In a recent review of George Lucas’ newest box-office hit but critical flop, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, I stated that as a writer, director, and creator, Lucas had not really created any new material over the past few years. To back up that statement, I have analyzed Lucas’ creative history with help from the Internet Movie Database.
As a college student at the University of Southern California, Lucas was at his most inventive. Over the course of three years, Lucas created nine short films:
1965 – Look at Life
1966 – 1:42:08: A Man and His Car
1966 – Freiheit
1966 – Herbie
1967 – Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB
1967 – Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town
1967 – 6-18-67
1967 – The Emperor
1968 – Filmmaker
Among those was “Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB,” Lucas got the opportunity to recreate in 1971 as “THX 1138,” his first true film. The plot evolved from an Orwellian-type story of a man identified only as 1138 trying to escape a totalitarian future, to a more involved tale of “1138” rebelling against his society’s structured rules and, by not taking the drugs used to control their emotions, accidentally impregnating LUH 3417. They get thrown into jail and plan their escape.
Coming only two years later in 1973 was “American Graffiti,” the defining story of its time. Still shown in rock history classes around the country, “American Graffiti” tells the story of two high school students’ last wild night before their first day at college. With its iconic soundtrack featuring the likes of Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and Buddy Holly, “American Graffiti” is a 70s classic.
And then, on May 25, 1977, “Star Wars” was released. Back then, it wasn’t “Episode IV,” and an entire generation of super nerds had not spent their time ingesting the hundreds of books, videogames, comics, and films that had been spawned from Lucas’ genre-changing film. Back then, it was still just an imaginative political statement. That’s when things began to change.
After creating a follow-up to “American Graffiti” entitled “More American Graffiti,” Lucas made a sequel to his money-making and Oscar-winning Star Wars franchise called “Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back” and it was clear with its ridiculous cliff-hanger (“Luke, I am your father”) that there was going to be at least one more film in the series. But with “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” being only the fourth episode, Lucas had left himself open to create episodes one through three, and also a hypothetical seven through nine taking place after the events of “Return of the Jedi.”
At the same time, in 1981, Lucas’ good friend Steven Spielberg asked him if he wanted to team up with him and create the franchise that eventually became the Indiana Jones series (named Indiana after Lucas’ own dog). “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was followed by “Temple of Doom” in 1984 and (seemingly) concluded with “The Last Crusade” in 1989.
A promising start to a successful career.
So what happened between then and now? Sure, Lucas’ has had continued success, and has never had to scrape pennies together from his couch in Skywalker Ranch, but still, there is a certain quality drop in the films being produced. At first, George Lucas was creating some of the most important films of our time with important political statements that showed his range of creativity. But “Star Wars” stopped him. At age 33, Lucas hit his peak.
Since 1977, Lucas has worked on 13 “Star Wars” features, five “Star Wars” TV shows, 16 “Indiana Jones” features, and one “Indiana Jones” TV show. That doesn’t include the countless spin-off novels, novelizations, video games and comic books.
And he’s only worked on three other projects.
Of those three (“Captain EO” in 1986, “Willow” in 1988, and “Radioland Murders” in 1994), only “Willow” made a splash big enough to be reminisced about today. Lucas created nine individual projects over three years in college. He’s created seven individual projects over 37 years in his professional career.
Please, Lucas, we beg you: something new! Give us something powerful along the lines of “American Graffiti” or “THX 1138”. Give us something to redefine our generation by like “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones” did in the past.
Just please, please, please stop giving us the same old shit.
Below is a list of films Lucas has worked on in his professional career. The ones with one star are Star Wars related, and the ones with two stars are Indiana Jones related.
1971 – THX 1138
1973 – American Graffiti
1977 – Star Wars IV: A New Hope*
1979 – More American Graffiti
1980 – Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back*
1981 – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark**
1983 – Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi*
1984 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom**
1984 – The Ewok Adventures*
1985 – “Ewoks” (TV series)*
1985 – “Droids” (TV series)*
1985 – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor*
1986 – The Great Heep*
1986 – Captain EO
1988 – Willow
1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade**
1989 – Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation**
1992 – Indiana Jed**
1992-1993 – “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (TV series)**
1994 – Radioland Murders
1995 – Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen**
1995 – Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye**
1997 – Star Wars Animated Adventures: Droids*
1999 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Adventures in the Secret Service**
1999 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Masks of Evil**
1999 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Spring Break Adventure**
1999 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Trenches of Hell**
1999 – Star Wars: The Dark Redemption*
1999 – Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace*
2002 – Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones*
2004 – Treasure of the Hidden Planet*
2003-2005 – “Star Wars: Clone Wars” (TV series)*
2005 – Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith*
2007 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: My First Adventure**
2007 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Perils of Cupid**
2007 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Journey of Radiance**
2007 – The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Demons of Deception**
2008 – “The Clone Wars” (TV series)*
2008 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull**
2008 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars*
2009 – “Untitled Star Wars TV Series” (TV series)*
I agree 99.9%.
1%= You speak of SW franchise like as if it was a dated old rag. If the old has served it’s purpose, why then is he still wiping his ass with gold-leaf toilet paper and not 2-ply?
On another note:
He needs to get together with the other Has-Been ‘Spielberg’, and put Peter Jackson and Michael Bay and the Coen Brothers to shame
with the most fantastical, original, story ever to grace the eyes and ears of humanity.
Is that too much to ask? 🙂
Lucas also helped bring to the screen several ‘relatively’ little seen features including Latino, the astonishing documentary ‘poem’ Powaqattsi, Kurosawa’s lavish war movie Kagemusha and Coppola’s excellent period drama Tucker.
I hope that we see more animated features from Lucasfilm Animation set outside the SW world.
All the best.
I would love to see Lucas do something–anything–new. I’m totally fine with him coming with a great, original story and great, original images, but after that he needs to hand off the reins to a proper screenwriter and director… I don’t know if I could sit through another film (esp. if not SW related) full of Lucas’ classically wooden dialogue. Great article.