Young George Lucas. Kinda foxy...?
Being that last weekend's box office was dominated by "Jurassic World" and "Inside Out," it got me thinking about the legacy of George Lucas. Like most people in the world, I've always had a love/hate relationship with the guy. A few have even taken this 'relationship' this to the extreme, as a few years back someone made a documentary on the topic about Lucas called "The People vs. George Lucas."
True, while the prequels weren't what most people wanted, but does that warrant all the things that Lucas has contributed to the world of cinema obsolete? I say no. Why? Because if you look close enough, you'll see his influence is everywhere in modern cinema whether you like it, or not. The first examples, the recent box office champs, Jurassic World and Inside Out both would not exist, without the work of Lucas. You see, Lucas’ special effects company, ILM, created all the dinosaurs in the original Jurassic Park film, way back in the 90s without a company capable of creating such awe-inspiring creatures, we wouldn't have a Jurassic World today. Even Inside Out owes a debt of gratitude to Lucas as Pixar, was a Lucasfilm company as early as the mid-80s. While Lucas didn't found the original incarnation of the Pixar company, he helped to water it, grow it, push its limitations and eventually hand it over to one Steve Jobs and the rest is history.
These aren't the only examples. Lucas' fingerprints can be seen all over the American movie landscape and this week, I'm going to highlight a few to help defend a genius that is now looked upon as a crazy old wizard that lives in a secluded part of Northern California.
Before the release of his 60s comedy, American Graffiti, popular music wasn't used much in feature films. Usually, films would have a score create for the soundtrack or have songs specially commissioned like in a James Bond movie. Lucas, in an attempt to be different and create a unique soundtrack for Graffiti, opted to use the songs that he used to listen to while crusin' the suburban San Francisco streets. Since no other filmmaker had ever thought of that before, he was able to license the pop songs of the 60s for next to no money. Well, after American Graffiti was a massive hit at the box office, and auteurs from far and wide took note of how pop music could enhance their screen stories, they all began to use pop songs in their films and still do today. Quentin Tarantino is famous of his ability to blend images and pop music, but without Lucas, he'd have no blueprint on how to do it.
Where was I in '62? Not alive.
Star Wars. Enough said. Really though when this came out in 1977, people's heads exploded as they had never seen such advanced visual effects used period, but more specifically in an action/adventure movie. With the progress made by Lucas and co. in the special effects world, it soon became possible for filmmakers like Ridley Scott to make Alien, Steven Spielberg to make E.T., and David Lynch to make Dune, just to name a few. More importantly, Lucas created the model of a filmmaker owning their own FX company to have more control in creating their vision. This can be seen today, as Peter Jackson owns WETA Workshop and James Cameron owns Digital Domain companies that were vital in creating the on screen magic we remember from such films as Titanic and The Lord of the Rings.
Sadly, this scene caused as many as 3 million minds to be blown in 1977.
Marvel gets a lot of credit for creating this 'universe' concept but in reality, an argument can be made that Lucas was there first and was thinking of this concept and applied it while most of the Marvel Entertainment executives were still in short pants. When the original Star Wars was released in 1977, Lucas, whether in a blaintant cash-grab or not (probably, yes) allowed the now infamous Star Wars Christmas Special to be produced for CBS that was meant to be a direct spinoff and official canon. Because it turned out like bantha doo-doo, said idea was abandoned, but my point is that it was attempted. It didn't quite stop there either as many Star Wars universe cartoons (Droids and Ewoks), books (Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the Han Solo Adventures) and event a live action TV movie (Caravan of Courage) were produced through out the 70s and 80s that attempted to expand upon the Star Wars Universe for a public hungry to consume all it could of the galaxy far, far, away. Oh, there were those other films, too. You know, the ones with the word 'Episode' in front of them that told one 'bigger picture' story. While the spinoffs and smaller media series stories failed to unify a solid state Star Wars story, Lucas did display his ability to show others that he was willing to think beyond the big screen and invented the 'Universe Model' version 1.0 for Marvel and now others, to build upon.
Nope. This isn't getting complicated at all. [Sarcasm]
I recently stumbled upon this website while cruising for some Ep. 7 news. It's called Star Wars Ring Theory and in great detail, the author expounds upon a theory he's crafted about how all the main 6 Star Wars films are interconnected using an ancient 'ring' storytelling structure. I read the whole thing and the author does present some pretty remarkable evidence that if true, not only gives one more appreciation for the prequels, but also would be the very first time anyone as ever attempted to try this structure in the film medium and if I've proven anything over the past few paragraphs, it's that Lucas is a man that likes to do things first. Please, I encourage you to visit the website and take in all the evidence for yourself. Then, maybe, like me, you too will see the prequels for more than just a jamboree of Jar-Jar. It even leaves room for a sub-theory on why the special editions are now needed with the realization of the prequels. While Lucas didn't invent the storytelling ring, his application of it in cinema may inspire future filmmakers to refine it and perfect it as so many of his other ideas.
Star Wars Ring Theory Website: http://www.starwarsringtheory.com/
May times, geniuses are so far beyond the crowd, when they create, the masses don't 'get' their creations. It takes time for everyone to catch up to the ideas and concepts they present. It has happened time after time throughout history to artists from all around the world. Geniuses think outside the box and while Lucas has gotten lucky and been able to speak to the common man at times, he still has had a hard time communicating his ideas when it comes to movies. Maybe future generations will come to revere all his work and truly give him the credit he's due.
What do you think? Have I convinced you that Lucas is worthy to be championed as one of cinema's greatest filmmakers, or is he still a mean old man that ruined your childhood? Comment below.