George Lucas, Not Guilty

Today, on the premiere of ‘The Last Jedi’ – the eighth official episode in the Star Wars saga, creator of Star Wars – Mr. George Lucas – stands trial. He is accused of being a hack.

The prosecution (The internet)
Of the many things that catch blame for ‘ruining’ the Star Wars prequels – Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians, almost every line of dialogue George Lucas wrote for Padme and Anakin – there is one moment that makes almost every fan cringe, no matter how dedicated. We’re talking about Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader, literally the jumping-off point of the entire Star Wars saga.

In this moment, Vader learns that he has lost his wife and unborn children…and has been transformed into, like, a Space Robocop. So, what does he do? He breaks free from his shackles and lets out the now infamous, “NOOOOOOO!” that felt like it had a Kanye-level of autotune to it. It felt ridiculous when it should have been the defining moment of the prequels. What the hell was Lucas thinking?

The defense (Johnny Cochran)

This defense will be short and easy. This is the man who gave us Star Wars after all. The original Star Wars films still form the best trilogy ever created hands down. Even the third part – which is never the best in any series – is in case of Star Wars nearly perfect: ‘Return of the Jedi’ contains some of the best stuff of the series. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013) gave each of the three original films the maximum rating of four stars (read his awesome reviews here, here, and here).

So why is Lucas so hated despite being the man who gave us Darth Vader, Yoda, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker amongst many others? Because he also gave us Jar Jar Binks? Because he writes remarkably terrible love scenes? So what? Didn’t the other great filmmakers of his generation make similar mistakes? Francis Ford Coppola cast his daughter in ‘The Godfather: Part III’ and it nearly ruined the film. Yet, he is never criticized in the way Lucas is.

Statistically, after sunshine comes rain. Lucas gave us the best trilogy ever made, so the prequels were never going to top that. Still, that is no excuse for not making better movies. But are they really so terrible?

Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the worst, most will agree. But look at what it does have: the pod race, Darth Maul (IMDb-poll names him the second greatest SW villain after Vader), and the return of many great characters: Palpatine, Yoda and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor is perfect casting as a young Alec Guinness). There is also fun foreshadowing going on of all that is to come. Finally, the world building is spectacular and unforgettable.

Roger Ebert – who gave ‘The Phantom Menace’ 3,5 stars out of 4 – concluded: “Mostly I was happy to drink in the sights on the screen, in the same spirit that I might enjoy ‘Metropolis’, ‘Forbidden Planet’, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Dark City’ or ‘The Matrix’. The difference is that Lucas’ visuals are more fanciful and his film’s energy level is more cheerful; he doesn’t share the prevailing view that the future is a dark and lonely place.”

Episode II: Attack of the Clones – The greatest weakness is the love story, we can be clear about this. But it would be a shame to let that ruin the whole movie experience, because episode II has a lot going for it. First of all, it has a terrific Raymond Chandler-style mystery plot. Also, there is a great sense of urgency; the battle for the galaxy has now really begun. And the filmmaking in general – the editing, sound, production design, music, etc – are all A-grade. There are few filmmakers with such imagination, and with the ability to bring it to the screen, like Lucas.

As for villains, usually the best thing about a Star Wars-film, I don’t like Jango Fett so much, but Count Dooku – played the uncanny Christopher Lee – is terrific, and so is his lightsaber duel with Yoda. The dark side is really prevailing now and Lucas effectively uses the principles of Eastern Philosophy to craft the story development. People may not like Hayden Christensen, but what is actually accomplished by his performance is that we get an uneasy feeling about Anakin. The air gets thick in the confrontational scenes. Unlike Obi-Wan – who was the perfect Jedi-student in episode I – Anakin is the pupil you always have to worry about. And these foreshadowing shots with Palpatine are grand. His quest to the dark side is thus very well handled.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith  Episode III is a return to the classic space opera style that launched the series, and many agree that Lucas really approaches old trilogy greatness here. In the saga’s darkest chapter, Anakin really journeys to the dark side under the influence of the demonic Palpatine. Aside from the infamous ‘Noooo’-moment, episode III is a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable film with some of the best action sequences in the series.

And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if George Lucas is a hack, then Chewbacca lives on Endor, and therefore you must acquit! The defense rests.

So let us all shut the hell up and enjoy Lucas’ legacy.

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James Bond: 10 Greatest Villains

In anticipation of SPECTRE, FilmDungeon.com editor Jeppe Kleyngeld lists his favourite things about the James Bond series in 12 unique features. Enjoy!

10. Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Films: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Played by: Anthony Dawson, Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, John Hollis, Max von Sydow
Quote: ‘Let his death be a particularly unpleasant and humiliating one’
Ernst Blofeld 2
Ernst Blofeld 1
Why memorable: Ernst Blofeld is the arch villain of the Bond series. As leader (Nr. 1) of SPECTRE, he is cunning and rotten to the core. He appears in seven Bond films and is finally killed by Bond (thrown in factory chimney by helicopter) in the pre-title sequence of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. This is Bond’s revenge for the death of his first and only wife at the hands of Blofeld in AT YOUR MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Blofeld is played by a different actor in almost each of the seven movies he appears in and they all have a slightly different interpretation of the role. My favourite interpretation of Blofeld is the one performed by Donald Pleasence in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (photo).

9. Francisco Scaramanga
Film: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
Played by: Christopher Lee
Quote: ‘My name is Scaramanga. Francisco Scaramanga. I feel I know you, although I never thought we should ever really meet’
Francisco Scaramanga 2
Why memorable: An assassin with a golden gun who charges a million bucks per hit, but he is willing to do James Bond for free. It is all about the challenge for this pistol artist who grew up in a circus. Great portrayal by the dark and handsome Christopher Lee. He makes Scaramanga a truly dangerous and respectable opponent. Bond’s employer MI6 has evaluated Scaramanga as one of the finest shots in the world, and M authorizes Bond to assassinate the KGB-trained gunman – if he can.

8. Kananga
Film: LIVE AND LET DIE
Played by: Yaphet Kotto
Quote: ‘At any cost – any – Bond must die’
Kananga 2
Why memorable: After Blofeld has been the villain for three Bond movies in a row, it was time for something else. Kananga is a power-hungry political baddy with a taste for voodoo and sadism. He is also a drug manufacturer. On his island San Monique he has thousands of acres of poppy (heroin) fields, protected by the Voodoo threat of Kananga’s accomplice Baron Samedi. Then there is Kananga’s alter ego, the New Orleans based Mr. Big, distributer and wholesaler of the product through his chain of Fillet of Soul restaurants. Kananga/Mr. Big is excellently portrayed by character actor Yaphet Kotto as a frustrated, angry, impatient and violent bully. Kananga is named after Ross Kananga, owner of the crocodile farm featured in the movie.

7. Maximilian Largo
Film: THUNDERBALL, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Played by: Adolfo Celi, Klaus Maria Brandauer
Quote: ‘Do you lose as gracefully as you win?’
Maximilian Largo 1
Why memorable: Icy villain that works for SPECTRE as head of its extortion operations, under the organization’s leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Appears in both THUNDERBALL and unofficial remake NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. I am personally more a fan of the second interpretation. Largo’s cover is that he is a well known millionaire and philanthropist. Largo’s two main headquarters are his super-yacht The Flying Saucer and a Moorish castle Palmyra located on the north coast of Africa. He seems very friendly and controlled, but all of a sudden he can get real psychopathic. A very scary acting job by Austrian character actor Klaus Maria Brandauer.

6. Alec Trevelyan
Film: GOLDENEYE
Played by: Sean Bean
Quote: ‘Why can’t you just be a good boy and die?’
Alec Trevelyan 1
Why memorable: Former colleague and friend of Bond who faked his own death and comes back nine years later to extract revenge on Britain for what happened to his parents in the war. This leader of the Janus Crime Syndicate is very angry and hateful making him an interesting antagonist. For James this is the first time he faces a former friend, but naturally he stays true to Britain. Sean Bean is excellent as the vengeful Trevelyan, whose face is scarred due to Bond, making him even more hungry for payback.

5. Elektra King
Film: THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
Played by: Sophie Marceau
Quote: ‘I always had a power over men. Nobody can resist me’
Elektra King 1
Why memorable: THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is the first James Bond movie where the main villain is a woman. This is revealed later in the film when Elektra is already a major love interest for James. She turns out to be pretty cold. She murdered her own father because she felt he hadn’t helped her sufficiently when she was kidnapped. Now she wants revenge on M, who worked together with her father during the kidnapping. Elektra is very sexy, smart, manipulative and above all: deadly. In short, the perfect Bond villain.

4. Max Zorin
Film: A VIEW TO A KILL
Played by: Christopher Walken
Quote: ‘Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius’
Max Zorin 2
Why memorable: A mad evil doctor did experiments on pregnant woman during the Second World War to enhance the intelligence of babies. Most of the women had miscarriages, but Max Zorin is one of the doctor’s success stories. He is extremely intelligent, but the treatment had a side effect: he is utterly psychotic as well. Zorin was trained by and long-affiliated with the KGB. Then he became a successful business man, first in oil, then in microchips. Zorin forms a plan to destroy his only competition in Silicon Valley by triggering a massive earthquake in the San Andreas Fault at high tide, causing the valley to flood. Zorin is completely ruthless and displays a total lack of loyalty towards his own men, as shown when he mows down hundreds of his own mine workers with a machine gun, laughing psychotically while doing it. He even betrays his own right hand woman May Day. Besides killing, he also has a strong passion for horse racing.

3. Karl Stromberg
Film: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
Played by: Curt Jurgens
Quote: ‘Cancel transfer of 20 million dollars. Inform next of kin that a tragic accident has resulted in the deaths of Professor Markovitz and Dr. Bechmann. The funeral was at sea’
Karl Stromberg 1
Why memorable: Shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg is, along with Hugo Drax in the follow-up MOONRAKER, the most ambitious Bond villain and among the most rich and powerful (and crazy). His masterplan is to destroy the world via a nuclear war and create a new civilisation under the sea. He can best be characterised as insane maniac who thinks he is God. Stromberg reclusively lives in his sea station ‘Atlantis’ that has a spectacularly beautiful aquarium that contains several rare species, but also sharks that he uses to feed his disloyal underlings to. Prefers not to shake hands.

2. Franz Sanchez
Film: LICENCE TO KILL
Played by: Robert Davi
Quote: ‘I just want you to know that this is nothing personal. It’s purely business’
Franz Sanchez 1
Why memorable: Robert Davi plays the role of a lifetime as Franz Sanchez, a ruthless druglord who is completely believable in his cruel practices. From the moment he is introduced, he is evil and menacing. His first acts shown to us are whipping his girlfriend for cheating and having her lover’s heart cut out. Soon after, he throws Bond’s best friend Felix Leiter to the sharks. When LICENCE TO KILL came out, newspapers were full of cocaine kings like Sanchez, making him a very current villain at the time.

1. Auric Goldfinger
Film: GOLDFINGER
Played by: Gert Fröbe
Quote: ‘No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!’
Auric Goldfinger 2
Why memorable: Industrial tycoon and criminal mastermind that wants to increase the value of his gold supply (approx. 10 times) by blowing a nuclear bomb in the vault of Fort Knox, making the entire gold supply of the United States radioactive for 60 years. His plan is so ambitious that he must be a lunatic. He is, but still comes pretty close to achieve his operation Grand Slam, killing many people along the way, including the turned Jill Masterson, who is found covered in gold paint. ‘It’s the kiss of death…’. What makes Goldfinger so intriguing – apart from his brilliant name – is his love for gold. ‘All my life, I’ve been in love with its colour, brilliance and divine heaviness.’ He dies by getting sucked out of an airplane cabin through a window that Bond has shot.

Read also:

Top 10 Gadgets
James Bond: Top 10 Gadgets

The James Bond Films Rated From Worst To Best (24-11)
The James Bond Films Rated From Worst To Best (24-11)

The James Bond Films Rated From Worst To Best (Top 10)
The James Bond Films Rated From Worst To Best (Top 10)