So, you probably heard the news yesterday that George Lucas sold Star Wars, otherwise known as LucasFilm to Disney yesterday for an impressive $4.05 billion. With that came news that Disney was already beginning work on an Episode 7, due for release in 2015.
Let me start by saying how enormous of a Star Wars fan I am. Aside from the toys, the customizable card game, the novels, and yes, the now famous Darth Vader cardboard cutout that sits in my living room, Star Wars has always been an important anchor for me. The stories provide a valuable connection back to my childhood, reminding me of what it feels like to be completely immersed in my own imagination.
In my (more) adult years, the stories themselves have served as introductions into the wisdom of comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell and his work on the hero archetype and the hero’s journey, from which many believe the Star Wars trilogy is derived. In a sense, I’ve aged with them, growing up to pull intellectual and (try not to laugh) even spiritual wisdom from the stories.
But, the sadness I felt yesterday upon hearing the news of Lucas’ sale, was, in part, due to the assumption that Star Wars would now be exploited without any thought of restraint. But, those are the feelings of a crotchety old-timer. I had every toy imaginable as a child, why should today’s kids be denied the same thing, because I hold Star Wars in some sacred regard?
But, that was just part of the remorse. The other part came from a feeling that purists, not unlike myself, who had criticized Lucas so heavily, going as far as to create documentaries devoted to exposing his shortcomings, had driven him to part ways with his child.
While I’m sure that Lucas would disagree with this statement, I can’t help feeling there may be some truth to it. In fact, Lucas’ departure was all but spelled out in a NYT interview released 10 months ago alongside his latest film Red Tails, a project that provided even more insight into his beliefs as a man and as a filmmaker. When asked about the fans’ distaste spawned by his merchandising of the franchise and re-release of the films, the columnist wrote this:
“I think there are a lot more important things in the world” than feuds with fanboys, Lucas says with a kind of weary diffidence. But then he gets serious, even a little wounded…“On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie,” Lucas says, referring to fans who, like the dreaded studios, have done their own forcible re-edits. “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”
Lucas seized control of his movies from the studios only to discover that the fanboys could still give him script notes. “Why would I make any more,” Lucas says of the “Star Wars” movies, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
It’s sad. But the reality, as often described by those who worked closely with George over the years, was that his passion and sage-like wisdom lied in editing, not writing, not directing…editing. The man loved to tinker, loved to see how technology could change the face of his beloved films and no one acknowledges this.
I mean, the man founded Industrial Light & Magic, the world’s first special effects studio, invented simply because he had no other way to create the expansive space shots he dreamed up while filming A New Hope. And then he founded Skywalker Sound, because he needed audio to match visuals.
All those who love and appreciate cinema, as most fanboys do, love to complain about how the movie industry is driven by corporate greed, and that true works of art are increasingly more difficult to discover and produce. Well, George Lucas broke free of that in 1978, ensuring that no movie studio would have the final editing rights over his works of art. The result was the greatest trilogy our world has ever seen.
I will never be able to fully grasp the impact that Star Wars has had on my life, my career choices, the intellectuals whom I now study and look up to, the importance I place on my own imagination and creativity, the way I will raise my own children and who I’ve grown into as a person.
I owe that to George Lucas and his vision as a filmmaker.