It’s Time To Forgive George Lucas


There’s a documentary making the pre-release and festival-circuit rounds now called “The People vs. George Lucas.” No, really. Check it out.

I haven’t seen it. For the purposes of this piece, I don’t need to. Because I’m not here to talk about it, but the circumstances that led to its existence: My “people,” my generation of “my people” in particular, and something I think the lot of us are overdue to hear:

Guys… This has gone far enough. It’s time for us to forgive George Lucas.

Except that “forgive” isn’t the right term (though it makes for a catchy title, yes?) for the type of moving on we’re due for. “Forgive” implies that some horrible wrong has been committed, and that we – movie fans, Star Wars fans, geeks of a certain age – are in the position to be magnanimous about letting it slide.

Before I go any further, let’s lay it out there: I am a confirmed apostate of all the same Lucas output that everyone else has been railing against for over a decade now. The Star Wars Prequels are awful films, top to bottom. The Special Editions are an artistic disgrace, and Lucas’ recurring fixation on erasing the original versions of those films from record is – morally, anyway – an act of criminality against culture, art and cinema history akin to burning original Shakespeare manuscripts. Jar-Jar Binks. Jake Lloyd. Greedo shooting first. Midichlorians. Romantic sand talk, redundant link to Red Letter Media’s “Phantom Menace review, blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc.

And yeah, since this has all been going on since about 1999 or so, I’m sure if you dig through the Googles deep enough you’ll probably find me having joined in on the “Lucas raped my childhood” stuff at one point or another. Yes. Fine. Guilty. And I’m certainly not here to suggest that the SEs/Prequels ought be reevaluated. They’ve been evaluated plenty. They suck.

And I’m also not looking to help Lucas gloss over what seems to be the pretty grim trajectory of his own legacy. As it stands now, Lucas has easily supplanted his friend and mentor Francis Ford Coppola as the “Movie Brat” generation’s ultimate cautionary tale of a fiercely-independent artist who half-stumbles into mainstream mega-success and then can’t cope with it. His general behavior suggests a growing love/hate relationship with his own creations and fans (to say nothing of his own being) as though George Lucas, college-age tech-tinkerer and indie-auteur had shut his eyes just for moment, but when he opened them found himself as George Lucas, 50 year-old toy/videogame/cartoon billionaire held in regard chiefly for a film that had re-energized and rescued the very blockbuster studio system he’d always railed against. The last movie he’d directed. Two decades ago.

But for Rao’s sake, guys… some perspective has to be in order, at this point. It’s gotten ridiculous.

C.S. Lewis, in describing his gradual personal transition from staunch atheist to Christian philosopher (and author of the Narnia books) described his period of unbelief as a state of being “angry with God for not existing.” Lately, I’m thinking that’s a decent descriptive for the peculiar ire my generation of geeks and Star Wars fans in particular have developed toward Lucas. In terms of what the franchise was before and after, the 1999 release of The Phantom Menace was akin to The Pope – or maybe even a messiah Himself – appearing before a congregation with a thunderous declaration of “Just kidding!”

Something that was “supposed” (or, maybe, simply hoped) to return us if only for a moment to what had been defining moments of our youth instead became a public renunciation of cinematic divinity. “The Holy Trilogy” – always assumed to be all-but perfect, all-but fail-proof – was finally just another series of movies, as capable of producing a dud as any other. “God,” for lack of a better word, was dead, and we were mad at him for revealing that such a thing was possible.

What the hell were we supposed to do now?

Recommended Videos

For a lot of us, the answer was relatively simple: grouse about it for a year or so, then go see Fellowship of the Ring and realize that life does, in fact, go on. But for others, going on wasn’t an option. Hating George Lucas – it goes well beyond simply dismissing the prequels at this point – has become a full-time obsession for a sizable contingent that seizes upon each new affront perpetrated by the man as though they were gathering evidence for an indictment. “George Lucas raped my childhood” has become a meme used to satirize fanboy overreaction, but it started out as a real thing and the sentiment has only gotten worse the more it’s been codified.

And all of that, of course, is absent the fact that bizarre sense of “entitlement” among a lot of these folks is bordering on a kind of pathology. I hate to break it to you, but no matter how much Star Wars stuff you’ve bought and/or loved over the years, but George Lucas doesn’t owe you anything. At all.

Enough is enough.

The Special Editions are a debacle, and cinema history will judge Lucas harshly for their existence, but if Greedo shooting first “ruined your life” then your life was in a pretty sorry place to begin with. The Prequels are quite awful in their own right, but if they’ve really ruined your ability to enjoy the originals that’s mostly on you. More importantly, whatever “wrongs” Lucas has committed lately simply don’t stack up as tremendously noteworthy compared to the remarkable “rights” of his overall career.

Look around you at the state of film – genre film, in particular – from the 80s onward. Look at the blockbuster market of right now. Look at the abundance of film technology, the quality of effects, the advances in sound and projection. It all exists, largely, because of George Lucas.

I don’t have to list what he’s done. Most of you already know, and if not, the information is more than readily accessible. Technology he invented and championed allowed for huge innovations in the films of others. He helped Steven Spielberg become Steven Spielberg, and between the two of them they fostered and aided dozens of other young filmmakers to bright futures. Industrial Light & Magic exists today because he needed it to, while doing effects work for Lucas productions kept Jim Henson’s various enterprises chugging through a lot of uncertain times. Hell, in the broadest sense possible, can you imagine any of the scifi/fantasy properties of the 80s and 90s ever existing without the dual influence of Star Wars and Indiana Jones on the popular culture?

Beyond that, let’s certainly not forget his establishment of LucasArts and all that that brought to the gaming world. Monkey Island, anyone? Full Throttle? Grim Fandango? Sam & Max? SCUMM itself? Where would we be without them, and where would they be without him?

Outside of film, TV and game work, there’s been very little negative to say of the man: By all accounts a loving father to three adopted children, a mentor and friend to countless established and up-and-coming filmmakers and other professionals, a generous donor to a litany of charitable causes – including Edutopia, aka “The George Lucas Educational Foundation.”

At the end of the day, Lucas has made far too many invaluable contributions to the art and technology of filmmaking, and is by all accounts too solid of a guy, to be hated over a late-period run of substandard movies.

Yes, even if he is guilty of Jar-Jar Binks.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

related content
Read Article About the Amazing Spider-Man, I Told You So
Read Article Historical Blindness?
Read Article Fantastic?
Related Content
Read Article About the Amazing Spider-Man, I Told You So
Read Article Historical Blindness?
Read Article Fantastic?
Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.