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George Lucas

The Pocket Essential Guide

George Lucas by James Clarke
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Whether it’s a bright yellow Deuce Coupe rocketing through small-town America or a bright yellow rocket ship blasting through a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas’ stories have been singular and consistent in the elemental power of their themes and emotions. Yet, since the beginnings of his success much of his storytelling skill has been eclipsed by the popcorn popularity of his work and the advances in visual effects that have characterised so many of his films. Lucas is unique amongst his contemporaries: he has written the screenplay for every film he has directed and every film he has made, has been designed for the screen. As such there is an aesthetic purity to his work. The Pocket Essentials: George Lucas explores how the films he has directed operate and how they connect together. Whether it is the comedy of American Graffiti, the machinations of The Phantom Menace or the oppression of THX 1138, Lucas films celebrate the power of the maverick sensibility. It is a sensibility for which Lucas has become a pop culture icon not just in the kinds of stories he tells but also in his approach to the medium of moviemaking. This Pocket Essentials guide covers the landmark movies – from student movies to Indiana Jones and the latest Star Wars episode Attack of the Clones – and also looks at Lucas achievements beyond his work as a director with his creation of Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Ranch and other media ventures, particularly his development and advocacy of digital cinema.
Pocket Essentials; Read online
Title: George Lucas
Author: James Clarke
A wide-eyed kid gazes longingly at the suns setting. A wide-eyed kid gazes longingly at his mother as he leaves her. A wide-eyed archaeologist grins with the satisfaction of discovery and understanding. An escaped future man stands against the sunrise. A wide-eyed teenager realises that everything changes. More than all the visual bells and whistles that ice every George Lucas movie, what drives his most brilliant efforts are very simple and emotionally direct stories about growing up. It just happens to be that the growing-up happens whilst hurtling through the stars or fleeing a robotic police force or criss-crossing the globe. There is consistency in these films, something singular. A George Lucas movie is not an easy thing to miss, and not just because of the attendant hype. Lucas’ films are distinctively pieced together, in their character types and visual dynamism. In September 2001, on the official Lucasfilm/Star Wars website George Lucas quietly announced the title of his new film. It would be called Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. Within minutes a wave of debate and response filled cyberspace. After almost thirty years Lucas continues to connect with masses of movie-goers and film fans. In 2002, Lucas released his fifth movie in 31 years as a writer/director. Alongside Terrence Malick, director of Badlands, Days Of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, Lucas is the most deliberate and, in a way, aesthetically pure of the so-called Movie Brat directors who blasted into cinemas back in the early 1970s. Lucas’ cadre included Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola. Unlike his contemporaries, Lucas has not adapted a novel into a feature film and only directs screenplays that he has written. Also, his principal Lucasfilm features come from Lucas’ work as a writer and ideas generator. Lucas has been decried for using clunky dialogue and simplistically rehashing pulpy formulae with no real ambition. In fairness, Lucas has always admitted that screenwriting is not his greatest strength - he shapes the sequences and rhythms of his stories at the editing stage. Lucas is a story archaeologist who gathers and reworks storytelling forms and narrative devices from other films, TV serials, mythological tales, comic books and old rock and roll songs. He dusts them down and represents them to contemporary audiences like a modern version of the Brothers Grimm. Lucas has said his connection with a mass sensibility has been more significant than the skill, or otherwise, of his film-making craft. Like Steven Spielberg, Lucas has been branded one of the reasons Hollywood cinema became so juvenile during the early 1980s. For many this is a situation from which mainstream film-making will never recover. In her review of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, film critic Pauline Kael (who raved about Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) talked of Lucas being ‘hooked on the crap of his childhood’ rather than making films with real people in them. Lucas has a style (fast pacing, simple storylines, young protagonists and upbeat conclusions) that is assuredly his. Time and again audiences want to immerse themselves in the kind of stories Lucas tells. As in any form, there are always less able imitators who can give a bad name to the best exponents. Maybe that attitude reflects a prejudice that critics have against popular culture rather than against Lucas. Lucas grew up in an era when America adored its pop culture in mass production, television, music and film. Lucas celebrates his past by updating it for the current popular culture audience.

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