Thursday, December 17, 2015

800 Words: The Testament of George Lucas Part 1

Skywalker Ranch: 2006

It was Babylon. The world of the 70’s was Babylon. We’d lost our way, and all we had left was nihilism. Francis, Marty, Stanley, they all grew up in New York, and by the time they were old enough to make movies, the best days of New York were behind them. All they knew how to show us was despair.

Steve and I were Californians, Millius and Barwood and Murch were here by college. We believed in the future. We believed in ourselves. We knew we were good guys and we were ready to fight bad guys. We believed in moral triumphs. We believed in America. Everybody else was rioting and getting laid and doing drugs, but we were monks in film school. Sure, I’d make out and pet in my truck like every other kid and we’d smoke grass at parties, but we had our sights set on bigger things. We were Jedis, it never occurred to us to lose hope.

Marty and Francis, they’re not bad guys, but they make things too complicated. They’re too Catholic. All that time in the Big Apple surrounded by millions of people makes them worry too much - they should have come out west earlier when it could have done them some good. By the time Francis came out here, he was too New York already. If they ever spent time working on a farm or camping in a forest or looking up at the night sky a field, they would understand that the world is much more magical than they’ve ever imagined.

They believe in ambiguity. but any common sense would see that those ambiguities are resolved. If you chase your own tale like that, you can never cope with what life is. People don’t need to reflect, they need to keep going. That’s why we have religion, that’s why we have myths, that’s why we have stories. We need things that excite us. All those critics like John Simon and Pauline Kael wrote it off as kid stuff, but what the hell is Moses parting the Red Sea and frogs jumping around Egypt? Kid stuff. Achilles might as well duel Hector with a light sabre.  I wanted to make an exciting story, because that’s what myths are. That’s what religion is. They give us hope that we can through dangers. Why do talented people like Francis want to grind our noses into despair? Don’t we have enough of that already?

They’re so New York that they never understood what movies were. They went to too many Broadway shows, met too many people, their schedules were too full. Movies for them are just a play in the theater with a camera. Marty can do a film a year because the design in all of his movies are the same. All you have to do is point a camera at a New York street and do something arty and you have a Martin Scorsese Picture.

They never understood that the most important thing about movies was never the people. We’re not Shakespeare. The camera is a machine, machines are the most important part of modern life, and the camera’s the tool we have to capture how we relate to machines. There isn’t any scene in Marty or Francis’s work that can be as powerful as those monkeys looking at the monolith or Chaplin dancing around the factory.

I believe in God, but nobody else does these days. The only mystery they have is when they think about what these machines are and how they work. People need that mystery. They need the lessons religion teaches us. But stories about beating the ploughshares don’t do anything. They need myths about what our machines are, what they can do for us, where they can take us. That’s what’ll get them out of bed in the morning. We don’t have heaven and hell anymore, so we need new places to go that a simple soundstage just doesn’t do for us. We need images like Yoda floating the spaceship out of the river - when people see that, they see a miracle. And once they see it, they’ll hear Yoda’s speech about the force beforehand as the Sermon on the Mount.

The Force is God for America. It doesn’t matter which God you believe in as long as you believe in God. I put The Force into the movie as a way of showing young people that they should believe in God. Young people need to believe that there’s something out there with the power to change things, because young people are the powerless. If they believe that the world won’t change, then the world won’t change. The worst thing that can happen to them is to struggle with these questions, once they start doubting the goodness in universe, they start doubting the goodness in themselves. The universe is just too big, we have to believe in something bigger. If we believe, then eventually we’re gonna find that bigger thing. It’ll probably take another million years, but we just need to be patient and believe we will.

I just wanted to create a small personal statement about faith that ran against all those pessimistic things you heard from Hollywood. Every culture has faith, every culture has ways of seeing the world that are in common with each other and pass through the generations. It binds them together, helps them deal with the pain of living, and makes them human. But our society doesn’t have that. We think we’ve evolved past that. But past all the machines and all the cool cars, we haven’t gotten any more complicated than anyone anywhere else.  

Even after everybody told me that it was going to be the bigger than Jesus Christ, I didn’t believe them. I just had no idea just how badly America needed this movie. I was happy when it began to seem that Star Wars would do some good in the world. Nothing made me happier than hearing that just about every single religion in America was using Star Wars as a tool to teach young people about faith, but by the time I made Star Wars, America was so secular that entertainment would pass for a religious experience.

I’d rather there be a religion out there, but if Star Wars turns out to be our religion, then at least I’ll have done something good. Maybe the Mormons’ll find a way to work it into their books. I created the American Myth. The American Bible, the Bhagavad Gita. I bet that when Homer finally came out with The Odyssey, everybody said that sucked too and the Iliad was a hundred times better. But history’s going to show that it’s the better of the two. Long after The Godfather and Taxi Driver disappear, Star Wars will still be here.

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