George Lucas gave every Gen X boy and some girls their childhood through his visionary work on “Star Wars.”
The failure of his Prequel Trilogy to live up to the childhood dreams reveals a point hidden in the Classic Trilogy: Lucas is a visionary, but even he needed a crack team to make that vision a reality.
Let’s not dwell on George Lucas’s Prequels
This post isn’t about bagging the Prequel movies. There are plenty of other places you can get you manbaby fanboy fix for that.
I personally like the Prequels.
Sure, “Phantom Menace” was bloated with exposition, Anakin and Padme’s romance in “Attack of the Clones” was as dull as watching Ben Carson speak (that man puts himself to sleep!). But it was an entertaining, informative backstory for the Classic Trilogy.
And though we got Jar-Jar, we also got Jengo and Boba Fett, Mace Windu, Yoda kicking Sith ass, and Darth Maul.
The John Williams score is amazing in all three, creating music used in the video games and movies today (“Duel of the Fates” anyone?).
I still believe “Revenge of the Sith” was even more interesting than “The Force Awakens.”
Come at me, bitches!
Why bring up the Prequels then?
George Lucas gets all the credit for the “Star Wars” saga being what it is. When we loved it like we did the Classic Trilogy, he was a god.
When we hated it like some do the Prequel Trilogy, he was the devil (despite having given us the thing we so love).
The truth is, Lucas was never that god in the first place (though, he may be a bit of the devil).
Filmmaking takes a team; “Star Wars” is no different
The legend is Lucas wanted to do Flash Gordon, couldn’t get the rights, so he dreamed up “Star Wars.” The version we saw on screen was a far cry from what he originally intended.
Ask any creative type: where you start with a story is never where you end. This is especially true in filmmaking because it’s a collaborative process.
Lucas and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock and even (lesser extent) Zack Snyder come into their projects with a vision, but many other hands shape that vision to make it what we eventually see.
For better or for worse.
In Lucas’s case, it was for the better in the Classic Trilogy.
Where the Prequels went wrong-ish
“The Empire Strikes Back” is the best “Star Wars” film. Period. Full stop.
(Update: This was written before “The Last Jedi.” “Empire” is still the best, but dammit if Rian Johnson didn’t give it a run. Minus that Canto Blight chase and a bit more character arc for Finn…)
It’s also one of the two “Main Six” films Lucas didn’t direct, “Return of the Jedi” being the other one.
The lesson: Lucas is a visionary, but he had to get someone else to direct his vision into a workable story.
Admittedly, Lucas also gave up the director role because he quickly realized trying to run his companies and oversee the movie would be too much for one man. Wonder what changed his mind for the prequels? Oh well.
Remember how great the Anakin versus Obi-Wan duel is in “Revenge of the Sith?” Lucas buddy Steven Spielberg had a hand in that.
In “Empire,” Lucas tried to get director Irvin Kershner to drop Han Solo’s reply of “I know” to Leia’s “I love you!” nearly killing an epic moment in the saga.
The crafting problem goes all the way back to the granddaddy of the saga, “A New Hope.”
RocketJump’s excellent video essay, “How Star Wars was Saved in the Edit,” reveals that we may not have gotten “A New Hope” if not for the Oscar-winning editing work of Marcia Lucas, Paul Hirsch, and Richard Chew.
Lucas had the vision, but he needed the team. He was wise to listen to that team and made his vision a reality.
Up until 1997 and the release of the Special Editions. The cosmetic changes like adding windows to cloud city or cleaning mattes worked.
Inserting Jabba into “A New Hope?” The extended music video in Jabba’s palace in “Jedi?”
What I learned as a creative and a filmmaker
I’m currently working on a short film, “Where the Heart Bleeds” (more on that in another post).
(Update: That short is done, played two film festivals and will be on Amazon December 28th of 2019. Whoo and Hoo!)
By all accounts it’s a solid story: sisters talk via webcam. One sees her father enter the room; through the webcam, the other sister sees a demon that proceeds to kill the sister.
Unfortunately, in the edit, that story doesn’t play as simple as it sounds. There’s also pacing issues.
Like most indie-filmmakers, I played the multi-hyphenate role of producing, writing, directing, art department, etc. etc. It’s what you have to do when you have no money.
But a man’s got to know his limitations.
Editing is mine.
Hell, even my “Shadowdance” novels and short stories wouldn’t be what they were if not for the editing efforts of the ladies at All Stories Editing. If you’re a writer, you should definitely check them out.
Seeing what Lucas went through to get to his magnum opus, I completely understand his pain. I also now understand what I must do to make my dreams a reality —
Bring the vision, but also assemble a crack team to make that vision a reality.
That RocketJump video
Here’s the video “How Star Wars was Saved in the Edit.”