Star Wars, George Lucas and the (hopeful) re-emergence of creativity
The new Star Wars is out this Wednesday, and here's hoping it rights a few past wrongs.
Creativity is many things. It’s a pure example of something newly created, a thought that has never before existed. It’s a new way to think about something. It’s a buzz word circled on a whiteboard in a Sydney advertising agency next to a fridge full of energy drinks and nodding yes men. It’s tricking an ignorant public into believing various chairs and televisions hanging by wire in the corner of a contemporary art gallery constitutes the most brilliant expression of ‘a society perpetuating a generation seated in front of screens through visual elevation’. Creativity comes from many places, but the purest form of creativity comes from hard work. It comes from knowing something isn’t good enough and continuing to put in hours. It comes from a perpetual belief you’re not good enough.
This may seem dark, but it holds true. To be told you’re great leads to a creative relaxation. It silences the voice that motivates. Anyone in a creative industry starts out with nothing. Critics brush them off: a niche community always ostracises outsiders as natural reflex. The creative learns to not listen to others, or becomes an accountant instead. They learn to focus on their own work. To develop within. And if the right mix of 80% luck, 15% hard work and 5% sheer talent comes together, success hits like a car crashing into the ocean. You start to sink while you’re still in the car. You can still breathe: you still listen to yourself. You still can create something great. But over time the water starts to seep in: the community starts to shower you in praise. Soon enough you’re part of the ocean, the praise is enveloping, the water is everywhere, and you’re unable to hear that voice that tells you that you’re not good enough.
The moment that voice stops in the back of your head is the moment the foot comes off the creative gas. A resigned overwhelming joy. And suddenly but surely that little spurt of pure creation is over.
It happens so much it is frightening. The amount of bands with an amazing debut album, only to churn out some horrible shit and sink into the ocean with the rest. Hell nowadays a band can have a truly great single song, then slip away. The amount of artists making their best work while struggling to eat would be staggering. Directors can create something special, become accepted in the scene and given all the opportunities, only to end up churning out uninspired garbage. And it happened to George Lucas.
What an original idea. Star Wars changed us. Those cheesy diagonal wipes from scene to scene: an analog piece of editing equipment Lucas found accumulating dust in the editing room. The long shots in space: homage to Kubrick with new excitement, trading awe-inspiring grace for engrossing action. The duel sun sunset to Williams’ incredible score: mind widening. The universe is inconceivably huge and somewhere, without a shadow of doubt, such a view actually exists.
But like almost all creative’s who lose their edge, drowned out by a sea of praise, Lucas lost his voice.
The second Star Wars trilogy was horrible. I’m convinced Lucas had a group of yes men around him. No one would dare question his prowess. Not even his internal creative voice - the most important defense. He turned himself into his own yes man over the years. That essential internal voice to ask whether an idea was good enough went absent. It wasn’t there to tell him Jar Jar fuckin’ Binks was the worst character ever secreted from a human brain, or that watching Hayden Christensen shit out of his mouth with the emotional range of a fruit fly for two hours, and coupled with the horrible script of Episode III, was akin to eating one’s own hand. And Episode II: The Return of the Trade Embargo Dispute at the General Assembly? Next to nothing happens in two hours of an actual UN General Assembly, yet somehow less happens in Episode II.
I was appalled to see the remastered re-re-re-release of the original trilogy. How can a film be updated? How have we the public allowed this to happen to our art? If Pink Floyd updated The Dark Side of the Moon with modern technology just because modern technology exists, just as Lucas did by digitally adding slugs into the Tatooine landscape, we’d have a horrific dubstep auto-tune nightmare. Track Money would be in four four time. 4/4! Total blasphemy.
I proudly own the original films. The grainy shots. The period special effects. The compressed audio. It’s perfect in its imperfection. It’s human. There was absolutely no need to add that ridiculous scene in the Cantina with the CGI singing cartoon. There was no need for the long shots of Cloud City. It looks out of place. It’s not right. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to buy new music on vinyl because it ‘sounds better.’ I’m no ‘old or nothing’ snob. Harder or worst is not better. Tame Impala recorded Innerspeaker digitally. That crunchy distortion so often misrepresented by naive MTV hosts as ‘analog’ was literally the exact opposite: digital distortion. I don’t love the original Star Wars films untouched because I love ‘analog’ over CGI as superior. I love the original films untouched because they were finished 30 years ago. They were released and digested for decades before CGI was commonplace. That is the pointy end of the lightsaber.
At first my breath was held when news broke of the franchise sale to Disney. Now I welcome our new overlords. Why? Because they have employed true fans like JJ Abrams and true fans will keep each other in check. They will call out shitty ideas. They will question themselves in their own actions. They have that little voice in their heads, constantly nagging them and asking whether they are true to the source material. Sometimes you need to think you’re a bit shit every now and then. It breeds better work.
I can’t wait for Wednesday night. The lights will go down, yellow words will burn into black space, John Williams' horn section will shake the room, the inevitable ship flyover... I don’t know if it is going to be great. I don’t know if it is going to have the same impact as the originals. But I do know that this film will seek to rectify the suffering inflicted on fans since the beginning of the 21st century. It will be a film for the fans.
Enjoy it, friends.