December 6, 2011

Maybe George Lucas Isn't So Bad After All

I watched a few minutes of Terminator: Salvation on TV this weekend (my review), and it got me thinking about creative control, and George Lucas' legacy.

I have complained that Lucas's complete creative control over the Star Wars franchise has completely smothered the whole universe. His stranglehold over the characters has prevented anything interesting or daring from happening to the series. Instead of interesting or daring, we got three terrific movies, a sixteen-year gap, then three very well-executed and polite, but lifeless "prequels." I would have preferred a wild, daring failure instead of the comatose failure of the prequels.
Then I watched Terminator: Salvation. We can all agree that Cameron is a visionary. Terminator 1 and 2 turned out EXACTLY the way he wanted. Only Arnold returned for Terminator 3. Now Terminator: Salvation is the flip side of the George Lucas coin: a sequel completely unfaithful to the source material. Terminator: Salvation is a competent robots vs. humans post-apocalypse chase movie, but bears zero resemblance to what made the first two Terminator movies great.
So when I see the lamest part of the prequels on basic cable: Jar Jar Binks, Baby Anakin Skywalker, or the flying R2D2, I have to remind myself: if Lucas didn't have total control over Star Wars, 20th Century Fox would have remade and continued to sequelize the Star Wars franchise. Imagine three more Star Wars movies in 1986, 1989, and 1991, with the quality of the movies and the original creative team dwindling with each episode. Maybe Star Wars would have ended up like James Bond: some good, some bad, but immortal and evolving.
OR, maybe Lucas's stale, airless prequels are the best possible outcome? WE WILL NEVER KNOW.