Another review. Another great biography.
After reviewing Jim Henson: The Biography, I was unsurprisingly looking forward to sinking my eyes into Jones’ next big project. It was a completely different reading experience this time, as I had gone into Jim, knowing exactly who he was, but with George Lucas, I had to ask, “Who is Lucas-other than the ‘Star Wars guy’ anyway?”
Turns out, George Lucas is a lot of things! A strange sentence for some people to read, I know, but I’ve never really been a fan of Star Wars, or any other of Lucas’ projects to be honest. I was reading this from the perspective of a film student who wants to learn about the great figures of cinema. Although I will admit the Muppet fanatic in me beamed proudly whenever Jim Henson was pulled into Lucas’ path, or whenever Frank Oz made his brief cameos during discussions about Yoda’s development. Frankly, this was a lesson in the most recent era of cinema’s history, from the perspective of a man who struggled to find the balance between ‘doing it for the artist’ and ‘doing it for The World’. The latter of those two has different connotations: ‘The World’ as in the fans who seem to have just as much say in a franchise as the actual filmmakers, and ‘The World’ as in corporate Hollywood who is desperate to keep the cash flowing as heavily as the magic of film.
George Lucas didn’t want anything to do with either….if he could help it anyway.
While it was interesting to read about Lucas’ early years in Modesto or about his personal life, I was more intrigued by his connections and relationships with other filmmakers, both in and out of the USC crowd and the strange politics that came with them. There’s irony in Lucas’ ideology of keeping the ‘independent artists’ in a closed circuit despite his gripes about Hollywood being closed off to outsiders. I was also astounded at just how influential Lucas became to cinema as a whole by only making a few small decisions. When one has associates such as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and Steve Jobs, it’s no wonder one filmmaker’s work began to influence another’s, eventually changing the way mainstream films would look and sound way into the future. Even some of the most successful companies cropped up out of circumstances caused by Lucas and his colleagues. I had no idea Pixar had started as a type of underground group within Lucasfilm! It’s a weird and wonderful example of a spark turning into a flame, which turns into a raging fire- the fire in this case being the rearrangement of cinematic entertainment as we know it.
As much as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but compare George Lucas to Jim Henson. Jones even remarks on their similarities in both of their biographies. Both were majorly independent, had their own clear-cut visions and wanted to have a hand in everything during every stage of production. But while Jim was a majorly successful creator underdog, George is an astoundingly successful creator who behaves like an underdog. He’ll jump to play either the victim or the victor depending on how the scary, overbearing Hollywood system decides to play ball. It would be easy to call him paranoid, but on a level I can see where he comes from. Being forced to re-edit a film you’ve poured your heart and soul into would be rather unbearable, causing you to want to flip the nearest executive the bird. I wonder if Lucas would’ve felt so deprived of creative freedom he had gotten his start in filmmaking during this generation. With so many online platforms and small companies to create independent films these days, Lucas’ would’ve had more opportunities than he’d ever realised.
Once again, I’m captivated with the flowing, yet detailed structure of Jones’ writing. George Lucas’ life is not a simple one to tell the tale of, so the way all the independent ‘plotlines’ are melded in together is an impressive feat indeed. There is no having to go back and re-read anything you might have misread, a sadly common trait in biographies which attempt to cram just as much information into each sentence. There’s the careful weaving of quotes into the story, all of it perfectly relevant to what is happening at the time, something I’m eager to call one of Jones’ best qualities. What more can I say then it’s an absolute pleasure to read? Another wonderful effort by a biographer whom I can’t wait to see the next work of.
Whether you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan, an Indiana Jones fan or simply a self-proclaimed film buff, this is a book you would do well to add to your bookshelf.