A Great Disturbance in the Force

My love of the Beatles came largely through my father. One time I asked him if he wished the band had ever reunited. He replied that he was glad they finished when they did. To him the Beatles had said all they had to say and went out on top, unblemished. While I could certainly understand my dad’s point of view, I could not agree. For me it was a generational issue. Dad got to anticipate new Beatles albums and then enjoy them as soon as they debuted. I never could. While I listen to and love the Beatles’ work in my own way, there’s always a part of that enjoyment, call it the immediacy, that’s missing.

My thoughts wandered back to the Beatles as I was pondering the huge Star Wars news. Disney purchased Lucasfilm and plans to release a new Star Wars film in 2015, then every 2-3 years afterwards. Also, Star Wars creator George Lucas would not be directing or even producing these new films. He would be a “creative consultant.” Huge is no understatement here. Lucas had said repeatedly that Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would be the last Star Wars film. He also had stated that he would never turn over the creative reins to anyone else. Yes, other men directed The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but Lucas was the Executive Producer and clearly had final say. Simply put, the new developments were a complete 180 degree turn.

Twenty years ago, the idea of Lucas not being in charge of the Star Wars franchise would have been sacrilege. It feels crazy that some fans are now relieved at that very same thought. Many hard-core Star Wars geeks became disenchanted when Lucas changed aspects of the original trilogy for the Special Edition re-releases and DVDs. The disenchantment grew to rage with the prequel trilogy. Many fans believed that the newer films were too heavy on CGI, with characters that ranged from cardboard to annoying.

While the complaints had merit, the depth and intensity of the backlash grew ridiculous. For example, many fans complained that the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy was unavailable on DVD. So, eventually Lucasfilm relented and released DVDs of the original trilogy as it first appeared in theaters. Problem solved? Nope, now the fans griped that the DVDs were not in anamorphic widescreen. A quick search of Google or You Tube illustrates the anger and fury that enveloped people claiming to be Star Wars fans. A group called Hot Waffles released a song entitled “George Lucas Raped My Childhood.” Alexandre O. Philippe chronicled this animosity in his 2010 documentary The People vs. George Lucas.

I enjoyed the prequel trilogy while realizing that they did not hold a candle to the originals. Lucas should have invested more in full-bodied characters and less in computer graphics. He should not have tinkered with the original films as much as he did. That said, I was ashamed and embarrassed with the vitriol my fellow Star Wars geeks unleashed. I cannot say I felt sorry for Lucas, since you can’t really feel sorry for a man worth more than most nations’ GDP. But I did feel bad that the relationship between the man and many whose lives he touched had soured. It just seems wrong.

No, George Lucas did not rape your childhood. He did not commit any crimes against humanity. George Lucas created an amazing world and made three films that are part of my generation’s DNA. I cannot imagine my life without Star Wars and I am forever grateful to Lucas and everyone who worked on those films.

Through interviews Lucas gave over the past few years it appeared that the backlash had taken its toll. He seemed weary and ready to move on. Why should he spend the time and effort to make more Star Wars films just to become a piñata for critics and fanboys? Certainly not for more money that he doesn’t need. Lucas was content to leave the series alone, and I couldn’t blame him. That seemed to be the best for everyone.

On second thought, maybe Lucas passing the torch can help repair the relationship with the fans. Lucas always saw himself as Luke Skywalker, a kid who loves fast vehicles, defeats the bad guys and learns to harness an immense power for good. However, the Star Wars analogy changed, as Lucas himself acknowledged: “But now I've found myself being the head of a corporation... I have become the very thing that I was trying to avoid.” Instead of Luke, Lucas became, in the eyes of many, Darth Vader, a man who was once good but sold his soul to the Dark Side. Hopefully now, as a “creative consultant,” Lucas can become Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wise old man who teaches others so that they can fight the new battles.

So Lucas may be better off, but what about us? The short answer will depend on the quality of the new Star Wars films and that we won’t know for a while. But the initial signs are encouraging. Kathleen Kennedy, an accomplished producer who has worked with Steven Spielberg and Lucas, will continue to run Lucasfilm. She will produce the new films. Screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) will develop the script. Disney has given Pixar both the resources and creative freedom needed to maintain its high standards. There’s no reason to believe the Mouse won’t do the same for Lucasfilm.

Adam has a not-at-all awkward moment with Carrie Fisher
Then there’s the fact that my generation is slowly starting to realize: We are not the target audience for Star Wars anymore. My brother and I grew up on Star Wars, but so did my eight-year-old niece and six year old nephew, while my two-year-old nephew is getting there. My niece always insists that we play a Star Wars trivia game when I visit and my older nephew treasures a toy lightsaber I gave him. When my family was lucky enough to meet Carrie Fisher a couple of weeks ago, the kids were as excited as us adults. But there’s one key difference: the kids don’t think of the original trilogy and the prequels. To them it’s episodes I through VI, in that order. Of course, they have only experienced Star Wars on DVD.

So perhaps, when it’s all said and done, Star Wars is less like the Beatles and is closer to that other ‘60s British import, James Bond. There may be those who grew up in the ‘60s for whom Bond will never be as good as it was during the Sean Connery glory days. But I get to experience a new Bond in the theaters, as do younger fans. Now I can look forward to taking my niece and nephews to a brand-new Star Wars movie. If they can get even half of the enjoyment out of that experience that I did those many years ago, then that’s good enough for me.

Adam Spector
December 1, 2012

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