Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Tragic and Early Death of George Lucas's Brilliance

Today's post comes from our "Holy Non-Sequitur, Batman!" Department, and is inspired by news that seemed weird as hell. Rumor has it that Kevin Smith will be heading up a new Star Wars T.V. series that will air 2006. I could not possess a more complex set of emotions if G.W. himself personally handed me a $100,000 tax refund. "Huh? Can someone try to explain this to me?" To quote Yoda, "There is no try, only do." I was 15 years old when Star Wars was released, and like so many other people, that film unalterably changed my life. It captured my imagination like no other movie before or since. I've realized since that it is the film's mythos that strikes a very very deep--practically reptilian--part of my brain. There is no other word for it but magic. At risk of sounding cliche', I am less than pleased with what George has done with the Star Wars universe since then. He is the classic example of how a creative mind becomes corrupted by success. But first let me digress by saying that George Lucas is a *really really* nice guy. How do I know this? Because I met him. Not only did I meet him; I got to work with him for several hours. About two lives ago, I was a professional writer for a large, unnamed entertainment conglomerate that is famous for it's mouse. In a stroke of luck, I was sent to spend a day with George Lucas at the Skywalker Ranch to actually co-write the story that would appear on stage. Lucas was involved the story because the main character was one of his creative properties. Don't try to figure it out--this particular stage event was never produced. Anyway, I was very young at the time, and naive as hell. I had fooled the mouse-ear-wearer types that I was credible enough to put in front of Lucas without embarassing The Mouse. Anyway, the goal of the day was for The Mouse and The Lucas to agree on a storyline for this production because up to that point we had been bouncing scripts back and forth with no agreement. Skywalker Ranch was amazing. It is a series of Victorian Style homes nestled around a lake. There was a little "museum" of sorts that had various icons from all of Lucas's movies. C-3PO's hand, the wand from "Willow," something from "American Grafitti" (I think a sweater), and something from Raider's of the Lost Ark. The walls all had original paintings from some of my favorite painters. I recognized Thomas Hart Benton (who is truly under-appreciated among American Artists), Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and other famous illustrators. One cool thing about the doors is that they had laser detection system and would slide open and closed as you drew near. Myself and a few co-workers were sitting in a conference room in eager anticipation when the door slid open. We waited, and looked. Just before it slid closed, George Lucas literally bounded into the room just before the door would have slid closed on him. We all laughed. George had already won. The story session began. George was very affable, but now and then would bestow "Lucasisms" on us. I was the "official writer" so George and I tossed around a few ideas. Please excuse the analogy, but my ego had a major erection. Still, I was mostly in awe of the great man before me, and showed intense respect. Then George "pitched" his idea, and frankly, it totally sucked. "But Mr. Lucas," I said. "We don't even meet our main characters until Act Two of a three act play!" He looked at me, smiling. "I knew someone would say that! Don't worry ... it will work." What can you say to George Lucas when he says that? Should I have said, "No it won't you idiot!"? Negative. I said nothing. I gently tried to solve the problem, but George had employed another tactic that was nothing short of brilliant. He had called the meeting to begin at 8:00 AM. He knew that we would be flying in that morning, so it would have been a very early start for us. There were NO snacks in the meeting room. Not even water. George dragged the story session out so that his pitch actually started at about 10:00. By the time I should have been really fighting back against his bad idea, I was so hungry that the only thought in my head was ... "OK, that should work. Let's eat!" And so that is what I said. And we went to the Skywalker Cafeteria and I ate lunch sitting next to George Lucas. I was petrified that I would spill my root beer on him. And so, George won. And my point is this: he is not a masterful story teller. He is a masterful story seller. What happened is a perfect example of how someone who was brilliant enough to create "American Grafitti" and "Star Wars" stopped scrutinizing himself and started assuming that since he was so successful, his ideas must all be great. Well George, even the goose that lays the golden egg doesn't actually shit golden shit. Jar-Jar Binks alone is proof of this, no? I will be forced to watch Star Wars on T.V. because I still deeply love the mythos of that universe. And now ... enter stage left ... Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith has always been a huge Star Wars fan. And frankly "Clerks" and "Dogma" were both pretty damn good. But let's also remember "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back". Its title is an homage to Lucas, but I would rather hit my big left toe with a hammer than watch THAT again. (Thanks to Gayle for that analogy.) Who knows ... maybe Smith will breathe life into the mythos without creating another Jar Jar or an Ewok. By the way, did any of you realize that E-Wok is Wookie in reverse order, sorta? That's how creative Lucas really is!


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