Tag Archives: George Lucas

George Lucas: A Life – Review

tumblr_o61hphwviy1us2txqo1_1280George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones.

George Lucas is one of the most enigmatic and fascinating people in Hollywood, although he’d probably resent that statement as his whole life has been about not being part of they Hollywood system. In this new, non-authorized biography, Brian Jay Jones traces Lucas’ quintessentially American story from humble beginnings to titan of the film industry.

The book is split in to 3 parts, Hope, Empire and Return, each on taking on a different part of George’s life and doing their best to synthesize a very full existence in a mere 550 pages (really only 470 as the last 80 pages are notations).

Hope is actually the the best section of the book, chronicling Lucas’ family and his early life as a greaser who found school boring and working for someone else even more so. This is the most formative section of the book, much of who Lucas became would be a direct result of things that happened during this period. The issues with his father (which would play in in his two biggest franchises), his desire to be completely free to do things his way and a car accident that would illuminate the truth of life’s fragility cementing his character. The reason for most everything else Lucas would do in his life could be traced back to his beginnings in Modesto, California.

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Empire tells of Lucas’ fortunes after American Graffiti as he struggle to bring his idea of The Star Wars to screen. Next to his youth, this is the the most integral to who Lucas would become. His experiences with THX-1138 and American Graffiti would set him on course to chart a future away from the influence of the studio and Hollywood system. Everything he did was a move to allow him to make movies without compromising his artistic creativity as well as building a place where others in the industry would be able to do the same. This same drive would also cost him dearly, as he neglected his wife in favor of making his movies and the neglect would cost him his marriage.

Return recounts the journey from the Original Trilogy to the Prequels and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. It’s the weakest section of the book, feeling too condensed and too reliant on the most superficial understanding of the Prequels as well as the work that truly went into them. It sadly glosses over the importance of The Clone Wars series as well, making it feel more like a footnote than the project that helped Lucas fall in love with Star Wars all over again. Also left out is the fight with Marin County which lead Lucas to giving up his dream of making the Star Wars sequel trilogy himself and the resignation of selling the company to Disney.

The one true strength in this section is the way it highlights the correlation between Lucas, his divorce and the story of the Prequel Trilogy, especially, Anakin and his choices. After reading this book one can see how much of himself he actually poured into the story. Anakin and Lucas both have the same fall on their way to Empire-building.

lucasWith the strength of the first two sections the book is recommendable, yet it’s not without it’s faults. Frustratingly the last section does devolve into most every criticism of Lucas in the Special Edition to Disney sale that everyone has surely read online. Honestly this can be attributed to the non-authorized nature of the book and the lack of interviews, which would have helped the last section of the book specifically. Peter Jackson is quoted in the book saying about Lucas, “I can’t help feeling that George Lucas has never been fully appreciated by the industry for his remarkable innovations…He’s the Thomas Edison of the modern film industry.” In some ways the book leaves one feeling this way as well. Lucas’ accomplishments in film, his tireless struggle for innovation and consistently putting his hard-earned money where his mouth is, should be given more due. Hopefully this is just the beginning of books to come out about Lucas and here’s to hoping the next is even more in depth, but Jones’ book is a good place to start and is rated 4 out of 5 Death Stars.

 

Star Wars: Aftermath – Review

star-wars-aftermath-cover-625x951As Return of the Jedi faded from theaters in late 1983, Star Wars fans entered what would become known as the “Dark Times”. Toys began disappearing from the shelves and slowly Star Wars faded into the cultural zeitgeist. Before faint whispers about Special Editions and Prequels, Heir to the Empire awakened a hunger for Star Wars that had been just under the geek surface for years. It was the first book to be licensed by Lucasfilm to continue the story after Return of the Jedi. Bringing back Luke, Leia and Han as well as introducing us to Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Talon Karrde and a plethora of others who would become staples of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Timothy Zahn cemented himself as the second coming of George Lucas for fans. The SWEU flourished with varied success over the 23 years it ran, ending when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced that the EU would be reorganized in the Legends line and a new official run of canon books and comics would be forthcoming.

This history has lead us to the weekend of September 4th, 2015 when the first official book about what happened after Return of the Jedi was released. Star Wars: Aftermath replaces Heir to the Empire as Star Wars gospel, giving fans their first taste of the aftereffects of the Rebel victory at Endor and the state of the universe in the wake of Vader and the Emperor’s death. For many fans, even though there have been other books in the new canon, this is the one they have been looking to as the “official” start since it begins them on the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Can the book live up to these expectations?

JTTFA-1536x864Plot

The plot is relatively simple. As the Empire scrambles to hold on to systems in the aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star, a secret meeting is held on the outer rim world of Akiva. Wedge Antillies, on a reconecesne vacation, stumbles upon the meeting and is captured. At the same time Rebel pilot Norra Wexley has retured to Akiva to bring her son back with her to Chandrila, the home of the Senate of the New Republic. Mayhem ensues as Norra, her son Temmin, a former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir and bounty hunter named Jas Emari join forces to rescue Wedge and destroy the Imperials. The book also features interludes that give glimpses to the state of the galaxy on different worlds, plus what can only be called miniscule cameos of Leia, Han, Chewie, Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar.


The Jedi

One of the strongest points of this novel is its unification of the Star Wars universe from the Prequels to the Originals. Wendig deftly weaves the two parts of the Saga together seemlesly. So for fans worried that the Prequels would be forgotten, at least here, they play a wonderful supporting role for character back stories as well as the feel of the universe. It’s nice to have the Prequels feel respected and important in the new canon.

The book is well written. Wendig captures the ambiance of Star Wars in the dialogue and in the characters. There may be too many instances of Imperial officers yelling at Rebels, “scum” but that’s to be forgiven. It’s a testament to the writing that without the major players from the Original trilogy that you care enough about the new characters to want to continue on with the story. On a whole, they all feel like they fit right alongside any of the characters from any part of Star Wars.

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The Sith

The major issue with the story is that it feels like the background to what should be the main story. The interludes hurt the book by the reminding you that the story you want to read with Leia, Han, Chewie and Mon Mothma is happening, just not in this book (Poor Luke is only a reference). Honestly there is just no excuse to not be following the major characters from the Orginal trilogy at this point. Star Wars has always been from the point of view from the main characters and any side character (on screen that is) has a relationship with a major character to help you understand their place in the Saga. A prime example of this is Star Wars Rebels and the way it has used, Tarkin, Vader and Ahsoka to give us a context for why characters like Kanan, Hera and Ezra are important to the overall story of Star Wars. In Aftermath, there is none of that. We’re never left with any other feeling other than this is a minor story that amounts to little more than a footnote in galactic history. SPOILERS: The very end of the book does tease us with a shadowy Imperial admiral that feels similar to a Thrawn-type character.

It’s clear from this story that there were some serious reigns on the author from the story group as to what he can cover. With The Force Awakens a little over 3 months away, the history of Luke, Leia and Han is being kept a closely guarded secret and their absence from this book is glaring. Honestly it might have been better to have this book come out after the movie so that the “surprise” of where the trinity is would not have to be kept anymore. Aftermath is a trilogy, so the next two books, coming out after The Force Awakens may offer more of these characters since the release date for number two is not till sometime in 2016. Author Chuck Wendig did an interview with Grantland.com where he said

“There was a great article about Age of Ultron, and that it felt like a highway with a bunch of off-ramps to other Marvel properties,” Wendig says. ‘I don’t want this book to feel like that. I don’t want it to feel like, ‘Well, it’s just a trip down memory lane, and don’t forget to buy these other great books, or other games, or other movies.’ It needs to still stand on its own, while still speaking to the fans and other properties and other stories that are out there.”

Unfortunately this is exactly what has happened. With the “it’s all connected” mentality, the story has become a mere side road to the main road we all really want to be on. The book, though well written feels like staging for the big show, never feeling truly needed or essential. I wrote in my review of A New Dawn, the first book of the new Star Wars canon that,

If you are going to have the books, comics and games be canon they need to have weight. People need a reason to read or play, so make the stories important and not just filler. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has suffered with this very issue, so please be careful to not allow this to happen with the these Star Wars properties. The fun of the now Legends line, were the big, galaxy altering events that took place. Just because there are new films or shows does not mean readers and gamers don’t want meat to the stories, something that matters.

Aftermath, like Tarkin and Heir to the Jedi all fail this test. Sadly the book never rises above feeling like filler, the light beer of Star Wars books. The real saving grace with Aftermath is that Wendig is a good writer who is able to transcend the material enough to make this a weak recommend.  Aftermath is rate 3 out of 5 lost A-Wings.

The 602 Club 45: More Than a Feeling

tsc-045-th-square-1440Revenge of the Sith.

As May 19th 2005 approached, Star Wars fans eagerly awaited what was believed to be the last film in the Saga. The end had come and the only question was whether it coould satisfy the imaginations of a generation.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by Jedi Masters Bruce Gibson and John Mills to talk about Revenge of the Sith. We discuss our Episode III experiences, the end, personal themes, the fall of Anakin and the Republic, speculation about Episode VII, in light of The Clone Wars, Mustafar scene, missing scenes and our ratings.

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The 602 Club 32: Three Boys Playing With Toys

tsc-032-th-square-1440The Clone Wars: Nic Anastassiou.

Podcasting can be a lonely business, sometimes you’re just not sure who is listening or what they think about the show. At other times podcasting puts you in touch with the coolest, most wonderful people you’d never have met otherwise.

In this very special episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by John Mills to talk to Nic Anastassiou who contacted us a few weeks ago about our episode on the new Star Wars trailers. Nic works for ILM and was also an editor on The Clone Wars. We discuss with Nic our first contact, his coming to Star Wars, a toy story, the path to ILM, editing with Dave and George,his journey to The Clone Wars, favorite edits and moments, what makes The Clone Wars special, different ways to view the show, last moments with George and finding Nic online.

The 602 Club S2: He’s George Freaking Lucas

tsc-0S2-th-squareThe Star Wars Saga.

Some nights after closing time Ruby serves up something special and in this supplemental episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing and John Mills enjoy a rare vintage and talk Star Wars. We discuss everything, the Prequels, The Clone Wars, the Jedi, unexplored time periods, the expanded universe then and now, the Holiday Special, Special Editions, the new films, comics and the digital releases. It’s a conversation of love and laughs about the entire saga of Star Wars.

The 602 Club 21: Crying Droid Tears

tsc-021-th-squareStar Wars Rebels Season 1.

In October of 2012 it was if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy, followed by agony, as we learned that Disney bought Lucasfilm and with that came the cancellation of The Clone Wars. Soon afterwards Disney, announced it was creating a new animated show, helmed by The Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg that would chronicle the beginning of the Rebellion.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by fellow Rebels John Mills and Tristan Riddell to talk Star Wars Rebels first season. We discuss our reactions to the news The Clone Wars was cancelled as well as our initial impressions of Rebels, the struggle for shows to survive in today’s TV market, continuity, the Lando episode, the progression of villains, the characters, the huge ending, music, links to Luke Skywalker and our ratings.

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Star Wars Heresies – Review

71gU+5spqhLFor almost three generations, the Star Wars Saga has captivated the imaginations and hearts of children and adults. In 1999, George Lucas introduced a whole new trilogy to the world and changed Star Wars forever. In the history of film, there many never be a more debated issue than the merit of the Prequels (until JJ Abrams releases Episode VII that is). These films have been characterized in pop culture as ruining the childhoods of many. Yet is this really the case? Do these films really deserve this intense hate, hate worth of Sith Lords? That is the subject of The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III by Paul McDonald.

The book walks through each film and dissecting the mythology, literature and religion behind the stories of the Prequels. McDonald explains his focus and process this way,

While understandably reticent regarding his own press, George Lucas made a telling statement during an interview recorded by the Star Wars Insider magazine regarding the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. “If criticism were the kind of analysis it was meant to be in the first place— as it is in other arts, where you have literate, sophisticated people, who are knowledgeable— then it would be worthwhile to listen to it,” he remarked. “[ But] to have them [the critics] rant and rave about their personal feelings is a waste of my time.” I find this really intriguing for a couple of reasons.

To begin with, Lucas himself very clearly delineates between two types of criticism. The first is scholarly, studied, and refined; the second is mostly personal opinion and knee-jerk reaction. More often than not, Star Wars has been subjected to the second—especially the prequels— while Lucas tellingly identifies the first as more important. As we will see, this is where Star Wars really lives and breathes.1

McDonald uses literate criticism to prove his point that far from being nothing but money making, special effects extravaganzas the films are personal explorations of some of our most profound questions in life.

But clearly I must disagree with those who argue that the prequels were only driven by special effects (as well as Lucas’s alleged need to amass a large fortune, especially in light of his donations to charity). As this book proves , Star Wars meets you where you meet it. That Lucas didn’t simply farm out the prequel trilogy for someone else to create speaks not so much to an obsessive need for control but rather to a deep , personal commitment to the project itself. In some ways it could be argued that he was far more invested in the prequels than in the originals, as he purposefully took on the task of writing and directing each of them.2

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. McDonald shows just how well read and literate Lucas is as each Prequel entry is teaming with illusions to philosophy, mythology, religion and literary constructs from many different eras. Whether you are a Prequel hater or lover, this book has something for the Star Wars fan in all of us.

Notes

1. McDonald, Paul F. (2013-09-03). The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III (Kindle Locations 85-92). McFarland. Kindle Edition.

2.McDonald, Paul F. (2013-09-03). The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III (Kindle Locations 3616-3620). McFarland. Kindle Edition.