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LUCAS, GEORGE
(1944– ). American director, writer, and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote and directed: THX 1138 (wrote with Walter Murch) (1971); Star Wars (and co-edited, uncredited) (1977); Star Wars: The Special Edition (and co-edited, uncredited) (1997); Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (and produced and co-edited, uncredited) (1999); Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (and produced) (2002).

Produced: The Empire Strikes Back (and story and co-edited, uncredited) (Irwin KERSHNER 1980); Raiders of the Lost Ark (and story and co-edited, uncredited) (Steven SPIELBERG 1981); Return of the Jedi (and co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan and co-edited, uncredited) (Richard Marquand 1983); Twice upon a Time (animated) (John Korty and Charles Swenson 1983); The Ewok Adventure (and story) (tv movie) (Korty 1984); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (and story and co-edited, uncredited) (Spielberg 1984); Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (and story) (tv movie) (Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat 1985); Droids (animated tv series) (1985-86); Ewoks (animated tv series) (1985-87); Captain Eo (short) (Francis Ford Coppola 1986); Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck 1986); Labyrinth (Jim HENSON 1986); Inside the Labyrinth (tv documentary) (Des Saunders 1986); Star Tours (short film for amusement park ride) (1987); Willow (Ron HOWARD 1988); The Land before Time (animated) (Don BLUTH 1988); Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and story and co-edited, uncredited) (Spielberg 1989); The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (tv series) (1992-93); Young Indiana Jones and the Hollywood Follies (tv movie) (Michael Schultz 1994); Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen (tv movie) (Ben Burtt 1995); Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock's Eye (tv movie) (Carl Schultz 1995); The Empire Strikes Back: The Special Edition (and co-edited, uncredited) (Kershner 1997); Return of the Jedi: The Special Edition (and co-edited, uncredited) (Marquand 1997); five direct-to-video films derived from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, all with introductory title The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Adventures in the Secret Service (Vic Armstrong and Simon Wincer 1999), The Masks of Evil (Dick Maas and Mike Newell 1999), The Mystery of the Blues (Carl Schultz 1999), The Spring Break Adventures (Joe JOHNSTON and Matthew Jacobs 1999), and The Trenches of Hell (Wincer 1999).

Appeared in (all documentaries): The Making of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (video) (1981); The Making of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (tv) (Frank Marshall 1984); The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell (tv) (Janelle Balnicke, William Free, and David Kennard 1987); George Lucas: Heroes, Myths and Magic (tv) (Jane Paley and Larry Price 1993); The Making of Disneyland's "Indiana Jones Adventure" (tv) (1995); From Star Wars to Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light and Magic (Jon Kroll 1999); The Unauthorized Star Wars Story (video) (1999); The Stars of Star Wars: Interviews with the Cast (Kent Hagen 1999).

 
In order to discuss George Lucas in the mythological context he would certainly prefer, might I suggest the term "hubris"?

It would have been hard to predict, back in the 1970s, that a commentator would someday think of that word in connection with Lucas; for during that decade, he wrote and directed two films that, to this day, can astonish viewers with their strong narrative drive and fresh, youthful energy. First was American Graffiti (1973), which almost qualifies as a fantasy film due to the artful way that Lucas entirely excises his young protagonists' parents from the scene, granting the graduating teenagers one magical night to be the lords of misrule over their small-town world. This was followed by Star Wars, a universally appealing science fiction adventure that requires no additional praise in these quarters. Yet even then, there were signs of another, less appealing Lucas lurking within the magnificent entertainer, for he had earlier begun his professional career by writing and directing THX 1138, a plodding film that traversed familiar dystopian territory with a turgid schoolboy earnestness unenlivened by its undeniable visual panache. And this would be the Lucas everyone would later get to know very well.

Unusually given full rights to all merchandising related to Star Wars, Lucas emerged from the film as a multimillionaire, capable of doing anything he wanted to do. And what did he do? First, let us recall his good deeds. He crafted solid stories and enlisted capable directors to produce two respectable sequels to Star Wars, and after teaming up with his old buddy Stephen SPIELBERG to create Raiders of the Lost Ark, he proved that he was the only producer in town who could make Spielberg tolerable. (Unfortunately, he apparently paid less attention to his producing duties when Spielberg went on to direct the film's inferior sequels.) He entered into a partnership with the Walt Disney folks to create some enjoyable amusement park attractions. And, seeking to spread the gospel of state-of-the-art special effects throughout Hollywood, he founded Industrial Light and Magic, Inc., to provide first-rate service to innumerable films of the 1980s and 1990s, permanently raising the industry's standards and contributing significantly to the development of the computer-generated effects that can now transform even the direst of films into a stunning visual experience.

Ah, but there are bad deeds to recall as well. He burdened Return of the Jedi with his insufferable and shamefully exploitative new products, the cuddly Ewoks, later paraded before a befuddled public in two television movies, an animated television series, and endless merchandise, all of which garnered the popularity they deserved, which was absolutely none. Unlike producer Spielberg, who would occasionally employed talented directors, Lucas preferred nonentities, and he soon became a specialist in producing Dull Fantasy films—live-action, animated, or some combination thereof. If you are ever suffering from severe insomnia, a film festival of Twice upon a Time, Labyrinth, Howard the Duck, Willow, and The Land before Time will provide many hours of soothing slumber. In the meantime, he took up with mythology scholar Joseph Campbell, discovered just how Mythic he and his Star Wars were, and abandoned a previous reclusiveness to pontificate endlessly about his ouevre of works and other Deep Matters for various documentaries.

As the 1990s progressed, matters only got worse. Inspired by a sudden determination to address the scandal of young Americans's ignorance of American history, and somehow envisioning that he had the power to solve the entire problem by himself, Lucas launched a lavishly expensive television series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which implausibly planted its precocious hero amidst various key events and personages of the early twentieth century as a way to painlessly provide young viewers with the important historical information that they lacked. However, these contrived adventures failed, in the end, to be more interesting than a droning lecturer, although Lucas stubbornly persevered with the doomed project by means of additional television movies and video rereleases in the apparent belief that he would eventually make a mint by selling these films to American schools. Unfortunately for Lucas, despite other bad decisions that have plagued the American educational system, replacing American history classes with showings of Lucas's bland epics was, and is, an idea that will never fly.

He then revisited the scene of old glories by dressing up and re-issuing the three Star Wars films, but all of his added scenes and special effects only managed to make the films slower, less cohesive, and worse. For the revamped Star Wars, what was the point of re-inserting a boring, pointless scene with Harrison FORD's Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt, replacing the other human actor with a computer-animated alien, other than to prove that it could be done? But what Lucas did to Richard Marquand's Return of the Jedi was particularly reprehensible: recognizing that the film's outcome was a less than happy one for the isolated Luke Skywalker, now bereft of family, friends, and lovers, Marquand evocatively crafted a subdued conclusion, with the victorious forces quietly celebrating around a campfire as Luke wanders off for the cold consolation of friendly waves from his ghostly departed companions. But Lucas, feeling that there was something insufficiently gee-whiz about all of this, added some colorful new scenes of spontaneous celebrations on various other planets and re-edited the old footage to make things zippier and more cheerful. Marquand's heirs should have sued to have his name removed from the credits.

All of this jiggering with the past, of course, was merely the prelude to Lucas's triumphal return to the director's chair at the helm of a new Star Wars movie, the disappointing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, endeavoring to further diminish the impact of the original film with additional layers of convoluted backstory. Still, one must be careful not to overreact to this film: it isn't awful, it's lively and colorful and holds your attention, it's a reasonable way to spend two hours with a bag of popcorn. But coming from a director who has spoken so much about the profound mythic meanings that underlie all human narratives, The Phantom Menace is a stupefyingly meaningless exercise. What is this film attempting to say about the human condition or the nature of the universe? Why should we care about the fates of these characters or their worlds? Science fiction is purportedly a genre of ideas, and even the lethargic THX 1138 recognized and tried to wrestle with ideas, but The Phantom Menace is utterly bereft of them; it is as if Lucas, having long pondered the true significance of humanity's more enduring stories, has lost the ability to devise enduring stories of his own. Like the frills added to the first three films, The Phantom Menace appears to have been made simply to show that it could be done. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was a bit more lively, and the role of Jar-Jar Binks was thankfully minimized, but the series seems to be becoming more and more preoccupied with backroom politics and less with derring-do, as if all those years in Hollywood were finally draining Lucas's last bit of spirit.

Still, the Lucas of today knows that he can do no wrong, and just as he persisted in grinding out Young Indiana Jones adventures in the face of mounting criticism, he will persist in completing his second Star Wars trilogy, and then he will likely go back to re-edit and further "improve" all six of the films. All of these projects are sure to thrill diehard fans and to earn tons of money. However, for true film lovers, the only pleasures left to derive from LucasFilms, Incorporated are to seek out American Graffiti and the original Star Wars, study and cherish them, and remember that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas was a filmmaker worth watching.

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