In his interview in Vanity Fair, George Lucas reported that he will NOT be making any more Star Wars movies after Episode 3, which is set to be released in 2005 AD. And it's his baby, so, NO, he won't be letting anyone else make them, either. Thus, Episode 3 is the end, the finish, el ultimo, all she wrote, that's all folks. And, I hate to say it, but I'm not disappointed or sad. I'm actually kinda happy.
Don't get me wrong--- I grew up with Star Wars and had to beg -- BEG! -- my dear old dad to take me to see it when it came out in May, 1977-- I pleaded with him to buy 20th Century Fox stock when I saw all those people standing in lines wrapping around streetblocks (he did, but too late), I subscribed to Starlog, drew and redrew pictures of X-Wings and Y-Wings, got all uptight about the glaring technical inaccuracy in the graphix in the pre-battle briefing scene, learned the name of the creature in the garbage masher, all that. I loved (and still love) SW-- I have a Tantive IV atop my computer right now. I'm shaking with excitement about the new movies, and got hopping mad when I couldn't find the new stap/battledroid toy when it first came out.
But still... I'm glad to hear that Episode 3 will be it. Why? Because, well, I've grown up, and I've realized all the bad things that SW has done to the science fiction community. Just go into your local Borders and you will see Star Wars and Star Trek books crowding out anything new or original. Just go to a movie theater, and you see big budget science fiction movies with lots of explosions and eye-popping effects--- but no soul. Moviemakers are using cookie cutters to make flicks like Independence Day, Jurassic Park, Armageddon, and Deep Impact, where the dinosaurs and space ships are more real than the people. Moviemakers are after Star Wars-sized revenues, which they hope they can get with Star Wars-like movies. They succeed in capturing the visual chutzpah of Star Wars, yes, but not its spirit. These movies are a product of the revolution that occurred after SW came out--- suddenly every science fiction movie had to be HUGE, ENORMOUS: A BLOCKBUSTER in the waiting.
For a while this wasn't bad. After Star Wars made a gazillion bucks, executives decided they could risk financing big space movies, and we got Alien and the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise. But things have gone awry. Movies are getting bigger and bigger and their hearts are getting smaller and smaller. Nowadays, for the price of ten small, solid movies with a couple effects and many interesting ideas (like Repo Man), we get one huge movie with big effects and no ideas and overpaid stars who sleepwalk through their roles. Small good SF movies are still made--- like Gattaca, Pi, 6 String Samurai and The Arrival a couple years ago, but they are trampled in the media onslaught of the Godzillas and Armageddons. A huge movie requires a huge marketing attack. For the cost on what was spent telling the world "His foot is as big as this bus" we could have had another Gattaca or fifty (or more) 6-String Samurais. I'm not saying we go back to the days of low-budget masters like Roger Corman, but I am saying that the industry is too focused on effects rather than scripts. Quirky, clever little scripts aren't being filmed because Armageddons and Deep Impacts are. This is what Star Wars, my beloved Star Wars, has done to the movie industry.
Another thing: Star Wars broke out in 1977 when there was NOTHING else going on in the SF film field (as an example, The Day of the Animals was released the same day--- remember that one?). In 1977 Star Trek: The Motion Picture was in development hell, Alien was just a twinkle in Giger's eye, Batman was just a hokey old TV show in neon colors. What I'd like to see is, after 2005, a vacuum appear in movieland, where no big budget SF movies are released for a while--- a pause in the action, a quiet downtime, a wait... for next great SF franchise. I would like to see SW say goodbye, before it's worn out its welcome--- and, dare I say it, I'd love to see Star Trek also put out to pasture (esp. if all they're going to make are retread movies by ST9: Indigestion or if Voyager, lone remaining Trek series, is still trying to find its personality). Make room! Make room! Empires rise and fall. Aren't we glad we're all still not watching Flash Gordon or that bionic man (and his bionic girlfriend and the bionic kid and the bionic Big Foot and the bionic dog)? Weren't we pretty sick of The Planet of the Apes after five movies and two TV shows? These franchises were unbelievably enormous in their time, but the ideas petered out. They came on, sang their songs, and were replaced by something new. But those franchises only hung around for a decade at most: the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials were released within a five year period; the Apes were around for about 9 years. Trek has been with us for OVER THREE DECADES; Star Wars will be almost that old by the time episode 3 is out. And, perhaps, they're showing their age. It's time for Star Trek and Star Wars to ride off into the sunset, too. Something even better is trying to get born.
Agree or disagree? Send me an email.
Just wanted to drop you a note, that I totally agreed on your editorial on "Star Wars".
It's interesting that there are a number of popular classic movies that were sleepers, meaning they did not do good box bizness at first, but over time came to be regarded as outstanding. This includes "The Wizrad of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life" and also "Citizen Kane", and of course the 2 best horror films of the century, "Psycho" and "The Shining". (I know a lot of people rank "The Exorcist" as their #1 horror flick, but I personally rank "The Exorcist" and "Close Encounters" as the 2 most overrated movies I have ever seen.)
Imagine what would have happened if these movies had been instant hits. "Oz" became a hit after musicals had died in Hollywood. "Wonderful Life" became a hit after America had become more negative about small towns. Hence, Hollywood did not try to imitate them in their popularity.
I think some of the bad effects of "Star Wars" were delayed. In my view the 90s has been particularly bleak for movie sci-fi, while the 80s was a very good period.
Note particularly, that Roger Ebert just named the little-seen sci-fi movie "Dark City" as **the best picture of 1998**. I don't know if I agree with that but it is certainly up there with "12 Monkeys" as one of the best sci-fi pictures of this decade.
These are my decade-by-decade votes of best sci-fi:
Invasion of Body Snatchers
Day the Earth Stood Still
2001: A Space Odyssey
Planet of the Apes
TV series, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits
(Limits is the best of the 3)
ST2: Wrath of Khan
Most Interesting Failure: Dune
'90s (Note that except for T2, all these were much less successful than my '80s choices, and that *bad* sci-fi like "Independence Day" and "Godzilla" or only marginally good stuff like "Jurassic Park" was much more successful)
T2: Judgment Day
ST: First Contact
Most Interesting Failure: Starship Troopers
Bye 4 Nao,
My response to Jon's note:
Ah, yes, it would have been interesting to see what would have if Wizard of Oz or Trek had been REALLY popular when they first came out--- though I suspect that Trek would not have had as big an influence as we might think, since there WAS a really popular space show on TV at the time, namely Lost in Space.
Oh, in addition, I would add to your lists of best SF movies:
50's Them! and War of the Worlds
60's Day of the Triffids
70's Silent Running, Clockwork Orange
80's Repo Man
90's: Add Pi, Gattaca, the Arrival and ST: Generations (which had less kinetic energy but more substance than First Contact) and I'd drop Total Recall (eyes popping out in a vacuum and atmospheric replacement in five minutes at the end? I don't think so) and Contact from your list (we don't get to see the aliens, Jodi Foster's boyfriend is not believable, the anti-anti-science preaching is too un-subtle, etc.) I'd also have to drop Dark City, although a good movie, not nearly substantial enough, and the visuals, though they have some neat images, don't have the sustained imaginative chutzpah as Bladerunner or Metropolis, from which they are obviously derived.
Some comments from Duncan Long:
I think you're right about the effect of Star Wars effect on the movie industry. But I think you didn't take the idea far enough. The problem is that where Star Wars has some excellent plotting (heck, a writing teacher could use it to teach all the basics), most of the new movies spawned since then have been concepts without a writer. Even some of the "good" ones like Alien were really just an idea that sort of was carried out without much depth.
The odd thing to this is that the US has a wealth of excellent writers who could craft plots with almost no additional cost to the production of the blockbuster movie. What baffles me is how a movie exec could blow millions without requiring some of the most basic plotting and character development be employed to craft the plot into something that would work.
Instead they seem to get the first hack capable of writing "spaceship explodes" -- the SF equivalent of "car explodes" that we see in every car crash from Hollywood these days.
Welp -- off the soapbox.
-- Duncan Long
Some comments from Ben Lethbridge:
Re: Star Wars done to death
Read your piece about big budget movies and then "Red Dwarf" a British sci fi series sprang to mind as a low budget, idea rich, bloody funny TV series. Seen it? I doubt it, would make the local product look too bad for words. Dare I say it , but American movies are built up to a budget and not down to one. Special effects may have once been a substitute for content and at one time we might have thought of them as clever, but they all do it now. Special effects should be used to enhance a story not be the story.
Saw "Deep Impact" on video the other day, what an absolute shocker!!!!!!!!! This movie should have been put to death at birth The plot was written by a sly, money hungry, publicity seeking moron. Come to think of it they probably made it up as they went along.
Ben Kenobi ( May Jello destroy the Force)
Comments from Randy Foster
I read your editorial on Star Wars and, intellectually, I agree. Emotionally, however, I have some disagreements. I must confess that the ten year old boy trapped inside me never wants Star Wars to end. I love the characters, I literally grew up with them. I too can remember begging my father to take me to see Star Wars when it first came out. I'll always remember jumping around pretending to be Han Solo as we walked back to the car afterwards. Then in the following years I remember playing with the Star Wars toys my parents got me. We didn't have a lot of money back then but it didn't matter to me. I played with the four or five action figures I got until the fell apart. But enough about my fond memories of Star Wars. Let me get to the meat of my response.
It is true that the movie industry will always try to copy anything even remotely successful. Not only is this true, it is the industry standard. I don't like it, it saddens me, and if I could I'd change it. But I can't. When Star Wars goes, something else will take its place. If its going to happen anyway, I personally would rather see it happen to Star Wars.
I must concede that (eventually) I may grow tired of the Star Wars saga. I doubt it, but it could happen. I have a nineteen month old little boy, however, who has never experienced the joy of Star Wars. Although I may tire of the plot line, I would hate to think that he will never get to experience the thrill of standing in line for an hour, paying eight bucks for a ticket, cramming into a crowded theater, and getting taken to a better place in a galaxy far, far away, compliments of Mr. Lucas.
Things have a way of working out the way they should, and one day a new movie will come along to replace Star Wars. I look forward to that day, but I don't wish to speed it up any. Thanks for listening.
My response to Randy's comments:
Thanks for writing, Randy. I think your comments touch on something I hadn't really thought through. I think our different perspectives have to do with the fact that you have kid(s) and I don't. Part of me is always looking for that Next Cool Thing. Part of me also wants to share with other people the Last Cool Thing. My wife is eight years younger than me, so our childhood experiences (movies, music, TV, etc.) don't entirely overlap, and sometimes I want to share stuff with her that was cool when I was little - but to her it just seems old and creaky. But if there were new stuff along the same lines, it wouldn't be as bad. What I mean is that the next generation might not like "Star Wars: A New Hope," but they might get into it if they see "The Phantom Menace" first. I know Lucas has said (for better or worse) that "TPM" is really not geared to people who were kicks when the first "SW" movie came out, but people who are kids now. Anyway, thanks for your comments.
Back to Review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Back to Science Fiction Art
Back to Kitsch Tour U.S.A.
Back to the Frank Wu website homepage