Monday, May 19, 2008

Lucas Says Indy 5 Possible: Whatever Happened to Making Art Films?

As you probably have heard by now, George Lucas simply doesn't know when to quit. Lucas has told Fox News that he has an idea for the fifth Indiana Jones adventure. It may be meant as a joke, but then again this is Lucas we're talking about. As reported by Peter Sciretta at Slash Film, Lucas says, "I haven't even told Steven or Harrison this." (Probably not true, but, again, who would be surprised if it is?)


By itself, this is sheer gossip. Yet I'm using it to ask the question: Whatever happened to Lucas's insistence that he wanted to focus on making small, more personal and "esoteric" (according to him just two months ago at films after he was finally done with the Star Wars prequels? (He likened these esoteric films he plans to make to the Francis Ford Coppola small films, the first one being Youth Without Youth.) Of course, seemingly the second Revenge of the Sith hit cinemas he turned his attention not to any small films at all but rather "Indy 4." He plans to produce Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen, which has been stewing in development so long that a 1995 TV movie about the same subject starring Laurence Fishburne beat it while it was still in development by nearly a decade and a half. In March he said that after producing Red Tails he would make these small films, which he said for, would probably show up in arthouses for a week or two and nobody would notice they exist (like his friend, Coppola's, little films like Youth Without Youth and Tetro).

I also remember seeing Lucas in an interview with Charlie Rose saying that he wanted to make a film about slavery.

Yet, again, he seems to be interested in continuing the never-ending adventures of Indiana Jones (or Mutt Williams, as it were, with Indy playing a smaller part?). It's completely up to him what he wants to do, but it does seem like his almost truly endless talk of switching gears from massive tentpoles to intimately small and artsy films never quite materializes, and, without being blunt about it, Lucas isn't becoming any younger. Again, whatever he wishes to do is up to him--he's a billionaire, for goodness sakes--but if he is as interested in this change to challenging cinema, I suggest he start plugging away at that in the next few years like he recently said he wants to and leave the Star Wars TV shows and Indiana Jones comic books alone for a while. Is this the height of naivete or what?


cjKennedy said...

Do you think he's just played out as a filmmaker and he's just treading water because he doesn't know what else to do? He doesn't seem to have any passion for it. He geeks out over some of the technical advances LucasArts has made, but he doesn't seem that fired up to tell stories.

Alexander Coleman said...

It's difficult to tell, Craig. On one hand he calls himself "semi-retired," but he still seems to insist he's going to make smaller films in the near future.

I don't think he has to make anything, and I'm sort of bemused by his continuous statements of "esoteric" films he plans to make. I don't want to disparage him and his interests but it almost sounds like a cynical attempt to get "arthouse cred" after being known as the Star Wars man for so long. I honestly don't care what the budget, stars and type of film it is, so much as I have often wished he would just at least temporarily divorce himself from his enormous empire and just make a stand-alone film.

For instance, if he truly wants to make a movie about slavery, like he said to Charlie Rose, then go ahead and make it. Make it epic, make it small, make it however you wish to make it. But just go ahead and make it.

Or if you just want to make a small thriller like Coppola's The Conversation, or maybe a sensitive drama like Spielberg's The Color Purple... whatever it is, then I'd like to see him take a crack at it.

It just seems like there are too many instances in which he immediately latches on to something else already established, like Indy 4 after Sith. After a while you just sort of give up.

Spielberg, who you'd think would know Lucas quite well considering hwo close they are, has said that one of the main differences between them is that for Lucas, filmmaking is a hobby that he has no passion for and for Spielberg it's still a burning calling.

So, short version--yes, unless and until he comes up with something fresh and new, a film that doesn't belong in the lightsaber or fedora and whip catalogue, I'd have to say that Lucas seems to be played out, spinning his wheels and like you say treading water.

sartre said...

I have the same level of enthusiasm for the notion of a Lucas art film as I would for Michael Bay one. What has he ever done to suggest intellectual nuance and adult themes? All his directorial and writing efforts have been popular and young audience friendly fare. And I’m sorry to say that his craft on both fronts seems to have retreated so far backwards as to be embarrassing.

Alexander Coleman said...

Well, Lucas once had aspirations to be something else. His film THX-1138 is quite the artsy little sci-fi film, and it's somewhat impressive, if at least a bit incoherent. He wanted to make Apocalypse Now but Coppola "stole" it from him. If the original Star Wars in 1977 had flopped like he says he thought it would, perhaps his entire career from then to now would have been extraordinarily different. We'll never know.

His filmmaking has deteriorated, and he does seem to get aroused more by the technology than the craft. And as the Star Wars prequels demonstrated he's a truly horrible judge of dialogue and directing actors nowadays.

christian said...

And I thought LucasFilm was to be a creative think tank for artists. Maybe Lucas has been quietly supporting some unknown filmmakers, but his output says otherwise.

Maybe Lucas is thinking of Coppola when he says stuff like this. Too bad it wasn't him and Lucas teamed together because Francis would have already set up a college in SF for filmmakers.

But really, Lucas seems only interested in the technology, not the actual art that needs to make it come alive.