As happy as I am that Lucasfilm is acknowledging the love many fans feel for the 1-3 trilogy (long past time to phase out the term “prequel”, at least officially) by once again offering the “Why We Love the Prequels” panel at Celebration VI, and as disappointed as I am that I’m going to miss it, I sure wish it wasn’t necessary to make a big deal of people’s love for half the Star Wars saga. I’ve long argued that the 1-3 trilogy is one of the boldest cinematic visions since the original film in 1977. For all the justifiable praise heaped on films franchises like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy, many of those franchises built upon well-established successful works by other artists. Peter Jackson didn’t invent Middle Earth or the Hobbits. Christopher Nolan didn’t conjure Bruce Wayne/Batman out of his imagination. That’s not a criticism of what they’ve done in re-telling those tales, but it’s the truth. They’re adaptations, not new creations.
George Lucas not only created the universe of ‘Star Wars’ from his own imagination, but in the 1-3 trilogy he faced the burden of telling a story most fans thought they knew (the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker’s fall, the rise of the Empire). What he created was something far more original and bold than is usually credited. He took risks both with the storytelling (turning the bad guys into good guys, showing cinema’s greatest villain as a cute little boy) and the technology of movie-making (pioneering digital acting, digital production and cost-saving techniques). As reader Cryogenic wisely points out, the 1-3 trilogy represents a far more personal cinematic creation than is credited.
“What people also overlook is that Lucas actually spent an entire decade of his life making the prequels (all in all, the prequels actually took longer to make than the LOTR trilogy), and he could have simply farmed the lion’s share out to someone else, just slapping his name on as producer and then being done with it. But he went above and beyond, arguably making the most personal blockbuster films in cinematic history. And what has he received for all that effort and dedication; for the sheer audacity of the undertaking? The most base of insults, time and time again. It’s hard to even fathom the blinkered thinking and double standards this far down the road.”
I often say ‘Star Wars’ is George Lucas’ story to tell because it IS. He’s earned the right, financially and creatively, to own it in every sense of the word. Peter Jackson doesn’t own ‘Lord of the Rings’, he’s the temporary custodian building upon a rich, well-established story. The same is true of Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams. Without diminishing their talents in the least, it’s true to say that in terms of their most successful work they are writers and filmmakers for hire.
What puts the entire Star Wars saga on the mantel of greatness is that it is represents a singular creative vision from an artist who time and time again put everything on the line for his art. That’s more than worthy of my cinematic love.