1999, Afghanistan, Amidala, Darth Vader, Ewan McGregor, George Lucas, George W Bush, Hayden Christiansen, Iraq, JJ Abrams, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme, Palpatine, Prequels, Qui-Gon Jinn, Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Tony Blair
The final episode: forgiving George Lucas.
You probably think I’m railing on George Lucas. You might be right.
You probably also think I’m enjoying it. That wouldn’t be true.
Anyone who was young when Star Wars came out, or who was born around about that time, owes George Lucas a lot. Respect is due. It’s about time I paid some. Even to the prequels.
Perhaps I’ve made it seem like he has let me down. And yeah, he was responsible for a disappointing set of movies. But there’s a bit more to these times, and this series of films, than meets the eye. There’s certainly a lot more to George Lucas than sitting back and counting cash.
We’ve got to be fair. We’ve got to accept where George Lucas got it right.
The story of Palpatine’s rise to power matches that of George W Bush. It’s spookily prescient, given that Bill Clinton was still in office when The Phantom Menace was released.
Out of Palpatine and Dubya, one of these two men reached the highest office in a dubious manner, started a costly war under false pretences and caused the start of an international dark age. The other is Emperor Palpatine.
The phrase that rings truest in Revenge of the Sith is uttered by Natalie Portman’s Amidala, as Palpatine basks in his ultimate triumph. “This is how democracy dies… with ringing applause.”
Lucas’ galactic empire rose at the same time as modern neoliberalism reached something of a crisis point, under the steerage of Bush and Tony Blair. The illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the defining international events of this time, never mind the Clone Wars. The strings were being pulled by people in thrall to neoliberal capitalism.
George Lucas didn’t like what he was seeing, either in domestic or foreign politics, and he took aim at it. There are very few major league film-makers who addressed this illiberal, rapacious, technocratic trend (James Cameron, with Avatar, was the other notable exception).
Star Wars has been very good for George Lucas’ bank balance, but he isn’t wallowing in it. Lucas has gone down the Andrew Carnegie route, giving his fortune away to good causes. For this reason he should be applauded everywhere he goes. In a beautiful gesture, Lucas also gave over some prime real estate over to social housing projects, in defiance of property speculators who could only see dollar signs.
Part of me sees the George Lucas of 1997-2005 as being happier if he’d set a series of movies in and around the Galactic Senate, with all the political machinations, power struggles and, yes, trade embargoes that universe would entail. These are the sort of narrative toys an older man would prefer to play with, rather than the stuff of sword fights and shootouts. Who knows – he still might do it…
So for these reasons, let’s give due credit to George Lucas. He blew the prequels, but he’s still a good man, doing good things. And his credentials as a creator of fantastic, innovative entertainment are better than most.
I forgive you for the prequels, George. After all, it’s only movies.
Something to bear in mind as we head into The Force Awakens, in a matter of days.
You should expect a film, nothing more.
If JJ Abrams makes as good a job of it as he did with the Star Trek reboot, we’ll be entertained. That’s all you can ask.
Disappointment is a terrible thing.
It’s a big risk to hope, and I daren’t do it. But there is a chance – just a chance – that Star Wars will be magic again.
Here’s to hoping.
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