Archive for George Lucas

The Journal of the Whills

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 21, 2016 by dcairns


Thanks to Danny Carr for lending me his massive STAR WARS making-of books. I find them fascinating, not because I’m a big fan anymore so much, but because of the insane amount of detail devoted to every part of the creative process. The sound editing stuff alone is fantastic. There are bits where, whatever your opinion of the films, you may find yourself impressed by Lucas’s determination/moxy/inventiveness/strategy, and bits where you might think him an idiot or a jerk.

Alhtough I sometimes enjoy mocking Lucas, nobody should be judged by their first drafts — unless first drafts is what they publish, as I usually do here — but the early versions of THE STAR WARS or THE JOURNAL OF THE WHILLS, to give it two of its early titles — are curiously unreadable things. Some of this is perhaps not Lucas’s fault — in summarising his plots, author J.W. Rinzler sometimes seems to be giving equal emphasis to everything, whether it’s a major plot point or merely a scenic effect, and he doesn’t go much into character motivation. This makes the long synopses feel like word soup — a bunch or people with funny names going from place to place, performing various actions, for no discernible reason. Still, we’re told that nobody at 20th Century Fox really understood what Lucas was up to, so this may in fact be a perfectly accurate condensation of his rough drafts.

Plus, there are lots of bits of business and character names (Mace Windy eventually turned into the slightly-more-dignified Mace Windu) that eventually got recycled in the prequels, and those really DO have that extraordinary narrative clumsiness — GO HERE — DO THING — MAKE SPEECH TO OTHER GUY — GO OVER THERE — CUT TO DIFFERENT PLANET — RUN! — FIGHT! — which seems to be Lucas’s default mode when he hasn’t put himself through the necessary hell to arrive at a coherent shape.

The first STAR WARS is really tight — even the apparent dead end of the Greedo-Jabba subplot provides essential motivation for Han in Act III. It’s important not so that he can have a lot of trouble in films 2 and 3 which is unrelated to the main action, but so that he can disappear and then reappear, delightfully, at the climax of Film 1. Contrast this with THE FORCE AWAKENS where Oscar Isaac pulls off an identical vanish-and-return strategy but WITH NO EXPLANATION WHATSOEVER.

For fun, I have reproduced some passages from Lucas’s disordered warblings, as rephrased by Rinzler, alongside some pastiche versions knocked off by me. Valueless and abstract prizes will be awarded to anyone who can tell which is which.


In the war room, Skywalker tells his aide Montross to put everyone on alert, when Kane Starkiller and his son Annikin arrive. Kane asks Skywalker to take his son as the “Padawan Learner.” When Skywalker asks why, Kane reveals that his arm and chest are mechanical. “There is nothing left but my head and right arm. I’ve lost too much, Luke. I’m dying.” Suddenly Montross reports a giant asteroid or moon detaching itself from the Anchorhead system and heading their way. “It’s as big as our third moon.”


Artwo and Biggs locate the Kiber crystal and hide it Artwo’s exhaust unit. General Dodana and Deak Starkiller send them to Utapau to find Dai Nogas and apprise him of the battle plans. But Ogana is concerned that Seig Darklighter may be using the Force of Others to “channel death beams.” A Council of Seven is called to debate the next course of action, but Ogana secretly contacts Son Hhat and arranges a delivery of drones.


In the Palace of Lite the King and Queen watch two giant twin suns set in the green sky. Skywalker and Annikin arrive and report that Kane has gone to the spaceport of Gordon to meet an old friend, Han Solo, the Ureallian. Skywalker again pushes for war, but the king wants to get the approval of his allies first, and departs on a mission to Amsel to meet with the “full assembly.”


Rax Moda returns Akira’s lost lazersword to Binks, with the words “It served your Padawan well.” The Princess meets Luke’s twin brothers, Valorum and Ginch. All three set off by jetstick to Candowamp. There they find a tribe of Wookees, small, hooded creatures with glowing eyes. Valorum fights the Wookee leader Hoedack, using power staffs, but they later form an alliance. The Jedi leader, Aquilae, arrives by escape pod with important word from the Mouff System.


General Skywalker receives word that Whitsun, who had disappeared, has just been admitted to MedVac. They rush to the emergency room, where Whitsun says that the bad guys are just behind him–“A giant space fortress” is on its way, he explains. The general sends Annikin to pick up Princess Leia. At the Academy, Annikin retrieves Leia but not the handmaidens, one of whom remains as a decoy.


The robots eventually find their way to a  moisture ranch owned by Luke’s uncle and aunt, Owen and Beru Lars. They meet there Luke’s young twin brothers, Biggs and Windy, and his sixteen-year-old cousin, Leia, the daughter of Owen and Beru. The robots explain that they are looking for “Angel Blue,” the code name for Luke. When they meet Luke Starkiller, he interrupts his laser sword training to introduce himself as “the Skywalker.”


While the old man looks for the Kiber Crystal, the others rescue the princess, which doesn’t go smoothly. “She’s a tough babe: doesn’t appreciate their help–a trap? Han punches her in the face and Chewbacca carries her out?” They then have to face the Dia Noga and have various adventures, while the old man gets the crystal, at which point the Sith Knights “become ill.”

Art by Ralph McQuarrie.

Damn You, Television!

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , on March 10, 2016 by dcairns


Now we’re hooked on American Crime Story, AND we have a new series of Better Call Saul to contend with.

Sensibly diverging from the American Horror Story format, ACS benefits from a tighter focus — nothing is permitted which doesn’t further the basic story of the OJ Simpson trial, though as judge and jury discovered to their cost, that means that almost anything happening in twentieth century America can be ruled relevant. Even the future is included, since head writers Larry Karaszewski & Scott Alexander manage to shoehorn the Kardashian family in on the pretext that their dad was OJ’s friends and one of his lawyers. The kids’ glee at their fathers’ meaningless and distressing fame is either the Secret Origin of the Kardashian Family — how they learned the wrong lessons at a damagingly early age, or else it’s proof that the tendency to regard celebrity as equivalent to sainthood was already engendered. O.J.’s acquittal for murdering their mother’s friend would thus seem like ultimate proof of this value system, so that Kim K. can this week dismiss a thoughtful comment by Chloe Grace Moretz with the devastating rejoinder “nobody has heard of you.”


It’s interesting to me how the show has seamlessly maintained a high standard of writing even when the head writers hand over duties to the B-team (The Knick was also good at this), though I do find the direction slightly more variable. Ryan Murphy favours propulsion, his vigorous camera movements rushing the story onwards. Anthony Hemingway, known for The Wire and whose RED TAILS I thought was really terrible, has a tendency towards slightly meaningless show-off shots, but I found by his second episode I was even enjoying these, The contrast in style between this and his feature film suggests he was really being heavily sat on by George Lucas and his cohorts. And then John Singleton contributes one episode executed in a slick, almost classical manner that looks admirably restrained by comparison.

The idea of cinematic TV is interesting — I wonder if any of these guys would find a natural home on the big screen. Singleton has had the most distinguished career, but it’s been very erratic. The tighter discipline of TV, where the director is more like a studio employee in the old days, choices confined to guiding the actors and placing the camera, may suit such filmmakers better than a medium where they’d be responsible for everything. Although not having George Lucas sitting on you must help too.


The ensemble here is too good to pick favourites. John Travolta has taken some flack for his expressionist perf, and for looking “like haunted spam,” but I find his choices both bold and amusing. It’s true, he doesn’t quite look human anymore, and maybe he’s adapted to looking like an artfully-chewed pencil eraser by developing a manner of acting — all precise, prissy gestures and words bitten off delicately like umbilici — to suit his new, biomechanical instrument. We will see more of such post-human performances as the twenty-first century nears its apocalyptic climax, an event which will no doubt be documented by American Crime Story around about season 5.

Why George Lucas Has No Penis

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2015 by dcairns


As a coda to Seventies Sci-Fi Week-and-a-Half, here’s a piece I wrote ages ago and then didn’t post because it was too mean, and its subject is a rich and powerful man. On re-reading it, I decided it’s not that mean and its subject isn’t really its subject — it’s a kind of parody of the style of Professor Joseph Slade, whose article “Bernard Natan, France’s Legendary Pornographer” cast him as chief villain in NATAN, the documentary Paul Duane and I collaborated on (which also features crooked businessmen and Nazis, so Slade had to work hard to attain the top spot). The game is “psychoanalyse a moviemaker based on his work” — inferring all sorts of offensive assumptions on slender textual evidence. So I hope Mr. Lucas will see the funny side and not sic the assassination wing of Industrial Light and Magic on my ass.



Exhibit A.

I don’t want you to misconstrue from the title of the post, or any of the many bad things I say in it, that this is an anti-Lucas screed. It’s more about examining George‘s immortal creation, the original STAR WARS, to see how it is in fact a coded cri-de-coeur from a man who wants to be virile and thrusting, to satisfy women, to have a penis, and yet cannot do any of these things, because he doesn’t have a penis.

Exhibit B: the light sabre. When Mel Brooks spoofed this peculiar weapon in SPACEBALLS (a title calculated to appeal to the untesticled Lucas), it wasn’t particularly funny, perhaps because the sight of Bill Pullman miming the act of clutching a long, luminous erection somehow doesn’t inspire hilarity, only a queasy urge to withdraw from the vicinity as soon as possible. But also because the joke is too obvious — and I don’t mean in the sense that all dick jokes are, by definition, obvious, I mean that the light sabre is already a naked phallic symbol impossible to parody. In terms of physics, it makes no sense — it’s apparently made of light, yet the beam comes to a dead halt just when you need it to, and it’s solid. And from the way they swing them around, it looks like it has a little weight too. What else is solid, comes to a dead halt when you need it to, and has a little weight? Of course: a penis.


Exhibit C: Darth Vader. Authors automatically project onto their villains their own undesirable qualities. In Peter Pan, Captain Hook is frequently described as “impotent” by J.M. Barrie, and the pirate’s missing limb is a clear metaphor for his sexual deficiency. Vader on the one hand, like everybody else in the STAR WARS universe, represents Lucas‘ craving for an aura of powerful masculinity: he is large and imposing, he has a light sabre, he has a black man’s voice like Barry White, and his heavy breathing suggests a state of permanent physical arousal. But it also suggests acute asthma, and it is here that Darth’s status as a disabled war veteran reveals Lucas‘ secret anxiety about his masculinity.

His name is a thinly-veiled reconstruction of the words “death invader” and he is an intrusion of the thanatic, anti-life principle into the living world. As a result, Vader is not sexually active, and when faced with a desirable woman, in his power, Vader chooses to attack her with a surrogate robot, armed only with a tiny needle. This reveals Lucas‘ subconscious anxiety that his tiny penis, if he has one, which he definitely doesn’t, is too small.

(Some may suggest that Vader feels no sexual desire for Princess Leia because she’s his daughter, but in fact this is not so. She’s not his daughter in the first film because Lucas had not yet written the other films at the time he made it. He hadn’t even started pretending that he had written the other five — or is it eight? — films.)

Exhibit D: R2-D2. Although the long, shiny C3-PO and the short, buff R2, like many comic double acts, represent a kind of analog of the human penis and scrotum, it is in R2’s electronic interface shaft that we see again Lucas‘ longing for a penis he can call his own. A kind of plug, jack, or cable (all words with sexual significance), R2’s mechanical member allows him to sexually violate other machines, including even the all-powerful Death Star. Though small and inarticulate, like Lucas, R2 possesses the power, unlike Lucas, to make things happen with his ding-a-ling. In one famous scene, he sticks it in the Death Star and forces her destructive, vagina dentata gnashers to release the trapped heroes who have unwisely ventured down the garbage disposal shaft which represents the Death Star’s vulva.


Exhibit E: the climax. At the climax of the film Lucas made which he called STAR WARS, not A NEW HOPE, we get a flurry of erotic symbolism so insistent as to be almost dizzying. The death star attempts to assume the phallic role by planning to shoot a laser cannonade at Yavin, a green, Gaia-like world representing the life principle. To prevent this, a whole fleet of phallic spacecraft are launched, each with its own X-rating in the form of criss-cross wings replacing the testicles.

The goal of these craft is to turn the Death Star into a big space vagina and penetrate it, thus “fucking it up.” They do this first by diving into a groove on the satellite’s surface, then firing a so-called “proton torpedo” into its “cooling shaft”. All while R2 sits directly behind Luke, stimulating his prostate with that computerized dildo attachment of his.

I have said that this is a mechanized version of sexual intercourse, but what it more closely resembles is the act of fertilisation. The Death Star is an egg and the X-wing fighters are sperm, swimming together in a race to penetrate the ovum. The fact that in this case, the goal achieved leads to a big explosion and thousands of deaths probably reflects Lucas‘ neurotic anxieties, but on the other hand, the destruction of the death star saves Yavin, and so billions of lives on the fecund world are saved.

Lucas‘ cast of characters are mostly sexually dysfunctional or incapable of maintaining an erection. Ben Kenobi is an elderly Englishman, as is the Grand Moff Tarkin. Luke Skywalker delivers his first line of dialogue in a shrill, pansified falsetto. C3-PO and Chewbacca have noapparent generative organs of any kind, and Princess Leia is a woman.

In Lucas‘s predominantly metallic, sterile universe, the only truly virile human is Han Solo, who doesn’t need to surround himself with phallic symbols.

His blaster is of no more than standard size, his space-ship looks more like a cake than anything else, and he is so secure in his masculinity that he travels around with a shaggy beast, just like Clint Eastwood in EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE. Though his name strongly implies the act of masturbation, Han Solo is obviously a sexual conquistador of awesome dexterity. Chewbacca, Han’s “co-pilot” (read: fuck-buddy) is a savage male artifact in his own right, but his name (chewing tobacco) signifies his true role, as a lovable Walter Brennan sidekick with whom Han can, if he wishes, enjoy vigorous bouts of recreational sex.


Just imagine him flanked by two Ewoks.

The top ten sexual innuendos of STAR WARS, via Strange Places.

1. “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
2. “Curse my metal body, I wasn’t fast enough!”
3. “Look at the size of that thing!”
4. “Sorry about the mess…”
5. “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”
6. “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”
7. “You’ve got something jammed in here real good.”
8. “Put that thing away before you get us all killed!”
9. “Luke, at that speed do you think you’ll be able to pull out in time?”
10. “Get in there you big furry oaf, I don’t care *what* you smell!”