I remember my excitement, way back when I was in high school, when I found out they were making more Star Wars movies. Those were difficult times to be a Star Wars fan, in that long stretch of time after Return of the Jedi and before The Phantom Menace. It was a long, dry season. I had the original trilogy on VHS. I played X-Wing and Tie Fighter on the PC. I built the Millennium Falcon model kit that I ordered via snail mail directly from the Lucasarts company store, located in the back pages of the Lucasarts Adventurer magazine. I read the paperback novels. But still, the pickings were slim.
Then one day, I found out that George Lucas was going to be making a new trilogy.
For you youngsters out there, I suppose I should explain that at the time, George Lucas was a god. The Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones were, quite literally, my childhood. The greatest science fiction and fantasy movies ever made, all brought to us by one man: George Motherfucking Lucas. In addition to that, his game company, Lucasarts, were putting out some of the best games of the era. X-Wing. Tie Fighter. Dark Forces. Full Throttle. Day of the Tentacle. Sam and Max. And if that wasn’t enough, his special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, was a part of some of the best movies of the eighties and nineties. The man could do no wrong.
And so, when we all heard about the Star Wars prequels… well, I don’t think excitement really covers it. It was something closer to messianic fervor. The prophet has returned!
We waited for years, soaking up every bit of new information, poring over every new production still, marvelling at the new trailers. Ewan McGregor? Liam Neeson? Natalie Portman? Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson? We waited in line on opening day…
…and the movie was kind of a mess.
I mean, it was bad. It was more deeply bad, in more ways, than I care to explain. And I don’t have to, because the mad geniuses over at Red Letter Media made this series of Star Wars reviews that explains it better than I ever could. And they’re hilarious, and everyone should watch them.
I watched these reviews dozens of times, because they were just as obsessed as I with the question: What happened? How could something so good go so wrong?
And then Indiana Jones 4 happened. And I knew it had all been a lie.
The disappointment I felt, we all felt, was…it was more than disappointment. It was betrayal. It was the awareness that God makes bad things happen to good people. The discovery that Santa Claus isn’t real. The realization that The Wizard of Oz is just a man behind a curtain.
I suppose, at some point, all of our childhood idols must fall. But I have to admit I took it personally. I was angry at the man, at him personally, for ruining this thing that was such a big part of my life. That the originals were so good, and the prequels so bad, it made him a fake. A phony. A con-man.
In some weird way, the Red Letter Media Star Wars reviews helped me heal. To put it all in perspective. Those reviews were the anger stage of my grief, they helped me work through it so I could move on. Some of it was just time and maturity. But at some point, I realized that anger is a curved blade. The bitterness I was holding onto wasn’t serving me. I was only hurting myself. George Lucas is only a man. A flawed man like the rest of us.
As someone who now writes fiction, I understand just as well as anybody that sometimes you set out to create something great, and it doesn’t turn out that great. And sometimes you’re so blinded by your love for your creation that you just can’t see it. I’d imagine it doesn’t help to have millions of fans convincing you that you can excrete gold coins.
Did George Lucas fall into the classic Hollywood trap, believing his own hype, surrounding himself with yes men, avoiding those that might give him an honest critique, instead listening those who fawned at his boots? Probably. Did he try to do it all himself, as befits the genius prophet that we all convinced him that he had to be, rather than engaging in the creative collaboration that movies require? Yeah, it certainly looks that way. But maybe it all happened because he was trapped in the cage we created for him.
And let’s not forget, the man created Star Wars. And for that, I’m willing to forgive a lot.
And so to you, George Lucas, I’d like to apologize. I was angry. I was hurt. I thought some bad thoughts. I dwelt on it more than I probably should have. I said a lot of hurtful things about you, both in person and online. But I’m sorry. A few bad movies don’t justify any of that.
George Lucas, I would like to sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart, for bringing Star Wars into existence, for creating the universe that brought me so much joy and entertainment over the years. Thank you for letting me play in your sandbox. I know, this marvellous universe being your baby, you must care about it more deeply than I, and I’m sure that your limitations as a father to that baby hurt you more than they ever hurt me. In light of Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, I would like to thank you for having the dignity and the wisdom to let your baby go out into the world.
Thank you for Star Wars. Thank you for Indiana Jones.
Thank you for my childhood.
5 thoughts on “Star Wars prequels, betrayal, and the power of forgiveness”
I was actually thinking about this a while ago, after seeing the latest installment (which was pretty good, I might add). It occurred to me that when everyone went out to see the original Star Wars movies in the 70s, they were teenagers, and the movies were made for them. Two decades later those teenagers have kids whom they (rightfully) want to introduce to Star Wars. Except those kids are like 6. So the movie people say, “ok, let’s add kid stuff.” Then all of the 30-something former teenagers are like, “what the hell did you do to my teenager-oriented movie franchise, you assholes?” So I thought, maybe if everyone just waited until their kids turn 13, THEN showed them Star Wars. Because then the movie people will have to make the movies more cool and less, uh, Binks, right? Like that will ever happen.
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I agree, that was one of the many problems. But it wasn’t just a kid’s movie, it was an adult’s movie that they tried to shoehorn kid-appeal into. If the prequels were truly geared towards children, I think they should have rewritten the script to NOT include Anakin’s mother being tortured to death by sand people and the plucky child protagonist from the first movie growing up and MURDERING AN ENTIRE SCHOOL FULL OF CHILDREN. It’s all made more frustrating by the fact that there are plenty of kid’s movies that skilfully take on heavy subject matter and manage to have broad audience appeal. Anything Pixar has ever done, for example.
And yes, the new one was pretty good.
I loved the original trilogy, cannot abide the new ones. The magic just isn’t there. Another example of the entertainment industry way too eager to pump out trilogies, reboots, prequels etc.
I thought The Force Awakens was at least a competent, enjoyable film, but you’re right, not like the originals. I’m not sure if the magic is gone, or if I’ve just had my heart broken too many times to ever really love again. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see new stories being told in the Star Wars Universe. I feel that Disney, in their own monstrous, corporate money-zombie way, have been good stewards of the Marvel universe. Hopefully they can continue to do the same with Star Wars.
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