Thank you, George Lucas, for artificially inducing the migraine this morning.
Lucas was part of what was then the "new" generation of filmmakers. They went to film school and were versed in the classics of cinema instead of just living through it like other filmmakers. Right out of the gate, they avoided the Poverty Row crowds and started making great stuff (I personally don't think this is how good filmmakers are made, but that's for another column). Lucas had an idea for a movie called Star Wars (I believe it was called The Journal Of The Whills or some such thing at the time). Fox agreed to finance it in a cynical move -- they had optioned a Sydney Sheldon book, and wanted a movie that would bomb to help keep the taxes down. As a result, they gave Lucas a sweetheart deal, figuring they'd pulled one over.
Well, that bomb blew up in their faces. Star Wars became a cultural phenomena and Lucas got more money than some third world countries. At the time, he was still interested in making other movies. He was working on producing other flicks, including one of my favorite animated flicks, Twice Upon A Time, where conflict between the producer and the director created two different versions (the "dirty mix" is the best) and Willow. But around the time of Radioland Murders, Lucas apparently figured, why bother? He lost interest in making movies.
Now, in any manga or anime, your central character will have allies (Steven Speilberg) and rivals. Lucas' rival is James Cameron. Cameron also made popular sci-fi movies (Aliens, and the first two Terminator movies were great great stuff). The rivalry between them came to a head when Cameron made Titanic. Cameron is such a perfectionist that he had special effect changes happening, such as stopping the rotating screws on the Titanic as it sank or digitally adding fog coming out of the actors' mouths as their breathed. There was simply too much for his own special effects company, Digital Domain, to handle. Some work got farmed out to Industrial Light And Magic, George Lucas' company. Everyone there laughed at how Cameron had to call on his archenemy to help....
...then Titanic made a billion dollars. Lucas' rival had just bested him and ended the sentence with an exclamation point. Lucas put things in motion, and soon announced the long-awaited Star Wars movies. I remember talk of prequels being first for a long time, including rumors of Mark Hamill playing a young Darth Vader. Lucas also changed his mind about Star Wars being nine movies. He claimed he meant six all along, he only said nine for the press.
This portion of my column is going to be purely personal opinion. In other words, if there is backtalk instead of discussion, I expect it to originate with what I'm writing here. I expected to hate the prequels, simply because of my reaction to the Star Wars Special Editions. Lucas did some stuff right, such as digitally expanding the shot of R2D2 rolling through the Tattooine desert. It really expanded the scope of things. But others, like the long take of the dewback stomping around, showed Lucas being interested in special effects, even if it undermined the proceedings (it was an escape pod they thought misfired, why send all those troops?). The most powerful crime lord in the galaxy lets Han Solo shoot his hired help and step on his tail (Han shooting second is the least offensive part of this)? Kenobi's hut no longer blended into the desert, but was obviously a dwelling and would be a target for every thief and marauder in the area. And the slapstick -- oh, lord, the slapstick, like the jawas being thrown from their ronto when it got spooked by a swoop bike. This was not looking good.
The prequels came out. Star Wars fans loved 'em, the general public loved 'em, people like me shrugged (if the storm troopers are clones, why do they have different voices in the original three films?), and that was it. But when Dark Knight vaulted past everyone, I expected Lucas to start kicking around the last three movies, just to remind everyone who he was. Why am I not surprised that, after James Cameron's Avatar kicked up so much dust and has a sequel going in motion, that the rumors are reaching a fever pitch?
Supposedly, after the 3D releases of Star Wars, Lucas is going to announce work on the last three movies. I have no doubt they'll do well, and that the opinion of a pesky Polish mangaka on LiveJournal isn't going to amount to anything. But in this case, my tag truly does say it all -- haven't we suffered enough?