I just realized something a little while ago.....I guess you could say that Lucas has been "dancing with the devil," so to speak, for the last 30 years or so anyway, so this is in many respects not that terribly surprising a conclusion.... you know, "once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will...." Dude didn't even listen to his own advice.
Some of you are wondering what I'm talking about. This goes back a ways for me, back to the very beginning. I was 11 when I saw Star Wars in 1977. I was THE target audience for the film, and I loved it just as much as all the other kids of my generation did. But I became an absolute NUT, a geeky koo-koo fanboy, for everything Star Wars-related when The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980. I lived & breathed Star Wars, Lucasfilm, and by extension Steven Spielberg. Lucas was like a god to me. I dreamed about going to USC Film School, because he went there. I started watching a bunch of old movies that I never would have watched on my own, but only because HE had seen them and they'd influenced him. I saw my first Kurosawa movies, because George Lucas liked Kurosawa movies. I even once tried to call him on the phone to get an interview for my high school newspaper (got as far as his secretary, which still blows me away). This man was my HERO. He WAS Luke, the outsider from the hot desert farmland of Modesto/Tatooine who stood up to the evil Hollywood Empire and won.
But things started changing in the early 80s. Lucasfilm moved up north to Marin County, and ground was broken on Skywalker Ranch. Lucas teamed up with Spielberg for Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that became a colossal hit. Of course, as we now know, around that time he also began discussions with Ron Miller, then-President of Walt Disney Productions, about what would later become Star Tours. But, also, around this time (roughly 1983) Lucas' marriage crumbled, and his focus was really no longer on Star Wars, or on filmmaking, from a storytelling standpoint. Interviews with him at the time no longer focused on cinematic creativity or about the Star Wars story or characters. They were about business decisions and the building of this new empire up north. Lucas talked about making "small, personal, avant-garde films" that didn't have wide commercial appeal, but nothing ever came of it (still hasn't, and he's STILL talking about it). Lucas wasn't so much an outsider anymore, or a rebel against the Hollywood Empire, he was more of a friendly rival that Hollywood was all too eager to do business with. He was like a hippie who lived off-grid and ate vegan but then got a shave and a haircut and bought an iPhone. Something was different than it had been.
I guess what's been bugging me about Lucas and the whole Star Wars franchise, including the prequels, for so many years, really began a little while after Return of the Jedi came out back in '83 (which I saw on Opening Day, of course, after sleeping on concrete all night outside the theater amongst the rest of the extended Nerd Family, my head cushioned by my Star Wars pillowcase-enclosed pillows). Even though I wept like a baby when I first saw it and thought it was the greatest ever, after a few viewings I started to realize that it was a bit of a cheat, story-wise, and that in some respects it was treading over old ground and wrapping up a whole bunch of loose ends just a little too neatly and quickly, and that began to gnaw at me. Something was wrong; I felt a disturbance in the Force, so to speak. Something was missing in the whole equation, but I didn't quite know what it was. Plus, around the same time, the OT was hitting home video and cable (after Lucas had declared it never would, that it would always be theatrical-only). It was like an overall cheapening of the brand, creatively speaking (for lack of a better phrase). Of course by then, Gary Kurtz had parted ways with Lucas, and I think that was the major shift in the whole enterprise, when Kurtz left (and why). We never knew why he left until just a few years ago, though, and when I read the interview with Kurtz in the LA Times, I was like "I knew it!"
“I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz said. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.” He added: “The first film and ‘Empire’ were about story and character, but I could see that George’s priorities were changing.”
Did ‘Star Wars’ become a toy story? Producer Gary Kurtz looks back [Updated] | Hero Complex – movies, comics, pop culture – latimes.com