You’re A Blockhead, George Lucas

Oh, man.

So I saw the TV ad for Clone Wars, and…whuzzat? Huh? Am I actually supposed to want to see this? Am I actually supposed to care? This is like the Star Wars ad version of McCain in the supermarket aisle, I just want to put my hands over my face while I figure out whether to laugh or cry. Or do both at the same time.

How could this have happened?

I know I’ve said it before, that it seems impossible for the same Lucas and Spielberg who made Raiders, to have made Temple Of Doom. It just doesn’t make sense: scratch half a millimeter beneath the surface and it becomes painfully obvious that the second movie has almost nothing in common with the first, in fact misses every mark that the first one hit, and by a mile. So what did they think they were doing? How could they have made such an awful series of mistakes? My own theory, reluctantly developed, is that they never understood what they were making with Raiders in the first place: they liked the adventure-serial trappings most of all, in other words they liked the bullshit…they thought it was supposed to be Lash LaRue, not Casablanca. The Casablanca thing was something they just fell into — just some unconscious theft, that seemed like it was on purpose at the time.

Temple Of Doom they made their way. And it stank.

Then with Last Crusade, they were probably (at last!) forced to concede that what we all thought made Raiders great, really was what made it great.

But that’s just my theory. A friend of mine has another:

He says, maybe they just don’t deserve their creative reputations at all.

He may be right: think of how the plot-problem to be solved in Return Of The Jedi was just about <i>exactly</i> the same one as had to be solved in Star Wars…and then think about me laughing my head off during Phantom Menace when I realized, with giddy punch-drunk glee, that the same well had been gone back to once again.

And now Clone Wars, which I have zero interest in seeing, like really zero — I mean, my God, who cares about any of that stuff, at this point? But I could see that Clone Wars exists, and never feel particularly moved to type anything about it, except for one thing.

And for those of you who haven’t seen the ad, I am not even joking: one character tells another character that they’ve “got to find a way to turn off the shield-generator!

To which I say: really, George Lucas?

Really?

Again?

Seriously?

Is this what’s supposed to make me want to go out and see the movie, that there’s some kind of need to turn off the shield-generator? Can you really think of nothing else that might pique my interest, than that? Do you even realize how many shield-generators I’ve seen turned off, because of you? Boy, warfare in the Star Wars universe is really the simplest damn thing in the world, isn’t it? You get yourself a shield-generator. You station a couple of stormtroopers next to it, just enough to bring the IQ level in the room up to fifty. Then you pray the Jedi don’t show up. Damn, they showed up! Oh well, back to the drawing board…

These people are clearly not what you would call the sharpest spoons in the drawer. They do not seem to have many ideas. They do not seem particularly good at drawing adequate conclusions based on their experiences. Maybe, like their creator? There are things that Lucas and Spielberg and all their ilk do, and have done, extraordinarily well — and I will be addressing this in a near-future post — but giving me a break does not seem to be one of these things. But why oh why won’t you give me a break, George Lucas? What is this shit with the goddamn shield-generators anyway, what’s up with that, what does your shrink say about it, for Christ’s sake what is wrong with you?! No, I am not going to watch any more Jedis shut down any more shields or blow up any more battle-stations, I’m just not, why should I? The filmic universe that I found so tantalizing, suggestive, expressive, open, and free back in 1977 (I am beginning to suspect) was created mostly by your inability to make it your way from the beginning, and now that you can make it your way it seems you’re making it a lot smaller and more boring with every kick at the can you take. Or, should that be “with every kick at the football”? And who’s supposed to be taking those kicks, anyway?

Me?

No.

“We’ve got to find a way to turn off that shield-generator!” Indeed we do, George. So we can get into your house and steal your notebooks, and stop you from shovelling shit on what was, in all honesty, one of the imaginative treasures of my childhood.

But man, the imagination’s looking in pretty short supply now!

Yeesh. Totally ridiculous.

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7 responses to “You’re A Blockhead, George Lucas

  1. What do you expect from a guy who read Joseph Campbell and took his “Hero With a Thousand Faces” twaddle seriously? The man came to believe his own press about “modern mythology.” Ye gods.

    “Myth, like dream, is an unconscious process, something scores of fantasy writers and Hollywood producers haven’t learned. If you start by consciously trying to create myth, you end by creating Jar Jar Binks.”
    –Steven Grant, “Master of the Obvious” online column, September 29, 1999

    “Star Wars” was fun because it ripped off a half-dozen amusing genres and threw them in a blender. The rest weren’t as good because they were more and more Spaaaaace Opera. Change a few names, and “Attack of the Clones” could be a Flash Gordon movie, straight up. Problem is, Flash Gordon movies were terrible.

    It took me a while to believe that “The Clone Wars” was a theatrical movie. I kept figuring it to be a new XBox game. Alas, it’s both.

  2. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

    What attracted me most about Star Wars then, I think, was probably how much was left unsaid about its world. That is interesting, to see that it has some internal and pseudohistorical logic of its own, and yet to be stuck looking at that logic from “Everyman”‘s point of view. Cartoonish “droids” who think and feel, mysterious Dark Lords pushing people around to no immediately apparent reason, the subtle weapons of the lost Jedi…whoever they were. The space-mollusks everybody flies around in, the cemetary planet staffed by mechanical Japanese ghosts, attacked by rusty dragonflies and waterbugs…

    All so wonderful. Seriously, what the fuck was that, where did all that come from? Say what you will about Joseph Campbell, but Lucas made magic from him.

    And actually, I quite like Joseph Campbell. I like Carl Jung, too. But I studied a lot of these things in school, they’re just other people’s ideas, they’re useful, one doesn’t have to agree with them, they’re stimulating, they’re fun, they’re just colours on the palette. Campbell’s not to blame for post-SW storytellers becoming so slavishly and indiscriminately worshipful of somebody else’s misappropriation of his ideas, anymore than Thomas Kuhn is responsible for that idiot Tom Peters’ aggressive misunderstanding of what a “paradigm shift” is. The Hero’s Journey isn’t supposed to be a manifesto, it’s supposed to be an analysis. But whatever it was supposed to be, Star Wars is still good.

    And then right from the thrice-accursed “Ice Planet Hoth”, it starts to go downhill. And by the way I hated that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, I thought that was an unbelievable letdown, a closing-off, a deflation of this wonderful souffle of a universe. Flash Gordon movies were terrible — damn straight. And so, barring Yoda and the asteroid field and the exciting flight from the Star Destroyer and the recurring joke about hyperspace, was Empire Strikes Back. Heresy! But it’s true: those were the only good parts, and the rest was kinda crap.

    Ooooh, I’m cranky today. I have a bit of grit in my eye that I can’t get out, that’s why.

    So: Clone Wars, both a theatrical release and an Xbox game in one. But then what should we expect from a guy whose idea of managing his great work is “so then they fight an even BIGGER Death Star, yeah that’s even COOLER! Also I need to retroactively erase the contribution of set designers and model-makers from my work, as if this progressively more calorie-free shit just sprung right from my forehead, like a retarded Athene.”

    Excuse me, must go wash my eyes.

  3. Good point about Kuhn and Peters, but Campbell actively lent himself to the aggrandizement of Lucas…which, funnily enough, served to burnish his own reputation and introduced him to a whole new generation of spiritual window-shoppers ready to embrace him as a real-life Yoda. So yeah, he kinda is to blame for all that happening in his name.

    I can’t entirely agree with Harvey or Steven Grant, however. After all, a fellow named Kirby decided to tell some stories about “modern mythology” and called it exactly that while he was doing it, and managed pretty damn well in my estimation. It’s not the ambition that’s the problem. It’s that Jack Kirby had a boundless imagination that glowed with energy, as well as years of practice in his chosen medium to give him a thorough understanding of how to tell good stories, whereas George Lucas has some natural talent for the visual but is a clumsy and awkward writer at best.

    If you’ll pardon the shameless auto-promotion, I wrote out my best thoughts on the Star Wars phenomenon in the comments section of this post and I’d like to just post that link rather than copying and pasting the whole thing there. Apologies and thanks in advance for your kind indulgence.

  4. I liked the Clone Wars cartoon serial the Samurai Jack guy did a few years ago. Don’t really know why Lucas needs to go to that well again … other than what seems to be a serious case of OCD.

    As far as the original trilogy goes, I’m probably the only person in the world who liked Return Of The Jedi. The fight with Luke, Darth and the Emperor could have come straight from a Marvel comic, and even the Ewoks kicked some serious Empire butt.

    But, yeah, I always liked Fourth World better than Star Wars too.

  5. You know what, I’ve talked about Star Wars til I’m blue in the face. But really, in my heart, I love Alien. Alien (and Aliens) affected me more than Star Wars ever did.

    Oh, and the first Star Wars is nothing but a remake of Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress with some cut scenes from Triumph of the Will spliced in. And McQuarrie making the whole thing look nice.

  6. Sorry if this comes out all jumbly, but my brain is mush today.

    While I have NEVER been any kind of Star Wars fan… or at least, not a fan of the MOVIES (I did love the Han Solo Trilogy books, way back when), even back in 1977 when I first saw “Episode 4” and they made reference to the “Clone Wars”, I understood that it could be an extraordinary film, and couldn’t wait to see it.

    Well… 30 years later, after a “prequilogy” of horrid films (I couldn’t even sit through all of Episode 1 or 2 – and don’t think I bothered with 3) as well as, what I feel were lame movies in “Strikes Back” (I SWORE to my friends way back then that there was no way that they’d try to pull off the hackneyed-even-then “villain is hero’s father” b.s.) & “Return of the Jedi” (ewoks? really?), I find that this cartoon version of CLONE WARS is far too little, far too late.

    Your McCain comment falls in the same category.
    I would have voted for him 4 or 8 years ago, but now?
    Too much bad fiction.

    How can you care about the “Hero” of the piece when you KNOW what he is (or will become) down the road?
    How is he even viable?

    Sure, a good writer can use that dark, tragic, inevitable future as a hook, with tantalizing foreshadowing to produce a masterpiece.
    But, I’m pretty sure we all know THAT’s not the case here.

    Oh, hey!
    The commercial is on the tube right now.
    Look away.
    Look away.

    ~P~
    PTOR

  7. Yeah, and today I flicked across the Clone Wars TV show, and…

    Oh man, it’s just almost too ridiculous to even say…

    I flicked by, just as a tiny holographic Obi-Wan told Anakin he had to…gulp…”sneak inside that battle-station and blow it up.”

    No foolin’!

    Jesus Christ, talk about your bankrupt imagination…

    You know what the problem with the Star Wars universe is? It’s boring.

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