I finally got around to watching The People Vs. George Lucas this week. It’s been lurking on my instant queue for months now. I was avoiding it because I thought maybe it would be biased and mean. I thought it might demonize George Lucas and turn him into some sort of villain. It didn’t do that and I’m glad. I did have a lot of mixed feelings as I watched the film though. A LOT! I found myself flip flopping on a lot of issues that many Star Wars fans feel very strongly about. I’m going to go ahead and talk about some of the issues I have with Mr. Lucas. But first let me say something.
I am not a George Lucas scholar. I haven’t read any of his books. I haven’t read any books about him. I’ve seen THX (which I thought was fuckin’ weird), American Graffiti (which I thought was kinda boring), the Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones movies, but I don’t assume that seeing those films makes me any kind of expert on a man I know absolutely nothing about. So please don’t assume that I’m saying that at all. What follows are merely my thoughts on things as a fan and an artist/writer/creator. So don’t be a dick if you happen to disagree with anything I write.
Issue #1: Han shot first, PERIOD!
This is a big one among Star Wars fans. In the original release of A New Hope it’s very obvious that Han shoots Greedo without any warning. When Han shoots we see that he is, in fact, a dangerous smuggler with very low moral standards. He has no problem shooting Greedo under the table and never mentions it again. You could argue that later on in the story, after he falls in love with Leia he becomes a different man. Sure I’ll give you that. BUT, at the beginning of his story in A New Hope he is a “scruffy nerf herder” with very little motivation aside from his own safety and money.
When George Lucas re-released A New Hope Greedo shoots first. Not only does he shoot first, but he shoots first really, really badly. How does a trained, experienced bounty hunter like Greedo end up missing a shot from two feet away? Seriously. Two. Feet. Away. It was discussed at length in The People Vs. George Lucas. The biggest problem with this change is how it morphs the character of Han from ruthless to…something else. We know he’s supposed to be dangerous and we saw him get his gun out, but now he’s shooting in self defense? It’s confusing. It doesn’t jive with the fact that he hasn’t been caught yet even though he’s wanted by a powerful big wig. It makes him seem less badass, which is a problem.
I think I wouldn’t have such a problem with this change if he would just make the damn original releases available on DVD. I have the originals on VHS but who know how long those will last? Which brings me to my next issue.
Issue #2: Stop Hoarding All Your Story!
This is one thing I didn’t know about before watching The People Vs. George Lucas. I thought the originals were available to own on DVD. But they are not! It’s all the re-releases. What’s more, George Lucas has no plans to release the original versions ever. EVER! He says that it’s because when the movies were originally released he had to cut out a lot and not do several scenes for financial or technological reasons. Now he has the money and technology to make his movies exactly how he wanted them to be. Great! Do your thing George, but let us keep what we love. (And really if Greedo was supposed to shoot first from the very beginning he could have done that. One extra blaster shot in a movie full of them? Come one now. You will never convince me that you didn’t have the money or technology to put that in to begin with. That is the frivolous change of an old man thinking his character is too harsh or whatever.) The fact that he won’t release the originals is really annoying to me.
Look, as a fellow creative type I get it. I’m sure there are a great many authors, filmmakers, artists that have put out creations that they look back on and cringe. I’m sure so many wish they’d been able to make something absolutely perfect before sending it out into the world. But he put it out there and even though it wasn’t perfect for him, it was for someone else. That’s why Star Wars has such a gigantic following! It changed people’s lives, it inspired many people to become what they are! Heck, it made me want to write stories and it made me believe that I could! So why, oh why would you snatch it back, make a bunch of changes but not let us keep what touched many us so deeply? It’s mean and selfish. I realize the story belongs to George Lucas and he has the power to do what he wants to it, but…if you know it upsets so many people why do it? But then I flip flop to my creator side and think ‘well you can’t please all the people all the time.’ Then I flip flop back to fan mode and think ‘true, but he put it out there! And it’s not just one little fan, it’s millions of people! MILLIONS!’ And so I sit here torn, wondering what to think of these little changes that somehow make George’s movie perfect in his eyes and less so in the eyes of his fans.
Issue #3: What’s the deal with the prequels?
Alright, so I actually don’t hate these movies as much as some fans do. The Phantom Menace was horrible in that it was boring, introduced Jar Jar Binks, and turned something as mysterious as the force into something you can explain with science. (Please don’t get me wrong, I think science is neat, I just hate that it tore down something I found so fascinating and mysterious as a kid.) Midi-chlorians are the dumbest idea ever. But Ewan McGregor is hot and Darth Maul is a badass so I guess it was alright.
Attack of the Clones was a bit better, but the blossoming romance between Anakin and Padme…ugh, I dunno it was distracting and seemed super forced. Maybe it was the acting, maybe the writing. I don’t know who to blame here, but again Ewan McGregor is a hottie and Yoda does some wicked awesome lightsaber fighting in this one, so that was nice.
Revenge of the Sith I actually liked. I think because Anakin is getting all evil and whiny. And then half his body gets burned off in an epic battle between him and Obi-Wan. So great! I know lots of people don’t like it, but I loooove the “NOOOOOOOO!” at the very end of the movie. It makes me laugh, even though I’m pretty sure that’s not the reaction they were going for.
I’ve got one tiny little problem with the prequels (aside from all the other stuff I just wrote about) and it’s that it seems that George doesn’t know his own story. Guy needed to sit down, watch 4-6, take a bunch of notes then start writing. What I’m about to say is super nit-picky so excuse me for a moment. In Return of the Jedi Luke asks Leia if she remembers her mother. And Leia says she does. But um, yeah Padme dies right after childbirth so how can Leia remember her mother?! Especially how sad she always looked?! How?! As a storyteller, this bugs the hell out of me! Know your story dammit! KNOW IT!
Ok, rant over.
All that to say, I feel bad for George. People can get really pushy. They make outrageous claims like “George Lucas raped my childhood.” Really folks? Really? Just because he made a few changes to his story your childhood is now ruined? It’s not as if he went back in time and changed your experience of the movie. Your memory remains the same.
I feel bad for George not just because of the really irritating fans but also because I don’t think he ever wanted to be the head of a gigantic corporation. He was a dreamer film student who wanted to make movies. He happened to make one that so many people loved it took over his life. I don’t think he set out to change the world. I think he just wanted to tell stories.