Friday, 22 April 2011

129: G is for Greed

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The A-to-Z of the GFFA.

As you've probably gathered by now, I'm frequently a Star Wars apologist. That's mainly because I don't enjoy slagging off the things I love (picking holes, though? not the same), but also because I'm always finding more things to love about it. Let's face it, SW doesn't need slagging off by me. There are already plenty of outgoing souls on the internets, ready to brave the criticism of their peers by tearing a strip off of arguably the most successful and influential film series of all time.

And I know, you should never go beneath the line, Which is to say 'the comments section'. For beneath the line, there lie the trolls; ready to vent their ill-informed, mis-judged opinions. This applies to the entire internet. The more room for outspoken idiocy, the worse it gets (eg. any story on immigration or asylum).
On this occasion, however, I have ventured into the 'invitation to cretins' sections, purely to illustrate my point for the entry. Honestly? I didn't have to look very hard.

The following comments appeared this year under news stories related to SW. A small-but-vocal minority aren't concerned with the quality of the Special Editions or the Prequel Trilogy (although there are plenty of those as well), but about something more specific. See if you can get the drift:

This is from the story on Den of Geek about the release of Star Wars on BluRay.

This one is from a story on CNet about the Star Wars films returning to cinemas in 3D, starting with The Phantom Menace.

And this particular piece of genius, is a commenter on an IGN story, about a billionaire donating half of his money to charity. Yes, you read that right. AdioRocks doesn't think that's enough. He/she evidently either gives billions to charity every year, or over 50% of his/her earnings, anyway.

This is NOT George Lucas.

Yes, this is about the common misconception that George Lucas is a greedy man. According to the naysayers, he loves nothing more than ways of dreaming up schemes for fleecing money out of gullible fans, with barely any concern for the quality of the product. He probably has a vault filled with money which he dives into like Scrooge McDuck! Why, you've only got to look at the way he behaves in public to see that he's spending his ill-gotten gains almost faster than he can accumulate them!

You probably know which side of the fence I'm on. I'm going to explain why, in my humble opinion, not only are these (and many other) commenters incorrect, but also short-sighted, spiteful idiots. *breathes*

George Lucas didn't get into movies to make money; What he wanted to do was tell stories. Rather than work in his father's hardware store, he graduated USC as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film in '67. He directed two feature films to great acclaim, THX-1138 and American Graffiti, then started work on a story which had been knocking around his head for a few years. Star Wars. The success of his first two films gave him some leeway with getting studio attention, but all they were really interested in was a finished movie.

Star Wars was an ambitious project, to say the least, and he was hampered by studio interference all the way. The things he wanted to commit to film couldn't be just accomplished in 1975, so rather than compromise his vision, he started his own companies to create the tools that would do the job. Skywalker Sound, Industrial Light and Magic, THX Sound, LucasArts, and recently Lucasfilm Animation were all created not to keep costs down, but because there weren't any others doing what was needed.

Over the years, these companies have worked extensively both outside of the Star Wars universe, and for other film-makers. ILM have become industry leaders in visual effects. The Abyss, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango would all have looked completely different (if they were feasible at all) without ILM's involvement. Skywalker Sound is also industry-leading in its complete audio creation and production services. Its technicians and staff have won or been nominated for an Oscar every year since 1977.

Every advance that Lucas' companies have made has been shared with the industry (yes, at a price, that's how business works).

These companies exist to share the technology. For years, GL's companies have been behind the major steps in the making and showing of feature films (including the push to get digital projection into cinemas, necessary to display the current wave of 3D movies).*1

The film industry would not be where it is today without the work (and money) of George Lucas.

No ILM? No deal.

Outside his work life, he's always been a champion of education and educational charities. In 2005, he gave $1 million to help build the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington D.C.
To quote Wiki: "On September 19, 2006, USC announced that George Lucas had donated $175–180 million, to expand the film school."

Then, in 2010, George Lucas pledged half his fortune to The Giving Pledge, a movement which donates money to charitable and philanthropic causes.

Sharp-eyed readers will recall not reading about Lucas turning up at premieres in a Hawaiian shirt, chicks on each arm, a massive cigar, and a swimming pool the size of a football pitch. He's not interested in that. He wants to keep telling stories, and let others tell their stories more clearly. If you don't like his stories, that's a different matter altogether.

Leaving all of this aside; even if George Lucas was the most blatantly greedy slimebag on the face of the planet; even if he kept changing and re-releasing Star Wars purely so he could heat his house by burning £100 bills; here's the news, naysayers:

You don't have to spend any more money on Star Wars! You can be perfectly happy with the versions you've got in your house.

No-one's forcing you to watch 'new' Star Wars. Or to moan about it.

Thank you.

One of these men said hello to me on his way to the toilet.

*1 Speaking of which, GL's imminent forthcoming release of the Star Wars films in 3D won't be using the standard conversion technology for movies shot in 2D. For the 3D releases, Lucas had ILM build a system from the ground-up. He wants Star Wars to be in 3D on his terms, because it can look better than the current conversions (eg: Clash of the Titans).

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• Photos and videos appearing in this blog post are for informational and reference purposes only, and no ownership of copyright is claimed or implied by me. The intellectual and physical copyright of such material belongs to its creators and owners.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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