Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A friend of mine popped around to my abode today and somehow -- probably by talking about movies that still look good decades later -- we got onto the subject of Star Wars; a subject of interest to my guest.

Anyway, he told me something which surprised me, after I told my friend that The Empire Strikes Back is probably the best Star Wars movie: "That's George Lucas' least favourite."

...and it continued with class.
"What? Is he insane?"

After reading Michael Kaminski's outstanding book "The Secret History of Star Wars" last year I realize it makes sense that G.W. Lucas would feel that way; in the book it is stated that the Star Wars' creator really just looked at the sequel film as a machine to make money for his pet project: "Skywalker Ranch." His attitude was that the movie should be done relatively cheaply and quickly in order to get it into the theatres as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for LucasVision, but fortunately for us, Empire director Irvin Kershner decided to spend more time, money, and care in order to make a great film.

(I'm not suggesting that spending lots of money makes a film great; but, you know what I mean.)

If I were a psychiatrist I would want to get George on my couch. I really want to know what makes that guy tick... off Star Wars fans. I'm not even a Star Wars fan, in the popular sense, but that man annoys me sometimes.


DonaldAR said...

I posit: "Star Wars," and the subsequent franchise, succeeded (or not so much, in latter cases) despite George Lucas, not because of him. He has had some great ideas, and some really bad ones. Not to mention; his worse than mediocre ability to craft decent dialogue. The success of the first 3 films owe as much or more to the casting of Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford and even Carrie Fisher.

Dominic M said...

How did you find the book? Any big revelations? I haven't heard of it.

Barry Smight said...

I agree. The first three films succeed also because there were some limits to visual effects technology at that time.

A few years ago I read a quote from Mark Hamill regarding a 'changed' George Lucas: He said something like, "I remember George and I would hop into his car and go to the drive-through to pick up hamburgers. Now he doesn't leave his ranch and surrounds himself with people who keep telling him how great he is. I want the old George back."

Thanks for the comment!

Barry Smight said...

To Dominic M,

The book is very good. I skim-read it, not that I was not interested in reading every word. My plan is to go back to it at some point.

Yeah, what I read was very eye-opening at times -- some stuff we know, obviously -- especially the metamorphosis of Star Wars, the greater story-line, as The Empire Strikes Back was written and rewritten. It changed into the Luke and Leia & Vader story in the writing process.

The author, Michael Kaminski, is from Ontario. He lives in Toronto, last I heard.

You can "read the first 100 pages for free!"...

Thanks for your comment!

Dominic M said...

Did you ever read the book about the production of "The Trouble with Tribbles"?

Barry Smight said...

"The Making of the Trouble With Tribbles"... yes! First read it back in the summer of 1976; could not put it down. It was written by David Gerrold, the writer of "Tribbles".

I lent it to someone a few years later and... guess what?

It's hard to find now. I tried about five years ago. You can read it for free online, somewhere.

Thanks for the comment/question!

Greg Woods said...

I saw a documentary a couple of years back about the making of "Empire": Irvin Kershner made it clear to Lucas, that if he was directing it, he was going to do things his way. And while Kershner wasn't an auteur per se, this movie clear has a more dark, adult tone that the others in the first trilogy do not. And to marry this with another post of yours, Mr. Smight, I concur with your ranking of the Star Wars trilogy. Technically and dramatically, Empire is "better", but I still tune out in all the scenes of the metaphysical jibber jabber. The first Star Wars has less of this, sticks to its meat and potatoes pulp story, and is more satisfying on those terms.

Barry Smight said...

I agree with you.

The 'mystical' stuff was expounded upon by The Empire Strikes Back, and it took over the Star Wars universe, as far as I'm concerned. At the least, it became too important... and overused.

As noted in the "Secret History of Star Wars" book, Lucas had initially envisioned, so it's claimed by some, a series of movies to take place in that galaxy far, far, away. When audiences took to the characters from Star Wars, the sequel film's development 'made up' the whole father-son-sister thing, thereby taking over the whole shebang by making it all one thread.

This is why, and you are not imagining anything, and "Secret History" author Michael Kaminski supports this, there is nothing, really, in the first film to augur the interpersonal 'dynamic' we are familiar with today.

Greg Woods said...

Yes indeed. Around 1997, when the Star Wars trilogy was re-released with "new improved, digitially enhanced effects", Lucas was claiming that all along he had envisioned the trilogy with the father-son thing, and I called bullshit. There is NOTHING in the first movie that supports all of that stuff. Yes, the two films that follow are at their weakest with all of that claptrap. "Jedi" especially suffers the worst of it. Whenever it shows up on TV, I generally change the channel after the Jabba the Hut scene.