The Hopes of a Long Suffering 'Star Wars' Fan

Clonewars_lLike many a recovering Star Wars fan, I await the premiere this Friday of Star Wars: The Clone Wars with a mix of excitement and dread. Excitement for the opportunity to see a new vision of George Lucas’s beloved universe brought to the screen. Dread that, if without meaningful character development or a coherent plot (did you see any hint of a story in those trailers?), director Dave Filoni’s pixelfest could be as much fun as watching another person play a videogame.

And yet despite my frustrations with the franchise, I keep coming back. I love this mythology, this universe, and these characters.

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear the rumor that fellow Star Wars aficionado Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), who’s playing Scotty in the upcoming Star Trek, had declared his desire to write an episode of Lucas’s long-gestating live action TV series, supposedly set between Episodes III and IV. Pegg supposedly worried, however, that he may have alienated Lucasfilm by publicly criticizing The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars needs an overhaul, like what Christopher Nolan did for Batman or what J.J. Abrams intends to do for Star Trek. I’m not saying Pegg’s the one to reinvent the saga from a galaxy far, far away, but it should be a fan of the series who knows it and loves it. As the saga’s creator, Lucas never felt what it was like sitting in a darkened theater as a young would-be fan not knowing what to expect, seeing "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…" pop up for the first time, and bathing in John Williams’ blaring fanfare as that imperial star destroyer first passed overhead.

addCredit(“Anakin Skywalker: © Lucasfilm Ltd.”)

Maybe because of his unique position of knowing and nurturing thisuniverse from its inception, Lucas actually might not understand whatit is that his fans want. Hence Jar Jar, "the taxation of traderoutes," the Galactic Senate’s parliamentary procedure, the "I hatesand" monologue, and Natalie Portman saying "Hold me like you did bythe lake on Naboo."

Why I am hopeful about this new Clone Wars movie and subsequent animated TV series is because some of the best Star Wars stories told since the original trilogy have come from people other than George Lucas. Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empirepaved the way for a whole "expanded universe" of storytelling throughdozens of novels, by authors like Steve Perry, Matthew Stover, and TroyDenning, that delve into a level of detail about the characters, aliencultures, and political events that make the films seem superficial bycomparison. Likewise, Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire graphic novel series reveals a brooding, melancholy undercurrent to the Star Wars universe that would seem to be jarringly incompatible with the gleaming surfaces and Flash Gordon thrills of the movies. Many fans consider the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to be the best Star Wars story since The Empire Strikes Back. And from 2003-2005, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series injected new dynamism into a franchise that had apparently lost all of its kinetic charm.

These books, graphic novels, video games, and cartoons show that Star Warshas infinite possibilities. But when it comes to live-action films (oreven the upcoming live-action TV show), Lucas has made it clear it’shis vision or nothing. Dale Pollock’s biography Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas reveals Lucas even resented the psychologically-charged direction Irvin Kershner chose to take The Empire Strikes Back. (Check out this fascinating fan Q&A with Pollock in The Washington Post from 2005.)

It would be a final irony that the creator of the most popularsci-fi franchise in history would doom his own series to creativeirrelevance by his unwillingness to field fresh perspectives for hislive-action series. I say, let Pegg have his shot writing an episode ofthe new series. For that matter, open up the franchise to other writersand directors for reinvention.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Should Lucas field fresh ideas from other filmmakers for the future of Star Wars? And what directors would you choose? Or is Lucas so synonymous with Star Wars that asking somebody else to try their hand at it would be like asking someone other than J.K. Rowling to write a Harry Potter book?

Comments (135 total) Add your comment
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  • Snarf

    I pick the later. Instead of fanwank fiction, these people should create their own worlds. Someone is bound to produce the next big thing.

  • dan

    The prequels were turds. Lucas is creatively bankrupt. And this “movie” (I use the scare quotes because it’s actually 3 episodes of the tv show pressed together) is a waste. It’s because of Star Wars fanatics like Mr. Blauvelt that Lucas has been able to continue pumpin out bargain basement garbage and reap huge profits. Now, if those people would just grow some taste and stop paying to see obvious crap (like this cartoon movie) maybe Lucas would finally be forced to hand the franchise over to someone with… you know… talent.

  • EP Sato

    Blauvelt, you’re new here, so I’ll be nice. You report about a rumor that Simon Pegg wants to pen some of the new series episodes, but backed out because he’s spooked the Lucas people don’t like him because he’s made fun of Phantom Menace. I’ve gotta say that rumor can not be in any way true.
    As I’ve previously noted in Popwatch, Simon Pegg once said that all odd numbered Star Trek movies are “Sh-t”. Yet, he’s going to be starring in one. So I doubt he’d worry about getting dissed by Lucas’ people for hating on Phantom Menace.
    Also, one of Pegg’s homeboys from “Spaced” PLAYED Darth Maul, which I’ve personally heard Simon Pegg brag about in public appearances. So clearly, Pegg is a Star Wars fan who’s not easily intimidated.
    Agreed that the best Star Wars stories didn’t involve Lucas, but I’m bummed that you gave no mention to the Marvel Comics Star Wars series, which lasted 20 issues past the battle of Endor and proved just how vast the Star Wars Universe is.

  • Eric Friedmann

    Amen, Dan! Hard to believe this is the (supposedly) same George Lucas that was such a revolutionary filmmaker in the ’70s. Makes me yearn for THX-1138 and AMERICAN GRAFFITTI all over again!
    PIMPING out “bargain basement garbage” is how I’d put it. And those who are actually stupid enough to hand over their hard-earned time and money to see badly recycled material like this are nothing short of Lucas’ WHORES!

  • t3hdow

    To dan:
    The prequels were flawed, though I won’t go so far and consider them turds. The first two contained a few memorable scenes and Revenge of the Sith was at least on par with the original trilogy. I do agree this film didn’t need to exist, especially after Gendy Tartakovsky’s cartoon did well enough to tell the story (and Grievous in Clone Wars compared to Sith’s caricature is like night and day…he’s much cooler in Clone Wars). However, I’m not convinced that most Star Wars will go see this over Tropic Thunder or another helping of The Dark Knight. Even I – who somewhat enjoyed the prequels – found this completely unappealing. You really think the reception for Clone Wars will be big enough to make monster profits? I’d wait until Sunday before making that claim.

  • Sad

    I’m sad that the creativity of George Lucas dried up over 20 years ago.

  • jeff

    I know it’s cool to trash Lucas right now, and declare the prequals the worst films ever made (until this movie is released that is). But as the father of a Star Wars-obsessed five year old who is looking forward to this movie like it was Christmas morning, and who will no doubt love every second of it, believe me when I say there’s still some magic in Star Wars — it’s just that you grew up and grew sarcastic and cynical, and these movies are no longer for, or about, you.

  • Eric Friedmann

    Believe it or not, I liked the prequels a lot. They were certainly better than RETURN OF THE JEDI; one of the worst acted and worst dialogue films I’ve ever seen! It just sickens me to see George Lucas act like a child who refuses to give up his favorite toy and move on! After SITH, he repeatedly stated how he was looking forward to making smaller, independent-type films like he did with THX-1138, and I looked forward to that prospect. But now…who knows.
    I no longer consider George Lucas to be a true filmmaker. He is nothing more than a wealthy CEO of a huge empire! Big f*cking deal!

  • Daniel Noa

    Well I don’t think its fair to insist that any creator, be they a novelist or a playwright or a filmmaker, give up control over his own creation. Star Wars is not Batman or Star Trek, neither of those have a single person responsible for shepherding them and overseeing them for years (and both creators are, notably, dead).
    I know Lucas will hire writers and directors for his new series (like he did on TCW and on Young Indy in the 90s, to great effect I might add). I was 13 when Phantom Menace came out, loved it, and still love all 6 Star Wars movies. Jeff is right, most of the people who sat in that first dark theatre have become to cynical to really enjoy what star wars is: a fairy tale.
    In his intro to the first Narnia book, C.S. Lewis put it best when he said “I had not realized girls grow quicker than books.” Most people outgrow fairy tales. But I remember my grandfather, being less than a year before his own death, absolutely falling in love with “The Phantom Menace.”

  • tyler

    star wars is over.
    lucas made it, and he killed it.
    enjoy what exists already and forget the rest.

  • Connor Clark

    I don’t know if the comparison to Rowling holds water. She demonstrated her depth of talent by having her series grow in plot depth and maturity as her (originally child) fans grew up. Lucas doesn’t seem up to that.
    In fact, Lucas has done pretty much the opposite. At this point I can’t tell if he wants to tell stories or make money.
    If he wants to tell Star Wars stories, then by all means he should keep charge of them himself, even if he alienates some (many?) fans.
    If he wants to make money, he should probably let people with talent branch the franchise into new directions, like Knights of the Old Republic did (I am going to except most of the Star Wars novels here, for obvious reasons). It seems like most fans want this…
    As for the argument that these films have always been for children, I loved Star Wars when I was a kid, and I was 11 when Ep. 1 came out. When I got home from seeing it, I literally cried from disappointment. So something was wrong there.

  • Rob Grizzly

    I don’t follow the fan fiction. It’s just sci-fi tales with the Star Wars trademarks slapped on.
    I’m in the camp that feels “true” Star Wars is Lucas’ Star Wars. But unfortunately, that means this.
    George, just stop. Please. You’ve stretched 6 films out of one movie. But as long as the people keep coming, he’ll keep doing it. So it’s simple: don’t go see it.
    He’ll get the message eventually.
    Movie-going is like voting. We’re the one’s putting these people in office, so to speak

  • johnny ro

    Star Wars = Dead Dog.
    Lucas, why do you continue to beat a dead dog? Oh yea, because you lost your creativity back in the 80’s. All Lucas has left is Star Wars. And since no more real Star Wars movies will be made, he has to resort to animated movies and tv shows. Meanwhile I’ll be in the theater watching the brand new Star Trek movie.

  • R.D.

    I’m most disappointed in the quality (or lack thereof) of the animation I’ve seen for “Clone Wars”. To me it looks like bad, cheap “Saturday Morning” cartoons. Compare that to Pixar, Shrek, et al. Given the current state of the art in animation, I find this crap inexcusable regardless of the high quality of plot, character, etc.

  • ed5

    Everything that has gone wrong with Star Wars can be summed up in but a single word: MIDICHLORIANS.

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