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This essay is from Sean Gates
Published on June 13, 2001

The Phantom Edit -
Disrespecting Art

I often wonder at what point it was that we stopped respecting art; or the artist's right to make their product their own way. I suspect it was around the time that art became commercialized, and in the art of cinema that was probably the late 1970's.

In fact, people blame George Lucas and our beloved "Star Wars" for the commercialization of cinema. It seems so odd, however, that amid all the criticism Mr. Lucas must take, so much of it comes from self-professed fans. When "Return of the Jedi" came out, people decided that the Ewoks were some kind of marketing scheme. I prefer to believe the opposite. I think he knew the Ewoks would be received negatively; even his production artists were skeptical. I just don't think he cared what anyone thought. What's more, I respect that because as an artist, it's his right. When studios make films by committee, bad things happen. I can't figure out how people overlook that.

Nor can I figure out why so many of the kids who sat slack-jawed in the theater in 1977, watching that big Star Destroyer thunder across the silver screen, are now convinced that Star Wars would be better made their way. Suddenly everybody has a "better" idea; everyone with an opinion is a filmmaker.

Of all Lucas's Star Wars creations, however, most recently we find Episode I taking the heat. In 1980, Empire took heat for daring to be different than it's predecessor, and in 1983 Jedi took more heat for daring to be different still. Suddenly in 1999, people can't stand TPM because it's not like the other three Star Wars films, which are now apparently viewed as shining examples of cinematic mastery compared to the first Prequel, which in truth is pretty much the same in tone as the first three - for as different as they each are, they have a common style.

It seems that too many fans who cry for more Star Wars can't stop finding fault in it, except for the Star Wars that's in their own heads, of course. Star Wars is made to be enjoyed, not dissected like a dead frog in a pan. It really is a simple matter to find something you don't like about anything in this world. Why has it become such a complex issue to enjoy a movie?

Has the weight of the world crushed our spirits, or the overabundance of effects-laden films dulled our sense of wonder so much that we can't sit slack-jawed in a cinema and watch a starship cross the silver screen without becoming cynical?

The problem, my friends, is not George Lucas, it is not Star Wars, and it is not even Cinema. It is us, the fans. We have grown up since 1977, and we have spent the years since 1983 imagining what else could happen in Star Wars. We had our own visions, our own dreams, and they've had a lot of years to steep in our creative minds. It's become too personal, and too easy to dissect because we feel as though it belongs to us, as if it is ours to create, when in reality it is simply ours to take or leave as we choose.

If the movies are this important to us, we owe Lucas better than to complain and criticize when he doesn't meet our foolish expectations. When Episode II comes out, just as many fans will complain. They will complain that it was silly, that it was dark, was not dark enough, it was "too commercial," the designs were too sleek, the designs weren't good, the script was too complex, the script was too simple, the acting was bad, the dialogue was lame, there was too much action, there wasn't enough action... all the same things that have been said a thousand times before about four little films we've all seen... and somehow loved, despite all this stuff that is supposedly wrong with them.

The same will happen with Episode III, and honestly, I think George Lucas expects that. I don't think he really cares. If we all wish to enjoy Episodes II and III as much as we enjoyed the originals, then it lies entirely on us to do so. Because Lucas is consistent -- all the Star Wars movies are much alike, each has its own strengths and weaknesses but they are all very unified in style, tone, and yes, even in quality. The difference is in time: it is not now, nor will it ever again be, 1977 - and if we want to enjoy Episode II the way it was meant to be enjoyed then we need to walk into that cinema light of heart, free of doubt, and full of wonder. I want to enjoy it. That was all I wanted in the 80's, too, and in 1999, and I succeeded in grinning like a small child each time, regardless of my age. Will you enjoy Episode II? Will you hate it? It's entirely up to you.


What do you think. Is Sean right? Will the fans whine regardless of what Lucas does for Episode 2 & 3? Email us and let us know what you think.

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