Last night, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to promote his new book, "Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success." Yes, I know that the title is a mouthful. The book is apparently filled with fun movie facts however; did you know, for example, that more hours of film were committed to tape for "Superman" than for "Gone with the Wind"?
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Anyway, as talks with Lucas often do, the interview focused mostly on the lasting appeal of the "Star Wars" franchise. Stewart came out swinging in fact, asking the filmmaker straight out how he deals with a conflicted fanbase that simultaneously praises the classic trilogy while bemoaning the newer one.
"Life is duality," he said with a little grin.
"It's a work of fiction," he continued. "It's a metaphor, it's not real. And therefore you can either like it or not like it. Whatever."
Lucas may be quick to cast aside criticism of more recent "Star Wars" efforts, but he remains aware of the deeply divided fanbase surrounding this universe that he's created. "We have now three generations of 'Star Wars' fans. The first generation saw ['Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope'] and the next two, and then when the next three came out, they hated it. They could not stand it."
Whoa. Hold on there a second. Is the consensus among long-time fans really one of hate? Sure, there are some imperfections in the newer trilogy and there's a fair bit of vitriol directed at "Phantom Menace" in particular, but I feel like only a very few die-hard fans are hanging onto their hate for the newer trilogy as a whole. We see the birth of Darth Vader for crying out loud!
That said, there are no rose-tinted glasses to make the Episodes I through III look better. "A New Hope" launched a phenomenon, "Empire Strikes Back" sealed it and "Return of the Jedi" capped off the epic story. "Phantom Menace" and its successors were in part meant to please fans of course, but they also served to introduce a new generation of young people to Lucas's sci-fi universe.
"We discovered that there was a whole new group of kids out there that loved ['Star Wars']," he told Stewart. "And they didn't like the [original movies]. They said 'Episode IV, boring, we don't want to see that.' They loved Jar Jar Binks."
I have to cry foul again. Really... no one likes Jar Jar, right? This is accepted as truth. Isn't it? Maybe it isn't. After all, the "Clone Wars" TV series has its share of cutesy elements. It should be said though that Jar Jar has been used sparingly there as well.
"Now we have a show on Cartoon Network, ['Star Wars: The Clone Wars']," Lucas said. "And there's a group of kids that are very young, and some teenagers and some older people who can't get enough of 'Star Wars'... that's their favorite show. And the kids have never seen any of the films. All they know is 'The Clone Wars.'"
Lucas may not be the ideas man he once was, but that's okay. For one, he's built up this empire of creative talents, people producing TV and books and comics and video games (and hopefully more films?), who have done a great job of building a massive Expanded Universe around the series. Lucas seems content to serve as an oracle of sorts, the final word on all things "Star Wars."
"I love doing 'Star Wars,'" he said. "In the beginning I thought it was going to be one little movie, move on. It's not at all what i expected my life to be."
Not one to let a comment like that be, Stewart immediately asked the filmmaker if he's in any way disappointed with the way things have turned out for him.
"Yeah I was actually. I expected to turn in something great," he replied, perfectly deadpan. "You know, you take what you get." That's when the wry grin came out, an acknowledgment of the joke. Lucas started his career as a storyteller; of course he's pleased with how things have gone. "I'm having fun now doing television. It's a lot more goofy and fun."