Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Does George Lucas Owe Anybody Anything?

I realize there has been a lot of angst out there over first the "new trilogy" and now this Clone Wars movie. For example, Joe Neumaier at the Daily News writes:

"Just keep in mind that when some of us saw the Death Star explode that first time, it already was in 3-D, It blasted off the screen, into our heads and lodged in our movie memories like a permanent scene in an Oscar night movie montage. We don't need 3-D AT-ATs and forest cruisers that jump off the screen. We just want you to stop. Create something new."

Moriarty at Aint It Cool News is a bit more emphatic:

"I am sorry that I ever spend the time and energy I did on STAR WARS, Mr. Lucas. I am sorry that I poured my money and, before that, my parents’ money into your pockets. I’m sorry that after decades of being a fan, even when there was no new STAR WARS to satisfy that craving, I somehow made your life so unbearable simply by sharing my enthusiasm for that world with our readership."

That last quote was in regards to an enforced embargo on Clone Wars reviews that got an early(and quite negative) review of the film pulled from the website.

But does George Lucas owe anybody -- fans or otherwise -- the Star Wars film they want to see?

If Lucas wants to turn this franchise into fodder for Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, isn't that his right?

Or between Creator and passionate fans of the Creation, is there some unstated interdependence, a bond?

Does George Lucas owe anybody anything?


  1. The short answer is "no" Lucas doesn't owe us anything. If he wants to turn everything on its' head he can, it's his creation.

    In my opinion the bottom line for fans was the quality of the project. We all wanted a great story, a Greek tragedy with characters that we could care whether they fell from grace or not. What we got was crap. He had a golden opportunity here and he failed and I don't think we will ever forgive him for it.

  2. Does Lucas owe the fans the movie they want? No. Star Wars is Lucas' baby, and while I might not agree with every thing he's done with Star Wars, I have absolutely no right to demand he make his movies the way I want him to, and neither does anybody else.

    So you don't like what Lucas does with his own toys? Luckily Lucas has allowed others to play in his toybox. There have been dozens of novels, hundreds of comic books, and numerous computer games. Not to mention all those toys. There's even the Star Wars Fan Film Awards.

    (If the internet was around when the Droids and Ewoks cartoons were on, I wonder if they would have had this level of bitching The Clone Wars has seen.)

  3. Shor answer. Nope.

    Them's just movies. I'ts not like Lucas is sitting at a computer digitally transfering cells to 3D himself or animating scenes for the cartoons or designing video games or putting little toys into packages. He's the creator and owner of a big company. They have products. The market them. They sell them. They make money. The employees get pay checks and hopefully have fun at their jobs working with Lucas's creations.

  4. The relationship between a creator and an audience should be purely lateral.

    George Lucas is free to do whatever he likes with the franchise, and any individual potential viewer is free to say, "Don't like it, don't want it." Owing, in either direction, doesn't come into it.

  5. It's an interesting phenomenon of our current culture, isn't it? This sense of ownership fandom feels for for the pop it consumes. David Chase closes The Sopranos with the same sort of moral and narrative ambiguity that informed the whole series, and he gets vilified by those who felt it inadequate closure. George Lucas continues tinkering with his grandiose space saga (admittedly with efforts increasingly devoid of artistic merit) and all those out there with self-selected Jedi names and a touch of the Wookie language in their personal vocabulary act as if he took one of their family members into the back alley in some wretched hive of scum and villainy and beat them mercilessly with an ossified Ewok plush doll. There seems to be a growing population of fans who take their greatest pleasure in detesting the fictional worlds they claim to revere.

    That Moriarty thing is a little different, though. That's just infantile egotism.

  6. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Honestly, I was more annoyed by the Neumaier thing than the Moriarty one. Moriarty's been wrestling with Lucasfilm for awhile, and his attack wasn't just because of the kerfuffle about Attack of the Clones.

    To answer your question, Lucas doesn't owe anyone anything. He doesn't owe new movies, or to have the new movies even tie into the old ones.

    Hell, he could even make a new movie where Yoda turns gay and takes up with this new Capote the Hutt.

    It's his material. He created it.

    And I think people are being too idealistic when it comes to this. People say, "This belongs to the fans! Stop ruining it for us!"

    You don't own it. You don't even rent it. If it bothers you, don't watch it. But other people will. A lot of them.

  7. Anonymous4:08 PM

    When you compare Lucas' success to the sad story of Superman's "parents", I think it's wonderful we live in age that risk-taking and the ability to keep financial ownership over your own creative property are (1) even an option and (2) can hit the jackpot once in a while. The guy's movies are absolutely terrible but he is the ultimate independent filmmaker. So I think he should be respected for that.

  8. At the very least, George Lucas owes people the right to put negative reviews on the Internet.

  9. No, he doesn't owe anyone anything. Conversely, we don't ower him anything, either. I have a nice DVD set of the OT in my collection, and for me that's basically all their is to the story. The prequels and expanded universe stuff has diminished his original vision considerably in my mind, but I just try to savor the stuff I like and ignore the rest.

    It's like a tree falling in the wilderness. If I never see the Clone Wars movie, did it ever really happen? Based on the reviews I've been seeing, I sure hope not.

  10. My wife and I get into arguments when I call Star Wars "Star Wars" and not "A New Hope"... she's just to young to understand.

  11. Will is correct on this one-- Lucas doesn't owe us anything, but we don't owe him anything, either. You know? FORGET this cartoon movie. Farting Huttbabies & Lil' Jedis & everything. I know what a Jedi is, I don't need him trying to tell me about mitochondria or whatever.

  12. This gets trotted out in the Trek community, too. But no, neither Lucas nor Paramount/CBS owe anything to the fans. If we don't like what they do, then we shouldn't watch it or buy it. I quit paying attention to the Star Wars movies after Episode I. I have a feeling the Star Trek universe will be written off next June. . .

    And, no, Star Wars will never be Episode 4.

  13. "Not acting all entitled" does not equal "never complain." Saying that you hate something or that something sucks does not in anyway equal telling him how to make his movies.
    The degree to which the complaining somehow equals fans saying they are "owed" anything has been massively overstated.
    I think some people like to combine the whole "artists should be free to follow their visions" with "business is business" and fetishize them to the point that complaint and dislike are distorted into interference.

  14. I'll tell you who Lucas owes. He owes it to himself not to take his image as an artist and squander it on crap. Star Wars (ep 4) is a daring piece of cinema. It asks the viewer to watch and completely accept a world of unbelievable fantasy. Now why not use that power and influence to keep producing new stuff? If he can't come up with it on his own, then why not help someone who's coming up and has their own ideas and just needs someone to take a chance on them?
    It's like when Ted Turner came under fire for colorizing movies. His response was, "Last I checked, those are my movies." That's garbage when you're talking about mass media. You wouldn't buy the Mona Lisa, paint a mustache on it (or finish the background), and then try to sell it to someone else as a superior product, would you?

  15. Nope, he doesn't owe us a damn thing. He gave me a lot of joy when I was a kid, and I'm grateful for that. If he wants to make movies for today's kids, that's fine; I'm not a parent, so I just won't go to see 'em. His movies stopped thrilling me, so I stopped going after Phantom Menace.

    Not a problem; it just leaves me more time for the good stuff.

  16. Nope; not a thing.

    BTW, the "colorization=altered Mona Lisa" analogy doesn't quite work. Even in his arrogance, Turner didn't destroy the original films to create his colorized versions; they're still out there for our viewing pleasure (a fact which pleases me immensely.)

  17. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Doesn't it get a little tricky when you consider that were it not for the fans that bought the tickets and the merchandise, we wouldn't even be talking about the new Star Wars film because the only Star Wars film would have released in theatres in 1977?

    I would tend to agree, overall, though, that George Lucas doesn't really owe anything to anybody but himself. That said, as the "consumer" I DO reserve the right to call foul if the product is, well, shit.

    Basically, my main problem with Lucas and Lucasfilm is two-fold -

    1.) I wish George Lucas would stop tampering with Star Wars. Yes, I'm a fan of director's cuts and all of that, but by the fourth edit of Empire, it starts to get a little tired. At some point you HAVE to let the work stand on its own and let it be.

    2.) If you're going to allow someone to review your product - in this case, your latest theatrical release - prior to it's release, you as an individual or a company need to be willing to accept the possibility that said reviewer will hate it. The fact that Lucasfilm insisted that AiCN's review come down while I saw a number of other, more positive reviews stay up is simply ludicrous.


  18. I take the same approach here that I advocate with comics - fans don't have the inherent right to dictate what sees print, but they can determine what goes into their own personal canon. Plenty of Star Wars fans disavow the prequel films and spin-offs, just like comics readers should learn to pick and choose which runs they accept and which they don't - it's pretty easy to say "Chuck Austen's Uncanny X-Men never happened, Ed Brubaker's did" (or vice-versa, if you're so inclined).

  19. Agree with Mark...It's his right to make crap. And it's our right to reject it.

    Lucas doesn't owe us anything. And I don't need to pay attention to him anymore, either.

    I'll never see a movie with his name associated with it-- Star Wars, Indiana Jones-- whatever. He's literally made them so stupid and inane that I can't waste any time with him. I'm too old and too busy.

    Lucas is like Paul McCartney in my mind-- both created some of the best pop culture of all time. But now they are old, lazy and rich. And they want to be richer.

    I'm done helping them with that last part.

  20. This is quite a dilemma... choosing between the obvious freedom a creator really MUST have with the worlds and characters he creates and the crowd demands that the path he/she leads those worlds down be what the crowd wants and expects.

    I think ANY good creator needs to reconize how important fans are to ongoing success of a franchise and be willing to alter or adjust to keep those fans somewhat happy, but I also believe that the creator's own insistance that the worlds follow his/her desinated path no matter how anyone else feels about is a creator's right and even obligation.

    When it comes to Star Wars, I'm not nearly as outraged as many other about how things have been handled over the years. It's been obvious to me that Lucas did NOT had as much planned out as we were led to believe back in the 1980s. Besides contridictions and seemingly changes in facts, timelines and events, things just feel different than we were led to beleive in the 80s when we heard about all the backstory.

    The problem is, that we... as fans... feel that we OWN the aforementioned worlds and characters because of how much they touched us and meant to us as we were growing up. However, we tend to forget that the person who actually gave those worlds and characters life really should know their own creations better than us.

    I remember when Thomas Harris' fourth novel HANNIBAL came out and there was an outrage about the ending (the novel, not the hollywood ending the movie put on it) and what happened with Clarise Starling. Peopole screamed about how Starling would never have acted a certain way or made the decisions she did or allow her to be lead in the direction that Lector led her in.

    I remember thinking to myself "So after just one novel and perhaps spending a couple of hours with a character, the readers feel they know her better than the man who spent YEARS with her in writing and creating her?"

    That's the problem... we all think we know better than the person who was the creator.

    Lucas did a lousy job with a lot of the Star Wars mythos. I totally agree.

    However, if HE is satisfied with how things turned out... maybe we should be willing to accept the fact that things went in the direction that we meant to be.. in the creator's mind.

    Not an easy thing to do, that's for sure.

  21. Gotta admit, though, The Force Unleashed looks like 31 flavors of awesome.

    And how can you not love those Lego games?

    Frankly, we don't need the movies to enjoy Star Wars anymore.

  22. Of course he doesn't owe anyone anything. As someone else said, he's the ultimate independent filmmaker, regardless of the artistic merit of his films.

    Like few others, though, I actually enjoyed the prequels. Not as much as the originals, but quite a bit. Phantom Menace had its bad points (Jar Jar, 'Yippee', quite a few others) but it also gave us Darth Maul so I can't totally hate it.

    And I'll probably see and enjoy Clone Wars regardless of reviews and commentators. I kind of like to make my own mind up.

  23. If you put the question that way, then no, he doesn't owe me anything. But I have not seen the new movie or the other animated series.

    But when I think about the legion of fans this franchise has? They sacrifice a lot (money, waiting in lines, devoted costume prep) for the love of Star Wars.

    He does owe them something. What that is as far as Star Wars goes is another discussion.

  24. Hey... if you didn't complain about Jaxxon, then you can't complain about anything else. (And I don't care if you weren't around then, you should have done your research before you became initiated. Hello? Christmas Special? Geez...)

    That said, go read the current issue of Wired, where they profile Lucas' continuity cop.

  25. George Lucas owes me nothing. He changed the shape of my brain when I was 6 years old. I'd say that earned him a bit of credit.

    I liked Clone Wars, in much the same way I enjoy poorly translated anime. The dialog is hilariously terrible, but there's lightsabers and spaceships and guys in armor fighting robots.

    And my 7-year-old loved it, which is really what mattered to me. I want fiction to change the shape of her brain the way it changed the shape of mine.

  26. I will say this, the Star Wars fans remind me of the Stephen King story Misery. In that story the crazy Annie Wilkes believes that Misery is a real character and that the author destroyed his original creation. The idea King is illustrating is that some fans are so over their idolization that they believe that the author is slave to the audience and no longer a free creative person. If it was only about oney as some crazy fans think, then Lucas would of written exactly what fans wanted. Going in he knew it was not going to be as popular- check old interviews- people told him not to do it...but he followed his passion. He fllowd it just like he did when he created the original film and everyone thought he was crazy. No one wanted to make the film. I say He Mr. Lucas ows us nothing. We need to be respectful of artist even if we do not like what they do. I for one am sooo great he did not rehash the old formula of the original series but wanted to try something different. Why would he bother to make 3 more films and 10 years of his life if he were to redo what he already did? I love the episode 1 to 3 for being bold, more political(wars are about politics) and still make it fun in a sheaksperian tradgy. Bravo Lucas.

  27. I don't think he owes anyone anything. Except maybe his employees their paychecks. But yeah, like several people have already written, we don't owe him anything either.

    It's like Star Wars has become a religion or something. So many people seem to want it to be more than it is. Like it's something that's So Damned Important. There are plenty of better movies that don't have cults of millions.

    And hey, if you liked the original trilogy you can still like those flicks. Just bypass all the books and comics and new trilogies and cartoons as if they don't exist. Don't act as if something inferior's being foisted upon you because you can choose not to have anything to do with it. It's not like you have to become an apostate or alienate your whole family by suddenly converting to Buddhism or going atheist on them.

    Although I do wish his movies didn't suck. I'd much rather see something good than not see dreck.

  28. Anonymous9:29 AM

    George Lucas profits from one of the most common actions currently - that of people to go see something even though they know it's going to be bad just so they can complain about it. As long as he can take advantage of that, then people hand over their rights as an audience.

  29. I think efforts to censor negative criticism simply on the basis that it is negative criticism are wrong, and it is wrong to give in to them.

    Artists/creators owe their fans and the consumers of their products nothing at all. Artists/creators don't even owe them a good product. Their are lots of controls and consequences related to putting out bad products. Those things will happen.

    Fans sacrifice nothing. What a fan does is their choice. It isn't a courageous or heroic thing to blow all your money on comics and movies and toys and and and...(as I do). It is how you choose to spend your money and time.

    There is a great benefit generally for artists and creators who respect and appreciate their fans. Creating a loyal or rabid fanbase rarely hurts. There is something to be said for being revered as a fan favorite, etc.

    The artist/creator chooses how they want to go, and we choose how we want to receive it. Making a thousand bad Star Wars related movies/products will never diminish the impact the original has had on countless fans and our culture and the craft of movie making, etc. (it is possible that messing with the finished product may diminish it it the eyes of many, but that is just another choice made, and not necessarily an attack on the fan base).

    Loving someone or something in no way obligates them to anything.

    I think the posts suggesting that a creator is betraying his fans on a personal level, and the idea that a great work is forever harmed by a bad follow up project is a bit off base. I don't get the venom with which people seem to attack things, however... Their negative criticism, even if it is just a temper tantrum or a cry for attention is still something they have a right to have and communicate. It is also our right to disagree and respond, etc.

    Bullying people to stifle criticism is wrong.

  30. Unfortunately no he doesn't. But the man isn't following any artistic vision anymore, nor is it about money. He just wants to fiddle with something. He's a fat lazy bastard and he has very little to do. I also suspect he resents the fans, he probably feels bitter that the fans have defined his creation for themselves and have greeted his efforts over the past few years with such derision. I think it's within the realms of possibility that The Clone Wars was made this bad with that in mind, perhaps to win over a new audience whilst simultaneously alienating the critical fan even further. He's smart enough to know these completists will hand over their cash anyway.

    I'm that Star Wars fanboy type that people like to mock. I don't care, I love that world plain and simple. When I saw Clone Wars I was depressed for days. Now I've decided to adopt a selective approach to the canon and ignore The Clone Wars completely, it's the only way to still enjoy this universe that I've spent too much time in to just say goodbye. Lucas doesn't owe me anything, and there's nothing I need from him. The Star Wars universe that's in my head is still enchanting, it's still my escape from reality, and that's all that matters.