Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks: Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass on the Way Out, George

After much soul searching and agonizing (and in no way an attempt to drum up publicity in advance of his new movie), George Lucas has decided to retire from big budget movies:

George Lucas's cinematic tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails, opens in theaters on Friday, and it might be the last opportunity for fans to see a more commercial Lucas production.

After spending nearly $100 million on the biopic about African-American World War II pilots starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and David Oyelowo, Lucas tells The New York Times that he's ready to call it quits. From blockbusters, anyway.

Far be it from me to minimize the cinematic contributions of the man who created the Star Wars universe, co-created the character of Indiana Jones and gave the world a much-needed big-screen version of Howard the Duck, but it isn't as if Lucas has been churning out movies like Ridley Scott. His last directorial gig was 2005's Revenge of the Sith. Pre-Red Tails, his last executive producer credit was 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And his last non-Star Wars/Indiana Jones-related project? Radioland Murders, from 1994.

Starring Dream On's Brian Benben, but you probably already knew that.

So while it's nice for Lucas to decide he wants to branch out into smaller films, he -- like Dorothy Gale -- has had the power in him to do it all along. Why? Because according to Forbes, dude has a net worth of $3.2 billion, and the decision to revisit the same two properties over and over (and over and over) again was his and his alone.

Oh hey, speaking of that galaxy far, far away:

"Why would I make any more [Star Wars movies] when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?" Lucas inquired. Besides, he says of the criticism he's received from fans of the franchise, "I think there are a lot more important things in the world."

Sure there are. However, Lucas should understand a good chunk of "everybody yelling at him" is related to his constant fucking around with movies that are 30 years old. Martin Scorsese doesn't revisit Goodfellas every time video technology is updated in order to have the guy Henry pistol-whips scream "Noooooo!" And Francis Ford Coppola didn't add a bunch of green screen car chases to The Godfather, Part II. Lucas (and to a lesser extent his buddy Steven Spielberg) is the only guy who seems pathologically unable to leave well enough alone.

But at this point, who really cares? There aren't going to be any more Star Wars movies (thank the Maker), and maybe one more Indiana Jones (because everyone loved the last one). And the only thing less welcome than the idea of even more forced backstory and pseudo-Christian mythologizing is the inevitable howls of outraged fanboys making the same old indignant pronouncements about how Lucas will never see another dime of their money.

Up until those original trilogy Blu-rays, that is.

I used to give a shit. I admit it. Greedo shooting first used to matter to my younger, nerdier self. Now I just don't care. Lucas could put Jar Jar in every scene of The Empire Strikes Back and make Chewie an Ewok and I really doubt I'd manage more than a shrug and a "meh." Because he's right, there are more important things in the world than worrying about some thin-skinned billionaire's feelings.

Regarding Red Tails, I wish Lucas had been able to get his story of the Tuskegee Airmen made back in the 1980s when he first started talking about it, because then he would've had to use real airplanes and not CGI. He says there's a full hour of air combat footage in the movie, but big deal. Is there anything thrilling about watching what's essentially a series of cartoon dogfights? Say what you want about Top Gun, at least you were watching real dudes flying, and that tangible aspect combined with the very real threat of fiery death made the aerial stuff that much more gripping.

And that volleyball scene...mercy.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar