Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Point of Contention for the Thesis

My friend and producer on my current film, Jake, brought up a topic that definitely serves as a point of discussion for the thesis. George Lucas.

So IMDB tells me that Mr. Lucas has directed 19 pieces of work and produced 64. Among his directed pieces, there are only 6 narrative features. There is THX1138, American Graffit and the remaining four are Star Wars episodes I-IV. The other 13 films are either short films, or documentaries. While his entire body of work is quite impressive, to consider him a master of the craft, to some, might be off.

I'm a bad student in film for not seeing THX, but I've seen his five other narrative pieces. And while there are enough plot holes to cram an AT-AT Walker through in Star Wars I-III, episode IV started a marketing empire and an entire way of living for a lot of people. And American Graffiti is a classic that, as the critics say, 'defined an era'.

When I speak of George Lucas' accomplishments, I'm speaking of the latter films. Star Wars and American Graffiti. Those two films together are a shell of what I'm seeking in capturing in my thesis, and even demonstrate a lesser piece of it. Allow me to explain.

So Lucas went to great depths in creating the story of Star Wars. He applied the hero's journey (the most rudimentary character arc in storytelling), theories of linguistics, consulted mythologists, theologists, psychologists and historians all in order to tap into the human psyche to define good and evil and to subconsciously reinforce a universal story that everyone can relate to and that everyone has heard before.

American Graffiti, although different in story, uses the same tactics of manifesting a universal story, but relies less on psychology and history, and more on nostalgia.

Jake argued that George Lucas banked too much on nostalgia, but I think that's mere opinion. I think everyone has an audience, and while Jake may not be Mr. Lucas' prime target, there's still a large sum of people out there who respect him and truly do love his work. So he must be doing something right.

Whether or not you think the filmmaker is good doesn't matter. His approach is respectable, especially once you realize how much his films influenced individuals, and our pop culture today. I can hardly go a day without a Star Wars reference. It's inevitable when you work with a bunch of film geeks. You can't deny his films have penetrated a large audience and his stories, on the whole, appeal to the masses.

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