George Lucas. He was once hailed as a visionary stalwart that was placed on a pedestal for his creation of the Star Wars, but has since become a walking punchline. The very creation that propelled him to stardom eventually lead to his downfall (if you can call being a billionaire a downfall). But does he really deserve all the hate?
This isn’t the first time I’ve waded in to Lucas controversy. One of my earlier defense articles defended Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’ve been wanting to write this particular defense article for over a year now, but it just seemed like so much work. There are just so many detractors that voicing an opinion as extreme as “I don’t really mind the prequels,” or “the special editions really aren’t all that bad” is met with an absurd amount of vitriol. The people at Fox News have had calmer conversations discussing the pros and cons of President Obama than the anti-Lucas League have had discussing Jar Jar Binks (assuming yelling over each other is considered a conversation).
I get it, everybody loves to hate ol’ George. It’s easy isn’t it? It’s become commonplace to bash him whilst talking about things he’s not even a part of! I was reading a review for the Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies, and there was a quip about Peter Jackson giving his trilogy the George Lucas treatment. Listen guy, despite your apparent love of the thesaurus, you are not original. You are using an inaccurate cliche in your attempt to sound aloof and hip. Please go back to your studio apartment on your street bike (make sure to get mad at a couple of cars on your way) and ponder which craft beer is the most politically correct. Sorry, got a little carried away. My point is this – don’t bring him up just to throw him under the bus while talking about something unrelated.
“But he ruined my childhood.”
No he didn’t. Despite what you might believe, Lucas is not a time-traveling wizard who went back in time to your childhood and took away the enjoyment you experienced with some new-fangled enjoyment sucking device (which, if you think about it, would be the lamest way to use time-travel). The whole concept of one thing retroactively making another thing worse is ludicrous when discussing most things. It’s not like when an iPhone 6 comes out and all of a sudden your 4s sucks, then when you upgrade they take away your unlimited data package that you’ve had for years and make you pay extra for more data (it still hurts, Verizon), the 4s was still a great phone for its time.
We are talking about the enjoyment of entertainment. If you enjoyed it for x amount of years, then the prequels came out and you were disappointed, you still enjoyed it for x amount of years, and can still continue to enjoy it. Let me let you in on a little secret using the trusty parenthesis (you can still like the originals despite the existence of the prequels). If you hate the prequels that much, then just pretend they don’t exist and move on with your life. Ignorance is bliss.
“Have you SEEN the prequels? They are terrible!”
While this is a pretty subjective argument, I will admit that they aren’t as good as the original trilogy, but keep in mind that the originals literally changed American culture. There is no way the prequels could live up to the benchmark set by the original trilogy. That being said, I did like several aspects of the prequels and how they changed the overall tone of the series. Sure, Episode II is pretty hard to watch, and both Anakins are pretty annoying, and Jar Jar is probably the bane of your existence, but they aren’t a cinematic holocaust that should be tried under the Geneva Convention either. A friend of mine watched the movie in episodic order with his son who had no idea that Anakin became Darth Vader, as he watched the third film when Anakin finally succumbs to the Dark Side, he wept. That’s pretty powerful. Maybe we are just jaded.
While certain additions are frustrating (midichlorians, Watto, Jar Jar, Boss Nass, Gungans in general, Sebulba, etc.), the prequels actually add some interesting dynamics to the overall story, especially between Anakin and Luke. The lives of the two are almost mirror images of each other. In Episode I, Anakin destroys the Trade Federation’s droid control ship, though somewhat unintentionally, while Luke destroys the Death Star in Episode IV. Both are master mechanics as well as pilots. Both are padawans of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Both are drawn to adventure (and both are incredibly whiny). Both lose their right hand in a lightsaber duel with a Sith lord. Palpatine tempts Anakin to kill Dooku and join him, and also tempts Luke to kill Vader and join him. These events usually happen in the same order in their respective trilogy as well.
Although their lives are full of similar events, they are also inverted in their outcomes. Instead of Anakin being the saving figure that brings balance to the Force, it is Luke that becomes the New Hope for the galaxy. While Anakin’s victory at Naboo ultimately started a turn of events ending with the organization of the evil Galactic Empire and end of the Jedi Order, Luke’s victory at the Battle of Yavin ultimately leads to the defeat of the Empire and the beginnings of a new Republic and new Jedi Order. With the inclusion of the prequel trilogy, the story shifts from Luke’s heroic journey to the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Sure, he could have done some things better, but that is one hell of a story. Also, since the fans hated Jar Jar so much, Lucas had him be the catalyst for Palpatine’s final ascension to tyrannical emperor. He literally gave you a reason to hate him.
Prior to the Disney sale, these movies were wholly his. As much as I hate cheesy metaphors, he was the artist and these movies were his canvas. If he felt like he wanted to retouch his work, that’s his prerogative. I even liked most of the changes in the special editions, despite the obvious CGI. Was it necessary to make these changes? Not at all, but as a life long fan I can’t hold it against him for wanting to continue to work on his creation. Who knows, maybe in another 10 or 15 years they will release another special edition collection where they re-CGI everything from this special edition and the prequels.
I am not saying you have to like the prequels or the special editions, but he doesn’t really owe us anything. He made several of my all time favorite movies and some of my favorite characters, so if anything I’ve only paid my debt by buying countless toys (for my sons?), movies, cartoons, and comics. It’s about time we stop burning effigies of Lucas in the streets, appreciate the worlds he created, and look forward to what J. J. Abrams is doing with the property.