the University of Southern California.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember, however, is that Lucas is the creator of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi” and the Indiana Jones trilogy, six films that have inspired and continue to inspire generations of lifelong movie lovers.

“Star Wars” was the movie that first introduced this critic to the wondrous possibilities of the cinema. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was the film that showed her how much fun you could have in a movie theater.

… I must confess that I have nothing but gratitude for him.

Perhaps it’s time we showed more respect for the mind that spawned the little space opera that has become not just a series of movies, but a pop cultural touchstone, a lifestyle, a shared language, practically a religion.

This guy invented the Millennium Falcon, the lightsaber, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Yoda and Boba Fett. He breathed life into a galaxy far, far away with rudimentary but revolutionary special effects that still hold up. He inspired John Williams’ epic, instantly recognized musical score. His depiction of the battle between good and evil — a battle that rages inside all of us — is timeless.

So I’ll say it again.

Thanks, George.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s