This is part nine of an ongoing series about why Hollywood and American cinema in general is awful trash.
READ HERE: PART 1-AMAZON AND NETFLIX
READ HERE: PART 2-THE DAYS BEFORE THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST
READ HERE: PART 3-WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN IF NOT FOR JOE MCCARTHY
READ HERE: PART 4-FRENCH FILM
READ HERE: PART 5-SIX QUESTIONS WITH FILM PROFESSOR VINCENT BOHLINGER
READ HERE: PART 6-TINSELTOWN GET GOOD, FOR ABOUT FIFTEEN YEARS
READ HERE: PART 7-WHAT THEY DID TO MARCIA LUCAS, EPISODE 1
READ HERE: PART 8-WHAT THEY DID TO MARCIA LUCAS, EPISODE 2
This past weekend the newest entry in the Star Wars franchise was released. With a total weekend take estimated at $220 million, The Last Jedi is officially the second largest weekend at the box office in history, behind only the $247.9 million pulled in by its 2015 predecessor.
Apparently the film criticism community (sort of a practical joke that reflects the crudest aesthetics of American consumerism and anti-intellectualism) is split pretty drastically. Rotten Tomatoes shows 93% of the professional critics love the movie while only 57% of everyday film-goers thought it was good. That is a profoundly striking ratio to contemplate and, per the banality of American discourse about the arts, it will probably take up significant amounts of copy in the coming days and weeks.
I’m not going to do a review of the film because, among other reasons, I think it is very obvious that such a task is already covered. I’m only going to say that, since I was a little boy, I have been madly obsessed with the series, much to the puzzlement and chagrin of my mother. I know everything about these films intimately and have internalized the material to a degree that borders on fanatic zeal. As such, I can say that this movie was actually pretty amazing and that I am going to see it at least two more times before New Years Eve.
However, I do want to point to something that no other critic will address, namely why it was a good movie. And that is because for the second time in Star Wars history, George Lucas has been totally cut out of the creative process.
Indeed, I would add here that Lucas is a total fraud and an awful storyteller whose success was always based around him sketching out some interesting notions and other talented people shaping those notions into a decent narrative that would have been terrible if left to Lucas’s own devices.
This may be one of the most astounding shell games in contemporary Hollywood, particularly because of the amount of capital Lucas has been able to generate based around his product and name recognition. Let me be more blunt: George Lucas is, at best, a mediocrity disguised as a cinematic Shakespeare. The fact that people like Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and several other silver screen heavyweights play along with this fraud and tell the emperor he is wearing clothes says a lot about how our entertainment industry works.
How bad is Lucas as a storyteller? In 2013, Dark Horse Comics produced an eight-issue miniseries adaptation of his first draft of the original Star Wars screenplay, which was titled, unbelievably, The Star Wars. Here we have a fascinating illustration of what would have been if producer Gary Kurtz, his wife and editor Marcia Lucas, and others in his circle of friends had not interceded and helped him substantially rewrite the story. In the name of full disclosure, it is not pretty.
In the coming days, I will recount the production history of the second two Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The strengths and weaknesses of both films were entirely dependent upon an internal tension within the productions and how much control Lucas was allowed to have.
It has been conventional wisdom for about 35 years that Empire is a classic, a sequel that exceeds its predecessor in the way Godfather Part II went above and beyond the original film. [Editor’s note: I find Godfather Part I far superior, a point upon which A. Stewart and I will just have to agree to disagree. For the record, I am right on this.] Likewise, almost everyone agrees that Jedi is a mess, and loaded to the brim with moments of brilliance among the most obnoxious Muppet crap possible.
I would argue that the best stuff in both films needs to be attributed to the extraordinary talents of Marcia Lucas. For reasons that will be revealed later, Lucas effectively hijacked the project that he, Marcia, and Kurtz had developed between 1975 and 1978, and turned it into a chintzy action figure commercial that became excruciatingly unbearable to behold over the next 20-plus years. It was only after 2012, when Lucas sold the intellectual property to Disney and handed creative control over to his longtime friend Kathleen Kennedy, that basic standards of quality were restored.
The video below, produced by the normally toxic Vox, dissects the infamously awful 1978 Holiday Special and shows just how badly things went when Kurtz and Marcia weren’t involved. Lucas himself was divorced from the effort, but therein lies the rub!
George Lucas was in total control of three more films produced without Kurtz or Marcia, and all of them sucked. In other words, Marcia and Kurtz were responsible for the good Star Wars films and Lucas was not. And that doesn’t even count the ghastly TV movies and cartoon series George authorized in the mid-1980s.
As such, the latest three Star Wars films, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, are effectively makeups. Kathleen Kennedy and her team are rebuilding a story line that Lucas burned to cinders with his ego and his extremely sexist way of processing his divorce from Marcia, some 25 years ago.