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January 19, 2012

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AdenDreamsOf

This film has looked both dull and bland from the first trailer I saw months ago. I agree with you and many other people that these real-life historical heroes deserve to be celebrated, but I'm not surprised to hear that you dislike the film. I can't judge the movie because I haven't seen it, but the Lucas brand has screamed 'Effects before all else' for so long that it's not funny anymore. It just is what is, and he no doubt will continue to make and be involved with wooden, superficial movies.

Fortunately for me, I have a weekend of more promising fare planned: Fiennes does Shakespeare, new Soderbergh, and hopefully 'Pariah'.

Also, I finally saw 'Shame' last night, and agree with every word you wrote about the film in both your review and 'For Your Consideration' piece.

BobSolo

I love how -- in the promotional interviews for REDTAILS -- Lucas is suddenly positing himself as a civil rights crusader in racist Hollywood.

Oliver_C

Goodbye Mr Lucas. Don't let Greedo's blaster singe your popcorn-stuffed colon on the way out.

lazarus

Nice to see militant, anti-Lucas fanboyism doesn't just exist on Ain't It Cool News...

MW

I wish Lucas had listened to Hemingway's initial instincts. From the NY Times:

“I always felt it was much more of a mature film,” Hemingway said. “I felt if you’re going after kids, you have to go through the back door.” But Lucas persuaded him that if they made “Red Tails” as a kids’ picture, at some primal, emotional level, they would connect with the adult fanboys.

Owain Wilson

To think that this is the man who made American Graffiti!

James Keepnews

Let's not forget the other screenwriter is Aaron McGruder, Mr. Boondocks himself who willingly walked away from such facile paydays once upon this century. Between him, Ridley and the talented Mr. Hemingway, you'd think all of Lucas' "let's make a Negro FLYING LEATHERNECKS" infanboytilism might have been held at bay, and not as in "Bay, Michael". And, by most accounts, you'd be wrong. Too bad -- I adore U-TURN and think Ridley's script puts most of Ollie's overwrought screenplays to bloody-mouthed shame.

John M

George Lucas, among other things, hasn't understood kids in quite a while.

lazarus

So kids didn't like the Star Wars prequels? Didn't demand a lot of the merchandise for it?

Interesting theory.

BobSolo

In my view, Lucas has always been a shit filmmaker. Fanboyism or antifanboyism has nothing to do with it. Not my bag, man. I can see why people like the Star Wars stuff (and I don't really see a discernible difference between either trilogy other than CGI; six dumb scripts). Just not my thing. The first Indiana Jones movie is perfect though.

Gordon Cameron

>In my view, Lucas has always been a shit filmmaker.

In my opinion, Lucas's '70s debut was pretty darned impressive. Three completely different films, in completely different genres, and each thoroughly successful on its own terms.

lazarus

From a visual/compositional perspective, the prequels have a lot of merit as cinema. Certainly moreso than any of the Indiana Jones films, even if Raiders is "perfect" entertainment (and let's not forget than there are many highbrow critics who find that series as equally vapid as Star Wars). Try watching the music-only track, and I think without the dialogue it's vivid storytelling.

Or to put it another way, the script for Fritz Lang's Indian Epic ain't exactly Shakespeare.

Jaime N. Christley

I think Lucas is pretty underrated as a visual guy. I get a lot out of REVENGE OF THE SITH. To put it in perspective, I tend to apologize for liking THE PHANTOM MENACE* but ROTS is genuinely good. The first STAR WARS is pretty crisply made, too.

* If anyone feels like giving me a "you shouldn't have to apologize for liking so-and-so, there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure," mini-lecture, let me stop you right there.

John M

"Didn't demand a lot of the merchandise for it?"

Interesting defense, lazarus.

David Ehrenstein

"Lucas is suddenly positing himself as a civil rights crusader in racist Hollywood."

White people love to "give" black people what's already theirs.

Aden Jordan

@ Lazarus , Having read Ain't It Cool News for long a time when their site was first popular, I do know what you mean by the militant fanboy mentality of intensely disliking Lucas, but there are also plenty of people who just aren't that into his body of work and were not fans to begin with. I personally never had any real connection with the 'Star Wars' films but did enjoy the Indiana Jones films, and I was mostly confused and underwhelmed the first time I watched 'THX 1138' a year ago. I haven't seen 'American Graffiti' so I can't include it in my assessment of his body of work.

I think you're correct in pointing out how passionately Lucas' work is judged and disliked, and I agree that the anti-Lucas fanboyism is not necessarily constructive discourse. On a positive note, he does deserve credit for being able to so routinely find ways to self-finance his projects and I think the 'Ewoks' movie is so disturbing that it's probably one of the ballsiest family movies out there.

lazarus

For the record, when I referred to "militant anti-Lucas fanboyism" I was speaking specifically of Oliver C's post above, where the suggestion of scatological violence inflicted on the director was the type of thing common on AICN.

@ James: glad I'm not alone here. I'd also say that the noir atmosphere conjured up by Lucas and John Williams in Attack of the Clones is just as palpable as the similar vibe found in The Empire Strikes Back.

BobSolo

So Star Wars is good with the sound off because Fritz Lang's Indian epic is not Shakespeare. And it's also good because a lot of kids bought toys for it.

Again, not my bag. And these arguments aren't helping. Just confusing this poor old man.

Tom Russell

I don't think Lazarus's argument re: toys was that kids wanting toys based on the movies made the movies good; I think his argument was that it showed that Lucas isn't out of touch with what kids want. Because, y'know, that's the accusation that his comment was actually responding to.

And I can testify from anecdotal evidence that, yes, kids go crazy for the new Star Wars films, moreso (sadly) than the first two, and the television series, which I've heard is apparently actually not bad for what it is.

Going with the Joyce Carol Oates metric-- that you're always as good as your best work-- Lucas is a great filmmaker based solely on THX. He's been threatening for a long time to make weird, personal, alienating, low-budget films, and I'm hoping he actually does, because I'd love to see more from the guy who made THX-- the guy who (according to Easy Riders, Raging Bulls-- which might not be the most reliable source, I'll grant you) likened making the much-loved American Graffiti to "strangling a kitten" (i.e., cheaply manipulating the audience rather than challenging them).

Oliver_C

I don't even frequent Ain't It Cool News; can't remember the last time I went there.

Defending Lucas' belated, pixelated pissing on (and pissing away) of his original trilogy on auteurist grounds is as perniciously misguided a decision as Bernice Albertine King choosing to march alongside boy-buggering Bishop Eddie Long.

Account Deleted

Lazarus is spot on. Whilst the prequels are lacking in the same areas the original trilogy was lacking in (acting, script) they certainly make up for it on the pure cinema side of things. Lucas is a student of film history and litters the prequels with references to bygone cinema (something Glenn himself notes in his introductory essay to "A Galaxy Not So Far Away"), elements of experimental cinema (Jinn and Maul's initial lightsaber batle in the desert in 'Menace', the cross-cutting between Anakin and Dooku's lightsaber blades after the power cables are cut near the end of 'Clones') and, as Lazarus rightfully points out, a brilliant eye for composition.

We all need to admit that the original trilogy is not some kind of perfect, holy relic. It is flawed in the same way the prequels are. Has anybody seen Harrison Ford's performance in 'Jedi' recently? One of the laziest screen performances ever. And Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen are so alike in their performances it's amazing one was given a pass and the other was condemned. Even 'Empire' isn't the great, flawless masterpiece it's made out to be, especially the 30 minute stretch aboard the Millenium Falcon.

There is a lot going on in the prequels if you drop the lazy 'Lucas raped my childhood' schtick and actually look at what is going on in them. For my mind the last half hour of 'Clones' (along with the last half hour of 'Avatar', which funnily enough shares the same flaws)is the best blockbuster action of the past decade. Yes they're not perfect but perhaps we need to stop comparing them to the adult cinema of Kubrick, Mann and Lynch that we original trilogy fans moved on to after the mid 80s and analyse and observe them on the level that Lucas is making them on.

BobSolo

"He's been threatening for a long time to make weird, personal, alienating, low-budget films"

That's an odd metric for quality.

All the films he's made have been weird, personal, and alienating, if high-budget. Especially the Star Wars prequels. That doesn't translate to "good".

I could walk around my apartment, brilliantly composing shots of mundane household objects. You'd be alienated and find it weird and it would certainly be personal.

THX is as bland a film as his others. On paper, it's a great idea. On the screen, it's Lucas ham-fistedly aping the films he saw in some experimental cinema class he had to sit through.

That's ultimately what I don't like about Lucas: everything is a sloppy, heartless copycatting (or "homage" if you want to give him more credit). Those last three Star Wars pictures were him copying all the material (video games, Summer blockbusters, sci fi TV series) that his original Star Wars films spawned. It was like watching a bloated snake eat its very long tail, very slowly.

"we need to ... observe them on the level that Lucas is making them on."

Even as kid's films (the level that they all were made on) they are not very good compared to the likes of similarly fanciful blockbusters from Spielberg/Zemekis/Donner/Burton (first trilogy) or Pixar (second trilogy).

As cinema, I'll give you a few of the set pieces from the first few films (sand people attack, Mos Eisley; the Hoth sequence; the Jabba palace opening to Jedi). The second trilogy is such a slick mess, it's hard to parse for me.

Stephen Whitty

Favorite email of the day? The one from the reader who, noticing I liked "Haywire" more than "Red Tails," promptly declared me racist. Because what OTHER reason could you have for not preferring "Red Tails"?

D

I also enjoyed ROTS -- so much so that I bought it on dvd and have watched it and enjoyed it upon repeat viewings. I cannot say that I had such pleasure with any other Lucas movie -- or even come close. One day I will watch it with the music track on.

John M

One might draw a distinction between "knowing what makes 6-year-olds go crazy" and understanding children.

Kids buy up lots of crap. Teletubbies, Hannah Montana, etc. I suppose it's a talent to aim something squarely and cynically at a drooling, distracted child and have them bite, but it's not a very admirable or profound talent. Lucas's approach to kids is shallow and mercenary. (This argument might very well well begin and end with Jar-Jar Binks.)

Of course, I didn't see much "pure cinema" in the 3 most recents Star Operas, so maybe I'm just not understanding the criteria here. Unless feverish cross-cutting is pure cinema.

Account Deleted

"Even as kid's films (the level that they all were made on) they are not very good compared to the likes of similarly fanciful blockbusters from Spielberg/Zemekis/Donner/Burton (first trilogy) or Pixar (second trilogy)."

Spielberg: I'm a big Spielberg fan, but what blockbusters of his are you saying Star Wars and Empire aren't as good as?

Zemeckis: The only Zemeckis film I really rate is the original Back to the Future, and that's more to do with the script than any directorial prowess on Zemeckis' part. He's a very bland filmmaker, I find that he doesn't have any particular directorial vision that makes his work stand apart.

Donner: The only 'childish' blockbuster he made is Superman, of which the opening 45 minutes is magisterial - but then let down by a rather goofy final hour. Unless you're saying The Goonies and Ladyhawke are better than Star Wars?

Burton: Can't think of any Burton films better than Star Wars and Empire. I love Beetlejuice but it's not really a kids film is it?

BobSolo

The films I had in view:

Spielberg - RAIDERS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, JAWS
Zemeckis - BACK TO THE FUTURE, ROGER RABBIT
Donner - The first two SUPERMEN
Burton - PEE WEE, BEETLEJUICE (I saw it as a kid), BATMAN
Pixar - pretty much everything

As childrens pictures, I find all of these films more interesting -- directorially and otherwise -- than the first (or 4th and 5th or whatever) STAR WARS movies.

But this is a zero sum game since STAR WARS clearly remains powerful and significant to you in your adult life. For me, they did the trick as a kid but I've moved on. So I'd like to respectfully bow out of this discussion.

BobSolo

Put another (and, I hope, less-condescending) way:

As a kid, I would spend days in my room building enormous worlds out of Legos. After college, I backpacked across Europe. Both were extremely rewarding activities at the time and are burned into my memory as significant events. But, given the choice now, I can tell you which one I'd rather relive/revisit/attempt again. I feel the same way about your Star Wars vs Lynch/Kubrick/Mann (false) dichotomy.

Asher

I'm pretty sure your enormous Lego worlds had more artistic value than the Star wars trilogy.

TronCaliJag

It's sad that Lucas gets in his own way. Something like this could have been fun but the trailers pretty much confirmed that he's up to his old CGI-sheened phoniness.

re: Star Wars. Those films are to my generation (someone who grew up in the '70s and '80s) what the Harry Potter films are to the kids who grew up over the last 15 years. Same difference. I'm sure twenty years from now, some combox will be lit up with defenses of the pure cinema of Chris Colombus.

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