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Op-ed: Why force Lucas to feel the Force?

Web posted on:
Monday, January 11, 1999 4:02:36 PM EST

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- In case you haven't heard, George Lucas let slip during an interview in the current issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine that he's only planning to make six "Star Wars" movies, as opposed to the previously expected nine. As I'm sure Lucas knew it would, this revelation has caused Jedi-obsessives the world over to start screaming for blood. They feel that they've been cheated, and they aren't too happy about it.

Now, I'm a "Star Wars" fan myself. I was 14 years old when the first one came out -- that's right, Coach Smith, I skipped All-star baseball practice to see it -- and clearly remember the sense of awe I felt when that first Imperial Star Destroyer came barreling overhead, firing its lasers and making a huge pop-cultural racket that would reverberate for the next couple of decades. I thought the second film was a little less fun, but every bit as stylish and exciting as the first, and the third wrapped things up T.S. Eliot-style -- not with a bang, but with a high-concept whimper.

Watch the full trailer for "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace"

Video: 10Mb QuickTime movie

(Courtesy LucasFilms, Ltd./Fox)

I like the idea of "Star Wars" a whole lot; I can't remember my mom's birthday, but I do know what Banthas are, that Luke grew up on Tatooine, and that Greedo worked for Jabba. So I'll gladly get in line when the latest "Star Wars" installment, "The Phantom Menace," overcomes its surprisingly lousy title to put a stranglehold on our collective hearts and minds this coming May.

I would, however, like to ask those folks who feel that Lucas is somehow "betraying" them by only committing 30 years of his existence to cranking out charming robots a direct question: Just who the hell do you think you are?!

Lucas isn't God

Lucas is not God, or even Yoda, if that's more real to you. This is the only life he gets. Regardless of how many volumes of useless information there is to be culled from his false galaxies, he's not creating this stuff with a holy breath of fire. He's just George, a 54-year-old guy from Modesto who likes to make movies ... or, probably used to like making them, until all these expectations started getting stacked on his shoulders by people he doesn't even know.

It takes tons of talent, time, and energy to put even a single "Star Wars" movie together, whether or not you and your friends have grown rabid at the thought of seeing six more of them before you cash in your chips. People act like Lucas squats down at the Skywalker Ranch and lays them like eggs after a 10- or 12-year gestation period.

Lest we forget, the man had a varied movie career long before he found himself saddled with the lifelong task of inventing backwards-sounding names like Sy Snootles, Teebo, Moff Jerjerrod, and Paploo. He co-wrote, and was going to direct, the first version of "Apocalypse Now." He transformed his experiences as a California teen-ager in the 1960s into a frothy little concoction called "American Graffiti," one that, pound for pound, is every bit as artistically successful as his spacely pursuits. He was even a cameraman at the Altamont Speedway when Mick, Keith, and The Hell's Angels bid a nasty adieu to peace-and-love back in 1969.

Check out 'Tucker'

In other words, Lucas is a filmmaker, and should be allowed to make whatever movies he wants to make, whenever he wants to make them. I mean, geez, don't you think he's earned it by now? They might consider him a mystic genius, but how many "Star Wars" fanatics out there have even bothered to watch "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," the extremely enjoyable picture that Lucas helped produce for Francis Ford Coppola in 1988? It's his work, you know, even if nobody's getting blasted into red-hot molecules by a talking sea bass.

"Tucker" is beautifully directed by Coppola, features a great performance by Jeff Bridges, and the detailed production design is extremely memorable. You can feel the movie's heart beating in each and every frame, quite unlike the sporadically enjoyable "Return of the Jedi," or "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," for that matter. ("Raiders of the Lost Ark" being another successful series that will undoubtedly hound Lucas to his grave.) "Tucker" was incredibly cool, arguably Coppola's best post-"Apocalypse Now" film, but hardly anybody could be bothered to sit through it.

So now you're getting three fewer shots of your baby's love than you've been expecting, and life suddenly has no meaning. Well, you're in luck-- I'm about to give you the lowdown on what was supposed to have happened to our heroes until Lucas finally realized that it doesn't have to happen if he doesn't want it to. (I've made all this up, of course, but somebody's gotta do it now that George has gotten so "lazy".)

Luke, thrown by his father's Humpty Dumpty features when they took off his helmet, takes a hard look around and recognizes the Ewoks to be extremely annoying Teddy Bears. Against the now-alcoholic Princess Leia's wishes (she can't deal with having soulfully kissed her own brother), Luke hires a vicious team of Sakel-Jibby Sand Muffins to slaughter the Ewoks, stuff them, and sell them to inter-galactic tourists at the gift shop of the Grand Maja Pabulum Poo.

This sobers Leia up real quick! In a dramatic scene featuring too much music, she tosses her bottle and secretly sends a reconnaissance 'droid to the far reaches of the Fbjardgagrt Doh! System to enlist the help of Han Solo (now played by Rick Schroder), who has retired from sarcasm and owns a thriving chain of used land-speeder dealerships. (The reconnaissance 'droid, Ooby-dooby-4, by the way, is a new character. Threepio and Artoo finally married in Episode VII: "Buy More Toys," and settled down in San Francisco. They reappear briefly in Episode VIII: "Not Much Happening," during which Artoo has a torrid affair with a vacuum cleaner played by Delta Burke.)

Meanwhile, the Empire, having sold boxes of chocolate-mint cookies throughout the galaxy, has scratched together enough cash to build another Death Star, because that's all they ever seem to do. Luke finally comes to his senses and returns to the ways of The Force when Ben Kenobi (still glowing like a firefly) appears from the great beyond to offer his pupil some prudent advice: "Blow up the Death Star, dummy," he says. "And floss daily."

Han reaches Luke and Leia after picking up the gracelessly aging Chewbacca, who's spent the past 10 years on Foo-Foo 7, receiving numerous hair plugs in his back and upper thighs. Together, they assemble a ragtag alliance of pilots and lucrative action figures who descend on the Death Star in a fightin' mood, guns-a-blazin'.


You get the idea. Now we can all die happy, including Lucas.

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