Thursday, June 08, 2006

something we should discuss

I found this on a Star Wars blog: (big up Darth Morbus)

Did Star Wars Ruin American Movies?

Relevant to this blog is the link below, which is a cached link I found in a Yahoo search for an article I read long ago. For some time I actually agreed with this assessment until I saw Lucas' documentaries accompanying the first DVD editions of the original trilogy. To be sure, the writer of the below-linked article delivered a jolting, brutal assessment of Lucas as a director and creative thinker. Fans will not like it but for the sake of argument and in the interest of presenting both sides of an argument, I recommend reading it before you continue to my blog.

Years ago, a critic named Charles Taylor accused George Lucas of ruining American moviemaking. He slammed him for making Hollywood feel like it absolutely had to make the ultimate, million-maximizing blockbuster every time it set out to make a film. There could never again be a significant presence of true artistry in commercial filmmaking. It certainly seemed, and often still seems, as if this is indeed the condition today.

Remember Vin Diesel's Richard B. Riddick? David Twohy made a movie featuring this character called 'Pitch Black', on nearly a shoestring budget in a very short period of time in Australia, creating a highly derivative but enjoyable classic that spawned a legendary sci-fi action hero. Pitch Black was an independent classic. The next time Twohy made a movie around Riddick, he moved his apparatus to America and Hollywood, turned it into an 'epic' and made an over-the-top-blockbuster-Hollywood-by-numbers film. This is simply how it's done in America.

This is, in my opinion, what ruined Star Trek films for the vast part. For me, the best Star Trek films were the ones that were essentially silver-screen episodes: Star Trek II and III. Many people pan III, but I found it action-packed with interesting characters and possessed of an interesting plot. After these two films, in many ways they returned to the Hollywood syndrome (supposedly inflicted by Star Wars) of the first Trek movie ('The Motion Picture', which was essentially a lengthy pan-shot of the refurbished starship with some uninspired dialogue thrown into a bad rewrite of a classic series episode about a wayward probe coming home). (What's worse, because III had successfully gotten away with blowing up the Enterprise, it became a habit. What are the odds, sci-fi fen, that the featured starship in the next Star Trek movie is utterly destroyed?)

Trek movies are now universe-saving affairs instead of simply interesting, mind-bending situations with great character development. It's all entertainment now without much meat to the matter. No wonder people stopped going to these movies; it's surprising that Paramount is going to risk making another one in the near future.

The other component of the complaint is that there are now only a few basic types of movie that get made. One of these is of course the ubiquitous romantic comedy; personally, I'm absolutely sick of seeing the ads for these. I never go to see them. The last one I saw (rented) was 'When Harry Met Sally', which was entertaining enough, but it was fluff nonetheless. I don't have the money or the time to waste on fluff, and from the look of the advertising these things are getting worse. If I see actors I like appearing in them I get disillusioned; the last one I gave up on because she succumbed to the lure of making one of these commercial pieces of excrement was Christina Ricci. She's such a better and more interesting actress than Britanny Murphy or Goldie Hawn's daughter (can't remember her name), who apparently can't succeed in any other kind of movie.

Did Star Wars really do this? Is George Lucas really to blame for this? For certain there is a longstanding problem with Hollywood creativity, but let's take a hard look at what the problem really is.

Hollywood was created by the Mafia, much as was Las Vegas. It is an absolutely profit-driven, greedy enterprise wholly owned by artless corporados who have built their fortunes on formula, manipulation and negative social attitudes. They have projected imagery and ideas on the American consciousness that have helped break down the autonomy of our peoples' minds and imprint them with terribly negative attitudes, or at least needlessly augmented them at times when we could have altered them in time to eliminate much suffering in this country. Hollywood did absolutely nothing, for example, to combat Jim Crow, if you don't make too much of the film adaptation of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with Gregory Peck.

To go on, the Hollywood studios are assembly lines, machines that spit out movies, and its product is brimming with poison. This is what George Lucas wanted to escape when he took his independent tack with Star Wars, to make his creation something that he, the creative entity, would control instead of the rich evil corporate bosses in Hollywood, even 20th Century Fox.

So, when Hollywood started increasing the money-laden, blockbusters-only FORUMLA factor in its productivity, was it truly acting differently than it has in the past, and was it truly emulating Lucas or Star Wars? Did Lucas let a genie out of the lamp?

I would say that the idiot-moguls at the Hollywood studios took the wrong cue from Lucas and saw a formula where there was only inspiration and a combination of classic and innovative techniques. One has only to look at Lucas' making-of documentaries accompanying the most recent (at this writing) rerelease of the original Trilogy to understand that Lucas was not and is not hampered by the Hollywood mentality. He has nothing to do with the Hollywood mentality, which has absolutely no bearing on his creative product beyond the fact that it is as different from Hollywood's tripe as he can make it. That is the only gravity Hollywood has on Lucas or his creations. He wants to be different from them.

The idiot-moguls decided, in their money-talks-artistic-values-walk 'wisdom', that they were going to duplicate, in some manner regardless of genre or style, the financial success of Star War by aping and mimicking the outward trappings of its success. They could not see into the heart of Lucas' production machinery and did not care. They figured they could mimick what they saw: a BIG, cataclysmic story on a big screen with BIG locales, BIG, iconic characters and an action-packed plot with BIG effects and, most of all... BIG PROFITS. They could not see Lucas harkening back to the storytelling values of yore or the hearts of any of his characters, or the mystical qualities of his fictional universe.

Hollywood misunderstood what they saw in Star Wars and simply tried to reverse-engineer its success, and turned up all thumbs. They did not care about artistry and therefore could not begin to approach that of Lucas; their few talented and avante-garde directors who did have vision did not share the leather chair with the moguls, so the presence of people like Steven Spielberg and David Lynch is an anomaly.

If only these directors held the power in Hollywood instead of the CEO types!

I probably don't understand enough about how the Hollywood studio system works to completely and correctly explicate this topic, so I invite others to continue with their insights, here. Please help me to illuminate the truth about this issue. GO!


Amadeo said...

I don't think you can blame's just the money machine. I can' blame NWA cause labels are only looking at "thugs" to sign and make money. Star Wars was different and it was his vision if it hadn't been good people wouldn't have tried to bite his idea. I don know that there was a long line of crappy movies without a good story and lots of effects after star wars. That's a result of people trying to make money on his coat-tails. What they forgot was that he created something new and it was good. It wasn't just the effects, it was the story.

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