The following post does not reflect the opinions of everyone at Moviefone.
On March 22, 1976, director George Lucas began filming in the Tunisian desert for what would become a little film called 'Star Wars.' At the time, no one could have predicted the effect that the film, its sequels and prequels or the man himself would have on the landscape of film. Shortly after the film's release, Lucas ascended to some kind of cinematic godhood, earning the love of multiple generations of movie-watchers in the process.
But after developing a 35-year legacy, it seems the audience who grew up with his film-making has turned on him. It's more than just disliking a director because he made a few bad movies; there is a real sense of betrayal among viewers, who now speak his name like he is some kind of fallen figure in a Greek tragedy. But George Lucas didn't betray you; in fact, he didn't do anything wrong. The problem is not George Lucas, the real problem is you.
Peruse his IMDB boards any day of the week; you'll find whole threads devoted to tearing him apart. Listen to comedians like Patton Oswalt plot how how they would travel back in time to put him out of his misery (NSFW). Watch the 70 minute-a-piece criticisms of the prequel trilogy by Red Letter Media. Maybe you'll even be one of the lucky few who will go to an actual theatrical screening of 'The People vs. George Lucas', a fan-inspired documentary that asks tough questions like: "Has Lucas betrayed his masterwork? Should he just have left the original trilogy alone? Is 'The Phantom Menace' so bad it should carry a health warning?"
These are just a few of the ways that people have wasted hours of creative and professional energy in complaining about how George Lucas is an embarrassment, a disappointment, a sellout, a turncoat. And what exactly are they railing against?
His New Movies Aren't As Good as His Old Movies!
Breaking news: a young, hungry artist is not the same as an old, content artist. It happens to any entertainer in any field, and it's been that way since the beginning of recorded history. No one person can create a library of 100% flawless work (even Shakespeare had some misses). But for some reason, Lucas' fans react so venomously to the idea that he is not the same creative visionary that he once was.
The problem lies with the fans and the amount of faith they foolishly placed in one man. Do I think the prequels or 'Crystal Skull' are as good as those original blockbuster classics? Of course not. But I also didn't depend solely on George Lucas to get me through my formative years of art discovery. It seems to me, that the audience that has turned so harshly on him are afraid to face the reality: George got old, they themselves also got old and life will never be as simple as it was when they were twelve-years-old.
He's Just a Sellout!
Then don't buy his stuff anymore! Problem solved. You don't need an R2-D2 Droid Phone. You don't need Lightsaber chopsticks. You don't need a Darth Vader talking helmet. You can't complain about the ways he has over-commercialized his work, and then go out and buy meaningless junk with Yoda on it. All he ever did was play the capitalist game better than most.
And believe or not, but he's actually done something with all that money he made. He donated one million dollars to the construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Monument in Washington, DC, donated over 175 million to USC to expand their film school capabilities and established the George Lucas Educational foundation to help develop free broadband Internet access to schools across the country. He just recently pledged to donate HALF of his personal fortune in the name of improving education, as part of the Giving Pledge.
As a film producer, he has helped finance critically acclaimed productions like Akira Kurosawa's 'Kagemusha,' Lawrence Kasdan's 'Body Heat' and the experimental 'Powaqqatsi.' Pixar Studios got their start, as part of LucasFilm's computer graphics division. And his Industrial Light & Magic effects company has remained constant pioneers in the field of computer generated imagery. But no, keep getting angry in spite of all this because he came up with Jar-Jar Binks.
He Doesn't Give the Fans What They Want!
Read the comments over our latest news story about his plans to re-release all six 'Star Wars' films (the 'Special Edition" versions) in 3D, and you can see the heated opinions regarding his movies. Fans are also upset that he's only released the unaltered Original 'star Wars' trilogy once on DVD, without any digital restoration. Oh well. You have the story intact the way you like it; what else do you want? In what way do you need to have new copies of this thing that meant something to you when you were twelve-years-old? Most people appear to confuse "need" with an unending appetite for "want."
Any further complaining I've heard or read regarding how Lucas should release his commercial work smacks of either a gross sense of entitlement or an obsessive need to be completist. I find the latter to be unhealthy and have no sympathy for the former.
New Kids Won't Understand Why His Old Movies Are Great!
Here's a brutal truth: even if you were able to recreate the exact same scenario in which you first saw 'Star Wars' and share it with your son, daughter, niece, or nephew, there's still no guarantee they will like it. As painful as this may be to hear, 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' are no more especially timeless than other stories. Today's youth are mesmerized by 'Iron Man' and 'Avatar.' Eight years ago, it was Captain Jack Sparrow and 'Lord of the Rings.' There's nothing about George Lucas' old movies that will somehow transcend time and inspire today's kids. Will they enjoy it? Probably. But they'll never be able to look at it with your adolescent eyes.
Pop culture touchstones change and evolve with time. Trying to argue that your touchstones are somehow more important than newer ones, is a telltale sign that you can't change with the times.
He's Not Allowed to Change His Old Movies!
The only argument against Lucas that ever had any weight with me, regards his penchant for going back and changing his old movies.
I thought the criticism was most valid when it was brought forth by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in the 'South Park' episode 'Free Hat.' In this clip, Parker and Stone bluntly explain how Lucas' films no longer belong to him, but to the audience who enjoyed them.
And while that is a valid point, I believe it also an incomplete point. When Parker and Stone talk about the films belonging to us, they are actually referring to our ownership of the memories of watching his movies. Those memories belong to us; Lucas cannot do anything to change your memories. He can't change your nostalgia, your sentimentality; he can't erase the feeling these movies provided you when you were 5, 10 or 13.
Who cares if Greedo shot Han first in the 1997 version? You already had years of connection with Han Solo; did you honestly feel like you could no longer "understand" Han Solo? What makes these changes anymore valid than the worst fan fiction in the farthest corners of the Internet? Because they came from Lucas himself? Getting upset over his changes just gives them weight and validity.
I'm reminded of a Raymond Carver anecdote echoed by Alan Moore in an interview with Wired, regarding how his stories were "ruined" by Hollywood. The response was: "They're fine. They're not ruined. They're still there." Your connection to his movies are still there, preserved and cherished. Your enjoyment of the original 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' series are not ruined by Hayden Christensen and Shia LeBouf. If you don't like them, just ignore them.
I still like George Lucas and praise his talents. I appreciate the memories he gave me, watching 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' as I grew up. When I was young and stupid, I even liked 'Howard the Duck' and 'Willow.' And now that I'm older and just as stupid, I will still defend those movies because I can see what the seven-year-old me would have enjoyed in them. But I don't expect them to have the same power they did when I was a kid –- because I grew up. I changed, my tastes changed, my perspective changed. I've found other movies and other directors that get me to react now as an adult; I don't keep clinging to this one moment in my life to stay perfectly preserved in time.
So for all those people who still get upset because George Lucas isn't the man that he was in the 1980s: let it go already. You're living in the past. Find something new and exciting and share those things with people you care about. Create new memories instead of wasting your time getting angry about something that happened in the past.
Besides, 'A New Hope' wasn't even that good, if we're being totally honest.