George Lucas: One (mega) hit wonder?

It’s a phrase out of the music industry:  one-hit wonders.  Those bands that come out of nowhere, hit the top of the charts with a catchy – maybe even impressive – single, or have one chart-topping album, and then never seem to be able to hit that sweet spot again.  Anybody remember Boston’s second album?  Another hit single after “96 Tears” from Jay and the Mysterians?

But they’re not alone.  There’s not an area of entertainment where the phenomenon doesn’t exist.  Rod Serling never topped The Twilight Zone, and Chris Carter never came up with another series as good as The X Files.  Fitzgerald wrote a lot of impressive stuff, but never matched The Great Gatsby, and drank himself to death over it (well, Zelda being crazy didn’t help).  Michael Cimino copped an Oscar for The Deer Hunter (1978), and then began a long, spectacular flameout.

It happens.  And maybe it’s time to finally recognize George Lucas as a member of that club.

Early last year, I’d written a compare-and-contrast piece on Steven Spielberg and Lucas (“Titans:  George Lucas v. Steven Spielberg” posted 1/17/11).  I acknowledged that, of the two, Lucas probably has had the greater impact on the movie industry.  Hell, Lucas has probably had the greatest impact on the industry since Griffith!

The success of the first Star Wars trilogy created the template for the big-budget blockbuster franchise which expands and cross-pollinates its brand across a host of platforms, from TV to videogames to merchandising.  Star Wars moved Hollywood from the movie business into the brand name event business.  All of those monster hits which dominated the 2011 box office – from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to Transformers:  Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides – owe more to Lucas than to Spielberg (or anybody else for that matter).  For good or for ill, love it or hate it, in the 35 years since Star Wars opened, mainstream Hollywood has largely remade itself in Lucas’ image.

And there may be no other single person since Melies for whom the expansion of film technology owes so much as well.  From the original Star Wars on, Lucas has been a fearless pioneer in pushing back the physical limits of filmmaking.  Not only do the kinds of movies that dominate the marketplace owe something to Lucas, but so do the way they look and sound.  It might be an oversimplification to say it, but it’s not hard to make a case that movies are the way they are because of George Lucas.

Successful, influential, powerful, no doubt, and in many ways brilliant and a pioneer, but as last weekend’s release of Red Tails  highlights, as a creative force – as a filmmaker – George Lucas has also been a disappointment.  He may not quite be a true one-hit wonder…but he’s damned close.

*****

Lucas has had other hits.  Arguably, his best movie – certainly his most human movie — is the one whose success bought him the license to make Star Wars (1977); American Graffiti (1973).  Stung by the failure of his first feature, the visually striking but emotionally aloof and dramatically opaque sci fier TXH 1138 (1971), Lucas took mentor Francis Ford Coppola’s advice to try something more mainstream-friendly, and came up with Graffiti.  A bittersweet, warm-hearted salute to his own early 60s youth, Graffiti is easily one of the best coming of age films in the American canon.  It was also an enormous commercial hit and kicked off a ‘50s nostalgia craze that went on for years.

Lucas is also responsible for the ginormously successful Indiana Jones franchise.  Though Lucas friend Steven Spielberg helmed all four of the IJ films, and other writers penned the screenplays, Spielberg has always been open about saying (most recently in a lengthy interview in Entertainment Weekly) that the series is Lucas’ baby, and that he directs to Lucas’ vision.

Still, say “George Lucas” and the title that comes to mind — in big, bold letters, no less — is Star Wars.  It’s the franchise which launched the Lucas empire, and it’s still the realm’s cornerstone and main product.  For decades, he’s kept the franchise alive by recycling the movies through one big screen/home video release after another, in almost every possible configuration:  boxed sets, new added features, re-doing the special effects on the original trilogy, etc.  The film franchise has been the launch pad for toys, pricey collectibles, TV spin-offs (Cartoon Network’s animated Star Wars:  The Clone Wars; Star Wars:  Underworld currently in pre-production), and any number of videogames, like Lego Star Wars:  The Complete Saga, and Star Wars:  The Old Republic, released late last year and proving the brand to still be unflaggingly vital six years after the last Star Wars feature hit big screens.  Go into Lucas IMDB directing, writing, and producing credits, and once you take Star Wars-related projects out of the mix, the pickin’s get mighty thin.  Take out Indiana Jones, and you could make a case that Lucas is a borderline failure.

His producer’s portfolio outside of those two cash-cow franchises is a hodge-podge of art house ambition (Mishima:  A Life in Four Chapters [1985], Powaqqatsi [1988]) and utter misfires (Radioland Murders [1994], Willow [1988], Labyrinth [1986], Howard the Duck [1986]).  You can count the number of non-Star Wars/Indiana Jones feature successes on one hand – and still have fingers left over (neo-noir Body Heat [1981]; import Kagemusha [1980]; sugary animated feature The Land Before Time [1988]).

The knock on Lucas – as both a producer and a writer/director – goes back to the beginning of his career and even includes his biggest successes.  He’s either been dismissive of the human element in his films, and/or considers it secondary to the visual possibilities, and has been quoted as saying, “actors are irrelevant.”  Even on his most flesh-and-blood feature – American Graffiti – Lucas left direction of the actors to his dialogue coach, and on Star Wars the cast joked his idea of directing was simply to say, “Faster and more intense!”

After Star Wars, Lucas threw his DGA card away, but came back after 21 years to direct the franchise’s second trilogy.  After the childlike exuberance of Star Wars, Star Wars:  Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) – despite being box office monsters – were emotionally disappointing.  The application of CGI technology was awe-inspiring, but the heart of the films, well, it’s like the old Gertrude Stein line about Oakland:  “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

And sadly, Red Tails fits all-too-well into the Lucas canon.

*****

Twenty-three years ago, an aviator friend of Lucas’ told him the story of the Tuskegee Airmen; an all-black Air Corps unit fighting in the segregated military during WW II.  Their feats of valor were legendary in quality, but criminally ignored for decades.  Telling their story became a passion project for Lucas, and when he could find no studio backer for Red Tails, he cracked open his own checkbook and forked out $58 million for the production, and another $35 million for marketing.

If only the end product matched his obviously heartfelt commitment.  Reviews have been almost unanimously negative and in agreement.  Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post used words similar to so many of the major appraisals when he wrote, “The African American fliers’ great achievement merits a great movie.  Red Tails isn’t it.”

In many ways, Red Tails is typical Lucas.  Unsurprisingly, the man who exhilarated the first generation of fanboys with the outer space dogfights of Star Wars provides an aerial spectacle second to none thanks to CGI.  As he recently told Charlie Rose, “…this is one of the first films where we actually were able to create the dogfight the way it really would be, and get you right into the seat and get you right into the action…”

But on the ground, the film has all the grace of a concrete ping-pong ball.  Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman caught the critical consensus in his review writing, “As long as it stays in the air, Red Tails…is a compelling sky-war pageant of a movie.  On the ground, it’s a far shakier experience:  dutiful and prosaic, with thinly scripted episodes that don’t add up to a satisfying story.”  The film’s Rotten Tomatoes rating is an abysmal 33% positives among all critics; just 25% among major reviewers.

You would expect more after 23 years of development.  On the other hand, as The Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty pointed out in his write-up, “How many scriptwriters’ hands has this project passed through?  How many drafts have been written, rewritten, thrown out, resurrected and then thrown out all over again?…whatever the original inspiration was, it’s been lost under layers, like a house’s once-nice, now painted-over paneling.”

Ironically, Red Tails was released the same week as another airwar epic, the Blu-ray refurbishment of the silent 1927 WW I classic – and first Best Picture Oscar-winner – Wings, and looks even more dramatically anemic in comparisonWhereas Red Tails deflates every time it hits the ground, William Wellman’s 85-year-old flicker still packs an emotional punch.  According to one DVD reviewer, “Wings has it all – romance, drama, humor, action.  And what action.”  Even the dogfight scenes have a dramatic heft missing from the admittedly spectacular combat sequences in Red Tails, because in Wellman’s movie, they were about as close to being real as possible without using live ammo.  No CGI, no green screen:  that’s actually stars Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen at the controls of their biplanes, putting their aircraft through such violent maneuvers that Rogers – who learned to fly for the film – sometimes vomited as soon as he climbed out of his plane.  In the end, what comes through in Wings, even after eighty-odd years, is what’s missing not only in Red Tails, but so many Lucas projects:   fleshed-out, three-dimensional human drama.

Red Tails is Lucas’ first big screen project outside of his two big-dollar franchises since the 1994 flop Radioland Murders, but he’s long been taking flak for his faulty storytelling even within his signature work.  His last three Star Wars installments were all rapped for what seemed an obsession with creating alien civilizations, grand-scale action sequences, and even entire characters through the magic of CGI, but a consistent inability to make us care about any of it.  Even the last IJ installment – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) — was considered a let-down, an emotionally hollow exercise after the rich storytelling of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Every filmmaker has his bad day, but Lucas has had an awful lot of them, and usually for the same reasons.  And it may be that even his fanboy base is growing tired of his constant re-tweaking/recycling of the six Star Wars films that are the fuel rods for the whole Lucas enterprise.  Last year’s Blu-ray release of the original trilogy included changes die-hard fans furiously claimed changed entire relationships and meanings in the films.

Lucas, who has always tended to be a bit prickly over criticism, reacted by essentially saying he was taking his marbles and going home.  “Why would I make any more (Star Wars movies) when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” he told The New York Times, and then went on to make noises about backing away from the business.

But Lucas has said that before.  He said it when he gave up directing after the first Star Wars.  He has also several times said – as he told Charlie Rose recently while promoting Red Tails – “…there’s the intellectual side of me that wants to do more experimental films which I haven’t done since I did my first film, THX, and my student films.  And I – that’s now where I’m going is to try to get back to that.”

Yet Harrison Ford told MTV News late last year that a fifth Indiana Jones is “on George’s plate,” and there’s TV series Star Wars:  Underworld in development.

The financial maintenance of Lucas’ vast empire requires this kind of constant franchise stoking.  One of Lucas’ problems is he may very well be trapped by what’s needed to keep Lucas Inc. going.

But another truth may sit out in plain sight in THX 1138.  It’s a hypnotic piece, unlike anything Lucas has made since.  The antiseptically white-on-white visuals and a plot and characters only hinted at, suggested more than stated, offer a cold experience for the viewer.  Lucas was, even as a student at UCLA – and remains – a technological virtuoso. But for all of his effects skill, for all his command of the medium, Lucas hasn’t been able to get that most basic requirement of memorable moviemaking onscreen since the first Star Wars thirty-odd years ago:  heart.

- Bill Mesce

By Bill Mesce

Bill Mesce, Jr. is a produced screenwriter and playwright, and a published author of fiction and nonfiction, including Overkill: The Rise and Fall of Thriller Cinema. He spent 27 years with pay-TV giant Home Box Office, and now teaches at several universities in his native New Jersey.

View all Posts

Visit Website

Share This Post

Google1DeliciousDiggStumbleuponRedditRSSTumblrPinterest

Back

22 Responses to George Lucas: One (mega) hit wonder?

  1. Blackguard October 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    This article reminds me of a scene from Life of Brian:

    Reg: All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?

    Xerxes: Brought peace!

    Reg: What!? Oh… (scornfully) Peace, yes… shut up!

    Reply
  2. Bob February 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I disagree with some of your assertions here. First, Rod Serling was no one-hit wonder. “Patterns”, “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, the 1968 adaptation of “Planet of the Apes” are all great, and he wrote all of them. He was also a much better writer than George Lucas.

    Secondly, while I agree that Lucas has had a great impact on the industry, I’d offer several names that have undeniably had a greater impact on film…some of them even on Lucas himself.

    Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” remains the most influential science fiction film since “Metropolis”, and without “2001”, Lucas never could’ve directed “Star Wars”.

    Akira Kurosawa directed several films- most notably “Seven Samurai”, that have had a significant impact on filmmaking. Name me one modern action film that does not take influence from Kurosawa. Lucas has repeatedly stated that Kurosawa was a huge influence on him.

    Orson Welles has influenced every director of the last 70 years with “Citizen Kane”. Along with Kubrick, he was also the first major Hollywood director, in the sound era, to promote the idea of the director as an artist who should make his own films without constant studio hassling.

    How about Frank Capra? Watch “It Happened One Night” again. Every romantic comedy film since then has taken from that…be it “Annie Hall” or “When Harry Met Sally…” or “Sleepless in Seattle”.

    Let’s not forget to mention Fritz Lang. Two of his films have to rank among the most influential. “Metropolis” is obviously his most influential, with its futuristic landscape influencing virtually every science fiction film since, from “Blade Runner” to the 1989 adaptation of “Batman”. Even Lucas’s C-3PO design is a blatant steal from the Robot Maria design here. His 1931 “M” inspired virtually every serial killer film that came after it. If Lang had never directed “M”, Hitchcock never would’ve directed “Psycho”, Jonathan Demme never would’ve directed “The Silence of the Lambs”, etc.

    I’d also disagree with your assessment of “American Graffiti”. It’s mediocre, inoffensive, and bland, which he spun off into the schlocky “Happy Days” five months later. I’d actually say that “THX 1138” is his best film. It’s a great science fiction film, and it clearly shows talent and potential for the young Lucas. It’s intelligent, literate, and provocative, and it cleary shows a director with a vision. He could’ve been a great director, but then he sold out with his third-rate “Flash Gordon” rip-off, “Star Wars”.

    The truth is that Lucas simply does not care about art or integrity. He only cares about money. “American Graffiti” and “Star Wars” were ALL about money. He once told an interviewer that he knows “Star Wars” is a bad film, but it’s not his fault that the public’s stupid. He just exploits it for financial gain. Barnum is back!

    Reply
  3. Bugs February 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Excellent article. Not sure “one hit wonder” adequately describes what Lucas. As your article says, he redefined Hollywood success. “One hit wonder” implies someone who creates a big hit and then more or less disappears into mediocrity and obscurity. It doesn’t quite fit someone who creates a big hit and then makes it last (and pay) for decades afterward through spinoffs and merchandising. Like Hannibal Lecter, “there isn’t a word for what he is.”

    I do agree completely with your assessment of his creative talents. He has a brilliant imagination, he’s a visual filmmaker, he’s a master of filmmaking technology. Unfortunately, he is no scriptwriter. He can do plot, but people are just not his thing.

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce February 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      Bugs –

      That Hannibal Lecter remark? Wish I’d thought of that. That really captures the he-is-and-he-isn’t nature of what I was trying to present. Nice one.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Daily Call Sheet: Redbox Defies Warners, Seinfeld Returns, ‘Hugo’ Hits DVD …

  5. Jason January 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    If you look at the history of Empire Strikes Back, it was essentially confiscated from Lucas by its makers. Irvin Kershner (the director) focused a lot on character and shot the scenes rather meticulously; Lucas wanted him to hurry up, but Gary Kurtz (Lucas’ producer) backed Kersh to the hilt. Lucas would have been happy with just a fast-paced adventure that was thin on plot; but Kasdan (the writer), Kershner and Kurtz (the three Ks!) really made it the masterpiece that it was. By the time Return of the Jedi came along, Lucas basically got a surrogate (Marquand) to direct and rumor has it Lucas directed much of it himself. Even looking at Star Wars, Lucas had a LOT of people critique his script, and the limitations of the budget and technology forced him to make it the way it was.

    I think the problem with Lucas’ work is that he works better when filtered, when people can comment on his ideas. Indiana Jones was Lucas plus Spielberg and whoever wrote the screenplay (Kasdan, Boam, etc). In Indy and the Last Crusade, it was Spielberg who suggested bringing in Indy’s father when he felt the Grail plot wouldn’t be exciting enough. The Star Wars prequels, however, were pretty much all Lucas. That means there was no one to warn him against Anakin’s infamous “I don’t like sand” lines…

    Finally, I can’t agree Willow and Labryinth were utter misfires, and I wouldn’t put them in the same company as Radioland Murders. They weren’t box office successes, but both enjoyed a pretty good afterlife on video. Willow is fondly remembered for Warwick Davis’ performance, even if the movie is a bit derivative of Lord of the Rings, and Labryinth became a cult classic and is generally more remembered for Jim Henson and David Bowie’s performance than Lucas. Radioland Murders…who even remembers what that was about?

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce January 31, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      Jason & Muldfield:

      Lotta good points, very interesting to read. Didn’t know all of that about EMPIRE, and let’s not forget the contributions of screenwriter Leigh Brackett who did the initial work before she passed away.
      To both of you I concede the point that, qualitatively, a lot of people I mentioned in the piece did do other respectable work. I was, however, defining “success” in the rather narrow, crass framework of financial/ratings success. Why? Because, unfortunately, it’s that kind of success that allows you to continue working; it’s what pays your way. For good or for ill, that kind of success is the currency of the industry.
      Again, I did enjoy what you contributed to the discussion. Some cool stuff in there, thanks.

      Reply
  6. Muldfeld January 31, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Thanks for answering.

    Actually, if you look at the DVD special features for Season 2 it explains how Chris Carter barely had any involvement at all and that Fox handed the show over to Morgan and Wong, who then ruined it; the only episode to hold true to the Season 1 vision was by Michael Perry, whom Carter had hired to preserve that vision to some extent. Carter actually says in a Millennium DVD special features interview surely done in 2004 or 2005 that he still hadn’t seen all of Season 2 and had no idea how it had gotten to the the point at which Wong and Morgan left it.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed Season 1 and that we then both agree that Mr. Carter was not a one hit wonder because he did a whole season of a totally different show. I guess you perhaps meant hit in a ratings sense? I was thinking creatively. Who the hell needs the kind of success achieved by J.J. Abrams or Michael Bay? Yuck.

    Reply
  7. Richard January 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Uh…..96 Tears was sung by Question Mark and the Mysterians (actually, ? and the Mysterians). At least when you’re making a point, LOOK UP YOUR INFORMATION. You’re confusing that group with Jay and the Americans, who did have multiple hits.

    And Rod Serling is a terrible example. After Twilight Zone, he produced the impressive Night Gallery, then died young.

    Reply
  8. Brian January 28, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Okay, I’m not going to talk about Lucas, I take issue with the Rod Serling comment. I know that you only meant to make a point and Serling was just an example, however, after Twilight Zone he wrote the screenplay for Planet of the Apes. And he won three Emmy Awards before he even created The Twilight Zone for Patterns in 1956, for Requiem for a Heavyweight in 1957 and The Comedian in 1958. He was very famous before The Twilight Zone.

    I get your point, but Rod Serling is a bad example.

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce January 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      True. Serling got THE TWILIGHT ZONE based on the track record he’d built up prior, but he never hit that peak again. His script on PLANET/APES was vastly rewritten (although SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is his work and is a terrific political drama), NIGHT GALLERY did ok for NBC but he had no creative control over the series and even he knew it was a poor man’s TWILIGHT ZONE.
      I couldn’t find any recognizable names that were purely according-to-Webster one-hit wonders and that left me reeeallly stretching the meaning of the phrase. More often, they tend to work up to a crystallizing success a la Serling (or couple of successes) and then work down from it. Selznick stayed in business a long time after GONE WITH THE WIND but he never came close to matching it. Sturges spent almost a decade building up to THE MAGNIFICENT 7 and THE GREAT ESCAPE and then — though he managed to keep making movies, some quite entertaining — seemed to lose his mojo.
      Lucas did hit gold more than once, but let’s face it, he’s MR. STAR WARS. Ironically, as we speak, he’s begun another cycle of re-releases, this time in 3-D, because, evidently, there are infinite ways to skin that cat.
      But it’s a good observation, Brian, and thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  9. Muldfeld January 28, 2012 at 5:25 am

    You’re dead wrong about Chris Carter having never come up with a series as good as “The X-Files”. Although Fox dumbed it down in later seasons, forcing all sorts of compromises, I challenge you to watch “Millennium Season 1″ and not be awed by the quality of writing as well as the very different themes from “The X-Files”; at least we have that one great season that’s as good as any of “The X-Files”.

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce January 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      Personally, Muldfeld, I LOVED Millennium, particularly the first season. But the show struggled to find an audience and the word was Fox only gave Carter a second season because they felt they owed him a shot at turning the series around ratings-wise after the hit he’d given them with X-FILES, but the show never found much audience love (sadly, I thought).

      Reply
  10. Staindslaved January 28, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Solid essay about Lucas’s faults and flaws as a film-maker. Unfortunately after reading it I must agree with several other posters that Lucas in not a one-hit wonder, even though I’d certainly like to regard him as one. Even if you take out Indiana Jones (which is fair because he only produced them) he did direct American Graffiti. It was a critical and commercial success and that alone takes him off the one-hit wonders list. However his ineptitude in all other elements of film-making other than F/X has become very clear over the past 2-3 decades and I do not regard him as a great film-maker but a guy who simply found the golden ticket and has been living off it his entire life.

    Reply
  11. Pete January 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Take out the relativity theory and the hidrogen bomb, and you could make a case that Einstein was a borderline failure. I understand what you’re saying, but such a stupid statement can break an entire article.

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce January 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      True, if you want to equate the thinking behind quantum physics with entertainment careers.
      I don’t think I said anything all that revolutionary other than that I said it about one of the most phenomenally successful (financially) figures in the movie business.
      Speaking in only the most general terms, I think you’ll find the value of any artist in any creative field is established by their ability to continue to both extend and expand their oeuvre which is a fancy-ass way of saying they continue to do new things. For instance, Scorsese this late in his career doing something as different from so much of his work as HUGO.
      A lot of moderately talented people are capable of turning out one — or even several — brilliant works without really having a brilliant career. Peter Bogdonavich, William Friedkin, Bob Rafelson were all directors with shockingly brief peaks raising the questions did they just get lucky? Or was it just the right combination of elements? Or were they like Harper Lee (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) in that they had just so many brilliant stories to tell?
      Ten years from now, we may be having this discussion about Peter Jackson. The LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was brilliant, and THE HOBBIT may prove to be so as well. But KING KONG and THE LOVELY BONES didn’t show the same shine.
      Look, understanding what’s being said about a faulty foundation in my argument, look at it as a cascade: If there’d been no original STAR WARS, or it had flopped, there’d have been no sequels, and then no brand name franchise meaning no platform for the whole network of spin-offs, merchandising, etc.
      Catch me at just the right moment and saying just the right thing, even I can come off as being smart…which, as is obvious from the response to this piece, isn’t necessarily true.

      Reply
  12. Al Simmons January 26, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Got to agree, what has made the spin-offs succesful is that Lucas has had his input limited to more of an artistic director. That is possibily why the Clone Wars animated series are superior to the films they’ve sprung from!
    Yes keep going george but leave the directing and writing to other people who know what they’re doing, hopefully then there will be no more Jar-jar or Haden involved!

    Reply
  13. Bill Thompson January 26, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I happen to dislike Lucas for some very specific reasons but the premise of your article is unsound and you undermine your own premise numerous times. Think of the mans talents what you will but in terms of financial hits the numbers speak for themselves, he can’t come close to being grouped in the one hit wonder category, your article does a good job of making that case.

    When at least 12 of the feature films he’s been involved with, two TV series, and countless video game productions have been big financial hits you can’t say, “well, remove this mega hit and then remove this mega hit for this arbitrary reason, and then this mega hit for another arbitrary reason and you’re left with a man who has a less than stellar record of producing hits. What you’re doing is the same as saying, “Listen, I know you all love Fincher, but if you remove this film, and that film, and that film, and only look at Fight Club it’s clear that we need to start thinking of the guy as a one hit wonder.” To be honest I expect more from this site than an article with as unsound of a premise as this one.

    Reply
    • Bill Mesce January 26, 2012 at 11:46 am

      I see your point, Bill, and the problem here may be I defined my terms poorly.
      Let’s take your example of Fincher. Fincher is not a franchise director. Each of his films has been a stand-alone endeavor. I think you’re spot on re: what you said on this point.
      But that’s not the case with Lucas. His career stands not on individual films, but on two, tremendously lucrative franchises. I can see where that looks like I’m cherry-picking to make a point, but I was hoping the underlying point would still come through. I didn’t deny Lucas’ ability to turn out money-makers. The guy’s a brilliant businessman, a terrific conceptualist, and a fearless technological pioneer. My issue was that he hasn’t made very many dramatically strong movies.
      From what I’ve found — and people who do their own digging are free to disagree — what’s considered to be the most dramatically substantive of the STAR WARS sextet is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, a movie Lucas did not direct, and — though he laid out the story — for which he did not do the screenplay. And even with the INDIANA JONES films, I’d argue that while they are Lucas’ brainchild, the actual storytelling may owe more to Spielberg’s being at the helm than to the operating plan behind the movies.
      I apologize for the muddle, can see where you’re coming from. Maybe this clears it up, maybe it doesn’t. In either case, thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  14. Danny January 26, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Very interesting article, a varied perspective. Note to self, If I made 4 billion basically off of one well two franchises, Indy and Star Wars, I would be rather pleased with that.

    Reply
  15. Justine January 26, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Great read, as always.

    Reply
  16. Pete January 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Lucas went to USC

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back