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The Empire Stumbles 1007

Posted by JonKatz
from the why-Star-Wars-got-unseated-by-the-kids dept.
We saw a cultural and generational coup d'etat this month, at least in cinematic terms -- if we were watching. Star Wars was challenged by millions of rebellious kids, who decided to choose a new kind of myth. The next generation unseated its elders -- as is the right of every generation - and is making its own culture, moving away from ours. In doing so, these kids balked at mega-hype, rediscovered earnestness, simplicity, the love story, some patriotism, punctured a billion-dollar balloon, and maybe even sparked a (relative) movement away from whorish sellouts, back to simpler story-telling. I, for one, sure hope so.

The evidence: In its first four days, Star Wars: Episode 2 -- Attack of the Clones sold nearly $117 million worth of tickets. When Spider-man opened two weeks earlier, it earned $115 million in just three days. Not only that, but the nerd-arachnoid drama earned another $48 million in box office during the weekend George Lucas' elephantine epic opened. And it shows no signs of slowing down. Spider-man is now on track to massacre Star Wars , perhaps out-earning it in the early days of the summer by as much as $100 million, if projected patterns continue. What happened? You can hardly call Clones a failure, but seeing it seems as much a reflex as a choice. And the grosses are below expectations, where as Spider-man is re-defining what a mega-hit movie is. I think Lucas and his movies have outgrown their audience, losing relevance to the young, the real avatars of culture, and are suffocating under their own enormous inertia and weight.

The late mythologist Joseph Campbell (who helped Lucas craft the Skywalker/Vader saga) wrote in The Elements of Myth that the hero-journey -- the often rebellious trek far from loved ones and home, finds a great teacher, battles evil forces in the world -- is inherent in every great myth, from cave-dweller's tales to Tolkien to Star Wars. It's certainly central to the story of Peter Parker, an unhappy and awkward kid who overnight goes from suffering at a nasty Queens high school to soaring over Manhattan's skyscrapers in search of the Green Goblin (this movie's Dark Side rep). In fact, every great myth has a lonely hero, a masked villain or two, and thinly-disguised spiritual choices between forces of good (God/a.k.a. The Force) or Evil (the literal Dark Side of the universe which shows up, Campbell wrote, in paintings that are thousands of years old.)

Why is Spider-Man's version surprisingly drubbing Lucas's, when he's cornered the global franchise on cinematic myth-marketing and he's one of the master cinematic marketers and hype-meisters of all time?

Several possible reasons. The Spider-Man saga is a simple love/adventure story, much like the first Star Wars, which didn't take itself nearly as seriously as the pompous sequels, pre-quels and tie-ins hatched at Lucas's secret ranch. In Spider-man, a nerd feels powerless, gets bitten by the bug, becomes powerful, goes on to confront great evil (and doesn't get the girl). Luke Skywalker, too, was powerless and trapped when we first met him. Then he met Obi-Wan, got in touch with the Force, went soaring around the universe to battle evil -- and didn't get the girl, either. Since the audience and industry expectations of Spider-Man were lower, the movie could afford to be looser, jokier -- more human. But poor George Lucas had dug himself a monstrous hole.

Simply because it's new (on film, at least) , Spider-Man arrives shrouded in less hype than Star Wars. When George Lucas decided to resuscitate his epic after a nearly generation-long respite, he could have chosen at least somewhat of a classier route and put some limits on the marketing that now engulfs big movies. Instead he acted like Jabba the Hutt, gorging on every dollar he could get. The producers of Lord Of The Rings curbed the marketing and toy tie-ins with corporations peddling food and dolls to kids out of respect for Tolkien. That makes Lucas, who showed no such restraint, all the more hypocritical and pretentious - polluting the series with trolls, Ewoks, aliens, soldiers, Jar-Jar Binks and his goofy patois, and all their inevitable action figures, light sabres, T-shirts and soda-cup representations.

Lucas created a brilliant film saga, then undercut it by demonstrating that there were few limits -- maybe no limits -- on what he would do to make still more money. The message to kids especially was follow the Force, but rake in the cash.

A franchise like Star Wars ought to be allowed to -- and can afford to -- retain some of its dignity and still make tens of millions. The movies make a fortune in their own right, a common experience that transcends reviews and tie-ins. When is enough enough? Lucas crossed the line, and cheapened his movies.

He also neglected to bone up on Campbell's books on the power and elements of myth. Spider-man is a simple love story about teen-aged angst: a kid almost anybody can relate to is suddenly transformed by a great power, grapples touchingly and hilariously to come to terms with that, and confronts a single bad guy and vanquishes him, though not without cost. Sound familiar? It ought to. That was more or less the feeling, despite the Imperial Death Star, of the original Star Wars. Spider-man was a cartoon myth -- part of the once-brilliant Marvel Comics factory, balm to nerds of the time -- and the movie doesn't forget its roots in the dialogue, plotting or action.

But what is Attack of the Clones about? The Skywalker genealogy? The Empire's evil origins? The birth of the Empire's Troopers? The rise and fall of the Queen of Naboo and her tormented lover and complex offspring? Trade unions and their relationship to the Galaxy? Legislative bodies and their place in galactic history? Lucas approaches the life and times of Darth Vader in much the same way biographer Robert Caro explores the life and times of ex-president LBJ (his latest book that's 1,300 pages long -- and that's just one volume of a projected four). Do we really care precisely how Anakin Skywalker got pissed off and turned to the Dark Side? Or would we -- especially the youngest among us -- be happy to see Yoda flashing his light-saber around and doing his Jackie Chan imitation?

Spider-Man is interesting on other levels, too. It's a very New York movie, set in working-class Queens and amidst the spires of Manhattan. It is unabashedly domestic and patriotic, even as Star Wars is pointedly other-worldly in tone and feel. Consider the Spider-man scene where New Yorkers cheer our hero from the Queensborough Bridge. It's heavy-handed but interesting. The movie ends with Spider-man draped around an American flag on a skyscraper not far from where the World Trade Center Towers used to stand. Holed up in his California cocoon, Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America. He had too much genealogy to worry about. But the producers of Spider-Man, with a few last-minute adjustments, read it right. Star Wars was conceived in an era when Harrison Ford's Han Solo perfectly typified a generation's disenchantment with government and politics. Peter Parker has a different view, and so do the millions of kids making his movie a smash.

Attack Of The Clones is a cautionary tale, all right, but perhaps not the one Lucas intended. The real lesson is, if you're trying to make great movies aimed primarily at the young, avoid pomposity, self-indulgence and too much self-reference. Keep the story simple, clear and touching. Remember that movies mirror life. Films like this are about love, loss, conflict and fantasy. Spider-Man keeps that very much in mind. Attack Of The Clones seems to have forgotten it. That's why kids are flocking repeatedly to a new variety of myth, unseating the reigning one.

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The Empire Stumbles

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  • by Limburgher (523006) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:34AM (#3595100) Homepage Journal
    There was no Spider-Man: Episode I.
    • [quote]There was no Spider-Man: Episode I.[/quote]

      No... but there probably will be. :-/
    • George Lucas is working on Spider-Man Episode I as we speak. Here's some select quotes:

      "Meesa been bitten by a spider!"

      "Meesa spidey-sense all tingly! Oh no, issa bombad villain! Meesa got to go find a phone booth!"
  • by dfalgoust (409341) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:35AM (#3595109) Homepage
    I think a better explanation is that Spider-Man is better written and better directed than Attack of the Clones. Occam's Razor and all that.

    Oh, and dare I dream...first post?
    • by MaxVlast (103795)
      Occam's Razor, indeed. And I agree with you. But it's fairly un-rigorous to just leave it at "better written and better directed." The person who writes the articles for a living probably wants to figure out why it's better written and better directed. Having a better writer and a better director is much of the story, of course, but there is often something behind the lesser writing and direction.
    • by p7 (245321) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:24PM (#3596068)
      Spider-Man was a decent film. Pretty much your average summer action film. I haven't seen AotC yet, but I doubt either one is a directorial masterpiece. Here are a few reasons (in my opinion of course) why Spiderman did better.

      1) It got off the blocks first. It didn't have to share it's first two weekends with AotC. Obviously with Spider-Man being as popular as it was, someone people were watching it when they would have gone to AotC if it had been the only game in town.

      2) George Lucas burned us with Phantom Menace. Many people were not happy with the PM, and decided to wait a bit before seeing AotC. He also released way too many trailers.

      3) Running time. You can't show AotC as many times in a day as you can with Spider-Man. Tie this in with few theaters for AotC.

      In the end, JonKatz, draws too much meaning out of what is pretty much simple economics. Both are probably decent movies. I highly doubt that people are staying from AotC, because of Pomposity, self-indulgence or self-references. Spider-Man sated a bit our appetites for a big action film.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Triskaidekaphobia (580254) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:36AM (#3595115)
    Why is Spider-Man's version surprisingly drubbing Lucas

    Because it isn't part of a series (yet). It can be enjoyed as a single film.
    Anyone can see Spiderman; to see AotC you probably need some interest in Star Wars otherwise it will make no sense
  • by Kalabajoui (232671) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:38AM (#3595131)
    "The next generation unseated its elders -- as is the right of every generation - and is making its own culture, moving away from ours."

    Uh, exactly which generation is Spiderman supposed to represent? As a GenXer it's older than me, and if I'm not mistaken, is a far older tale than Star Wars.
    • by FPhlyer (14433) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:50AM (#3595270) Homepage
      Exactly my reaction.

      I don't see "the kids" (as Katz refers to them) as "creating their own culture" out of this one. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Hello Katz! That's a full FIFTEEN years before the first Star Wars film hit the theatre. Lets not forget the failed 70's Spider-Man TV series and the 80's cartoon version.

      Maybe "the kids" are just incapable of generating their own cultural milestones? No. Check out "The Matrix." That would be a much better argument for Katz's to use then "Spider-Man".
    • So, a film that makes tons of cash is a demarcation of generational values?

      Wither Titanic? Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings?

      And will we be saying the same when MiB2 and Matrix Reloaded start to hit the screens?

      Feh. People just like going to see them there talkies.

      And while we're on the "ton of cash = cultural icon" roll, the following from the AP Wire, about the past record-breaking Memorial Day Weekend:

      It was as diverse a weekend as moviegoers could ask for, with action blockbusters balanced by smart adult films and family fare. Each of the main movie ratings were represented in the top four -- "Attack of the Clones" with a PG rating, "Spider-Man" with a PG-13, "Insomnia" with an R and "Spirit" with a G.

      Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Tuesday.

      1. "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones," $61.2 million.

      2. "Spider-Man," $36.5 million.

      3. "Insomnia," $26.2 million.

      4. "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," $23 million.

      5. "Enough," $17.5 million.

      6. "About a Boy," $10 million.

      7. "Unfaithful," $7.7 million.

      8. "The New Guy," $5.5 million.

      9. "Changing Lanes," $2 million.

      10. "The Scorpion King," $1.9 million.



  • And "Episode One" wasn't eaxctly a thrill either.
  • by Telastyn (206146) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:38AM (#3595135)
    I wish that Kurtz (wasn't this the name of the guy that "helped" Lucas with ep 4,5?) would make his own versions of ep 1-3. They were supposed to be much much darker and much more interesting.

    Though I hope that the "new generation" goes for the Tolkien movies rather than X-men/Spiderman/the Hulk
  • I saw Spider-Man, and thought it was fun, fast, refreshing, well-written, and sensitive. Then I saw AOTC, and thought it was pedantic, saccharine, slow, and irritating.

    Give the "kids" some credit for being able to determine which movies are the most entertaining, rather than assuming that they are all following the instincts of mass culture. Also, it should be pointed out that the Spider-Man franchise is older than Star Wars by several decades.

    • Spider-Man wasn't exactly devoid of hype, either. I mean, just how many sponsorships does this movie have? How many promotional tie-ins? I've seen far more hype for Spider-Man than I've seen for the painfully titled AotC. Granted, I live in a hole, but still...

      It's ridiculous to imply that one massively budgeted Hollywood movie is some kind of underdog to another massively budgeted Hollywood movie.
  • As much as Star Wars is the victim of hype, I'm starting to feel that Jon is hyping up this big revelation.

    Granted, within the context of a simple article of standard size for Slashdot, it's not easy to really dig in, but there could have been far more research into this and far less hyping up a comparison of two films. Perhaps the whole Spider-Man did better because of the comic books and so on which reach a younger generation far better than novels do. Perhaps there was wariness initiall since The Phantom Menace was such a (relative) flop.

    A lot of platitudes and no facts. I'm sorry Jon. Sometimes you're really on, but this is a sad piece for a journalist of your credentials.

  • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:38AM (#3595141)
    "The next generation unseated its elders -- as is the right of every generation - and is making its own culture, moving away from ours."

    What is this tripe? Spiderman is older than Star Wars!
  • It's because episode one wasn't very good so it's put people off going to see episode 2. That's it. Duh. And what is that first paragraph trying to say. The words are English, but whole sentances make no sense.
  • Episode 3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coryboehne (244614) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:39AM (#3595146)
    There is a good chance however that with the release of episode 3, that once the series is complete you will see a major increase in not only box office revenues, but also in home video sales, I know that I for one will be buying the box set. And when one keeps in mind that the entire series is really one movie split into different parts, this is most likely one of the highest grossing movies to ever be released. In addition to this, it is a fact that sequels (and in this case prequels) historically don't generate much revenue (look at Rocky and Rambo) so when you consider the movie in light of this, I think it is pretty impressive that they were able to generate the amount of revenue that they did.
    • Re:Episode 3 (Score:3, Informative)

      by BTWR (540147)
      In addition to this, it is a fact that sequels (and in this case prequels) historically don't generate much revenue (look at Rocky and Rambo)

      Well, first off - Rocky IV was the biggest sucesses for that franchise. So there goes that. And the list goes on and on...

      Rush Hour 2
      Next Friday
      Austin Powers 2
      Ep1 (more than ep5 and ep6 - yes I know it's not a sequel to these, but it sorta is, and also B.O. costs went up, but this guy's arguement is about "revenue," which is simply wrong)
      Friday the 13th pt. 4
      Basically all of the Kevin Smith movies vs. Clerks
      James Bond (true, not direct sequels, but after 20 episodes, the public still has an unquenchible thirst for these flicks!)
      etc.
      etc.

      These stats are all from boxofficemojo.com, by the way...
  • Other factors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nagora (177841) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:40AM (#3595155)
    Spider-Man opened on almost twice the screens AotC's did and I'll be amazed if SM makes any significent money outside the US. I've yet to meet anyone here (UK) who's interested in it despite knowing a lot of comic collectors that loved "X-Men"; it also looks awful from the trailers that have appeared in the cinemas.

    TWW

    • Re:Other factors (Score:3, Informative)

      by zzyzx (15139)
      Moreover, something people forget is that Spider-Man has been out for twice as long as AOTC. Comparing apples to apples, AOTC made 202 million over its first twelve days [boxofficemojo.com] and Spider-Man made 232 million [boxofficemojo.com].

      Yeah AOTC had the advantage of Memorial Day weekend, but it also had to play against Spider-Man, where SM had a much easier field.

      I don't know if I'd draw any conclusions based on Box Office numbers, but this isn't exactly a runaway race here.
    • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:54PM (#3596320)
      Mmmm.. it's a beautiful day outside. Looks like it's time to avoid working, slam the crap out of Katz, and burn some Karma.

      • Spider-Man spent twice as much money on advertising as AotC.
      • Spider-Man opened on nearly twice as many screens as AotC.
      • AotC is the sequel to a movie that was generally considered very dissapointing.
      • AotC had numerous scenes of painfully bad acting, caused by poor actor direction and a horribly written script. Spider-Man had pretty decent writing and acting.


      But none of this had anything to do with Spider-Man making more money. No no no. It's a "cultural and generational coup d'etat". It's "The next generation [unseating] its elders". It's because "Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America."

      Katz, you're a pedantic, repetitive, overly dramatic idiot. You continuously put out poorly researched, sensational, buzzword laden drivel. You put the anal in analyze. Is it hard to breathe with your head so far up your ass? You try and cram EVERYTHING into your little "post 9/11, disillusioned generation gap, geek alienation" peghole. It's so, so sad. About the only thing I can say in your favour is how much discussion your articles tend to generate. Of course, 80% of it tends to be people criticizing your "ability" as a journalist.

      "The real lesson is, if you're trying to make great movies aimed primarily at the young, avoid pomposity, self-indulgence and too much self-reference."

      Listen to your own fucking advice when it comes to writing.
  • Attack of the clones was ruined by the analog copying of the film... Surely it would have taken in 20Trillion in the first 2 days if you werent able to download and view a really crappy, pixelated copy off of the internet and view it for free...

    What, the movie studios don't lie... do they?

    #ifdef REALITY
    How about the whole thing is getting tired?
    #endif
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:41AM (#3595163) Homepage Journal
    There may be a simpler explanation than cultural shifts laboriously hypothesized by Jon Katz:

    Spiderman is a good movie. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is not. Would Spiderman, had it been contemporaneous, have trounced the original Star Wars or The Empire strikes Back? I seriously doubt it.

    Lucas had a simple good vs. evil story to tell in the original Star Wars. It did not require laborious scenes reminiscent of CSPAN in Space to explain. It was not about the special effects. They were there to serve the movie, not vice-versa as one might believe in the recent additions to the Star Wars saga.

    Tastes have not changed radically. The quality of Star Wars movies has.
    • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:35PM (#3595654) Homepage
      [Star Wars: A New Hope] was not about the special effects. They were there to serve the movie, not vice-versa

      I'll grant you that in the first three Star Wars, the special effects served the story as a means to an end, and not an end in and of themselves. I'll also grant you that in Episode I, the emphasis was unnecessarily on the effects. However, in AotC, I felt that the effects were back to their rightful role of simply supporting the story, rather than drawing attention away from the story. There were a couple exceptions where I felt the effects needlessly grabbed my attention, but surprisingly, it occurred less than they did in Spiderman.

      That is, in Spiderman, the effects were terrible. When he had just discovered his powers, and was running across the rooftops, it looked horrible, cheap, tacky, and worst of all, fake. The web-swinging scenes were spectacular, but they were spectacular in the same way that the intro cinematics to a Final Fantasy game are spectacular. A great achievement of computing, but obviously a computing achievement.

      In AotC, most of the time, I didn't even notice the effects, although of course I knew they were there. For example, the Jedi/droid battle in the arena. That was an amazing scene, and looked incredibly real. Also, the battle outside the city between the clones and the droids - also exceptionally well done. The Yoda fight scene was a little obvious, but overall, I think AotC is much more fluid between effects/reality than Episode I, and I don't think your statement is fair.

  • The next generation unseated its elders

    Spider-Man is the next generation after Star Wars? Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but isn't Spider-Man an older story?

  • Harrison Ford's Hans Solo


    So...did Hans trade in his silver skates for a millennium falcon?

  • Both of these are highly commercial movies with dubious acting and a ridiculous amount of special effects shots.

    Both of these cost a bundle to make. Spider-man cost MORE to make than Attack of the Clones.

    Spider-Man spent MORE on marketing than Attack of the Clones.

    I see Spider-Man marketing all over the place, including stupid ads for Carls Jr. Is this really any less of a sellout than Lucas/SW?

    When Spider-Man #3 comes out (and if the movies keep making anywhere near this much this much money, it will), Katz will be one of the elitests crying about what sellouts Raimi and Maguire are, bet on it.

    There's nothing to see here. As usual Katz is reading a lot more into something than actually exists.

  • Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America.

    If ATOC had addressed 9/11 in a similar fashion as Spiderman, I would have picked up a light saber myself and done an Anakin-style massacre at Skywalker Ranch. While I personally thought Spiderman was better, I think the 9/11 patriotic stuff is contrived and trite at this point in time. For me, it made the movie worse.
    • by foobario (546215) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:25PM (#3596081) Homepage
      9/11 is the new Godwin's Law... instead of a process where small minds cause every online discussion to inevitably lead to some comparison to Hitler or the Nazis, we now have a phenomenon where small minds perceive some sort of relevance to 9/11 in every discussion. Recall that many of these same small minds swore for weeks after 9/11 that 'if this changes our way of life at all, the terrorists have already won'...

      How terribly droll.

      "Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America"? Good for him. Post-9/11 America still has it's head as far up its ass as it did pre-9/11.

      BTW, the 'simple love story' scenes in Spiderman were deplorable... I've never seen such bad acting out of Kirsten Dunst... it was almost like there wasn't a director on the set that day, and they just decided to wing it.
  • I can't imagine there are many here who don't check the Brunching Shuttlecocks on a regular basis, but here's [brunching.com] the Self-Made Critic's review of AOTC.

    "You see Mr Lucas, you suck as a writer. Really awful. And your directing...it's not very good either. So here's the deal. You write up an outline (no dialogue allowed) of Episode Three. You then hire a competent and hip writer, someone younger than, say, fifty. Said writer writes Episode Three, based on your notes. Then, you go and hire yourself a hot, fresh director--or Steven Spielberg, he'd do. You let them direct the movie while you sit back and collect lots of money. Everybody wins.

    If you do that, we promise to go see it. And we will not burn you in effigy."

  • by PD (9577) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:42AM (#3595178) Homepage Journal
    We don't want to be annoyed. We hated Scrappy Doo, we hated Oliver on the Brady Bunch. And we hate Jar Jar. I was HOPING that I wouldn't hear the word "meesa" come out of his mouth, but I did. That's point one.

    Point two is that Lucas doesn't seem to demand much from his actors. Everyone in the film was a decent actor, but they were just coasting in this one. Easy work, for a nice fat check. That flew just fine with the original Star Wars, but now it's just stupid looking and awkward feeling.

    But, back to the annoying sidekick. They just don't work. They never worked. Everyone hates them. If you like them, you are by definition outside the mainstream. Someday, if I ever become an editor or movie producer, I'm going to insist that every single thing made has an annoying sidekick or two in it. In fact, I'm going to insist that they all say the word "meesa" at least a hundred times. My goal will be to make the world so SICK of annoying sidekicks that future generations will not be plagued by this twist of storytelling idiocy.
  • Our favorite flametroll and his opinion piece on AotC vs. Spiderman (note: when I wrote and submitted my review/opinion of AotC, it was rejected)... or should this have been subtitled: JKatz and his big schtick stir the pot yet again.

    Unfortunately, as usual, he botches his point again in trying to compare the two movies -- comparing these two on any level other than monetary is ridiculous: they are two different kinds of films. Granted, they both appeal to the tech/nerd/geek -- but for different reasons. People didn't flock to one or the other due to the mythological differences or because one or the other tells the same story but better... what tripe.

    I vote for boycotting JKatz altogether....
  • by carlhirsch (87880) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:43AM (#3595193) Homepage
    According to boxofficmojo.com, Spider-Man spent $50 million on marketing to Attack of the Clones' $25 million. Doesn't sound like Spider-Man was lacking in a hype budget. Looks like the production budget for Spider-Man was higher than AotC by $15 million as well.
  • by Scoria (264473)
    Jon,

    You do realize that Star Wars: Episode II premiered in an amount of theaters significantly less than that of Spider-Man?

    You do realize that Spider-Man's marketing campaign began prior to last August, nearly a full year before its theatrical release? If I recall correctly, one of its first teaser trailers was appended to all prints of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a movie that was released on July 11, 2001. (That was my AC post you read earlier. :p)

    And finally, you do realize that both Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode II are already most likely classified as "blockbusters" by the MPAA?

    The narrow margin by which Spider-Man has defeated Star Wars isn't worthy of an article.
  • Are you out of step or what?

    Maybe because Episode 2 wasn't shown on as many screens, it has to be blamed on "the kids" (what? the same kids that invented the internet?) decided that another commercialized story is somehow more "pure" than another -- and to suggest that Spider-Man, put out by the studio of fake movie critics, and marketing folks disguised as happy movie goers is somehow the antithesis of hype -- jeesh.

    And /then/ to suggest all of this means some sort of paradigm, generational shift ... and here I thought his film reviews were pompous and self absorbed.
  • But what is a saga (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zaphod (2284)
    I view Star Wars and Lord of the Ring series as Sagas. On going movies that carry a central story. I don't see that with Spider Man. There I see sequels coming out that very loosely tie previous movies together. For those who have seen Spider Man know the thin basis of the next movies. But Spider Man II will not carry an epic or a saga with it. It will just be a sequel. Personally, I liked Spider Man, but I like the saga of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings better. Just my $0.02 USD.

    David
    • by Spencerian (465343) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:22PM (#3595568) Homepage Journal
      Your 2 cents is worth a dollar to me.

      A saga does not attempt--and cannot--give a 12 hour story in a 2 hour format. Hell, most screenplays don't fit well into 2 hours from its novel origins.

      Americans are spoiled by how Hollywood has made movies: They want immediate and final gratification. On that, Spider-Man wins. It's a good story in its own right. If you realize that life is a series of adventures, and not all of them spectacularly interesting, then the Star Wars saga's got most other movies beat hands down. Not that we should need Cliffs Notes for it, but there are many facets to The Flanneled One's little story, and it is enjoyable enough to those who are interested.

      Very, very few people will talk about the Spider-Man movies in 25 years, I assure you. Not that Spider-Man the character isn't worth it--far from it. But Star Wars was meant to be talked about and chewed upon.

      Consider these little morsels before you get your panties in a bunch about the fun that still is found in Star Wars (bad acting and dialogue notwithstanding):

      * How can Palpatine, if he is actually (and presumed by many) to be Darth Sidious, sit nose to nose with Yoda and other Jedi and not be detected? SW history has it that the Dark Side of the Force throws off a bad metaphysical stink.

      * A follow up to the first point: Are Palpatine and Sidious actually two different people? Clones, anyone? (Lots of dialogue on Kenobi's visit to the clone makers suggest that they can do anything to a clone, including changing its force sensitivity).

      * Since we see that Padme's got a thing for scoundrels, does this later explain daughter Leia's taste in men?

      * Why, for cryin' out loud, didn't Kenobi and Yoda teach Luke the various Sith lightning counterattacks they used in their fights? He could've used them...

      The list goes on. I could make a small list for Spider-Man, but all it would revolve around would be how cold and wet we can make Kirsten Dunst's clothing in the next sequel.

      All kidding aside, while Spider-Man the Movie has depth, it doesn't have a rich one. While Star Wars is just a popcorn movie, it's pretty good use-real-butter-dammit popcorn.

      Katz' criticisms don't equate since he is comparing one movie to a series of movies.
  • The movie ends with Spider-man draped around an American flag on a skyscraper...
    Ummm.....

    Did someone use the flag to squash Spider-man?

    (Me thinks slashdot needs an editor)

  • If you compare the movies 1 on 1, then yep, Spiderman is doing better then EpisodeII. However, what SERIES has pulled in more money? Call me when Spiderman 6 is out and we'll compare numbers for those 6 vs the 6 Star Wars movies. I would lay money that Star Wars outsells Spiderman... several times over.

    If you want to talk about the generation gap, etc, you have to talk about staying power. Star Wars has much greater staying power than pretty much any other series. Liken Spiderman to Batman... the first one was great and they went downhill (very far downhill, IMHO) from there.
  • Once again Jon Katz goes the long way, arrives at the same point, but did so for all the wrong reasons. Star Wars "failure" to earn gobs of money doesn't represent any cultural paradigm shift, it represents simple market economics. It has competition from Spiderman, which came out first and took the first movie bucks available. Star Wars also defeated itself with the hype, convincing people that "oh well, I won't get to see it this weekend anyway", and those people went to see spiderman instead. Overall, Star Wars will trounce spiderman, but with just over one week in circulation it's not fair to already try to deem it a flop. It's also an utter stretch to imply that the underperformance of Star Wars is a reflection of some sort of grass roots revolution. It's a movie dumbass!
  • We saw a cultural and generational coup d'etat this month
    The younger generation has not suddenly embraced a new type of myth. Everyone, including the older generations has simply embraced a better movie. Just look at Rotten Tomatoes [rottentomatoes.com]. Episode II got 58% (36% from the cream of the crop) [rottentomatoes.com] . Spiderman got 87% (84% from the cream of the crop) [rottentomatoes.com]. Most of these critics are not the next generation, they're the old generation who simply know a better movie when they see it.
  • Umm... There are like a million things that impact a movies' success in the first few weeks. I think it's rather hasty to select reasons that suit one's own agenda, and then provide no research/evidence to back one's argument's up.

    Spider-man opened on a hell of a lot more screens, for starters. Interestingly, the Spider-man brand is actually *older* than the Star Wars brand, so it is entirely possible that it's actually getting more older viewers than Star Wars, rather than Katz's statement that a new, younger generation has chosen Spider-man. Let's also not forget that Spider-man has got a decently acted romantic storyline, which makes it a better date film.

    Really, there are just so many reasons, it is silly to draw conclusions without some research.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:49AM (#3595254)
    Holed up in his California cocoon, Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America.

    Hello? He was producing a science-fiction movie. You know, A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away and all that? A movie that should have little or nothing to do with the real world. Nevermind the fact that the script for this movie was probably written many months, if not years, before 9-11.

    What did you expect, some contrived pointless scene where all the Jedi stop and mention how the Coruscant police and firemen are the "real heroes"? Maybe they should have called Jango Fett a terrorist instead of a bounty hunter? Come on. Star Wars has nothing to do with our real world, it's escapism. Lucas doesn't have some sort of moral obligation to refer to or otherwise acknowledge real world events. It's a movie for God's sake.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by skirch (126930) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:16PM (#3596011) Homepage
      This is probably too late to be modded up, and it's somewhat off topic, but this post touched on one of the things that really bugs me about the new batch of Star Wars movies.

      Lucas has really screwed up by doing the exact opposite of what jayhawk suggests. There is way too much of our current culture in Star Wars, and it's one of the biggest problems with the movies. And it's not the interesting stuff, it's the annoying stuff, like the pod race announcer(s). The futuristic diner scene, the Blade-runner-esque advertising ridden cityscapes.

      It doesn't make Star Wars seem like it's taking place in a galaxy far, far away. It's bright and flashy and more like Las Vegas Star Wars to me. Compared to the ambiance, style, and aesthetic of the sequels, the prequels are way off. Painfully so. After watching Phantom Menace, I'm always left wondering if Lucas has even watched the sequels. How could he screw it all up so badly?

    • With only a little bit of Unix knowledge, you can write Katz articles too!


      bash% lynx -dump http://slashdot.org/some_old_katz_article.pl | sed -e "s/post-Columbine/post-9\/11/g" >today\'s_article.txt


      Ta-da!
  • Lucas has lost his touch!

    Plus, he's bogged down in all of this political BS, trying to teach people a little american history and political theory (I'm sure he envisages small children asking "mommy, what's a republic?"), trying to live up to his earlier achievements, trying to say something of Significance.

    And failing miserably in the process.

    Spidey just has to be a good movie. With AOTC, Lucas had to live up to the legacy. And blew it.
  • by cutecub (136606) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:49AM (#3595257)
    Media critics love to compare gross sales of film A to gross sales of film B. But are they adjusting for inflation ( in ticket price? )

    I saw Star Wars for $1.50 in 1976. I saw Spiderman for $9.00 in 2002.

    What does it mean for Spiderman to gross more than Star Wars if a ticket price is 6 times what it was when Star Wars was released?

    For once, I'd like to see a well-researched statistic which actually compares the number of tickets sold rather than gross sales. Then, perhaps, you could point to a trend.

    -S
    • It's a little more complicated than that, too. Not only are there more seats available to customers, but more people have the money and are willing to go see movies. You could rate the movie in terms of percentage of the population that went to go see it, but then you start to run into other goofy problems, since big fans of the movie will see it more than once. You can adjust ticket sales for inflation (and if you do, Gone with the Wind kicks the absolute living crap out of anything produced...well, ever) but that's a poor metric as well.

      I'm no statistician, so I don't really know of a good way to actually talk about ticket sales, and seats, and actual popularity of a movie. Anyone out there with a good math background that can help?
  • by nakhla (68363) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:49AM (#3595259) Homepage
    It's also important to note, however, that Spider Man opened in considerably more theaters than Star Wars. I *believe*, though I'm not sure, the number was somewhere between 1500-2000. That makes a BIG difference in the money that Star Wars pulled in.

  • Post 9/11 America? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MisterBlister (539957) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:49AM (#3595263) Homepage
    How can you bring up 9/11 in this discussion with a straight face, Katz?

    Both of these movies were long done with principal photography by 9/11/01. Spider-Man is a better movie because it inserted a couple of pro-American "If you're not with us New Yorkers you're against us" scenes?

    What should Lucas have done, added a scene where the Sith fly a speeder into the Jedi temple tower?

    I'm not taking any sides here in the movie debate.. I liked both of thesem movies, and unlike Jon I don't think box office equates in any way to how good a movie is (yes Jon, this is the argument you are making..try reading your own writing and you'll see it). Is Titanic really that great of a movie? By Jon's logic it is..

    Seriously, Katz, doesn't journalistic integrity mean anything to you anymore?

  • Inventing an Issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:51AM (#3595283) Homepage

    Jon, might I suggest that you write about real issues instead of inventing them?

    The reality is: Star Wars Episode II and Spiderman are both doing well. Why create a conflicts and a social even when there isn't one? Most people I know saw both; they're great escapist eye candy. I can spout statistics that show how Star Wars beat Spidey at the box office (per screen revenues, for example)... but it's not worth the trouble.

    I just took my two oldest dughters, ages 13 and 11 to see Star Wars. There is something magical about taking my kids to see a movie mythos that I've loved since the first film amazed me at age 15. The same thing happened with The Lord of the Rings last December -- I shared with my kids something special from my own life.

    I'll be impressed when Spiderman 5 comes out in twenty-fix years and still pulls down blockbuster numbers.

  • Jon, please stop trying to find some thread of importance in something that is completely unimportant. The only people that could give a damn that Spirderman is making more money at the box office than Star Wars are washed up journalists that do not have the talent to hold a real job. Even worse is someone whose only current writing credit is producing articles on Slashdot. God, what's next? Enigma didn't make as much at the box office as Pi so geeks are more into math than encryption?

    Stop pretending to be a geek, pick up a copy of UNIX for Dumbasses and learn something. Jesus, can you get any more vapid? Spider-man vs. Star Wars? Fat ass Comic Book Store owners are now laughing at you.

  • I for one am sick to death of "simple story telling". If JK can't handle a film with more than one plot-line then that's his problem, I enjoyed the complexity of the story line in Clones.

    I was 12 when Star Wars came out and it's not my fault Lucas waited until I was 37 to get as far as the fifth film, so I don't want or expect the same sort of film that I did when I was 12.

    TWW

  • From everything I had read and from talking to other people, it seemed that Star Wars has the simple disadvantage of not playing in nearly as many theaters - I thought the number was about 1/3. From what I recall it's a combination of Lucas beeing more choosy and Spiderman being deliberatly pushed to as many theaters (and especially screens within a theater) as possible, much more so than any other movie before... I think the theater I saw spiderman in had about six screens going opening day.

    I did like Spiderman a lot. But again because of the theater issue, I had no illusions about the movie taking in more money than Spiderman, and the numbers are in line with what I'd think they would be. The whole story seems to need a big old helping of "Never Mind" tacked at the end...
  • "...you're trying to make great movies aimed primarily at the young."

    WHAT? I guess the comic books were for the young as well?

    Spider-Man is doing so well because it ISN'T targeted at primarily young.
    It's for the Gen-Xers.
    It's for our parents.
    It's for anyone who loves super heroes.
    It's for geeks.
    It's for people who have read and loved the comic books.
    And for people who watched the cartoons (I hoped that they would reuse the same 3 scenes for when he was swinging around. At least once, just for us!)

    Why do you think we got the X-men? Blade? Why do you think the Hulk is on it's way? Scoobie? Not for the kiddies moron, it's for us. They know we'll bite. That we'll all go see our heroes in action. They want to drag the BIG kids in.

    The average age opening night when I was there, best as I can figure (while waiting in line), was 30+. Not 12. Not 18. It was our generation wearing the spidey shirts for crying out loud!

  • I don't see every product from Microsoft reported here in sacred tones. And for good reason, it's sub-par product being shoved down out throats with media hype and strong arm tactics. So why is this big media schlock being reported here, on a daily basis, as if it were the second coming? Look at the owners here AOL /Time-Warner, Disney, Sony, etc.

    Hello! These are the same conglomerates that fund MPIA and RIAA (Sure you remember these acronyms these are the acronyms that brought you other fun acronyms such as DMCA, COPA and others). Lets drop the "free media" for the fat-cat media conglomerates and expand our horizons on shashdot to truly innovative arts and letters.

  • Star Wars Ep II was simply not as good a movie as Spider Man. Yeah yeah, maybe Katz has a point with his intellectual discussion on why Spiderman is doing better in the box office, but I think it's simply that Spiderman is better.

    I love Star Wars as much as the next person, but what was with:

    the really bad wooden acting - I had no problem with the acting in Ep1, but Ep2 really sucked

    the really corny lines - I mean how many cliches could they pull out for the romance scenes?!?

    everything looked 2D. Take one CG background and shoot the actors standing in front of it giving dialogue. It looked so fake.

    cliched camera shots - that big climatic battle when the camera zooms up to the troop carriers - like watching some b-grade Vietnam war movie ...

    I could go on and on but I think you get the point. If I could delete Jar Jar Bink from Ep1, I would quite confidently say that Ep1 was a better movie than Ep2, and neither compares to Spiderman.

  • 9/11 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America"

    WTF? Wasn't this movie written and filmed months before 9/11? Jesus christ man, I didn't like the movie either, but I'm weary of anyone that heavy handedly uses the term "post-9/11" in an article to debate something that has nothing to do with 9-11.

  • by bwt (68845) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:55AM (#3595318) Homepage
    I saw both within a few days. I don't understand why Spiderman is so popular. It was OK, not great. It had the great benefit of low (no?) expectations.

    I cringed twice during AoC at the mushy stuff, and twice during Spiderman. The bad guys had about the same level of character development (which was not much). The action was better in AoC (Did anybody really find the "Green Goblin" to be a good bad guy). The acting was a little better in Spiderman (but neither deserve Academy nominations). The overall plot complexity of AoC was much more rich.

    I believe that all the people that knock AoC are basically just bitter about the fact that they have had to grow up. The original Star Wars movies were "magical", right? How can any movie live up to the *demand* that it restore people's feelings of childhood wonderment.
  • by Stickerboy (61554) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:55AM (#3595319) Homepage
    The next generation unseated its elders -- as is the right of every generation - and is making its own culture, moving away from ours. In doing so, these kids balked at mega-hype, rediscovered earnestness, simplicity, the love story, some patriotism, punctured a billion-dollar balloon, and maybe even sparked a (relative) movement away from whorish sellouts, back to simpler story-telling. I, for one, sure hope so.

    Heheh... only Katz could consider a movie (Spider-Man) produced by Sony Pictures, Inc. and spender of over $50 million in marketing to the unwashed masses a "balk[ing] at mega-hype", "simplicity", and "punctur[ing] a billion dollar balloon".

    Let's see, reasons why Spider-Man made more money its opening weekend than Episode II:

    4. It has a shorter running time, and therefore can be shown more times per day by theaters,
    3. It showed on over 7,500 screens, as opposed to Episode II's 6,000,
    2. It is (subjectively) a better movie, and audiences (maybe) prefer it, and

    1. Spider-Man opened to no competition from other summer blockbusters, whereas Episode II opened against Spider-Man.

    That Katz. When you need a highly publicized, mega-hyped troll, you know who to call.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:56AM (#3595326) Homepage Journal
    Do not discount the chick-ocitude of Spiderman. That right away nearly doubles the market for the picture.

    Spiderman 2 will have more chickness and probably some orphans and puppies and unicorns too.

    Clones didn't do too badly considering it was the first major motion picture, aparently written entirely by a machine.
  • I used to think that I couldn't write, that I just didn't have the inspiration. After actually reading your dribble, I am insipired. If you can actually make a living on sell this shite as journalism or even something to read, I know I can at least be *ok*.

    Holed up in his California cocoon, Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America.

    And just what the hell is this? It would sundenly be *good* to re-edit the whole moive to make it more patriotic? That part with the bridge in Spiderman is SO post 9/11 it's not even funny. I mean how the fuck does that suddenly fit in? It's there to capitalize on 9/11. Maybe if they replaced the sith lords with Osamma bin-laden look alikes you'd be happier... damn. I'm with the trolls on this one, you suck dead dog ass, in a major way!
  • by Spudley (171066) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @11:57AM (#3595343) Homepage Journal
    This article makes it sound like the recent Star Wars episodes have sold-out. This isn't true: Lucas and Star Wars defined spin-off marketing from day one. Prior to Star Wars, spin-off marketing of movies was practically unheard of, and certainly never made more money than the film itself even when it did appear. But when Star Wars burst onto the scene, it brought an army of plastic minatures into the world that became a marketing phenomenon.
    Today, original Star Wars figures are often worth a small fortune to collectors. In their day they made a big fortune for George Lucas. So don't tell me he's selling out now. It may be even bigger and brasher this time round, but he was the one who invented the idea in the first place.
  • ...these kids balked at mega-hype, rediscovered earnestness, simplicity, the love story, some patriotism...

    Because they went to see Spiderman? I can't wait to see what they rediscover from MIB 2. Virtue, fortitude, courage, brighter teeth and fresher breath, I suppose. William Bennett, call your office!

  • How is this news? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eison (56778)
    So more people like a fun comic book hero than a space western. Why is that some big revelation about "post-9/11 America", rather than just some big revelation about market share?

    I think the best thing the success of Spider-Man indicates is that we'll see Spider-Man 2, 3, 4, 5, ... followed by Green Lantern and Silver Surfer on the big screen. Not that Lucas should give up and go home.
  • by rsidd (6328) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:11PM (#3595460)
    If you're thinking patriotism, you may be interested in yesterday's [ucomics.com] and today's [ucomics.com] editions of The Boondocks. I'm eagerly waiting to see it evolve over the week...
  • by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:29PM (#3595621) Homepage


    The Columbine Culture Of Geek Media, by Jon Katz.

    The media culture of geeks, or, rather the columbine culture of media is the new geek. Columbine, in addition to the media, created a geek culture where new geeks could columbine the culture. The culture, in return, created a geek media, and performed a coup d'etat. Then Columbine, a geek culture, had a new media. Geekdom. Geek. Culture, New, Geek. The columbine culture of geek media provides a new culture for Columbine, different than the geek media culture provided by new geeks. Columbine, columbine. Columbine. Thank you.

    Ever get the feeling that Jon Katz is a mad-libs perl script?

    Cheers,
  • I think... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dick_Fury (547581) <destroyer@@@butterflydestroyer...com> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:51PM (#3595846)
    JonKatz felt the need to aggravate me personally by writing this. I'd die of shock if he wrote something that I agreed with in any way. All the talk about all the money one brought in over another one in it's opening weekend and how many screens it showed on and whatnot is tripe, and I'm tired of hearing about it. It's like asking someone's opinion about a book they haven't yet read. I should think you could judge little more than the effectiveness of the promotion prior to the movie with that scale, which also seems like tripe.

    ***When George Lucas decided to resuscitate his epic after a nearly generation-long respite, he could have chosen at least somewhat of a classier route and put some limits on the marketing that now engulfs big movies. Instead he acted like Jabba the Hutt, gorging on every dollar he could get. The producers of Lord Of The Rings curbed the marketing and toy tie-ins with corporations peddling food and dolls to kids out of respect for Tolkien.***

    The marketing for Ep II was about the same as any other movie. The hype machine for spider-man was pumping just as hard. And to say that Lucas is to blame for all the marketing is crap anyway. Who's to know if he or the studio has more to do with it?

    And you're right; they didn't have any toy or fast food marketing for Lord of the Rings. *Plays with his lurtz action figure and takes a sip from his light up lord of the rings cup from BURGER KING*

    ***But what is Attack of the Clones about? The Skywalker genealogy? The Empire's evil origins? The birth of the Empire's Troopers? The rise and fall of the Queen of Naboo and her tormented lover and complex offspring? Trade unions and their relationship to the Galaxy? Legislative bodies and their place in galactic history?***

    Give me a break. If you describe anything like that it sounds negative.

    What is spider-man? A movie about the use of spiders for gene therapy? A warning to keep an eye on egotistical scientists? A vessel for the powerful acting of Randy Savage?

    ***Do we really care precisely how Anakin Skywalker got pissed off and turned to the Dark Side? Or would we -- especially the youngest among us -- be happy to see Yoda flashing his light-saber around and doing his Jackie Chan imitation?***

    Are you being serious? This is the part that makes me believe I fell asleep and it's really April 1st and this is all a big joke. I try to respond to this but the inherent stupidity of the comment seeps into my skin through the keyboard and blur's my mind. It's like saying Do we really care how Peter Parker became a spider? Do we really care why Connor Macleod is cutting all these people's head's off? Do we care why Tyler Durden is blowing up a corporate campus?

    ***Holed up in his California cocoon, Lucas seemed to fall out of touch with post-9/11 America.***

    You're right. At the end of Ep II Obi-Wan and Anakin should have flown through the streets of New York towing a giant American flag and singing God Bless America. I mean, a movie in space? In a galaxy far far away? How un-American.

    You're so full of crap I can smell it through the screen. They're two incredible movies. Why everyone feels the need to compare them is beyond me. I watched Ep II yesterday and the theater was packed. I wasn't sitting there thinking "this well help their profit margin" I was just happy a lot of little kids were sitting there enjoying the movie.

  • by GroundBounce (20126) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:52PM (#3595848)
    We can all certainly point out ways in which Lucas could have improved things (and there definitely are many), and any one of us would have written epsodes 1 and 2 differently. There are many valid criticisms that have been made, but on the other hand, Lucas had many more and far tougher constraints to deal with.

    First and foremost was all the baggage that accompanied him from the first four movies. There are several things that created constraints here. The most difficult was that these episodes are prequels. Not only does the character and situation development have to be consistent with the pre-existing stories, but they must also converge to a single target time in some sort of consistent fashion. This is much more difficult than a sequel, where the writer has the freedom to diverge in any number of directions.

    Another difficult area is public expectations. We can all point out areas where Lucas gauged things wrong in this area, and that's just the point -- it's very difficult to do, and very difficult to get right, even with sequels where there is only one pre-existing film, let alone a prequel series that follows three highly successful episodes. Any one of us could have done "better", and the film would have matched our personal expectations, but Lucas was faced with estimating the expectations of millions of fans from three generations who had already seen four previous movies -- not an easy task task by any stretch of the imagination.

    Yet another area is complexity. As Katz points out, over the years, the Star Wars saga has come to deal with many kinds of social, economic, and even religious issues. Here, Lucas is being criticized for maintaining and even building on this complexity, but if he were to completely drop it, he would undoubtedly be criticized equally harshly by others. Again, the years of baggage that accompanies the Star Wars saga made it difficult for Lucas to do the right thing in everyone's eyes.

    Spidey had none of this constraining baggage, other than generally following the premise of the original comic strip/cartoon series.

    Granted, there were some very obvious goofs, such as the over-commercialization of the tie-in products (it certainly cheapens the saga), but given the constraints, it was very difficult (and will get even harder) for Lucas to come up with prequels that will satisfy everyone's preconceived notions of how things should be.
  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @12:53PM (#3595862) Homepage
    I feel sorry for pundits. It is their job to find patterns in the seemingly chaotic world we live in. Sure, between 99 and 100% of these patterns are complete bullshit, but at least they are entertaining [sometimes].

    Having said that, it would be patently ridiculous to assume that generational rebellion is exemplified in movie-goers deciding to forfeit their cash to one mega-corporation over another.

    But then again, maybe I'm not in on the joke. It is a joke, right?

    The Katz piece was hilarous [intentional or not].
  • Die. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gannoc (210256) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:02PM (#3595919)
    The real lesson is, if you're trying to make great movies aimed primarily at the young, avoid pomposity, self-indulgence and too much self-reference. Keep the story simple, clear and touching.

    I think the real lession is, if you're trying to make a good article for slashdot, aimed primarily at geeks, avoid pomposity, self-indulgence, and too much self-reference. Keep the article simple, clear, and not full of your shit.

  • by nomadicGeek (453231) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:20PM (#3596032)
    First off, Katz, you are annoying as always. As usual you get caught up in the depth of your own arguments. I don't think that you need Joseph Campbell to explain this one but his name certainly looks good in the footnotes. I'm sure your old English teachers think you're cool.

    An entire generation of folks grew up on Star Wars. None of us are kids anymore. This core fan group is now 30-40 years old. Lucas should be targetting his original fans with these prequels. It doesn't make sense to try to drag children into a storyline that is already 25 years old and spans 4 movies.

    The problem is that Lucas and everyone backing him expects a blockbuster out of every new Star Wars movie. To do this he has to try to make a movie of wide appeal. This means expanding the audience to include the 8 year olds of today. Unfortunately it is difficult to make a movie that extends a storyline of 4 previous movies and also appeals to people who know little about it. Plot elements such as Jar Jar only alienate his core audience and seem to have missed the mark with younger viewers.

    Take a look at David Brin's site. He has a lot of thoughts about Star Wars (much better than the Katz tripe). These are old comments after Episode I disappointed so many of us. Most importantly I think that he has a lot of suggestions that would do a lot to enhance these prequels.
    Brin Article [kithrup.com]
  • Silly analysis (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Junks Jerzey (54586) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:13PM (#3596441)
    This is ridiculous. One Ultra Huge Heavily Marketed Movie is beating another Ultra Huge Heavily Marketed Movie and you're trying to read some sort of deep changing of the guard theme into it? Is this even worth disucssing? Both movies are making more money than 50 Slasdotters combined will make in their entire lifetimes. How can this be reasonably talked about?
  • by MrResistor (120588) <peterahoff&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:14PM (#3596448) Homepage
    Attack of the Clones is a completely different kind of movie than Spider-Man, and trying to make direct comparisons between the two is asinine. AotC has a wide base to draw upon, and has a responsibility to expand upon that base, which it does quite well. It's not as if everyone hasn't known exactly what it would be about for the last 15 years. The only surprise is in the details, which is exactly as it should be!

    I think it's fairly obvious that there will be at least 2 Spider-Man sequels, as Hollywood tryies to milk as much as it can out of it. If the Spider-Man franchise ever makes it to 5 films, I think it's a safe prediction that you will be far more disappointed in it than you are in AotC.

    Remember how great the first Batman movie was? How about The Crow? Superman?

    How old were you when the A New Hope came out? I was 2 years old. Star Wars absolutely dominated my childhood, it was by far the coolest thing any of us had ever seen. Guess what? The new trilogy holds the same place among kids of similar age today. My daughter is constantly asking to watch The Phantom Menace, she would watch it 5 times a day if we let her, and most of my friend's kids are the same way.

    The new Start Wars movies dominate their culture just as the first three dominated ours, and I'm sure that they will be just as disappointed in parts 7-9 as some of us are in parts 1 and 2, and for the same reason: Nothing will ever be as cool as it was when you were a kid. Get over it.

    And enought with this "Post 9/11 America" crap. It had potential in the first 3 months or so to become a positive, unifying force, but now it's become nothing more than a blanket pulled over our eyes so we can't see Bush holding the door for Ashcroft, Hollings, and the rest to cart our freedoms out for auction to the highest bidder. "Post 9/11 America" is a code word for the same kind of blind patriotism bullshit that fueled the Cold War, but without the altruistic aspect of fighting for Democracy.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:50PM (#3596707)
    Alright. . .

    I'll get into it.

    First off. . .

    While it's always interesting to look at the broad socio-cultural dynamics in mass media, I think perhaps Katz is searching rather too deeply here for a reason. Aside from the fact that Spiderman is a decade or so older than even the first Star Wars film, (which makes it anything but a youthful rebellion against convention), the reason Sam Raimi's film is making more than George's is that it was a better movie. This has been pointed out several times already.

    What hasn't been successfully pointed out is why. People seem to be a little confused as to why the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise didn't ring any bells. Yes, they say things like, "Bad Dialogue" and "Bad Acting," but that's somewhat off the mark. And I sympathize. Such a lumbering monstrosity as AOTC, which worked on some levels, looked good, and generally entertained for nearly three hours despite it's being riddled with flaws, makes it difficult to see exactly where and how it went wrong.

    I'd like to offer that the fact George didn't have a completed script before he started shooting as the prime culprit. That, and George has forgotten how to direct. --I refuse to put the actors at fault for what ended up on the screen. That's silly. I don't care how talented you are as an actor, You try pulling off some of the things they were required to say with integrity, a straight face and weak directing!

    Take a look at the website for the Matrix, Reloaded. Look at the interviews and artwork done by the concept and story board artists. Every single scene of that film was worked out and adjusted with the director's approval, penciled and inked on paper in excruciating detail. The story board for the first film was VERY complete. Certain sections were even animated just to work out how they should look. And why? Because only if you do it this way can you be certain of what your finished product will look like on the big screen. This is a way of 'beta-testing' your film.

    And it works. The first Matrix film was wonderfully done. There were very few kinks in the mix, and the pacing was wonderful.

    However, the system by which the latest Star Wars films were made is entirely different.

    George has basically invented a new way of movie making. Rather than shooting the all the footage, inserting the effects, and then sitting down with the finished film to edit everything into a finished product, The Phantom Menace and Clones were shot, edited and treated all at the same time. The daily video which came off the set or from location, was digitally sent to the editors that afternoon to be spliced together with the rest of the scenes in the 'master' copy of the film. At certain points, the master copy was made up from some scenes which were just green screens with actors talking, or a hand drawn animated sequences of a space fight or what have you, but the whole film was essentially right there on the non-linear editor. As new scenes, effects, etc., became available, they were spliced in to replace less finished scenes. And the film grew like this.

    This allows, potentially, for increased efficiencies in production and for problems to be caught early on. It allows for massive flexibility. Unfortunately, it also clearly has the power to fool a director into thinking that just because he can create on the fly, that he should try to do so. --George clearly wanted to make the actual writing part of this non-linear process, which I feel, was a huge mistake.

    The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles were produced using an earlier version of this process. They looked ten times more expensive than they actually were, thanks to the efficiencies provided by the digital system. They told fun, sophisticated stories which on the whole, were highly entertaining. The difference between them and the last two Star Wars films were that each episode of Chronicles was first written by a respected and accomplished writer and then carefully edited into shape before being stamped with approval to be shot. And when they were shot, it was done by a skilled director. (Not Lucas.) Planning and directing. These two items make all the difference in the world!

    The ironic part is that the super precision with which the Matrix was written, planned and story boarded was not something new. The Wachowski brothers were simply following George Lucas's lead. Back in the days when The Empire Strikes Back was being made, every shot and scene was meticulously planned in pencil and ink. Some scenes were even fully hand animated. Nobody was going to waste an inch of expensive film or a minute of expensive production time shooting something which they weren't pretty damned certain was work.

    So yes, Video non-linear editing and the wonderfully efficient system Lucas has managed to create over the last fifteen years is an amazingly powerful and ingenious contraption. It makes error and experimentation fairly inexpensive. But in the final analysis, perhaps this is not such a good thing. Perhaps that much creative freedom only encourages laziness.

    -Fantastic Lad
  • by TheMonkeyDepartment (413269) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:09PM (#3596833)
    Oh please, Katz! The assertion that Spider-Man is somehow less of a "commercial whore" and Star Wars is laughable. My supermarket is filled with Spider-Man cereal! I've even seen Spider-Man in cellphone commercials! THERE IS SPIDER-MAN MERCHANDISE EVERYWHERE!

    Katz, did you even do any research about this? Can you back up your assertion with data? I'd love to see, in hard numbers, how many different products Spider-Man has attached its name to. I'm sure it would rival Star Wars -- and possibly surpass it.

    As far as the apparent decrease in popularity of Star Wars, isn't it amazing that even though "Clones" is doing so well at the box office, people still see that as a failure of some kind?

    I think what happened is this: during the 15 years hiatus in which new Star Wars movies weren't being made, all the Star Wars fandorks convinced themselves that they were somehow involved in the production process of the movie.

    15 years of nonstop Star Wars fantasization later, the fandorks have immersed themselves in scores of SW novels, collectible card games and [awful] fan scripts ... and now nothing George Lucas could do would please them.

  • by KelsoLundeen (454249) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @04:02PM (#3597285)
    Or, it might be simply the idea that the original idea wasn't simply a film 'targetted at kids'.

    I've written about this before here, but the original Star Wars came out at a pretty unique time in the history of American cinema. The films of the 1970's were quite different than the films of the 90's or of the 00's of this new century.

    Obviously, it's easy to point to something like Vietnam and say that, well, Star Wars -- the original -- was a pretty canny, subtle response to a culture still mired in the complex politics of the 60's and 70's.

    But Star Wars -- the original -- was also whimsical. It was Lucas' response, I think, to growing up in the 50's and being submerged in the California car culture. Sort of a weird, whimsical amalgam of the Cold War mentality of the 50's and 60's mixed in with the savagery of Vietnam but touched here and there with odd bits of folly and idealism. (Sort of like a simplistic reading of the war in Vietnam -- folly, idealism, savagery.)

    Star Wars, I think, was aimed at "kids" the same way that Lucas's previous film 'American Graffiti' was -- it was about kids, really, but it wasn't specifically aimed at them.

    My "reading" of Star Wars has always been that it's about kids in a complex world. Han and Luke are a couple of hot-rodders, essentially. And they're both going after the girl (one more than the other, of course, but no one can deny the allure of Luke's almost asexual naivete.)

    I suspect the film is a mirror of Lucas's own inner-self. When he made Star Wars he was still a big kid that didn't want to give up (or give in) to the emerging complexities of culture. In many ways, Star Wars is an amazingly naive and gentle film -- nothing like 'Return of the Jedi', for example, which is the first film of the series that has (finally) become 'aware of Star Wars.' RotJ is a film aware of itself. Not so with Star Wars (a joy ride) and most definitely not so with ESB (still naive, still riding fast, but showing signs of dark awareness. You could certainly make the argument that ESB is the end of the joyride. From RotJ on it's the legal speed limit all the way)

    But you wonder if Lucas had much of a choice. I think the more interesting route for Ep 3 to go would be dark, violent, and absurd. Think of Kurosawa's 'Ran', for example. A film made late in K's life -- but a masterpiece. Filled with savagery and darkness (even though it's one of the most colorful films you'll ever see projected on a screen.) It's quite disturbing, Ran, and is really -- when you think of it -- an astonishing achievement so late in K's life.

    It always amazes me to realize that Lucas, Spielburg, Coppola, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Scorsese were all very close -- close in vision, close in their desire for "epic sweep", and close personally. Lucas and Spielburg helped Kurosawa finance several of K's later films, and there's some great shots of Fellini walking and talking with Spielburg in Rome. What's distressing, however, is that as Kurosawa and Fellini aged, their visions became more rareified (if that's the right word.)

    One look at Fellini's 'And the Ship Sails On...' and your heart breaks. It's a wonderful film -- much like K's 'Ran' -- and you see these bright-hot glimmers of genius and power shining through. But Lucas seems to be retreating -- afraid to tackle the difficult problems. The excuse is that, well, he really can't: Star Wars is a marketing machine and the marketing is aimed at kids. Taco Bell needs their DooKoo Pootie cups, McDonalds needs their Annie Happy Meals.

    But just as Bruno Bettleheim talks about the need for dark fairy tales in the growth of child's mind, Lucas shouldn't be afraid to tackle the real dark stuff.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

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