I’m one of the “lucky” generation that has know Star Wars as an on-going saga. It was released when I was very young. So I have memories of always knowing Star Wars. I never remember seeing the original, but I do remember playing Luke in the back yard of Grandma and Milton’s house. Specifically, I think I had a karate shirt like Luke’s. And I had a wooden clothes pin, with two popcycle sticks attached to it. I would attach one stick to the clothes pin, then rubber band the second stick to the first stick. This allowed me to “fold” the sticks in half and close the clothes pin. That was my lightsaber! As an extra added bonus, I could clip the whole thing to my belt, just like Luke did. To turn the lightsaber “on”, I’d give the clothes pin a squeeze and the sticks would pop out. These days, that would probably be considered a switchblade, but back in the day, I had imagination to spare! Things were a little tight financially, so I wasn’t part of the Star Wars marketing machine at that point. No action figures, no vehicles. Just pure imagination. I WAS Luke Skywalker. Vader was my enemy. And me and my 3 inch wooden lightsaber beat the shit out of him more than few times!!! In the back yard, in the then wide open fields behind the house (since then the neighborhood has developed and those fields have become houses. There is now even a fence in the backyard which as a kid, I never experienced. Grandma and Milton’s street was virtually void of fences. I was free to run in and out of almost every yard on the street.) and even in the water logged, tadpole infested foundation of the house next door that was always in the process of being built. Tootine, Aldeeran and several then unnamed planets were all on my block. Vader and I would chase each other thru the parks, sewers, construction sites, fields and school yards near Grandma and Milton’s house. And there was Solo, Leia and others too. These were played well by friends who I can no long remember.
So, I grew up with Star Wars. I looked forward to Empire and I stood in line for hours with Irma at the Hulen UA theater to see Jedi on opening day. This was my first “line” experience. UA was a huge building by the standards of the day. When most theaters in FW had 2 or 4 screens, UA had 12. The building was almost perfectly square. The line for Jedi rapped around the building completely and still had lots of line left. It was no Chinese Theater line, to be sure. But for a young kid in FW, it was incredible. I stood in line for the 1997 Star Wars re-releases, Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, just to get opening day seats. But it was the first three films which held all the magic.
When George conceived and made Star Wars: Episode IV, it was with all honesty. He had a good idea that had been basically never expressed in this way. And he was smart. Paying for the movie himself and taking the marketing in directions that had never been seen before was genius. It made him a millionaire. And it allowed him to parlay the success into Empire and Jedi. But by the the time Jedi turned him from a millionaire unto a billionaire, something changed.
You could almost say he went from the light side of the Force to the Dark Side. It’s not more powerful, just quicker, easier. And as he, himself, showed us he can always go back to the light side. That’s what I’m hoping for.
What changed was his genius. Where-as his motives were pure in the beginning, something happened that made him just… wrong is the only word I can think of.
I believe that he had intentions to do all 9 Star Wars films in the beginning because he has always said that. But the prequels ended up being more about ego strokes than anything else. The writing is not the best, acting has been hit-or-miss and the story has been inconsistent (even the attempts to marry quotes and images from the original Star Wars was hit-or-miss… Your father was already a great pilot when I met him became a 9 year old who could drive a pod? Really?). They have been largely about pushing the technology of movies. And George has a history of this. He create ILM specifically to push the movie technology. But he did it in the 70s so that he could tell the story the way it needed to be told. He does it now just for the sake of the technology. Or maybe for the sake of his future projects. But either way, not for the sake of the Star Wars story. And, of course, there was money. The ultimate ego stroke. Not only did he know that the prequels would make him a fortune, he made sure of it by marketing the heck out of it. While toys were the big market the first time round with some food items thrown in, nothing matched the onslaught that was approved by George for Star Wars: Phantom Menace. We didn’t get a cereal here and some trading cards there. We got all out, full blown, don’t let a single person in the country forget that this movie is coming marketing. Lays/Pepsi alone stamped Episode I on EVERYTHING they owned. Pepsi, chips, snacks, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, you name it. Add to that the clothing… underwear, shirts, shoes, socks, pants, towels, back packs… and school supplies… back packs, folders, binders, pencils, rulers, calculators… and there wasn’t a single person in the US that didn’t know about Star Wars: Episode I. And I’ve yet to mention the 50 toy lines, Legos, action figures, coloring books, story books, novelizations, games, audio books, costumes and trading cards. And that barely scratches the surface!
Genius.. yes… An evil genius whose primary interest is the name and the money.
And all this was proven, I believe, by his final selling of the entire enterprise to Disney before actually finishing his artistic vision. If it’s all about the art, he would have gone forward with Episode VII, VIII and IX.