Thoughts on the Lucas Thing

So… George Lucas says that Episode III may have a PG-13 rating.

This is a phenomenally bad idea. He can’t redeem his cheesy space-opera at this point by chasing the children out of the theater, and someone needs to tell him so. Making a PG-13 Star Wars movie would be like putting dog-eared bedroom-pages in the next Harry Potter book.

See, Star Wars is for kids. That’s why we all like it — we watched it as kids, and loved it. And that’s why we hate the new movies — they’re for kids, and we grew up. Oh well.

Once the Star Wars cycle is complete, I think we’ll find that in a perfect world it would have been done as follows:

1) Star Wars
2) Empire Strikes Back
3) Episode I… Some backstory involving Anakin
4) Episode II… And he turns into Darth Vader. The revelation in Movie 2 was true!
5) The Return of The Jedi

See, told THAT way the “revelation” about Vader is more powerful. The whole “Fall and Redemption of Anakin Skywalker” story could have been told MUCH more effectively if Lucas had been trying to tell that particular story from the beginning. And, admittedly, if he’d gotten some help from people who know how to write BIG. Lucas can write SMALL just fine.

Okay, enough of that. We don’t live in a perfect world, and we’ll all go see Episode III regardless of the rating, and our reactions will range from “furiously disappointed” to “pleasantly surprised.”

–Howard

38 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Lucas Thing”

  1. Making a PG-13 Star Wars movie would be like putting dog-eared bedroom-pages in the next Harry Potter book.

    You do realize how insanely happy that would make some of the fanfic writers, don’t you? *grin*

  2. Star Wars, at least the new “generation” of movies, is not exactly for kids. Not because it’s edgy or controversial, but because 70% of the movie is about weird and boring political things, that not even myself, as a grown-up, can figure out.

  3. The original three movies didn’t have people lined up around the block waiting for them because they were for kids. The new ones are bad because George Lucas is a crap filmmaker and because they’re not “the next Star Wars movie”, they’re the latest installment in a franchise.

    1. A couple of PS’s

      Okay, let me amplify a bit. The first three are “for kids” in the same sense that the original Warner Brothers cartoons are for kids, which is to say that that’s not how and why they were originally made but that they’ve become packaged that way. Eps. IV-VI have death and love and betrayal and surprise revelations. Not kid stuff. Remember, these movies were PG before PG meant “Okay for kids with a few hells and damns thrown in”.

      He’s shooting for a PG-13 rating not to chase the kids out but to attract them in droves. The cynical side of me says that Lucas knows that people aren’t going to see the thing on its own merits, so the “-13” makes it forbidden fruit. Practically everyone who loved the original three in our generation has kids now who are old enough to know what that “-13” means and to beg their parents to see it. And it will work.

      1. Re: A couple of PS’s

        Eps. IV-VI have death and love and betrayal and surprise revelations. Not kid stuff.

        I think that to say that those aren’t kid stuff underestimates kids tremendously. Sure, there are treatments of those topics that aren’t kid-level, but there are treatments that are. And kids deal with them in real-life, too.

    1. I HAVE NO SON!

      Amen.

      The only time I saw Ep 2 was when some friend were watching it on dvd and about 7 of us MST3K’d it for an hour then got bored and went to play ultimate frisbee.

      1. Yay Palom

        Indeed. I saw the original when they did that first remake… I was always a Star Trek nut as opposed to a Star Wars nut, though.

        Something tells me the real future will be a combination of these two.

        Lizard Rat out.
        Going to Warp in a TIE Fighter in Albany NY

        1. Re: Yay Palom

          Something tells me the real future will be a combination of these two.

          You know, that’s a great thought right there. If I had to pick the single most unrealistic, impossible element from each of those universes and discard it, I’d choose:

          1) Star Trek’s “utopian” Federation. Bullshit, pure and simple. A bigger, more technologically powerful government is NOT going to feel like that. People are just too HAPPY in the Federation — which is why all the stories that are worth telling take place at the edges or on the outside.

          2) Star Wars’ “birthright” elitism. How undemocratic, unrepublican, un… unAMERICAN! It’s monarchy, papacy, and Divine Right, justified by the use of force… er, “THE force.”

          Throw both of those out, mix the remains liberally (or conservatively — whatever), and you get a future where people fight with each other, where government TRIES to be good, often to the extent that it becomes oppressive, and yet in which the actions of individuals still matter. Spaceships, ray-guns, and aliens won’t change that.

          –Howard

          1. Re: Yay Palom

            As regards to point one there, bladespark and I have often had discussions poking fun at the notion of big galaxy-spanning governments in general. We can’t even run a continent-spanning government, even with nigh-perfect information transfer abilities. Galaxy-wide is gonna get ugly.

          2. Re: Yay Palom

            Never mind that, compare the SW prequels to the final.

            How the heck did the Empire spring into existence in <20 years AND get a relatively large organized resistance in that same period???

          3. Re: Yay Palom

            Personally, I think there’s a good deal of wisdom in an observation of Douglas Adams:

            He said that a society often gets what it expects. If you make plans and lay expectations for a nasty, evil totalitarian government, that’s what you’re going to get.

            But, if you make plans and lay expectations for better things to come, you just may get lucky.

            I prefer writing about a positive future.

    2. I won’t be seeing it either, or the two before it.

      I try to remember Star Wars as just the original movie. No hint of the mindless commercial pabulum to come — and still full of excitement and hope for the future.

  4. Lucas picked the wrong three

    Way back in the dim ages when Lucas had his first success with the original Star Wars, he claimed it was episode #4 of a 9 episode saga. The nine episodes were going to be, a trilogy showing the fall of the Republic and rise of the Empire, a trilogy showing the fall of the Empire, and a final trilogy showing the rise of the New Republic.

    Later (sometime after Jedi came out) he changed his tune and started saying that it was only going to be the three prequels and then call it the fall and redemption of Anikan Skywalker. This is one of the reasons why he went back and changed the ending sequences in Jedi.

    I think he picked wrong. He should have gone for the three following Jedi, rather than the three prequels. No one really wants to see a good guy make the wrong turns that send him down the path to the dark side. It would be much more fun to watch Luke, et al. work to dismantle the Empire and replace it with a new better Republic. Just look at many of the cool novels that have been written in the Star Wars universe, especially the ones by Timothy Zahn.

    At any rate, we will all go and see the movie, even though it isn’t nearly what it could have been.

    1. Re: Lucas picked the wrong three

      No one really wants to see a good guy make the wrong turns that send him down the path to the dark side.

      {raises hand tentatively} um… I do. He hasn’t been doing it as well as I’d hoped, but I went to the first two JUST to see the Darkside-slide.

      Not that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing them rebuild, but still. I kind of like watching everything fall apart. {shrug}

      1. Re: Lucas picked the wrong three

        I agree. There’s a reason Empire is widely regarded as the best of the series.

        Also, hee, Deadpool!

      2. Re: Lucas picked the wrong three

        OK, granted there is a certain sick fascination with watching someone go down the dark path. But that isn’t the same appeal of watching someone “do the right thing” and even triumph. That is what made the original trilogy so compelling, for me at least.

    2. Re: Lucas picked the wrong three

      I hadn’t heard he cancelled the last three.

      I wonder if he’ll revisit the idea later.
      I mean, he’s hardly likely to just stop trying to make money.

      1. Re: Lucas picked the wrong three

        Lucas has been on record for a long time saying that he had dropped the idea of the whole nine episodes, but money being money . . . who knows he could suddenly decide the story told.

  5. I’m not so sure that PG-13 is a bad decision here.

    The fundamental fact about Episode III is that it’s about the darkest days of the Star Wars universe: the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. That is a very dark, depressing, fatalistic story. We all know how it ends: with the Jedi snuffed out, Anakin Skywalker gone over to the dark side and turned into a ruthless monster, and the people of the galaxy enslaved under a tyrannical emperor.

    Going PG-13 allows Lucas to give this dark story full rein to play itself out as dramatically as it calls for. Holding himself to PG might just have been a bit too limiting.

    My biggest gripe about this is that it ends the series on a significantly down note. Were I Lucas, I’d be planning at least an Episode VII, just to redeem the storyline.

      1. Much as I love the Thrawn trilogy, you realize if Lucas tried to film it, it would just turn to ash like everything else, right?

  6. I wish he’d put out an untampered with original trilogy……..
    without the Ep IV titling and such. As it was those first magical times we saw them….
    although I always thought “Empire” stank. too downbeat. I suppose “Return” made up for that with Leia in the slave costume…ever see Raquel Welch in The Magic Christian?

  7. Making a PG-13 Star Wars movie would be like putting dog-eared bedroom-pages in the next Harry Potter book.

    Gotta disagree with you here. I would find bedroom-pages in Harry Potter quite appropriate. It’s a story about kids growing up. In book 6 they’re supposed to be 17, so it’s very normal and natural for sex to be a theme. I find it ridiculous that people see Harry Potter and think “oh, that’s safe for kids”. Maybe the first book was for kids, but each successive story has no choice but to become more mature and deal with increasingly more mature themes.

    Likewise, Star Wars is about the end of a Golden age and the Dark time that followed. Star Wars was not meant specificly for kids. It was meant to hearken back to a simpler time in movie-making. Episode III is specificly about a character choosing to be evil when he should know better. How many 8-year olds do you know who can deal with those kind of themes?

    Yes, Lucas has perpetrated some of the worst cases of revisionist history that we’ve ever seen. Yes he has catered to marketing at the expense of the story in the past. So why are we critizising him when he’s decided to STOP going for the cheap buck?

    Doc

  8. You’re right, it would be better that way. It would kind of resemble the structure of the “Godfather” storyline.

    “The Godfather” would still be way better, but…yeah.

  9. I’m just disappointed by his break away from the formula he followed for the plot of the first one (Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope) and the story arch of the first trilogy (IV – VI). He very closely followed Joseph Cambell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. It was a great version of the human protomyth. The remakes of the original trilogy add frivolity that is unneccesary and out of place. The new trilogy is simply not up to the level of storytelling of the old, and has fallen prey to the “special effects will save us” mentality that most of Hollywood seems to live by at this point. Going PG-13 is just another step to try to make up for poor script writing.

    1. Amen! I’ve been saying that since Phantom Menace came out – he should’ve stuck to the Hero’s Journey. I mean, who is even supposed to be the protagonist in Episode I?

      I want to see an Open Source movement dedicated to writing the TRUE 9-film series, using the original trilogy as the only canon. (And maybe Zahn’s sequels… But all the actors have aged too much for those anyway, so maybe not.) Then, when the Star Wars universe is in the public domain in 2052 or so, we can MAKE the right movies.

      Then, at the ripe old age of 78, I can die happy.

      Alternatively, I’d like to hear George Lucas say, “You know, I screwed up. Here’s how and why…” instead of insisting that WE all changed, not him.

      1. Star Wars will never be in the public domain.

        Will it really happen? How many more times will the copyright be extended.

        Also, are you sure that date is right? I thought it was 95 years. Hmm maybe that’s for after 1978.

        Hmmm wonder what the copyright date is on 5 and 6, I’m betting it’s after 1978.

        I hope you die happy anyway.

        Howard, as an author, how long do you feel copyrights should last?

  10. Star Wars just worked

    I’ve got to disagree with you Howard. Star Wars wasn’t great just because we were kids. I know you’re old enough to remember this. When Star Wars first came out, it was the adults that went to see it that drove it to be a hit. Now, admittedly, once the kids discovered it, then it really took off, but it didn’t start there.

    Star Wars (A New Hope for all you Philistines) worked because it was genuinely magical. It was based on a powerful and classic moral structure. It was masterfully told. And, rather than simply going where Sci-Fi films had gone before (yes that’s a blatant reference) it broke new ground. Hollywood and movies were changed forever after Star Wars. Not since the Jazz Singer has any single film had that much impact. This film was a watermark in storytelling, and that’s not just because kids liked it.

  11. I won’t go see it…

    … unless my pooor addicted friends insist on dragging me. The only way he can redeem this trainwreck is if he takes my Yoda Is The Bad Guy thesis and runs with it.

    He won’t save it with a PG-13 rating. But with enough babes and bustlines to turn it to an R, he could at least make it less painful to watch.

    In a perfect world, the ideal would have been to have someone keep Lucas on a leash as he was in Star Wars and ESB, and to a lesser extent in RotJ, and to NOT make Phantom Merchandising and Attack of the Clowns, and instead have made the SEQUELS. We ALREADY KNEW what happened in the past. There’s no way this could end well.

    1. Re: I won’t go see it…

      I’ll probably try to see a pirated version. Anything that satisfies my curiosity without giving George Luchre another dollar.

      I think the first 3 could have worked. If the first one had ended more darkly, with the start of the clone wars, then the second one could be about a successful conclusion to the clone wars, and the happy marriage of Anakin and Amidala (yank the damn “forbidden love” crap — since when are Jedis Catholic?), and then finish with the fall of Anakin in the last film, but with the successful hiding of the children.

      And to make the Emperor and Vader THINK they’ve finished off the remaining Jedi, including Obi Wan, so that they think it’s all over, but we hold out for A New Hope… *sigh*

      Delerious George and the Unrestrained Budget.

  12. Series hit “the point at which it stopped being good”. Terminator 3, Alien 3. Sometimes a series can recover (Star Trek contained both star trek 1 was bad, 2 was superb, 3 was ok, 4 was excellent, 5 sucked mightily, and 6 was good again.)

    You can have “suck” and “non-suck” in close proximity from the same creative team. The Matrix trilogy, anyone?

    Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were good movies. It’s not that we grew up, it’s that they were good movies and the current ones aren’t. The originals had a coherent plot, characters whose actions were believable within context, and the story was well told.

    The originals had honestly witty things occur, in passing, without stopping for the proverbial “seven minute shot of the enterprise”. Han switching on the milennium falcon, having it switch, off, and hitting it so the lights come back on. “But it’s _supposed_ to be freezing, how we’re going to dry out all her clothes I really don’t know”… “And then we just float away.” “Like the rest of the garbage…”

    In Episode Zero, when they stopped the movie to award a medal to R2D2 for being the only droid that didn’t get shot, it was _embarassing_ to watch that.

    The original movies, the protagonists often had conflicting motives and were capable of intelligent interaction. “Marching into the detention area’s not what I had in mind… She’s rich…” “Haaaahh. There’s still a chance to save haaahhh.” “Into the garbage chute, fly boy… I dont’ care what you smell.”

    (P.S. I liked the one-sided conversations between 3PO and R2, or Han and Chewie, that made you use your imagination. The old movies assumed you HAD one…)

    What have the new movies had? Cardboard characters (“Sand isn’t soft, like you.”), R2-D2 flying (FLYING!) to retrieve C3PO’s head, “The Force: Now with Midichlorians and a drop of retsin!”, Mannequin skywalker flying into the orbital platform to save the day because he was told to ‘stay in that cockpit’ (gee, we’d NEVER have guessed what was about ot happen)… All in a context where you already know how it’s all going to turn out and at best you’re there to see how. (Gee, is Obi-wan’s in jeopardy, do you think he’ll buy it in this scene?)

    P.S. Han and Chewie ripping the milennium falcon apart to get the hyperdrive working while being chased by star destroyers (and R2 fixing it, another one-sided conversation giving a payoff to something they HAD planted earlier) was MUCH cooler than Mannequin flipping the on-off switch to bring a dead pod racer/fighter back to life. Compare them side by side: one works, one sucks.

    There was no 30 second portion of the first three movies that didn’t serve to advance the story, but the coolest part of Episode Zero (the lightsaber duel) had _NOTHING_ to do with the rest of the story. Some friends of mine commented that it seemed to be part of a different movie, and a much better one at that…

    No, it’s not the “children’s movie” bit. I suspect that by the time “Willow” came out, Lucas was too famous to get decent feedback about what sucked and what didn’t.

Comments are closed.