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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The Emperor was a Chimp

As every Star Wars fan knows, creator George Lucas, has made quite a lot of changes to his beloved film series (“if it aint broke, Lucas can still fix it”). Some of these are absolutely hated like Hayden Christensen appearing at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’ or that god awful musical number also in Jedi, but a few changes were deemed justified by the fans.

Check out this list: 10 Star Wars Changes That Were Completely Justified

One of the altered scenes has helped to restore continuity to the original trilogy. I am speaking about the scene in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in which Darth Vader talks to a hologram of the Emperor. This is the first time the Emperor appears in the series, but in the original version, the character was not played by Ian McDiarmid who does portray him in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and the prequel trilogy.

The original version of the scene had the emperor played by a hooded old woman with superimposed chimpanzee eyes. That’s right, he was played by a chimp basically. Check out the original scene:

For the 2004 DVD release, the scene with Darth Vader and the emperor was altered with Ian McDiarmid now playing the emperor, as he does in the rest of the series. I kind of liked the voice done by Clive Revill in the original, but his looks were a little odd to say the least. Good to have the amazing McDiarmid in this scene; definitely a justified change.

There is also some new dialogue in the updated scene:

Darth Vader: What is thy bidding my master?
Emperor: There is a great disturbance in the force.
Darth Vader: I have felt it.
Emperor: We have a new enemy. The young rebel who destroyed the death star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.
Darth Vader: How is that possible?
Emperor: Search your feelings Lord Vader, you will know it to be true. He could destroy us.
Darth Vader: He’s just a boy. Obi-wan can no longer help him.
Emperor: The force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
Darth Vader: If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.
Emperor: Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Darth Vader: He will join us or die, my master.

Without ruining the surprise that Vader is Luke’s father, they still mention the relationship between Anakin and Luke. It would be strange if they didn’t.

In short, nice job mr. Lucas. A compliment is in order for this one.