George Lucas is throwing in the flannel towel

4 min read

According to a NY Times article, George Lucas is retiring from blockbuster filmmaking. Yes, these are assertions that we’ve heard before from the man behind some of the biggest movie phenomenons in history, but this time he certainly seems like he means it.

It’s a very lengthy piece (which I still recommend that you read), but the largely overwhelming feeling you get from reading the article is that Lucas has taken a huge personal affront to the negative criticism he’s received for the Star Wars prequels and last Indiana Jones film. Fanboys also continuously rage at his changing of certain of the original Star Wars film’s details since the “Special Editions” released in 1997, which he has not taken well at all. According to the article, with regards to probably the most infamous changed scene, Lucas viewed Han Solo shooting the alien Greedo first as “cold-blooded murder” which to him was “a violation of his own naïve style.”

For most of us fanboys, him changing that scene was taking away from Han’s “cool” anti-hero status, and we sure as hell made ourselves heard about it. But Lucas didn’t take it as constructive criticism. To him it was a throwback to the studio meddling he had to endure when making his first major films, THX 1138 and American Graffiti.

“On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie. I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”

And that perfectly sums up Lucas’ problem. His style of naive filmmaking – as he wants it – is almost archaic. Never before was this made clearer to Lucas than when he was shopping around for a studio to make his latest film, Red Tails. The film tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of young African American fighter pilots that bravely fought for their country in World War 2 in Europe, despite being treated as second class citizens back home. It’s a story that’s been told before, but not the way Lucas is telling it. He looked to the puff-chested patriotic war films popularized by John Wayne for his inspiration, and decided to make that same type of corny, inspirational and lighthearted film. But it was going to be a movie like that for young black kids, something that’s never really been done before.

“We made movies like this during the war, and everybody just loved them. I said, ‘There’s no reason why that idealism, that kind of naïveté, can’t still exist.’

Yet, every studio turned him down, some without having even met with him. Lucas ended up having to finance the entire film himself (a cool $100 million), and despite having the support of a veritable who’s who in the black filmmaking community, he still does not seem convinced that he will make his money back. That’s a telling sign for a man that’s responsible for 2 of the biggest film franchises in history.

So what’s next for Lucas? He’s not leaving film entirely, but like his mentor Francis Ford Coppola, he wants to step away from the grand scaled stories he has become known for and instead start making small-scoped, esoteric personal films, that is probably not going to see any mainstream success or exposure. The type of films he originally intended to make when he first left film school, and before he got caught up in the commercial tsunami that is Star Wars. 

Of course he is still possibly open to the idea of returning for Indiana Jones 5 though.

Read  The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson given full creative freedom on his new Star Wars trilogy

If he doesn’t, and Red Tails is his final big hurrah, then I salute him. Irrespective of what you may think of Lucas as a director or writer, it’s hard to deny the indelible influence he has had on the technical aspects of film as well as pop culture in general. His long time producer, Rich McCallum, summed it up perfectly:

“Once this [Red Tails] is finished, he’s done everything he’s ever wanted to do.”

Last Updated: January 18, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • Lee Muller

    Once Lucas saw that Red Tails didn’t make themovies 25 movies to watch in 2012 he kissed his $100M goodbye

    • That is the only logical reason.. nothing else makes sense

  • Nick de Bruyne

    I have the strangest love/hate relationship with Lucas. While I love the movies and worlds that he created for us, along with the way it influenced movies, videogames and everything else…. I just can’t find a way to actually like the guy. He has made it very clear in the past that he is pretty much just happy to do whatever makes him the most money and he seems to not really be arsed with any sort of loyal followings, because that just came with the territory.

    If this gets him to do some actual decent filmmaking again, rather than this universe of hollywood lollipops that he has been living out, then maybe its for the better of everyone.

    I just cant get over the fact that I feel that he was just a fool that stumbled onto greatness by mistake and then just rolled with it, and the more he did what he wanted to do, the worse everything got.

    • I’ve often wondered what public response to Star Wars would have been like, if it was originally released with all later changes. Personally, I’m of the opinion that they would still have been loved, despite those so called “inferior” bits.
      For me, Lucas is a decent director/producer, he just needs to stay the hell away from writing screenplays. Case in point: All the bad bits of Indy 4 were due to his script influences, not Spielberg’s direction.

  • Regarding the matter of the film being turned down by studios because it harkens to a more classical style of filmmaking, I saw Lucas on John Stewart’s show last night and as he makes it sound, the film had trouble finding a home because of its predominantly black cast and that it might have trouble selling in the US and international markets because of that

    • Yeah, I know, I reported on that the other day. But now in this article, it looks like it could have been more than just the black thing.

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