It’s been all over the news lately that with the release of Lucasfilm’s Red Tails George Lucas plans on retiring from blockbuster, i.e. popular films. Lucas cites the hard time he had trying to get Red Tails financed by studios (before he wound up paying for most of the film himself) and hints at the bitter reaction from many fans over his Star Wars prequels. In a New York Times Magazine interview he states, “I’m retiring, I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.”
But looking at this and other interviews, one can spot a loophole or two. He does not rule out a fifth Indiana Jones film, although the older Harrison Ford gets and the longer it takes for Lucas to approve a script the less likely that becomes. Then there is the Star Wars live-action series that he is still trying to get off the ground. That looks more likely since advancements in special effects will soon make it financially feasible for Lucas to produce film-quality episodes of his galaxy-spanning saga.
Actually, his so-called retirement isn’t exactly news. Back when Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was released, Lucas said then that he wanted to move away from blockbuster films. And even further back when Return of the Jedi came out, he claimed back then he wanted to focus on small, experimental projects. For many fans still bitter about Jar Jar Binks and Indy surviving a nuke blast in a fridge that’s great news. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out George, they may be thinking. But to others this is sad news and cements the fact that there won’t be any future Star Wars films.
Then again, look at his earliest efforts, THX-1138 and American Graffiti. Many forget today that both films were quirky, experimental pieces of filmmaking but are rightfully considered classics today. That’s especially true with THX-1138 since even today the film is seen as an avant-garde film. Whereas American Graffit is seen as a more conventional film it actually helped introduce the storytelling narrative of the main characters going off on their individual tangents without a set plot. That is because this technique has been copied so many times since. So Lucas probably just wants to go back to his roots and make quieter, low-budget films. That’s fine, since he did a superb job in directing them and at this point in his career, being that he is set financially, he can now afford to do whatever he wants.
Oh by the way, don’t forget that along with THX-1138 his other early genre effort was a little-known film at that time about some kid running around in spaceships with aliens. Yes that was Star Wars, but it was considered to be a huge risk for 20th Century Fox and experimental. So don’t write George Lucas off just yet.
Lewis T. Grove