Just Say No To George Lucas (Episode II)

Hey, super fans, check out Mr. Plinkett’s reviews of Star Wars and Star Trek at Red Letter Media. Then send him death threats.

It’s tempting to leave the brilliant Mr. Plinkett Star Wars prequel reviews to suffice for this post. I think they should be used in film classes everywhere. Red Letter Media’s brilliant look at what went wrong with the franchise is without equal and perfectly nails everything wrong with three installments that scarred memories and almost derailed a franchise.

The critiques are raunchy and in terrible taste but they are also funny as hell and exquisite. See all of them HERE

There are multiple parts for each film, but every single one of them is worth it. Watching the Plinkett critiques was far more entertaining than watching the actual films.

To someone who’s under the age of  20 and says his his least favorite film in the series is the Empire Strikes Back because “it was the most boringest one,” can I suggest you shut this review off right now before I carefully explain how much of a fucking idiot you are.  — Mr. Plinkett, Episode One Review

Speaking of fucking idiots, since my Part One post on George Lucas, a FOX News contributor received death threats from super fans: http://uproxx.com/movies/2015/11/fox-news-death-threats-over-star-wars/

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Reaction to my original post last week yielded tweets like “Better be careful of upset fans, Watch out for flaming tweets.”  The stereotypical “fan” often claims to be bullied. Their answer to anyone who disagrees with them or “pokes fun” is to bully and threaten back behind the safety of online anonymity. Sounds like these fans who preach about virtue, justice and freedom–the things they say their Jedi heroes stand for, have gone to The Dark Side. I can feel their hate. It makes them powerful. Assholes.

In the meantime at least two more “teasers” have been released for The Force Awakens, Episode VII of the space saga. So much for the element of surprise. How many actual minutes of film have been released to date? Haven’t we seen at least a quarter of the film to this point? Does The Force Awakens really need ANY publicity? Isn’t it like McDonalds…a part of the cultural fabric…always there and always has been ? It connects us…binds us…wait…that’s something else.

See my previous posts on consuming Cynema here as I discussed this about two months ago.

Back on topic. George Lucas took to the media a few weeks ago lamenting that his ideas for a new series of films were nixed by Disney after acquiring Lucasfilm for a cool 4 billion. While I am not a fan of the Disney Empire, I will say this was the smartest move to recoup their money.

Disney said “No”to George Lucas and will be rewarded handsomely. George got his money and was respectfully told to go far, far away.

I can hear South Park’s version of gangster Mickey Mouse saying, “Ha! Ha! Go fuck yourself, George! We’re the running things now. Ha! Ha!”

Red Letter Media and Harry Plinkett really sum up everything wrong with the Star Wars prequels. Instead of regurgitating what they said, I am providing a personal account of my experience with the prequels and maybe that will make my point.

In Part One, I described seeing The Phantom Menace with my brother. We left the wives home. It was part of an effort to recreate the magic of youth. Much like the excessive and cloying advertising for The Force Awakens, a pre-Internet world was pummeled with Star Wars mania. Fans clogged theaters just to catch a teaser trailer. That’s when I heard the first rumblings of “uh oh” moments. The film looked CGI-laden, cartoonish, but the music was great and super fans rejoiced.

The Smith Brothers went to the theater about a week after Phantom Menace opened. It was packed. My brother said something simple and prophetic, “Hope it doesn’t suck.” The lights went down. Applause filled the theater. Then after ten minutes of commercials and trailers…the screen went black and the 20th Century Fox anthem filled the surround sound. The audience went nuts when “Lucasfilm” faded in and gleamed.

The theater went rabid when “A long time ago…” came up in electric blue.  I looked at my brother and said, “We’re fourteen again.”

Then the “uh oh” moment came in the opening title crawl. Here it is in readable format:

Trade routes and federations? Taxation? What the hell was this? Planet blockades? There might be hope…they sent two Jedi Knights to do something hopefully interesting…

Our eyes glazed over. It was like getting this awesomely wrapped gift as a kid. You tore into it to find it was socks, underwear or…a book.

It didn’t get any better. Real Tunisian or Norwegian landscapes were replaced with dull green screened ones. Battle droids were talking like 60s robots, croaking “Roger! Roger!” and R2D2 was doing shit we never saw in any of the previous films. Then came Jar Jar. After that came the sea monsters. Powerball battles. There was some to do with Queen Amidala and a stunt double. We had the bad guys talking like bad Asian stereotypes.

On top of it all, we had the immaculately conceived Anakin Skywalker.

This was Vader’s story and it was off to a dismal start. When Jake Lloyd shouts “yippee!” I turned to my brother and nodded. It passed silently between us. He was right. It sucked.

Lucas got his way. He populated Tattooine with all of the toy bearing characters he wanted. The ridiculously bad, two-headed race announcer was bad enough. Aliens were given the Muppett Babies treatment as we see pint sized versions of Greedo and other future Cantina alcoholics scampering with little “Ani” as he readies for the big pod race that a CGI Jabba Hutt grand marshalls. Unfortunately, Jake Lloyd now looks like he could be part of Mos Eisley’s scum and villainy as the child actor did not fare well after his poorly received performance.

June 2015 mugshot of Jake Lloyd after his arrest for evading police in a pod chase.

The Phantom Menace was bad. Really bad. Most of all, it was boring.

Lucas explained The Force away as a genetic condition. I could hear groans in the audience at this revelation.

Wait…there WAS an interesting character besides Ewan McGregor’s earnest Obi Wan Kenobi portrayal. It was a hooded carnival devil named Darth Maul. Now this guy was interesting! Ah shit, he had maybe one line and in the film less than ten minutes. They gave almost ten times that amount to Jar Jar Binks.

So…we sat through Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson doing their best, bad CGI characters who gave a more realistic performance than Jake Lloyd, hearing Anakin yell “yippee!”, a convoluted and “who gives a shit” plot about trade federations and boycotts and some kind of political intrigue with the guy we all knew was The Emperor.

I say “bad” but that focuses totally on THE STORY and it was Lucas’s story. John Williams’s score was wonderful. The production value was groundbreaking. The film LOOKED beautiful. The effects, the sound, the wardrobes…it was all there. The problem is The Emperor had no clothes.

George Lucas got to make HIS movie. He couldn’t bad mouth or downplay Leigh Brackett and he couldn’t put anything off on Lawrence Kasdan. This was his entire story and the failure or success of this film falls squarely on him…as it does with the two subsequent pictures.

The script needed a second and third set of eyes. It needed a rewrite. It’s here where I relate a rumor that has circulated around Hollywood for some time involving Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. Here’s a background article: http://geektyrant.com/news/2012/3/1/details-on-frank-darabonts-unproduced-indiana-jones-and-the.html

Frank Darabont and Lucas

Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Walking Dead) had a damned good script for Indiana Jones 4. The story goes that Lucas didn’t like it because…it wasn’t his story. Lucas had been pitching the crystal skull story for years, even wanting it as one of the episodes for the Young Indiana Jones TV series. Lucas declined Darabont’s script and told Spielberg that if he chose the Darabont screenplay, he would not return to produce the film. Spielberg caved and we got the film we have now.

I told him he was crazy. I said, ‘You have a fantastic script. I think you’re insane, George.’ You can say things like that to George, and he doesn’t even blink. He’s one of the most stubborn men I know. — Frank Darabont on the Indy 4 script debate

If true, another part of the puzzle falls into place. https://indianajonesandthekingdomofthecrystalskull.wordpress.com/

Back to The Phantom Menace…why didn’t someone ask George, at the very least, the following questions:

Why does The Emperor need to hide in the shadows under the guise of Chancellor Palpatine? Just go full Sith and Force Lightning the shit out of the Senate, kill the queen and take it all over. You have Darth Maul as your muscle. Yeah, yeah, he needed an army and the clones were being cloned…but still…those shitty Roger Roger Droids were holding things in line. Can’t you reprogram them?

The ending fight between Liam Neeson and Darth Maul was the best thing about the film. Why wasn’t there more of this? Why was there no sense of adventure in this movie? Instead it was packed with expensive set pieces, a stupid and long pod race to highlight Anakin’s piloting skills and Jar Jar’s city. Why didn’t someone say “George, this is all fluff.”

Why wasn’t Anakin darker? He’s a brat, an entitled kid that should have shown some real anger issues. This coulda been Damien in space. Instead we got Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch. Aside from Jake Lloyd’s wooden acting (he was allegedly called “Mannequin Skywalker” behind the scenes) why didn’t someone say, “George, out of the thousands of kids we auditioned, this is the best one? Really?”

Lucas’s direction and screenwriting are the major culprits here. The film falls on its story and this is Lucas’s fault.

No…there is another.

The super fans. Good or bad, they embraced this mess because it was Star Wars. True critical thinking went out the window. The rise of the Internet gave rise to the dorks. I once viewed a long thread on one of those early Internet bulletin boards on The Phantom Menace. After literally pages of a back and forth argument between several fans (called “flaming” I guess for flaming assholes) I posted a single response. I just had to. And it read: “You people realize this is a real conversation you’re having here, right?”

Super fans accepted The Phantom Menace like a mistress accepts the illegitimate child her husband brings home. You grudgingly love it because you have to. It has a history with you, with someone you love. It’s part of them and now part of you. I guess.

The Phantom menace broke boxoffice records and financially ensured the new trilogy would go on.

I equate this with an abuser and their victim. You get hit the first time. Then you’re told it’s okay, it’ll be better now. Come back. The victim goes back and WHAM! They’re hurt again. Then you’re told…I mean it. This is the last time. Trust me. Give me your hand and…

This can be applied to the viewing experience of the Star Wars prequels.

You have to see Episode II. It just can’t be worse than the first one, right? Now Episode III...yeah that’s the one. Darth Vader becomes Darth Vader…no way that one’s gonna suck. NOOOO!

 

EPISODE II

I go to Episode II: Attack of the Clones with about thirteen people and my wife. She’s wary of the whole thing, having hated Menace (and she loved the original trilogy).

Lights go down. Fox anthem blares. Lucasfilm title gleams. A long time ago…FUCK!

Separatists. Votes in the Senate. Secession. A villain named Dooku? Really? DOOKU? Queens now are senators. Shit, we got fooled again.

There was a moment…Anakin has his mother die in his arms. She was a victim of Sand People. Anakin goes into a rage, and I sat there thinking: “Here it comes. This is it. Foreshadowing Vader…” and then…CUT AWAY to Y0da meditaing and watching the incident. WE DON’T SEE IT, but that CGI thing does! What the hell was that?

I’ll tell you what it was…it was Lucas wimping out. Don’t wanna scare the little kids. There are Anakin figures to sell. Can’t show the conflicted hero offing a bunch of Tuskin Raiders.

What a cheat. An out and out rip off and a director shirking his duties to deliver a good story.

By the time Obi Wan heads to some water planet to talk to some long-necked aliens, my wife turned and asked: “Okay, the people on this water planet, they’re…”

I cut her off.  “I don’t fuckin’ know and I don’t fuckin’ care.”

If we hadn’t come with a dozen or some people I would have walked out. Let me ask any of you, when…in ANY of the original trilogy, was there a moment that warranted such a response?

Lucas had more of his story to tell. It’s a story about whining kid now played by Anakin Skywalker who stalks an insufferably boring, politically confused woman. There’s some bullshit to do with clones…lots of clones in early Stormtrooper costumes. Boba Fett makes an appearance…as a kid with revenge as his primary motivation to become a bounty hunter, I guess. Some robot shits out worms to kill Amidala. Anakin and Obi Wan bitch at each other like some space opera Odd Couple with Anakin always whining about how he’s never allowed to do anything. So I guess Anakin becomes Darth Vader because he was a whining pussy? Oh yeah, the audience laughed like hell at Anakin, sweaty bare chested having a nightmare in bed that eerily resembles a wet dream.

Bad dialogue, couples rolling in high grass with alien elephants lumbering about. What the hell happened? My God, how could I let this happen to me? It’s my fault. I did this to myself.

Did anyone read this and even, in the kindest of words possible, say to Lucas “I’m really lost, here, George. This is a tad confusing.”

It becomes clearer as to why Disney tossed Lucas’s story ideas for a new trilogy after the purchase. They were intent on ending the cycle of abuse.

Again, phenomenal effects (albeit pretty much all green screen and CGI), excellent score, cinematography…the script folks…it was Lucas’s script.

Super fans again embraced another illegitimate child, taking it in, accepting it because they had to.

 

EPISODE III

Shhhhh…come here. This time I PROMISE, it will be all better. Look! Look! See? Darth Vader is on the poster. There are light sabres! Yoda looks like he’s kicking some serious ass. See? It’s gonna be just fine. Come here. A little closer…take my hand…you’ll see…

I go to Revenge of the Sith with my wife and several friends. One is a lumbering 6’4, 300 pound behemoth who said “I heard the last two sucked. You sure about this?”  I told him I was pretty sure. Advance reviews said it was the closest in tone to the original films. Plus…Vader.

Lights go down. Fox anthem blares. Lucasfilm title gleams. A long time ago…Wait a minute…

It’s just possible we might come out of this okay. That Dooku shit is back. We have some gobbledygook about separatists and droid armies, but we got “War!” Evil everywhere. A fiendish droid general. Heroes on both sides.  My anxiety dropped a little. I might avoid a post screening ass kicking afterall.

The story gives us more Anakin whining and suddenly going all stalker nuts he will lose his new wife. The Emperor looks like he’s getting head from Anakin in the final seduction to the Dark Side. Anakin goes all George Bush and decides you’re either with him or against him and so a bunch of little kids are naturally against him. He slaughters them and now we know he’s REALLY bad.

Amidala dies for no reason other than…she gave up the will to live. You know, because you just gave birth to twins and now is the time to decide you don’t want to stick around.

 

The ending fight scene (Spielberg is said to have directed much of it) is a green screen orgy and video game that goes on forever like the fight for the glasses in They Live! (Only that was a sendup) The dialogue is horrendous: “You underestimate my power!” Just watch it and if you think this is good writing, just go play X Box and stop watching movies.

If this film had just been GOOD, just good…all would have been forgiven.

And then, just when you think it’s over, that it couldn’t possibly get any worse…this…

This scene is indefensible. Vader’s creation is reduced to a Simpson’s style Frankenstein spoof. This is horrible and the audience openly and loudly laughed at the insipidity of it all. The lights came up, I looked to my big friend. “You have 30 seconds and then I’m coming after you,” he half joked.

We waited until 2015 for a new film. Will it restore balance?

Disney wrote a check, thanked George for his years of service and sent him on his way. Don’t go away mad, George. Just go away.

The lesson out of all of this is: Disney said “no.” It will serve them well.

As for Super Fans defending the trilogy, nothing will sway you. You’re really less fans than you are sheep. To make a movie so personal and excuse its glaring deficiencies in fear of losing your identity is pathetic. However many of these “fans” have turned on their Emperor as the new film approaches. Some have switched sides, going from ardent defenders of Lucas’s vision to the Dark Side and the popularity of hating on the Star Wars founder.

Regardless, they were complicit in this suckage because they continued send the financial message that it was acceptable.

George Lucas created a great world. He helped to redefine filmmaking and distribution. His vision gave many fun movie memories and Saturday matinee fun. He even made Christmas and birthdays a bit more fun too.

For all this and more, we thank you.

I truly hope all of his money has made him somewhat happy. From what I hear he’s been a generous philanthropist and given back to his fellow man. He doesn’t have to, but it’s nice to know.

I also hope that JJ Abrams had people around him who truly care about his career. I hope he doesn’t do what he did with Star Trek: Into Darkness, and pillage previous good material. I hope he has people on staff that told him “no” when necessary.

December 18th will finally answer the most important question….did Disney save the trilogy?

 

 

 

 

 

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