For a director who has only directed six films in his career, George Lucas is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Of course, this is also partly because of his film studio, Lucasfilm is responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. When the main draw of a movie is the visuals and sounds involved with immersing the viewer in the world of the film, it’s no wonder that Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound are the great workhorses of Lucasfilm. What is almost ironic about George Lucas’ career is that, while he has written more films than he has directed, many actors and fans find the dialogue in these films to be clunky at best. Love him or hate him, George Lucas has made an indelible mark on film and on pop culture. This week’s two films highlight some of the best products of George Lucas’ career.
Star Wars: A New Hope
Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours
The film that launched a thousand starships, Star Wars (1977) was an amazing, technical feat that we almost take for granted today. Most of the practical effects in this film, both on the ground and in space, have rarely been lived up to. While he didn’t direct The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or Return of the Jedi (1983), he did write each of them to maintain his vision of the Star Wars universe. George was back in the director’s chair for the prequel trilogy, writing and directing all three films in this less-than-exemplary follow-on to the cult hit he had created decades before. Despite not winning any Oscars from the original Star Wars, he was nominated for Best Director and Best Writing for his efforts. Strangely enough, both Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness did not like Lucas’ writing, especially for their dialogue.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) of the Rebel Alliance is trying to get the plans for the Death Star into her compatriots’ hands but is captured in the process. Fortunately, her droids manage to track down Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who charters a spaceship to travel to Alderaan with his new compatriot, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Flying in the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the group arrive to find the planet destroyed by the Death Star. After being captured by the moon-like weapon, they manage to rescue the Princess and escape despite the loss of Kenobi at the hands of Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones).). Now that the Rebels know the weakness of the Death Star, they launch an assault on the weapon to destroy it for good.
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours
It’s almost odd to think that the man who brought the world Star Wars was the same one who also wrote and directed American Graffiti (1973). Earning his first Best Director and Best Writing Oscar nominations for this film, American Graffiti was George Lucas’ breakout success, even if it wasn’t his first film. Distinctly different in genre and tone from his very first film, THX 1138 (1971), American Graffiti examined a coming-of-age story set in a time of transition between high school and college. Perhaps due to its relatability to anyone who has ever been a teenager, this film has managed to place as high as #62 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies list. Unfortunately, the sequel, More American Graffiti (1979) failed to live up to its original, much like the Star Wars prequels would in years to come.
After graduating high school earlier that year, a group of teens set out to have one last “hurrah” on the final day of summer vacation. Each of them has different destinations and dreams, many of them revolving around attending college in the next few days. In their last moments together before continuing their life elsewhere, these teens set out to drive around their hometown of Modesto, California looking for a good time. While some of them find missed opportunities, others take risks that have life-changing effects on their future plans. Each one of them realizes their childhood will soon be over, so they do the best they can to live it up in those final moments before flying away to attend college, get a job, or go to war. In the end, many of their decisions are based on love, which makes for a series of challenging goodbyes.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great George Lucas movies
Bacon #: 2 (Hook / Phil Collins -> Balto / Kevin Bacon)