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.

Mijn Top 20 favoriete filmmakers

1. Martin Scorsese
Verantwoordelijk voor mijn favoriete film aller tijden: GoodFellas. Maar maakte talloze andere meesterwerken; Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Casino, en vele anderen. Scorsese is een echte maestro die nooit teleur stelt.
Beste film: GoodFellas

2. Sergio Leone
Leefde te kort om een enorm portfolio na te laten, maar alles wat hij gedaan heeft is te gek. The Dollars Trilogy met Eastwood zijn de coolste films ooit en Once Upon a Time in America is een geniaal gangster epos.
Beste film: Once Upon a Time in the West

3. Quentin Tarantino
Maakt originele & uber coole films die hij baseert op onbekende pareltjes. Zijn meesterwerk is nog altijd Pulp Fiction, maar Reservoir Dogs en Kill Bill zijn bijna net zo briljant. Maakt nooit iets ondermaats.
Beste film: Pulp Fiction

4. Peter Jackson
Wist de onmogelijke missie om The Lord of the Rings te verfilmen tot een onvoorstelbaar succes te maken. Was daarvoor al een geweldig regisseur die Nieuw-Zeelandse splatter horror films maakte zoals Bad Taste en Braindead.
Beste film: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

5.
The Coen Brothers
Hun oog voor bizarre personages is hyper ontwikkeld, hun humor onovertroffen en hun pen vlijmscherp. Ze maken om de twee jaar een te gekke film al zo’n 25 jaar lang, met hun hoogtepunt in de jaren 90 toen ze achtereenvolgens Fargo, The Big Lebowski en O Brother, Where Art Thou? maakte.
Beste film: Miller’s Crossing

6. Stanley Kubrick
De perfectionist. Leverde meesterwerken af die voor altijd verankerd zijn in de filmgeschiedenis. Wist uit te blinken in verschillende genres waaronder sci-fi (2001: A Space Odyssey), oorlog (Full Metal Jacket) en misdaad (The Killing)
Beste film: A Clockwork Orange

7. Steven Spielberg
Objectief de beste regisseur ter wereld. Weet de magie van film te pakken als geen ander. Heeft talloze klassiekers op zijn staan waaronder E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List en Jurassic Park.
Beste film: Raiders of the Lost Ark

8.
Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock weet van een kartonnen doos nog tot een super spannend voorwerp te maken. Ze noemen hem niet voor niets de Master of Suspense. Is waarschijnlijk de meest invloedrijke regisseur ooit. Talloze scènes uit zijn oeuvre staan voor altijd op mijn netvlies gebrand.
Beste film: Rear Window

9. Sam Raimi
Maakte de hoogst vermakelijke Spider Man films, maar waar hij zichzelf wat mij betreft mee onsterfelijk heeft gemaakt is de Evil Dead trilogie. Heerlijke films. Maakte met The Quick and the Dead ook een fantastische western.
Beste film: Evil Dead II

10. Francis Ford Coppola
Hey, hij regisseerde The Godfather trilogie, hoe ga ik hem niet in mijn Top 10 zetten? Was ook verantwoordelijk voor de beste oorlogsfilm aller tijden met Apocalyse Now. Fenomenaal.
Beste film: The Godfather

Daarna volgen:
11. George Lucas (Beste Film: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope)
12. James Cameron (Beste Film: Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
13. Danny Boyle (Beste Film: Trainspotting)
14. Brian De Palma (Beste Film: The Untouchables)
15. Akira Kurosawa (Beste Film: Throne of Blood)
16. Paul Verhoeven (Beste Film: RoboCop)
17. Robert Zemeckis (Beste Film: Back to the Future Part II)
18. Richard Linklater (Beste Film: Dazed and Confused)
19. Robert Rodriquez (Beste Film: Sin City)
20. Jim Jarmusch (Beste Film: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai)