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Sellout: George Lucas in HypeSpace 271

Posted by JonKatz
from the not-a-review dept.
Twenty years ago, people were delighted to discover "Star Wars" an original movie fueled by the power of mythology and some great effects. This isn't a review (I haven't seen the movie yet) but times have sure changed. "Phantom Menace" is being launched in a cloud of greedy, obnoxious, even shameless hype. Lucas, a self-styled Hollywood rebel, is proving himself to be yet another sell-out, his hypocritical posturing collapsing under the weight of countless toy store tie-ins and inter-galactic pizza and soda promotions.

A couple of months ago, Rob (CmdrTaco) Malda and I were trading e-mail about "Star Wars: Phantom Menace." He gracelessly reminded me that even though he?d seen "Star Wars" 100 times or so, he hadn?t seen it in a movie theater when it first came out (he would have been in diapers) and I had.

Alas, this is so. And given the insane commercial and media hype surrounding "Phantom Menace," I?m the lucky one. (This isn?t a review - I haven?t seen the movie yet.)

The original "Star Wars" came as something of a shock when it appeared two decades ago. It was promoted, of course, but before the age of Mega Hype it was possible to discover a great movie, rather than have one rammed down your throat and into every other orifice.

And the original "Star Wars" was discovered by transfixed nerds and movie lovers. It was a weird movie, half fairy tale and half comic book, yet a very human and accessible one. It proved an instant smash with almost everyone, ordinary ticket buyers along with the non-normal. It celebrated science fiction, technology and heroic oddballs all at once.

A pre -Web movie, fans had fewer ways of spreading the word, but the raves got around. The movie?s genuine stars were technology, animation, imagination and special effects. But in other ways, it was a very old story: the young man or woman called to a great adventure, one in which his community?s survival was at stake. He battles the forces without, but first has to conquer the ones within.

For eons, in various forms from Hercules and the Trojan war to "High Noon" to Batman, this idea has been an elemental myth in virtually every culture. Do we have what it takes to confront evil when it arises and threatens us and the people we love? Will we do the right thing, and comport ourselves with honor and dignity?

The power of myth permeated the original "Star Wars", and not by accident. George Lucas credited the late mythologist Joseph Campbell as a major inspiration for characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and even invited Campbell, an academic and writer, to a special screening to view the "Stars Wars" trilogy at Lucas? Skywalker ranch in California.

The journalist Bill Moyers was there at the screening, too, and later recalled that Campbell "reveled in the ancient themes and motifs of mythology unfolding on the wide screen in powerful, contemporary images." Campbell, Moyers remembered, especially exulted aloud in the fact that Lucas had put an up-to-date spin on the timeless hero/quest.

"And what is that?" asked Moyers.

"It?s what Goethe said in Faust but which Lucas has dressed in modern idiom - the message that technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough. We have to rely on our intuition, our true being."

Campbell also loved the Darth Vader character - the dark and evil man in the mask - as a staple of mythology dating back to ancient wall scribblings.

"Darth Vader," he told Moyers in a later interview, "has not developed his own humanity. He?s a robot. He?s a bureaucrat, living not in terms of himself but in terms of an imposed system. This is the threat to our lives that we all face today. Is the system going to flatten you out and deny your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system so that you are not compulsively serving it?"

Re-reading this interview in "Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth," I couldn?t help thinking that twenty years later, that Lucas has lost touch with the spirit of his own creation.

Vader would now be out on the network in the employ of some giant corporation, or maybe a gargantuan tel-com, directing the Hype machine and pushing around the competition. Bill Gates doesn?t make it as a truly menacing figure who wants to hurt people, but the mammoth corporatism he has come to embody is creepy enough. It invokes empire, and hovers above us all like some giant spaceship, just waiting to plop down and squash us. And it definitely evokes a system that denies humanity.

Mostly, what I recall about the first Star Wars was the almost spine-tingling sense of simplicity, menace and drama.

There was the first appearance of Lord Vader, the ironic and deflating presence of Harrison Ford?s Han Solo (who, along with R2D2, kept the movie from getting too pompous or heavy-handed), and that curiously emotional moment when Ben Kenobi says to Luke: "Turn off your computer, turn off your machine and do it yourself, follow your feelings, trust your feelings."

And when he did, it worked. Luke rode a crippled, defenseless machine into a Death Star to save the world, and in the end, rose above all the machinery to get the job done. The dozen or so times that I saw the movie, that moment always brought the loudest applause.

If the original "Star Wars" invoked the power of myth, Phantom Menace invokes the power of hype. Lucas has shamelessly sold his soul, thus that of his movie, to magazine editors, TV producers, toy-makers, pizza and fried-chicken purveyors, and the massive corporations cranking out toys, books, calendars and videos. There?s almost no piece of Lucas?s story that he wasn?t happy to peddle to the highest bidder. One can only imagine how many - unlike the original figures -- were created with marketing tie-ins in mind. On May 3, Toys "R" Us sold 1.25 million units of "Phantom" products. According to Entertainment Weekly, tie-ins from the movie will probably represent the biggest event in the history of the toy business.

This week, Pepsi-affiliated Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken began a months- long, TV-saturated, cross-promotional campaign. Each restaurant will be turned into one of the planets in the movie. Each will have its own toys "that can?t be found anywhere else." KFC gets the Jar Jar Binks Squirter, Taco Bell the Anakin Skywalker Transforming Bank, and Pepsi itself is offering four separate commemorative soda cans. There are rumors that Yoda himself will soon be on the tube, guzzling pop.

Is that Lucas message, the point of one of the great creative works in all of popular culture? Get as much as you can? Embrace the bigness and squeeze it for every last nickel?

Yuk. This kind of hype isn?t just about making a few bucks. It?s about manipulating children in the name of greed and influence. It?s about ego and cash. This round, we?re not allowed to discover a great work; we?re nearly beaten to death with it, and it?s calculatedly cute, most profitable and commercial manifestations.

The cacophony is demeaning to Lucas and to his film and insulting to his audience. It?s hard to know which would be worse: if "Phantom Menace" is a great movie defiled by Lucas and his marketing tie-ins or, if it?s a crummy movie lost in the cloud of hype.

Every big movie arrives in a cloud of tie-ins, toy promotions and fast-food marketing schemes these days. Lucas can?t be blamed for that. But if any producer every claimed that his movies were not like all the others, it?s Lucas. The gross commercialism of the pre-Phantom Menace campaign has gone way beyond the usual hard sell, especially given that he has worked to studiously to invoke the image of the pure, independent, anti-Hollywood producer, holed up in his far-from-LA compound in the interest of art and integrity.

Lucas himself has graced the cover of Wired and even corrupted Popular Mechanics (which refers to "film genius" George Lucas) and the films? various stars have fanned out to be photographed for the covers of Time, Newsweek, Premiere, and Vanity Fair. This doesn?t count the barrage of TV appearances ("60 Minutes", et al) scheduled to be unleashed this week.

And for good measure, he?s turned a chunk of the Web into a giant, teeming fanzine and Star Wars shopping mart. X-Files and Buffy sites are crammed with adoring fans too, but they aren?t droid like. They can also be independent, creative and original - their members sometimes writing original episodes when their programs are in hiatus, sometimes even breaking news the producers don?t want to get out. But many of the Star Wars sites are simply worshipful, the movie a faith rather than an imaginative amusement.

Contrast the irony of the man who loudly prohibits any form of advertising in or around his movie in theaters with the one behind money-grubbing sales outlets like the Amazon.com Star Wars Store. The one behind the "paper-engineered" Pit or Battle droid display that can be ordered with the purchase of any of the scores of "Star Wars" titles, calendars, toddler books, paper-action figures and other paraphernalia being sold in chains and books stores.

Lucas himself seems tired of his humble origins, eager to shed his geeky roots, to come in from his self-imposed cold and join the pantheon of mainstream, big-time Hollywood producers. In his interviews, he?s gone to great pains to cast himself as a normal (read: non-geek) guy, sitting at his California breakfast table, appearing in most of his interviews in a plaid shirt, talking about his kids, his digital backlot and his past life as a Hollywood rebel.

Seems like he?s embracing some myth off-screen, too. These days Lucas seems as much of a rebel as Bill Gates, and even more greedy.

The truth is, director James Cameron of "Titanic" (probably not as nice a guy, by most accounts) showed a lot more courage and rebelliousness in the making of his movie. He actually risked forgoing his share of the profits in order to go over budget to make the kind of movie he wanted. "Titanic," was plenty hyped, but Cameron knew to stay away from Pizza Hut, and avoided Lucas? holier-than-thou posture.

Is hype without limit or shame or any shred of dignity? Isn?t there some boundary between a lot of bucks and every buck? Nobody needs that much money, and the avalanche of toys and tie-ins has already obscured the power of myth that suffused the original "Star Wars," no matter how good "Phantom Menace" is or isn?t. We should have been prepared by the end of the trilogy: remember those revolting Ewoks?

"Star Wars" was a breathtakingly original idea in its day, but for all the intergalactic battles, the original movie stayed refreshingly grounded. Ford?s Han Solo was constantly smirking at all the chatter about the Force, Princess Leiea was stuck with that awful hair, and the Empire?s white plastic foot soldiers were profoundly cartoony. The movie never forgot that it was a simple story at heart - high stakes, good guys versus bad guys, the real weapons being good hearts and plenty of guts.

Reeling under the deluge of magazine covers last week - the final straw for me was Vogue?s "exclusive" spread on "Star Wars Couture," complete with the outfits Natalie Portman wears around the Planet Naboo -- I told my family last week that I was considering skipping the movie. A protest against hype. My wife and daughter laughed.

They?re right, of course. I?ll go, eventually. But I?m glad I did get to see "Star Wars" the first time around, in a very different context.

It?s probably just as well that Joseph Campbell died before "Phantom Menace" appeared. It?s hard to believe he?d feel the same way that he did about the original: "?the movie communicates. It is in a language that talks to young people, and that?s what counts. It asks, Are you going to be a person of heart and humanity - because that?s where the life is, from the heart - or are you going to do whatever seems to be required of you by what might be called ?intentional power?"?

"Phantom Menace raises a different set of issues. Here?s Pepsi?s pitchman Hal Oates: "If you mail one of the Yoda cans back to us," he says on TV, "you?ll get a special collector?s check worth $20 - or you can hold onto the can for the future."

The next generation deserved better. Lucas has proven to be yet another sell-out and spin-meister, his hypocritical posturing collapsing under the weight of Toys ?R Us royalties and inter-galactic pizza.

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Sellout: George Lucas in HypeSpace

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I dunno, all the crass commercialism seems to have financed some R&D that looks to have paid off. Who cares about all the toys and crap? There was lots of toys and crap for the first three as well. Hell, I had most of it. All the hoopla, etc will be the furthest thing from my mind when i sit down to see the movie. Hell, he can sell all the crap he wants if it furthers the look and feel of the flicks.

    Besides, theres a demand for all this stuff. Not from me mind you, I read the book (I hope Brooks got paid with a kick in the nuts, a 12 year old could have written that) and that was it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Imagine a movie selling toys, models, tshirts, bedspreads, pjamas, wallpaper! Wow! Bastards! Oh wait... it's Star Wars... they've been doing that for 20 years now.

    Katz. Get a clue. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Don't see it. Don't watch it. Don't watch it when they re-do the special effects and re-release it in 15 years. It's not Schindler's List and it's not trying to be.

    I know, you're just pissed because there isn't a wookie.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm assuming that because I don't watch TV,
    that this hype you're talking about is mostly
    on the boober.
    Cancel your cable subscription and you won't
    have any problem with the hype.

    Try it, it's wonderful.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Has the movie been changed in any way to make it more commercial? Does Yoda chug a can of Pepsi in the Movie? Does Darth Maul eat a taco or a slice of delicious Pizza Hut pizza in the movie? Although I haven't seen the movie yet, I can with full assurance answer no to all those questions. If Lucas had somehow changed his creation, his art, to be more commercial then he would have sold out; however, it is not selling out if you accept money from large corporations who have no voice in how your art should be done.

    For Lucas to have sold out, there has to be something different about his art which would not have been there if he had not accepted money from the corporations. This is not the case; the movie is the same as it would have been regardless of whether he got $0 in licensing or $1 billion in licensing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Schindler's List was so deep in exploitation mode, I fully expected them to release a line of assorted memorabilia. Amon Goeth action figures, death camp trading cards. Spielberg's right there with the best of them when it comes to sentimentalism-driven marketing -- the problem is, ideas carried by films such as Saving Private Ryan are far more pernicious than anything Lucas could ever come up with.

    AC
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I remember the day I walked into the movie theatre to watch Star Wars. It had debuted the night before, and I had caught enough information to learn that it was a science fiction movie with robots and spaceships. I breezed into the theatre the next afternoon (no lines ... this was the only time there were no lines for the entire run of the movie in a single theatre in the San Diego area) and had a most enjoyable time. The movie was good.

    I actually went to see it again while on a tour of duty that brought my ship to Hong Kong. Theatres were much nicer there. Happily the movie was still in English, with Chinese subtitles. Did I mention that I was impressed by the theatre?

    Yes, I did see the other two movies at the theatre. I didn't collect any of the neato toys, although my dad recently found an Escape from the DeathStar game that was made by Kenner and gave it to my now 8-year-old son. I taped the Bill Moyer interviews with Joseph Campbell (which cover a whole heck of a lot more than Star Wars) and thought he had some very valid points.

    I don't idolize George Lucas. I've liked his movies. He is not a mythic character. I would consider some of the characters he has created in the Star Wars movies as mythic in proportion and quality.

    Somehow, I've managed to miss almost all of the hype, the action figures and the commercials about the forthcoming "Phantom Menace" movie. I do remember seeing the second half of the first movie trailer (walked into the theatre a bit late for the movie I was seeing), and the visual look was neat. I wasn't planning on going to see the movie for a week or three after opening. I imagine there are a number of people out there who have had a similar experience -- the hype is out there, but I just don't see much of it.

    Perhaps its because I don't look for it. If you don't watch a lot of commercial television, if you don't read [insert name of any entertainment/news] magazine, if you don't shop on a monthly basis at Toys R Us, if you spend time with your kids or read or listen to music -- the Hollywood Hype Machine(tm) just kinda passes over you.

    I did get to look at a game card put out by Taco Bell/Pizza Hut/whoever. I was getting a quick bite to eat with my boys, and the 8-year-old picked it up. I read it over, and the movie is starting to sound a bit more interesting to me.

    I still won't see it on 19 May, but I look forward to seeing the movie sometime before Summer Solstice.

    Mr. Katz and I appear to have grown up during the days before movie tie-ins were part-and-parcel of the movie process. That was then, and this is now, and Oz gets milked for all its worth these days. There was a time last year when one couldn't seem to switch radio channels fast enough to cut off that darned 'Titanic' theme song. And I especially find the use of Apple computer equipment in movies to be ludicrous. But hey -- I liked the movie 'Titanic', and thought there were some nicely funny bits to 'Independence Day'.

    Keep repeating: "It's only a movie". Apparently hyped in all the places that Mr. Katz looks, but hardly to be seen in the places that matter to me.

    - David
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know exactly what you mean. I was 8 at the time of Empire, and I can remember all the glasses, the press coverage on the TV, the H-U-G-E Toys R Us displays that seemed to dominate the store well into the mid-80s. With Jedi, the press was even bigger. I still have something like 18 or 20 magazines that had features on the movie, and I'm sure that a Lexis-Nexis search would turn up several hundred articles from that time. The only difference between then and now seem to be that the tie-in was relatively new 20 years ago, whereas now any movie that appeals to kids inevitably needs action figures and toys. The only reason Cameron didn't release them for Titanic is because the demographic that went to the movie wasn't into action figures (though the Leo figure would probably have done well in the pubescent female group who are now throwing all their money at 'n Sync and the Backstreet Boys).

    Some of Katz's articles are actually somewhat insightful, despite many /. arguments to the contrary. But I'm increasingly getting the feeling that he just wants to hear (see?) his own voice. "[Microsoft] definitely evokes a system that denies humanity." Admittedly, this might start a flame war, but denies humanity? Are we really going to condemn a corporation for the same crimes that we attack certain Eastern European leaders?

    He also failed to recognize the difference between Star Wars and such shows as Buffy is that there's an already-established storyline for Star Wars. Unless you count the $2.99 books available at your local WalMart that chronicle the further adventures of Bully, Dawson - not to mention Sabrina or those Olsen Twins - these shows have nothing comparable to the volume of books that have appeared in the last 5-6 years for the Star Wars Mythology. Add in the comic books and there's really not too much one can write about.

    I'm really starting to get sick of Katz - someone really needs to read his stuff before he posts it. The comments to his essays usually devolve to arguing that he's got to check his facts, which isn't particularly productive.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, metallica DID sell out. Members of the band have admitted that they needed the money that the mainstream-type music offers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:38PM (#1889472)
    Nicely written, Jon, but while I am WAY sick by the whole hype and commercialism myself, I think it is simply a corroboration of the old syaing that 'Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely'.

    *ANY* Star Wars sequel would have such incredible hype to live up to, that it would be impossible to meet any expectations of the fans - couple that with the incredible, overwhelming runaway marketing in the interest of the allmighty $$$ these days, I believe it would be hardly possible for any of us to resist the temptation of being abused...

    In the end, the proof will be in the pudding, or rather in the theatres. Either Lucas has provided content that his audience will accept, in that case all of the hype and marketing won't matter - or the movie will not do as well as expected (it will still make tons of $$$), and Lucas has the opportunity to do better in the next two.

    In the end, one thing to consider is that all of us were much younger when we saw Star Wars, and most of us have grown up in the interim - this comes, unfortunately, with other expectations and points of view.

    Lucas points out, repeatedly, that his movies are for kids. *WE* were kids when we saw Star Wars, and what kids like, or how to present it to them HAS changed in the past 20 years.

    We *WANT* Star Wars to feel as fresh when we see TPM as when we saw Episode IV, but, sadly, that simply won't happen. The best we can hope for is to get back in touch with that 14 year old in the back of us, and enjoy the ride.

    Harry
    harry@spotfans.com
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:46PM (#1889473)
    I, for one, admire Bill Gates. Getting to the point in his career where he can lay down the rules to the IT machine; dictating what standards users must adhere to in order to use his software; maintaining tight control over his licenses.

    It is an envious position to be in. But I don't wish I were him. I don't know why.

    AC
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:55PM (#1889474)
    If Jon can come up with evidence that it was Lucas, or even his marketing people, that directed all the news media to talk nothing but Star Wars, then he can make a case about Lucas being the source of the hype. I don't know about you, but I personally have not seen even a TV commercial about Star Wars. Every thing surrounding Star Wars was created by the media themselves. They figure that it would be big, so the big news groups go after it, which causes their smaller affiliates to also cover Star Wars, which causes local markets to cover the local P.O.V., etc., etc..

    With regard to the merchandising, you can't make the comparison between the old Star Wars, the new Stars Wars, or even Titanic. When the original Star Wars came out, there was no precendence. It was a low-budget movie, and they barely finished the movie. You can't tell me that there were no product tie-ins with ROtJ, what with all the Ewoks 'n stuff. And how are you going to merchandise Titanic? Your very own sinking ship?? It's completely different. James Cameron had to gave up his directing share of the profit because he is using someone elses' money. Lucas used his own money to bankroll the entire project. He has every right to sell merchandise from the movie in any way he sees fit. Notice that commercials for the product tie-ins did not appear until May. A typical Disney hype begins almost and entire YEAR before with product tie-ins and posters/poster boards in movie theaters. Phantom Menace posters were only available from their web site, and poster boards did not appear in movie theaters 'till well after the 2nd trailer came out.

    I am sure there will be those who says all the restrictions on the actors to talk about the movie, and the tight control he exhibits over ever aspect of the movie is aimed at generating hype. Perhaps. But that's just one point of view. It could also be seen as a man trying to do the right thing, and not ruin his own vision.

    That whole bit about technology. If Lucas had completed the movies as they were, why bother with a 2nd edition? Obviously it was because he never did put his vision into the original movie. Now that he can, he utilizes all that is within his power to make the vision come true. Technology corrupts, but only if you become dependent on it. Vader became completely dependent on it, but Luke still uses technology as much as he can. So does Lucas. He is not selling out to technology, he is making sure he can tell the story the way he wants it to be told. Only in this way can his dream be fully fulfilled.

    AC

  • Every big movie arrives in a cloud of tie-ins, toy promotions and fast-food marketing schemes these days. Lucas can?t be blamed for that.

    Or can he? Salon's Charles Taylor sure seems to think so. [salon.com]

    Did Lucas, ever the hater of Hollywood, succeed in helping destroy it?

    -Andrew

  • I don't read too much Jon Katz at all - but I do read as much as I can about Star Wars.

    I wasn't even born when the first Star Wars movie came out. I didn't know about the T-Shirts, popsicles and stuff, all I knew was that it was a great movie - and so were its successors. As long as Phantom is a movie that deserves its title "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" I will happily go and take part in the "myth of Star Wars."

    Sure, I don't really think that when I go to the mall, seeing all this Star Wars crap all over the walls is the greatest thing in the world, but I definitely have to look at the other side of the coin:

    All these companies, be they Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken or even just the niche store at the mall that just sells pens or socks, are trying to make money

    The reason that they are trying to make money is irrelevant - their goal is to make a profit. Also, in the end, Lucas would definitely like to make some money if he can - it's almost the American Way to take advantage of this type of situation.

    Lucas spent his life and MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of his own money to create an epic story. He basically dropped $110 MILLION of HIS OWN MONEY to make The Phantom Menace.

    I would bet that if Lucas could make another Star Wars movie for only $10 Million like he did the first, he would have - but that just isn't possible today. Katz - YOU try recouping $110 MILLION of YOUR OWN MONEY.
  • You should check out Excessive Use of the Force [chireader.com], a review of the Star Wars special edition by Jonathan Rosenbaum. He is the film critic of the Chicago Reader and IMO one of the most knowledgeable film writers in the world.

  • Jon, you're really missing the point badly. With luck I'll not waste too much time replying to this and will sum it up in one post:
    You did tremendous hype on RTTM. Lucas is doing more tremendous hype on Phantom Menace.
    The problem here is that you're behaving like hype is some kind of moral crime. I'd love to see Frank Zappa debate you on the subject (he's dead but might still win ;P ): Zappa was another artist able to produce very extensive, elaborate and well-funded artworks by locking in to the business game and making it work on his own terms. Zappa fought record companies all his life, but he was not a monk, or a hippie- he was a _businessman_ and that is how he financed his art. Lucas is a businessman too, and I personally consider it ludicrous that you criticize the exact skills that allow him to _make_ Phantom Menace exactly how he wants- movies are _very_ expensive, much more than record albums, and the man wouldn't have _shipped_ the movie were it not for his ability to turn hype to his own ends and get companies to pay for his artistic freedom.
    No-one is making you buy Jar Jar Binks cup-holders, and in fact you are suffering from an annoying boomer trait, which is the assumption that most of the world are peasants who just consume what they're told to consume, and that there are _spiritual_ _elites_ which understand the triviality of modern life. This is insulting and wrong- as near as I can tell, most people, rich, poor, smart or dumb, have a native savvy that's enough to tell them what hype is, and they see no reason to be _angry_ or _betrayed_ by it- what do you expect from corporations, anyway? Dignity? _Apple_ had that for awhile (sort of) and it near kilt them off entirely.
    Your smug pride in not getting paid is strictly the product of a wealthy dilettante, and if you had to wonder where your food money was coming from for the end of the month, you'd be less pompous about Jar Jar Binks Toilet Paper... or maybe you'd be more pompous, but frankly it's hard to imagine why you didn't simply vote 'pissing me off' in the Slashdot PM Hype poll and be done with it. This article is poorer than any recent article you've done, capped off by the fact that you won't even see the movie. I'd think you might at least see it and watch for product placement opportunities >;)
    Right, moderate this down- I just had to get that off my chest. From the instant I saw the teaser I knew Katz was running amok again, and it turned out to be quite true. *feh* hippie!
  • Please allow me to point out that the first wave of "Star Wars" collectable stuff did not show up until after the first movie had been out for a while. It was only after the studio realized they had a mega-mega hit on their hands that they started with the merchandising.


    ...phil
  • Posted by Jester Hat:

    How the hell cares about the hype, when did making money become a bad thing. Lucas has said himself that he doesn't like all the hype. It isn't him that is putting starwars on the cover of all these magazines and whatnot, it is the owners of the magazines. And why wouldn't they it sells!
    And so what if George lucas makes some money off the movie? it is his right isn't it? It is not like the quality of the movie is going to suffer because of it. He didn't take all of these promoters suggestions on making the movie or anything they all came after the fact. So the phantom menace is 100% pure lucas. As it should be. But hey if someone wants to give me 2 billion dollars to promote a movie i made on my own am i going to say no?? HELL NO!! would you? Would you be saying something like, "oh no Pepsi, i can't take your two billion dollars then it would look like i was selling out." No sir!
    I say sure keep the money rolling in!
    I think the important thing to understand here is that Lucas didn't go out looking for all of this hype, it came to him. Pepsi came to him and asked for the rights to use his movie to sell their products, the magazines came to him asking to use his characters to sell their magazines. If he benefits from their use of his ideas then good for him! He deserves it. The second and most important thing to remember is that Lucas made this movie wholly on his own, in his own studios with his own employee's with his own money. It totally his vision and ideas that created it. all of the money that is now comming in is after the movie has been made. Had pepsi and all the rest had a hand in making the movie THEN lucas would have truely sold out because he compromised his vision for corporate money. As things are that has not happened and any money he is getting is well earned!

    -Jester Hat
    "The opinionated one"
  • Posted by Mike@ABC:

    I was but a young lad when Star Wars first came out, but if I remember correctly, there were juice glasses, action figures and fast-food tie-ins before Empire even came out. Lucas sold out to marketing a long time ago.

    However, he didn't sell out to Hollywood, a distinction that I think is missed here. He retained creative control and didn't bow to the studios' whims. THAT makes him a rebel. And all the Jedi burritos in the world won't change that.

    Now...let's hope, after all this, that Phantom Menace is a good movie. Opening night, 8 p.m., I already have my tix. :)

  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

    >>Please allow me to point out that the first wave of "Star Wars" collectable stuff did not show up until after the first movie had been out for a while. It was only after the studio realized they had a mega-mega hit on their hands that they started with the merchandising.


    Ummm, not the studio it was George Lucas who was behind all of the merchandising of the series. That was a part of the deal he struck with the studio.

    It was LUCAS. Not that I blame him or think that it's bad or anything, who wouldn't have done the exact same thing? But he's no shining example of the starving artist who cares only about his artistic vision making it onto the screen. Just like everybody else he wants to pay the bills and feed his kids.

    LK
  • Posted by Wookie Trainer:

    Don't you think "sellout" is a little strong? I mean really, he never did (or is now, for that matter) design Star Wars to be the blockbuster that it's sure to be. Read an interview from four years ago. He never really wanted to make another Star Wars. Some may say that he's finally given up under the pressure and "sold out". But think about it.

    Is it really seeling out to wait an entire decade, then make an entirly new movie with his own money?
  • 1) Usually, selling out involves blatantly reversing one's previously stated position.
    2) Selling out (if we must use that term) always includes not only a change in one's public persona, but altering one's art to fit someone else's ideas.

    Selling Out is Selling Out. An unknown can sell out too. Almost all commercial endeavor (I'm keeping this in reference to the arts) is, to some extent, a sell out. If you "alter one's art to fit someone else's ideas", whether producers, execs, or some imagined audience, you're selling out; it may be so slight as to not be worth mentioning, or it may be blatant.

    Now, let's take Lucas. I see nowhere in Katz's article where he cites Lucas explicitly stating that he will not do promotions with fastfood places, etc. This is all based on incredibly vague implications as seen by Katz about the "myth" of Star Wars, and the assertion that somehow these things that have nothing to do with the movie itself degrade the quality of the art.

    No. It's about a movie. Not selling out means that you make a movie, that you capture some sort of vision on celluloid that just had to get out; I saw Star Wars three times, and it's merely OK in my books, but I would say there's minimal sellout there -- it was a fun movie in a decade full of great, often heavy, films. There was a freshness about it. Where Lucas went wrong -- both in the rest of that trilogy, and even more so with TPM, is that the film is now part of a money-making apparatus that goes beyond the vision-captured-on-celluloid. It's now a minor, though necessary, cog in a marketing machine, no longer fresh or different -- just Your Basic Hollywood Blockbuster. There is, really, little or no vision at that rarefied level of marketability; it's more just a matter of punching the clock, getting the film done, and amassing the varied marketing forces for battle. Lucas' only responsibilities are to make sure it doesn't suck so badly that it harms the marketing, and to sell the hell out of it with personal appearances (and doing a little myth-making himself about "George Lucas").

    As someone who has lambasted Katz of late, I'm very pleased to defend him this time -- amidst all those dreaded Smart Quotes (and that Blind Orange Washington proofreading) lies a rant of substance. Two thumbs up :) I won't be going to see TPM, and I've had the Star Wars stories filtered out from Day One of /. filtering. I miss the old (pre-sequel, pre-hype) George Lucas.

    --

  • >You have a character like JarJar created specifically to be marketed to kids.

    My four year old talks about Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker; he's shown no interest in Jar Jar Binks. Maybe he's too young for a character aimed at the kids? :-) (Or maybe it's just that he hasn't seen the movie yet.)
  • by questor (960) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:48PM (#1889488)
    "Never trust the storyteller; trust only the story." -- Neil Gaiman, _Sandman_ issue 38.
  • I saw this one fact in Newsweek:

    "Amount spent on advertising for The Phantom Menace: $0"

    Lucas spent some big $$$ to make the movie but HE himself hasn't spent a DIME on advertising . . .

    If I had a product and big time ad agencies and other establish big name brand types came to me and said "We're gonna advertise your movie on EVERYTHING we have . . and get this . . you won't have to pay a thing . . you know, we'll even PAY YOU to let us !"

    I think he would be a FOOL not to take that offer!

    Be it business or not, who can say NO to that !

    And one more thing . . .

    Control IS Power ! (as long as it's used for good)

    Think of the Lucas thing . . the Orsen Wells thing with Citizen Kane . . . Mark McGuire home runs . . . all of the power came from CONTROL.

    No one seems to understand that . . .

    Just my TWO PESOS and a SHOT of CUERVO.
  • yea... that jitlov presentation was amazing... well worth it... (oh yea... and thanks againg for the STAP speaking of SW toys)

    anyway, onto the meat... how many starwars ads have you seen... I mean actual adds for the movie... Ive seen exactly 1.

    I dont think lucas is overhyping... its the media thats doing it (and complaining about it too I might add). yea, the hangers on like thumb wars are bad but thats not lucas. the toys and merchandizing is bad (esp. the pepsi subsidiary adds) but fox wants to hedge its bets and raise some serious money (I realy cant blame them for wanting more money, although it would be nice if things were different)

    so there ya go.. no starwars adds but a shitload of media genrated hype and hangers on... I cant blame lucas for much of the worst of the hype (and I wont blame him for making the movie in the first place :)



  • The point is that I came away from that discussion with the fear that this movie is going to suck, but that noone will EVER admit it if it does. The hype is too big. People are forced to love it now.

    Exactly. Look at the advance reviews of the movie coming out -- most of them say the movie is not so hot. However, everybody either says "Episode 4 had bad reviews too" (interesting, because I have seen some links back to reviews of the original and they have been positive) or "George Lucas would never make a bad movie." And then, they've got themselves all convinced it will be a great movie and it will be really hard to admit that it was bad even if it was bad. It ain't easy to admit that you're wrong, especially if you've been telling other people the wrong thing for a long time.

    Lucasfilm showed some preview screenings Sunday night in cities around the nation for $500 donations to various charities. The Washington Post took their computer van to the Washington D.C. screening and let people post their comments on the movie. I noticed that most of them said the movie was great, but also most of them were from children under 15. Also, someone who pays $500 to see a movie is NOT going to come out and admit the movie sucked!! (Just like people who get scammed by con artists never complain because they don't want to admit that they were the victim of a fraud.)

  • I was expecting a dry, atypical scarry mummy movie, and was instead greeted with a campy, enjoyable movie. Go see it before TPM hits the theatres.
  • >He doesn't want to release any of the Star Wars (4-6) movies on DVD until all the Star Wars prequels (1-3) are done.

    I can see his point. Why would he want to go through the hassle of releasing Star Wars (4-6) on DVD when Star Wars (1-3) aren't done yet? You'ld be missing an very important part of the story line. Besides DVD or Divx isn't all that it's cracked up to be anyway. This could also be what Lucas is saying......
  • In the immortal words of Yogurt: "Moichendising, Moichendising, Moichendising".

    The crass commercialism of STARWARS is nothing new. If you think that this is something limited to the first episode of STARWARS, you're just kidding yourself.
  • Except that doesn't really describe Gates. He's as much a prisoner of his past decisions as any of his customers are.
  • Helloooo... Does "Ewoks" or "Droids" ring any bells?
  • This is factually true. Lucas is capable of complete freedom due to the fact that he can finance his own ventures. The only thing that is different between him and other indies that is relevant to the moniker is scale.

    The term is INDEPENDENT film maker, not pretentious film maker.

    He could make THX-1139 next if he really wanted to.
  • I dunno about you, but my kernel has a built in firewall so that I can flush adfu and my TV remote has a mute button to silence those annoying commercials.

  • I find your references to 'synthetic mythology' disturbing. Your brief comments leave the appearance that you believe the Star Wars tales to be some combination of earlier, unacknowledged, works, and, by inference, that this synthesis is "bad". Yet you do not acknowledge that earlier works (in particular, Manes' doctrine that Light=Good, Dark=Evil) are in themselves combinations of earlier works (in particular, an amalgamation of Christianity with Zoroastrianism).

    I can almost hear Darth saying "I find your lack of faith disturbing..."

    Perhaps I should be more specific. I doubt Mani made a concious decision to "cut and paste" this bit from Zoroasterism, that bit from Gnosticism, a little from Christianity, some from Judaism, etc., and come up with a marketable "movement." However, Lucas has been quite aboveground about how he's retelling the Hero's Quest.

    Perhaps the best thing I could say is that the process doesn't seem organic to me. People write books or make movies with elements of the Hero's Quest (and notice how strongly we've abstracted away mythology into generic Hero's Quests and the like, thanks to Lucas and even Cambell; I'm not convinced this is good) all the time, while managing to maintain an organic process.

    Alternatively, look at Babylon 5: the story line for John Sheridan is weak and ineffective because it follows the Great Mythic Hero Cookie-Cutter plot, but the story line for G'Kar and Londo was much stronger, because even though it drew from earlier stories, etc., yada yada, it did so in an original way and not in a cookie-cutter fashion.
    Phil

    Phil Fraering "Humans. Go Fig." - Rita

  • by Phil-14 (1277) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @04:40PM (#1889502)

    I find myself in disagreement with John Katz much of the time, on a wide variety of subjects, but this time I would have to say I agree with much of what he's saying in this article.

    I saw Star Wars when it first came out; I was nine years old at the time. I liked it, and liked Empire a bit more. I disliked ROTJ. As I grew older, and read more books, both science-fiction and non-science-fiction, I started to become more and more disenchanted with the Star Wars movies.

    I am especially dubious about the Star Wars movies because of their attempts to push their synthetic mythology on people. I have actually gained familiarity with the original stories and myths, and philosophies, that Lucas drew on to create his stories, and frankly, the original myths are much better. The whole mythos of the Force, which seems like an attempt to weld together Manicheism and Taoism in an inappropriate fashion, is IMHO very misguided.

    I think most of the people here are perfectly capable of reading about Taoism or Christianity or Homer or what have you on their own, and will find it more fulfilling than Lucas' synthetic feel-good attempt to combine all of them.

    Personally, I think there's only one really good movie in recent years about mythology and "mythic themes," and I would recommend that everyone here see it: The Secret of Roan Inish.

    And although I didn't agree with everything in the essay, Neal Stephenson's In The Beginning Was The Command Line has many interesting observations on the Synthetic Culture business. He also touches on a lot of the same topics in Cryptonomicon, which I'm currently reading.

    ps: Jon, thanks for finally coming through and validating my decision not to put you in my Slashdot "kill-file" equivalent.


    Phil Fraering "Humans. Go Fig." - Rita

  • reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs. Anyways, I'm sitting here drinking my Anakin Skywalker (tm) Special Edition (tm) Pepsi-cola (tm) and my Anakin Skywalker (tm) Special Edition (tm) Lay's Potato Chips (tm) (tm) (tm). I can't say I was there for the original star wars, but I remember some of the stuff from Jedi, and it was pretty bad... but this is beyond the scale of anything I have ever seen in my life. It started at the beginning of may, and it can only get worse as the summer goes on. To a certain extent it can be expected, but I think lucas went a tad overboard.
  • Sure he can do whatever he wants. But he has the responsibilty of doing service to the ART, not his already-full pocketbook. Most people don't live up to their responsibilities in life.

    It's one thing to give people what they want, that seems to be a noble goal to me. It's another thing to give people what the think they want, solely in order to make a bunch of money. That, to me, is selling out. Sure, artists need to live, too, but when they are already multi-millionares, it is disgraceful not to focus back on the art, and doing the best job you can.

    I won't say Lucas didn't, I haven't seen PM yet. If it doesn't live up to my standards, I'll be upset, and rightly so. I have every right to resent Lucas for not putting his heart, soul, and everything into this. If I were in his position, that's what I'd do.
  • Well, I don't HAVE to go watch his movie, I can find a pirated copy from hong kong or something stupid like that. I didn't have to watch the re-realeases in the theatres... he's rich and famous because of ME, and all his other fans. Granted, his work was amazing, and he deserved what he got, but he still has a responsibility to his fans and his reputation, not matter what his or our rights are.
  • OK, let me just clarify a couple things...

    I didn't separate the 'Lucas' hype from the 'Rest of the World' hype, and you're right to point that out. However, the merchandising tie-ins (especially the burger bars) cannot happen without his permission. He keeps control (as I understand) over EVERYTHING to do with the Star Wars mythos (books, games, collectibles etc). He personally may have just been on TV and said 'I made a new movie, it's out soon' but he has to take some responsibility for the hype - Lucasarts could always refuse permission for people to show the clips, trailers, etc.

    Are you seriously saying that if all you knew was that a new Star Wars film was out you WOULDN'T see it unless it was hyped according to it's EXPECTED impact? I didn't think so. I said in my previous article "Hell, I'm still going to see it" and I stand by that.
    Big money doesn't always mean crap. But you only need to look at Waterworld, Godzilla, Batman & Robin to see that Big money doesn't always mean great, either.

    To tie in the other responses - wait and see. That's what Lucas wants us to do. That's what I'm going to do.

    Mark

  • by Mark Hood (1630) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:29PM (#1889507) Homepage
    I'm going to get flamed to hell and back for this one, but I agree entirely. No movie is this big. No event is this big. Nobody is this big.

    Re: 'Discovering' a movie - I always like that. When you go to see something a friend said was pretty good and come out knowing that only a few of you (so far) know about it. Unfortunately, movies are now positioned as 'sleeper hits' - to try and capitalise on this. No longer will a movie be released to an unsuspecting market place, it'll be marketed as 'unknown'.

    Perhaps it'll drive more people into art-house cinemas, where they can rediscover plot, characterisation, and genuinely innovative moviemaking.

    I'll stop short of a call to boycott 'The Phantom Menace' (hell, I'm still going to see it when it finally opens in the UK) but if I keep hearing 'it's the movie of the millenium' (another pet peeve - the cinema is only just over 100 years old) I might wait for the next millenium.

    In the meantime, go see something arty. It won't hurt you, and it'll give you something to think about.

  • My copy of Joseph Campbell's seminal work "Hero With A Thousand Faces" has, amid pics of gods and myths, a Star Wars pic on the cover.
  • I agree, but Metallica pretty much did sell out by making Load. Not because the music was different, but because they tried to rewrite history. They were interviewed about it, and said "Don't call us Heavy Metal. We were never Heavy Metal. We have always been, and always will be, Pop."
    That's bullshit, as any Metal fan knows. That's selling out. Ok, maybe NOW you're Pop, but trying to deny that you were ever Metal is bullshit.
  • by MoNickels (1700) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:37PM (#1889510) Homepage
    The New York Post reports [nypost.com] that Lucas is as disatisfied with the hype as anyone, but the article talks mostly about out-of-hand fans.

    I blame the marketers and licensees, but fortunately, I've been immune to the hype: I don't have a television, and my embargo on Episode I news, gossip and talk has been very successful. Katz's piece is not about the movie, really, which why I'm here.
  • Star Wars was not a movie "discovered" by "movie lovers" as Jon Katz claims. It was very popular among the geek and children segment, but most "film weenies" regard Star Wars as a lame "plebian" film. While I find the SW trilogy more "fulfilling" than other supposedly "less superficial" films of the 1970s, Star Wars takes a lot of the blame for inspiring such travesties as Independence Day, Starship Troopers, and other manifestations of lameness. The "movie establishment" most certainly did not like star wars. The people who gave it good reviews were the "mainstream" press and "popular" reviewers, rather than professional film people at the time.

    -Dean
  • Do you actually believe that Lucas can't control the hype? Dude, he gave an interview in Wired magazine, and he appeared on the cover... what was he expecting if not hype?

    Plus, we had all the commercials for the special edition, Vader appearing in an Energizer Bunny commercial, toys being sold at 12:01 AM, etc.

    Yes, much of the hype is fan generated, but Lucas is milking it for all it's worth and he knows exactly what he's doing. Sometimes I wonder if he only started complaining about the hype when the reviews came back tepid.

    -Dean

  • by kdoherty (2232) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:36PM (#1889513)
    A few notes on selling out:
    1) Usually, selling out involves blatantly
    reversing one's previously stated position.
    2) Selling out (if we must use that term) always
    includes not only a change in one's public persona,
    but altering one's art to fit someone else's
    ideas.

    Now, let's take Lucas. I see nowhere in Katz's
    article where he cites Lucas explicitly stating
    that he will not do promotions with fastfood
    places, etc. This is all based on incredibly vague
    implications as seen by Katz about the "myth" of
    Star Wars, and the assertion that somehow these
    things that have nothing to do with the movie
    itself degrade the quality of the art.

    Of course, none of this can be backed up by
    pointing out examples in the actual movie, as
    we haven't seen it yet. But Jon Katz still feels
    the need to make blatantly ignorant statements
    on the subject and defile a man whose work in the
    past has been impeccable. I'll admit that I tend
    to find Jon Katz's writings rather puerile and
    generally foolish, this kind of attack on someone's
    character shocks even me.
    --
    Kevin Doherty
    kdoherty+slashdot@jurai.net
  • I don't see how you get that idea. It is not your right as a fan to have a personal copy of TPM right away. And as far as Lucas being selfish, that's just plain absurdity. This man didn't have to make any more movies . . . EVER. But instead of doing what most red-blodded Americans would have done -- sit back on their pauches and sip lemonade on their front porch until doomsday -- he decided to undertake a 10-15 year project. And not only that, but he is paying for this project! So I have absolutely no problem with anything the man is doing. He could have spent his millions any way he wanted, and he chose to provide me and billions of other people three more wonderful movies. And about the hype. Katz needs to get a clue. Lucas is spending an incredible amount of money on these films. It appears that Katz thinks that Lucas should just do this pro bono. That is utterly insane. The man isn't able to maintain his artisitic integrity by personally funding his own multi-million dollar movies by throwing his money away. This project involves some very hard work, and I think Lucas & the Lucas machine (so to speak) deserve to reap any & all of the benefits of this massive undertaking.
  • It's all overhyped yes. Here's the solution:
    Commercial for something star wars comes on, hit mute. Or change the station.
    Dont go to Pizza Hut.
    Dont go to Taco Hell.
    Dont buy Pepsi (yuck anyway).
    Dont buy an action figure.
    Dont buy Star Wars shaving cream (no shit, there I was, in Walmart... )
    Dont buy any of the souvenirs at all.
    Dont write about it and hype it even more.
    and last but not least,
    Dont go and see the freaking movie!

    Of course, if you dont go see the movie, that will be an article you'll miss out on writing.

    BTW, I'm puzzled, you say in another post that you didnt get money for RttM? And yet you're promoting it on C-span and here and other shows.... who's getting that money? You're getting nothing? How is it that you make your living?

    So... sorry we won't hear that TPM review from you Jon, since you won't be seeing the overhyped movie. Or maybe I'm sorry I will see that review.
  • "#1) You'd have to be an idiot not to capitolize on your own creation, because somebody will in a CAPITOLIST society. Deal with it. It's called reality"

    If you are poor and starving, sure. If you want enough money and publicity to continue your life's work, sure. For plenty of other reasons, sure.

    Lucas has >1,000,000,000 USD in the bank, and complete ownership of his movies and creative direction. _He_ dictated terms to the studio and distributors, which is unheard of in the movie industry.

    Now, with that kind of money and power, couldn't he have made one for his fans' sake - for art's sake? I like to think I would have. And you know what? He _still_ would have made 2 billion this time.

    "#2) Lucas did not sell out. He could easily turn Star Wars into a television show or saturday morning cartoon, and he hasn't (yet)"

    See this week's _Newsweek_ for a list of the Saturday morning cartoons and shows that Lucas has been involved in. Most capitalizing on those lovable (not) Ewoks. _Newsweek_ at least claims, BTW, that they refused Lucas' list of conditions for an interview, and he refused to talk to them.

    sPh
  • metallica did sell out check out my music page [nai.net] for the link on how they sold out.



    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

  • C'mon people, you're supposed to ignore trolls, not feed 'em. Katz is nothing more, nothing less. Katz's job is just to stir things up by saying something outrageous in the hopes that someone, ANYONE will notice. As to the silly marketing being something new...WTF...Remember: the Star Wars Holiday Special [xoom.com] was made in 1978. Actually, I think there was MORE marketing & hype back then. Christ, when the first one hit I went see Darth Vader at Thalheimers; a JC Penny type dept. store when I was 7. I still have a big photo of Darth Vader that says Thalheimers on it.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Taco Bell (and KFC/PH) "sponsor" a movie, doesn't that movie end up sucking ass?
    I can only recall Congo and Godzilla right now. Any other sucky movies that PepsiCo has "sponsored?"
    And don't say SW:TPM, because everyone knows Colonel Sanders is a bad ass, with or without a lightsaber.
  • When a well known band or individual does a commercial for the gap, that entity has officially sold out.
    Aerosmith, Run DMC, and LL Cool J have all sold out. I've always had the gut feeling that Metallica would be next on The Gap sell out list, because their (new) music sucks now, and the only way to get people back into it is to turn to The Gap.
    As far as I know, Lucas has no affiliation with The Gap, so he hasn't officially sold out......
    Yet.
  • I say Katz should no longer be allowed to post here until he figures out how to remove those
    friggin' annoying question marks from his articles.

    As for "hype", I guess that's one thing Katz IS
    an expert on, since he spends most of his free time hyping himself.
  • Jittlov is indeed amazing. I saw him a couple years ago at Harvard - he was showing the LD version of WoSaT, commenting on it the whole way though (with the assistance of several laser pointers).

    If you can find a copy of WoSaT, I _strongly_ suggest you watch it.

    ObLucas: I am rather frightened by all of the merchandising going on. I work near a mall, and I can't swing a dead cat in there without hitting some kind of SW crap. I'm not impressed by the toys so much, and the KFC/PH/TB ad nearly gave me a heart attack. Still, if Lucas is okay with it, I'll let it slide. I don't care, I just want to see the damn movie. Hopefully as Eps 2 and 3 come along (AICN has a *small* bit of info on Ep2 today) the big L (the other big L) will lay off with the media blitz.

    What's even worse are all of the leeches. Thumb Wars, every news outlet on the planet, etc. I forgive Austin Powers 2 for riding on Star Wars, because they did so in a pretty clever way.

    If it makes me laugh, I'm okay with it. If it makes me blanch I'm not so okay with it.
  • Nice title. Star Wars fans have only been demanding a new movie for what, 16 years? Yeah, heavily promoting this movie sure sounds like a sellout. I guess Disney is constantly selling-out too. I have no idea where you're coming from. (notice "you're" is not you?re)

    If you want to see the new Star Wars movie, go see it. And if you don't, then don't. It's really not that hard. All of this babbling about the social consequences and the selling-out by moviemakers is ignoring one glaring fact: you can choose not to participate. That's what I did with Titanic.

    You mention that James Cameron "showed a lot more courage and rebelliousness in the making of his movie" by risking his share of profits. Gee, what a hero. Lucas financed this entire movie out of his own pocket. So who showed a lot more courage? (And I actually tried watching Titanic last week, but couldn't bear it. There was more cheese in Titanic than in an entire Kraft warehouse.)

    Jon, I like some of your articles but this is way off the deep end. It seems that you forget that it is a movie. It's fake. It is intended for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be taken orally.
  • by Bjorn (4868) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @04:40PM (#1889524) Homepage
    One depressing note on the role-playing game, however: the producers of the game (West End Publishing) have lost the rights to the game, and they are now up in the air. Rumor has it that Lucas doesn't really approve of RPGs and may not give the rights to anyone.

    Note that I have no idea of the truth to that rumor, but it would really be too bad. The Star Wars RPG has been pretty much universally acknowledged as one of the best systems ever made, and the universe really lends itself to role-playing. I have a group of friends with whom I have played since college, and we still have folks who fly in occasionally just to play.

    It's interesting - one of the problems may be that the RPG was *too* successful. The authors for the books have openly acknowledged that they go to the RPG references for information about the Star Wars universe. The universe has probably grown more from the RPG than just about any other source. It seems like some of Lucas' control issues may play into not wanting the universe to be arbitrarily expanded by other people, as it has been.

    In reference to Mr. Katz' column, I agree with a lot of what he says. I've been trying not to get too depressed about the seeming corporate onslaught, and also with some other seeming nastiness coming from the Lucas empire (notably, check out Daily Sci-Fi [dailysci-fi.com] for the story of what happened when they tried to run a fairly innocuous little ticket giveaway contest). I guess the most depressing thing about this is the harsh reminder that this is only a movie, and that Lucas is still just the head of a corporation. I guess we all wanted to believe it and he were somehow more than that. I keep hoping I'll see some sign of that being the case, but as yet, that hasn't been the case.

    On the other hand, the control regarding theaters and such has, I think, been mostly to Lucas' credit, and he has relented when it seemed to be in the fans best interest (i.e., buying advanced tickets). It really does appear that he was trying to make sure that everyone had a good experience seeing the movie, rather than seeing it on what is essentially a big-screen TV with bad sound, as a lot of theaters are. We need to give credit where credit is due there.

    To sum up, I'm still very excited about seeing the movie, but a little of the magic has gone out of it for me, which just makes me sad. My only hope is that Lucas will see some of this and take it into consideration for Episode 2. I would certainly love to have him prove us all wrong.

    Hope everyone has a good time at the film...

    --Derek

  • Time to pull out the ol' video library and check the film titles (it's Wrath of Khan - and I'm not even a serious trekker)
  • well spoken, sir. In my own (admittedly limited) experience, the people who are most enjoying all the hype KNOW it's hype. They're not being tricked, or suckered, or manipulated by The Man and Corporate Money(tm). People get excited about what they choose to be excited about. In my area, the people most excited and who are buying into the hype to the greatest degree AREN'T naive kids or teens trying to own more merchandise than their peers - those who are the most manic tend to be people from about my age (23) to about 10 or 15 years older, who remember how much fun the HYPE (and the movies) were as a kid, and are trying to relive it now. The actual movie itself is NOT the biggest part of what's going on here, and we need to remember that. To a great degree, what makes Star Wars and its assorted sequels and other similar movies so much fun and so wildly successful is precisely the hype that people are criticizing. HYPE IS FUN! PEOPLE LIKE TO GET EXCITED! While I certainly agree that the KFC/PH/TB ad was in poor taste, I'm not going to stop eating Tacos in protest. Let's keep this in perspective - the same people who are screaming "It's just a movie! Get a life!" need to remember "It's just hype! No big deal!" The "desecration" of the Star Wars mythos by commercialization is what people seem to be upset about. To that I say - why did any movie ever get put on such a high spiritual pedestal to begin with? It IS just a movie - so let's have fun with it, enjoy the hype, poke fun at the dweebs who've been in line for two weeks or more, but take the entire debate with a grain (or three) of salt. I'm personally not buying merchandise (I'm too poor) but I enjoy seeing the excitement of people who do, and listening to all the hype by kids from 4 to 44. It's not often that a single event can so thoroughly capture the interest of such a wide demographic group. Ack, that was too long-winded. Well, in closing: HYPE IS NOT EVIL. HYPE IS JUST HYPE. Enjoy it if you can, ignore it if you can't, but don't get all bent out of shape because it's there. The Star Wars series was never intended to be one of non-hype "artsy" type films. Let's stop being offended because people are reacting to it as could be expected.
  • It seems as if Katz has a definite blind spot regarding recent history: he has (incorrectly) regarded Bill Gates as a celebrity of the 80's who seized upon the Internet, now he is downplaying Star Wars to a "sleeper film" that was "underpublicized" because there was no World Wide Web in which to spread the word. The fact that he isn't twenty years old makes this more shocking.
    OK, well, let's see: as I recall, I didn't see Star Wars at first since I thought it was overhyped, and I don't think that the Web is (yet) so big of a Force in peoples' lives that they won't hear about something without it. In 1977, Lucas had already scored big with a little film called "American Graffiti", which begat a short-lived ;-) dead-end ;;-)) series on TV called "Happy Days". Spielburg had already done another "sleeper" (athem) about some sashimi odori called "Jaws" that in my school, was *the* movie to avoid (no lie) for being a "typically overhyped piece of studio and commercial manipulation". So when everyone started *raving* about a film that seemed to have nothing going for it but some special effects and a heroine who didn't act like a damsel in distress, I held off. And held off. It stayed in the theaters for about a year. (Really, it did.) Some people saw it a dozen and more times.
    Breaking down, I finally saw it...and was conquered. No, it's not deep. No, it doesn't really do much more than rehash classic space opera in a new, jazzy, package with some added new twists. BUT, nothing else looked like it, not even 2001. After years of "normal" looking folks bumbling around with cloudy intentions in movies, these people looked and behaved like Gods and Goddesses (even the aliens and droids). The sets avoided sterotyped Art Decoish sets and the "too new" look of whiz-bang SF (or most film and TV, for that matter) for a grungy universe where there was dust and dirt everywhere, where things seemed to have a past, a present, and a future, and most of the aliens, sets and costumes looked like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Never mind it had ships making noise in space. It was a feast!
    It was also the first film, I think, that engendered a lifestyle. Previous to this, there had been great films (Gone With The Wind), endlessly repeated films (Wizard of OZ), and even revered films (Citizen Kane), but no one ever dressed up as Charles Foster Kane for anything but a Guess Who I Am? costume party, or quoted whole scenes from OZ from memory, or took bits and pieces of Gone With The Wind out of context as being Guiding Philosophies in Life. (To do so would have seemed like writing Dr. Kildare for advice about a suspected cancer.) Within a year, however, Princess Leia wigs were a huge seller, earth-toned tunics-and-leggings-with-boots became an instant fashion classic, people quoted the dialog verbatim at the drop of a hat, and ministers in the pulpit spoke approvingly of Obi-Wan's guidance and wisdom. It engendered books, cartoons, radio drama, comics, arcade games, board games, and made George Lucas rich beyond all dreams of old Hollywood.
    That said,its not at all surprising Joseph Campbell spoke of it : it's like hearing a middle-aged English prof quote Madonna. As for its philosophy, it seems like nothing more than recycled Zen Buddhism and Christianized Tao, with a lick of hippie portentiousness thrown in (Lucas has said that he first contacted the Force while convalescing from a concussion.) To say that its message is that "technology cannot solve our problems" is like saying that Dorothy learned nothing from her experience/dream but the futility of trying to move out of Kansas: here Campbell seems to be cleaving to the time-honored aristocratic/intellectual tradition of denigrating the New (with its confusing machinery) in favor of the Old (which left such matters to the servants, dahling) while the real issue is something like "your instincts can work more adaptably than logic" (If he'd really wanted Luke to abandon technology, then why didn't he have Luke fight with an actual sword, instead of some glorified flashlight?) While left brained logic was a specialty of the computation of 1977, right brained functions (or simulations thereof) are the new frontier of the 90's. That said, I wonder how Campbell would have responded to my news and sales agents being able to pick out what I might like as well as an old-time sales clerk, or to computer-generated animations that indistinguishably simulate the "organic" motion of a flock of birds, or a school of fish.
    It's also intreguing to note the values he assigns to the Bright and Dark sides of the Force. In 1977, it was still a given that heroic individuals = good, while society = bad. Nowadays, we would talk about Darth being a representative of an upstart authoritarian society that champions the selfish will to individual power (Darth's posture as he kneels to the Emperor looks anything but humble) while Luke is a rootless orphan who comes to realize the value of the continuity of tradition and of subduing his selfish wants and desires to a greater community. (That he also gets to run away from home, hang out with a pretty girl (before he knows this is incest), and have the cheers of a vast auditorium is immaterial.) Neither of these views is hard-and-fast reliable in my humble opinion: organic relations to one's homeland were one basis of Nazi philosophy, and remain a problem in Kosovo right now, while "heroic" Bill Gates (who defied his competators, his old boss, and even the United States Government) is now pitted against the "beaurocratic" and "collectivist" Linux community, with its operating system that was based on something from AT&T, for krissake! Unlike THX 1138, Star Wars was an effort that required lots of teamwork and lots of individual vision, and I don't think that the prequel is going to be any less awesome for that.
    Damn, I wasn't going to write this much. sorry.
  • Except for the James Cameron part (he's an egotist , Katz didn't see him at the Oscars), I agree 100%.

    Katz++

    I'll buy you a beer for this one.

  • I'll second the art-hose recommendation - there's
    an awful lot of excellent films being made, but
    I can't really think of any that hit the multiplexes
    round here.

    What I would add is that Lucas has been doing
    the cash in thing for quite some time. Just
    prior to the video release of the remastered
    Star Wars, he pulled all prints of the films,
    preventing theatrical screenings.
  • I thought it only cost $60 million. Besides Liam Neeson, there aren't any superheroes in it. (Samuel Jackson comes close, though) One of the reasons SW4 was so cheap was he used unknowns for his cast. (Was Alec Guiness anyone back then?)
    --GAck
  • This movie looks like another big Hollywood feature-length commercial for sugar-coated crap. The creatures look like they were borrowed from Deep Space Nine, and no movie is complete these days without an annoying, bratty child actor whose only function beyond his first movie will be to provide fodder for a future "E! True Hollywood Story".

    Skip the movie. Skip the Happy Meal.
  • by lilgorgor (7238) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @05:53PM (#1889532)
    argh. you make me sick with your anger. how can you become so enraged at these people? they certainly aren't hurting anything, and they certainly aren't hurting you personally. i can't comprehend the source of your intensity on this issue. you claim these people have been brainwashed. they must have brainwashed themselves, because there hasn't exactly been a glut of pre-release hype for this film. these people are big fans of star wars, what exactly is your problem with that? and then you go on to say that this "hype engine" producing the phantom menace could be used to endorse racism or genocide? poppycock, i say, that is pure conjecture, and such a leap of logic that i can't even comprehend how you came to such a conclusion. again, lucasfilm has not been overhyping this film. a few trailers, a few posters is all i've seen from them. the fans are zealous, because they care about this movie. who are you to point at them and say "don't care about that!"? i think you need to take a look at why these little things get you so incensed, and maybe try some breathing excersizes to calm down, or something to that effect.
  • by Signal 11 (7608) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:57PM (#1889533)
    I'm so sick of the hype. I mean, how much more shameless can you get than having taco bell, and the KFC guy in a star wars commercial. Really now, it's blindingly obvious the reality won't live up to the hype, and millions of geeks will try to cram in may 19th to see.. a movie.

    This isn't a life-altering event, this isn't going to solve world hunger, promote peace on earth and good will towards men.. it's a movie.

    I'll go see it after everybody else has. I won't be there at midnight listening to a bunch of 13 year old kids cheering whenever Yoda appears on the screen, and throwing popcorn arond. No, I'm going to enjoy it with a group of my friends well after all those people are done trashing the place. And it'll be a better experience for me as well.



    --

  • I got to hand it to you, rhuff, comparing excerpting RTTM with George Lucas marketing for Phantom Menace has left me speechless. Well, how bout one difference: I didn't get paid? Beyond that, you've truly left me slack-jawed.
  • I kinda like Katz the Inflamer..But take it easy there, Ripp. We don't want an online seizure. If you compare the $between then and now, that was truly peanuts..Calm yourself,tho.
  • Rob, while I respect the integrity of the question, I have to add, as one writer who has never made a nickel off of any book he's written -- that would be six -- I would have no trouble keeping Thomas Merton's picture off of a Pepsi can. God Help me if I didn't.
    I don't fault Lucas for making some money (I'd like to), but it's a question of proportion.
  • Let's flash back to May 1983, shall we?

    I was 10 years old. Jedi (sorry -- Episode VI) had just come out, and by the time summer vacation started, my friends and I had all seen it, and we'd all heard rumors that Lucas was going to start writing and filming Episode I any minute now, and that he was planning on making nine Star Wars movies in total, showing us the history behind Star Wars (sorry -- Episode IV: A New Hope) and everything that would happen after Jedi. By all guesses, we all figured that Episode IX would be in the theaters before the year 2000. We couldn't wait!

    And here we are, 16 years later, and Episode I is two days away from its release.

    A generation of kids (of all ages, mind you) has been waiting for this movie all that time. Even without the Pepsico tie-ins, the endless array of action figures, and all the press, this is *still* a movie that's got more than 15 years of hype behind it already. For a lot of people who've essentially been waiting for this for more than half their lives, this is a very big deal. Even without a dozen magazines devoting cover stories to The Phantom Menace, the majority of Star Wars fans already have May 19, 1999 etched in their minds, circled in red ink on their calendars, marked with a few dozen exclamation points on their PDAs, etc.

    Is the hype necessary? No, certainly not. But anyone with half a brain would have to expect it.

  • Jon, didn't have time to do much research for your latest, did you?

    1. Lucasfilm is independently owned and as such Lucas represents the triumph of the artist over the corporation (Fox)

    2. Fox, a unit of News Corp. is projected to make $100 Million profit via distribution on The Phantom Menace. [marketwatch.com]

    2a. Fox owns the distribution of the other 3 Star Wars movies, not Lucasfilm.

    3. Lucas's first Star Wars single-handedly SAVED 21st Century Fox which was completely floundering in 1977.

    4. RE: Lucasfilm and marketing, Jim Ward, head of marketing at Lucasfilm" [calendarlive.com]
    Jim Ward, head of marketing at Lucasfilm, said the official site was partly born out of an awareness that especially after the first three "Star Wars" films were re-released in 1997, a new generation of fans was created--one that happened to be very Web-savvy. The site was always intended, however, as more than a sales pitch. "Our site was really established as a way for us to communicate with our core fans. They've sustained us all these years, and we wanted to make sure there was one place they could go to get the official information as promptly as possible," Ward said.

    5. My rant:
    Your age is showing. You have no idea what it was like to see the first Star Wars movie at the age of 7, at the height of the Divorce Years and Looking for Mr. Goodbar morality playing its way through the suburbs, when as a kid, you saw everything falling to shit all around you, and you went to this movie just expecting to see the same hokiness as the Sinbad movies and instead you experienced something that was less like a movie and more like a code of ethics you could live by.
    A universe where people helped each other at the risk of their own life...A universe where Good and Evil was concrete and knowable...A universe where integrity, bravery, and belief mattered.

    If the Phantom Menace touches 7 year olds the way Star Wars touched me when I was 7, then May the Universe Bless George Lucas!
  • Think hard....that's right: FOX.

    There's your real article, Jon...
  • Okay, I can only assume that twenty years ago, Jon Katz was living in a cave withing walking distance of a small cinema.

    Having been in the target demographic of the original merchanising blitz, I can assure you that every six-year old at the time HAD to have the Milleneum Falcon and AT-AT walker, or risked being a social outcast. I happily munched away on my C3PO's breakfast cereal, enjoyed a stack of Star Wars coloring books, had to have all the Ewok collector's glasses from Burger King, bawled my little heart out when my mother accedentally threw away my Han Solo action figure.

    Many people view the past with nostalgic rose-colored glasses, and I can't see this as being any exception. This is almost as disgusting as baby boomers who look down their noses at modern "slacker" youth for not having such a morally excellent counterculture as hippiedom.

    Star Wars is a big Hollywood movie phenomenon. It is made to entertain and rake in cash. If you demand something more profound, read a book.
  • #1) This is simply not true. Capitalism (with an a - the word capitol refers to three things: Washington, D.C., the Roman temple of Jupiter, where the Senate met, or a U.S. statehouse (where a state legislature meets), according to Webster) isn't necessarily the best thing in the world. Pure capitalism can be synonymous with pure evil due to the nature of human being. Simply because this is true doesn't mean we should embrace it. However, capitalism and art are two things that generally should stay apart. As an artist, you should realize this because:

    To maintain artistic integrity, one has to be free of the forces of censorship and repression, at least insofar as being "free" to say what you will or draw or photograph what you will, etc. Capitulating to the demands of *anything* can be shown to mean that you've lost some of your artistic integrity.

    Which brings us to Star Wars. Now, admittedly, I'm not as into the hype as some of the other people in the world, nor am I one of those who follows Star Wars as a religion. That aside, not only is it tacky to put images from your movie on disposable plastic cups, lunch boxes, toys, magazine covers, etc., but it violates artistic integrity because the case can me made that, when such merchandising follows so quickly on the heels of a movie (which is an art form), one has deliberately placed these objects into the movie strictly for marketing value, and, possibly removed images from the movie which were or could be construed to be disturbing, and contrary to the "goal" of making lots and lots of money.

    To sum up and give yet another perspective on why capitalism and art are not two things that mix well, examine, if you will, the actor, the artist, and the whore. All of which perform their craft for the entertainment of others, for money. All of which, if they're supremely excellent, truly enjoy and believe in what they're doing. What actors, artists, etc., strive for is to not be that whore. That's why there is such a concept as artistic integrity. This is why Lucas doesn't meet this test and such could be referred to as a whore, because he sold himself for the money that promised to arrive. It's not evil to make money - far from it. But to sacrifice your integrity for that money - that's not right. This is the crux of what Katz attempts to argue. I'm inclined to believe that while the hype surrounding this film *is* pretty high, I still remember collecting Star Wars toys (and there were *plenty*) as a child. It's nothing new, but that doesn't make it right.
  • I've read lots of comments about all of these people who waited in lines to watch the first Star Wars, bought all of the toys and crap, and are now whining either that TPM has been hyped too much or that the movie deserves the hype. I'm really sick of it.

    There is no way to get back the wonder, the sheer thrill of watching the original Star Wars on the big screen after you've seen it for the first time, so you might as well stop trying and enjoy it for what it is, a fun kid's story.

    When Star Wars first came out, I remember seeing it maybe three, four times tops. I was too poor to afford seeing it more and buying the toys was out of me and my family's reach. My little brother and I built X-Wings and TIE fighters from the Legos we had and fought hundreds of battles. We'd run around the house flying these ships and crashing them into the unfortunate Lego city on the family room floor. At night in bed, I'd wonder what it would be like to fly in one of those starships around the universe. Before then, I had read some minor science fiction and some fantasy stuff, but Star Wars became the turning point. It gave me the gift of dreaming of space travel, of discovery, of fighting for Good and Honor. I was a convert, I believed it all.

    Nowadays, I know I can never reach that point again. Too much life between The Empire Strikes Back and now has made me cynical and more than a little bitter. I've seen the whole Star Wars trilogy too many times to count (and rooted for Darth Vader on more than few occasions) that the effects the series once had on me has wore off.

    I hate the hype. I hate seeing George Lucas popping up nearly everywhere mumbling about how he created the Great American Myth. I hate the stories of adults standing in lines for toys that will stay in the box forever or for tickets weeks before they are issued (I do like that it was done for charity, but it still doesn't make up for the audacity of it). I hate the commercialism that surrounds TPM and that I'll be encased in it for months on end. I hate the sheer amount of marketing around TPM, waiting for suck the almightly dollar from children. I hate that adults putting their lives, their dreams, their hopes on the line for this film. How can they justify dedicating so much time, effort, and money on a movie? It seems so insane to me now.

    But most of all, I hate the fact that I'll never be able to see the whole series with the eyes and the innocence of a ten-year-old who could believe it all.

    Once in a while, I can still find the kid in me that flew mis-matched X-Wing made up from Lego gate-pieces and feel thankful for the hours of fantasy that I got from George Lucas.

    It's a film for kids. I'll probably see the new one a few times, but I'll damned if I'm going to buy any of the toys unless my nieces want some. Just as long as they promise me they'll actually play with them.


    -S. Louie

  • I completely agree with your article.
    This time around Star Wars is completely about making money. What other reason is there for Colonel Sanders to jump out of his grave to save the queen?

    Really, I think Star Wars has sucked since Return of the Jedi.

    On a related note, has anyone read any of the recent 'Wars books? They totally blow. Shameless.

    For some odd reason, I thought the use of '?' in lieu of ''' was pretty damn funny...
    www.ihatestarwars.com
  • Ok, I was also there...in fact, by sheer chance
    (running into some friends in downtown Philly),
    I happened into opening night of Star Wars.

    Yes, it was incredible. And yes, there was *also*
    analogously as much marketing *then* as there is
    *now*. There were the same complaints of Lucas
    "selling out". Don't you remember the Ewok's
    Xmas special on TV?...Hmmm, been a while, maybe
    it was Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewy, with the yet-
    to-be-seen Ewoks.

    Explain to me this phrase, "selling out", or
    "hype", as well as calling Lucas a "self-defined"
    Hollywood rebel.

    From my view, Lucas is in the movie business. He
    wants to make good, enjoyable movies, that are
    *not* written by a committee, as 99% of all of
    them are. With all the merchandizing, he was
    able, 20-odd years ago, to set up ILM, and his
    ranch, and set himself up to be able to afford
    to create the movies he wanted, and to be taken
    seriously (i.e., he had enough $$$ of his own)
    to be able to raise the money to make the movies,
    and distribute them.

    Don't want to be commercial? Ever seen Mike
    Jittlov's Wizard of Speed and Time? That *is*
    Jittlov, and he's a really nice guy...but won't
    compromise to reach the audience he really *should*. Lucas wants to reach the audience.

    Selling out, in many cases, is a phrase I've
    noticed used by folks who don't pull the big bucks
    themselves, and by those who seem to think that
    anyone who actually manages to appeal to the
    masses, in terms they understand, and in a
    really meaningful way, has "sold out". Has John
    Williams sold out, or has he brought more folks
    into classical music?

    Then there's your appellation of "self-defined"
    rebel. In Hollywood terms, I'd say he is. He
    doesn't have a committee writing and rewriting
    his scripts; he doesn't take a novel and run it
    through a blender, and poor in artificial
    sweetner, "lite" beer, and Chock Full 'O Egos.

    So, tell me, once you see the story, whether he's
    "sold out". And then define your terms.
  • by DMC (10005) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:36PM (#1889545)
    I mean if people are willing to pay all sorts of money for paraphanalia (sp?) and food in containers adorned in Star Wars characters, then more power to George so he can make more good movies. I've read and heard of the restrictions placed on manufacturers, resellers, advertisers, and anyone else who wants to use or sell Star Wars related gimmicks and products. Of course there's hype to end all hype...we've been waiting for 20 years!!! Considering the anticipation, I'm surprised there isn't more advertising and gimmicks. The only one I've seen thus far is the taco bell, pizza hut, and kfc commercial. I've seen displays in bookstores to sell the books, and I even bought the soundtrack. I haven't listened yet because I want to hear it in the theater first. What's amazing is the lack of promotion and advertising. I haven't seen a tv commercial for it yet, but every other major movie does. why not? Because it doesn't need it. Everyone knows, and everyone wants it so bad they can taste everyone else tasting it. Where is Lucas during all of this? He's keeping whatever grip he can on the way his vision is used. I will bet vital parts of my anatomy that if this was being run by a marketing guy, we'd be bombarded by advertising and gimmicks and merchandise. It's no worse than anyother major movie. ID4 had more promotion from what I remember.

    Leave George alone so he'll finish it out and give us great memories.

    damon
  • While I concede the points in your article, I really admire Lucas for getting to the point in his career where he can literally lay down the rules to the Hollywood machine.

    From what I understand, Lucas financed TPM by himself; he has dictated what standards theatres must attain to show his movie; he has maintained tight control over his licensees. And through all this, he is beholden to no one other than himself, making exactly the movie HE wants with no other influence other than his desires.

    In my mind, that's a pretty envious position to be in. *I* wish I had a job over which I had total, 100% control -- don't we all. Yes, he may be accused of playing the commercialization card to the hilt, but I'd rather have him do it than the Hollywood Menace.
  • As i recall, before the original Star Wars opened, George Lucas was going around the toy industry trying to get companies to back his star wars action figures. Most of the companies said that it wasn't what kids wanted, but George kept trying--until he hit Kenner (i think it was kenner--might have been Hasbro--shrug). They said ok and after star wars launched it created the action figures industry and whichever company it was that produced the action figures--they made a bazillion dollars.

    My point being that George Lucas is not as you have portrayed him. Amongst other things, he is a business man and he is putting forth lots of effort to make money. Even back then though you may not have noticed it much.

    I remember watching The Power of Myth and marvelling at the depth that Star Wars had through Joseph Campbell's eyes. But I wouldn't be surprised if Joseph Campbell helped make the Star Wars trilogy what it is today by instilling that mythological quality--and George Lucas just packaged it all together.

    I really think that much of this mega-hype is planned. It's unfortunate that some of us got so sick of it months ago and now it's like you can't hardly sneeze without spraying some new Star Wars mega-hype fu-fu thing.
  • This is why works of fiction are not GPL'ed.

    Artistic integrity is a very different animal from closed source.
  • by Ripp (17047) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:57PM (#1889570) Journal
    OK. Jon makes some valid points about the whole Star Wars Saga(tm) and it's deep meanings, it's effect on us all, and for that I'll give him a little credit....

    Mr. Lucas himself has stated several times that Lucasfilm *itself* has purposely kept the hype down to a minimum, on *their* end. And I would tend to agree that there could have been a LOT more hype. I don't think the hype surrounding this movie has been any worse than that accompanying, say, "Jurassic Park" or "Toy Story" or even "The Flintstones" a few years ago. The difference being that they all faded away into oblivion, whereas Star Wars will be remembered for years to come.

    Now, back to the hype. The licensees and the news shows are the ones creating most of the hype out there. What have we seen from LFL? A couple of trailers, a few low-key, and sparsely played TV spots, and a music video. Meanwhile, Hasbro has saturated the Toy Stores, the Pizza/Taco/KFC trinity is lambasting us w/ their stuff....blame them, if you're going to blame anyone.

    And re: the fans and their 'droid'like tendencies to worship rather than expand Star Wars in their own ways....There *are* plenty of fan-written chapters out there, have been for years. There is fan-art aplenty....etc, etc. And after all, why mess with perfection?

    This ripping-on-the-fans stuff in the media as of late is getting old real fast. Now you've joined those ranks me friend.
  • by Ripp (17047) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:35PM (#1889571) Journal
    Alright, I've stayed out of the Katz-flaming to date, but this one takes the f*cking cake.

    Katz, in short,
    WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

    How can you possibly put the previous Star Wars films up on some kind of holy pedestal, seemingly oblivious to any sort of "hype"...

    Where WERE you 18 years ago, my friend? Were you on some far flung corner of the MOON? Were you not present for the many Burger King Glasses, the infinite toys, the Star Wars Popsicles, the T-shirts...WHERE WERE YOU?

    This is NOTHING new!!!! Go find Mr. Peabody and jump in the old wayback machine to circa '79 or '80 when the hype was in full force. Hell I was only 8 or so then, and *I* remember it being all-consuming. It so consumed the passions of this entire country that the 'product' was in demand enough to warrant said 'product.'

    This article is nothing but pure, sheer ignorance and inflammability, whether on purpose or out of true ignorance, I can't say. Sure you're right about SW being the 'modern myth' yadda yadda boom boom...and I agree fully.

    BUT...don't try to tell George about how his artistic integrity is somehow violated because there are action figures and coloring books w/ his movies' marque on them. He'll be the first to tell you, while yes it is a modern myth, etc. etc., it's also just a Saturday afternoon serial....

    ....And every kid wants his Red-Ryder BB gun....
  • by Sancho (17056) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:32PM (#1889572) Homepage
    Regardless of whether he wants the hype or not, Star Wars is his movie. It's his creation. If he wants to hype it, he can.

    Jon acts like Star Wars is something he owns. I'm rather happy to tell him that he's wrong.

    As a friend of mine once said, "George Lucas could show two and a half hours of his hairy ass, and people would still go to see it." We care about Star Wars because of what it is. We certainly hope that SW:PM lives up to Episodes 4-6, but if they don't, we shouldn't feel cheated out of the experience. Lucas can do whatever he damn well wants with these movies.

    Saying he is selling out is like saying Metallica sold out with their album Load. It certainly was different, and more mainstream. But if that's what they wanted to do with their music, that is THEIR choice. Saying they sold out because of it is your infantile way of saying they don't have a right to go the direction they want to go.
  • Now very few people can claim that seeing movies is their life, but it definitely is a hobby. First off, this isn't the first time people have slept in front of ticket counters to be assured tickets to something. And this won't be the last time.

    However,

    It is arguably the first time that people have slept in front of ticket counters to see a movie that is going to be seen on the very same screen thousands of times before it ends its first theatrical run some six months hence.

    It is one thing to camp out for tickets for a one time event. Take a music concert for example. Your favorite artist might visit your town once every five years at best, and each concert by that artist is a little bit different and unique. THIS is worth camping out for. The event will never be repeated.

    However, this is a MOVIE. It will be shown thousands of times. It's not like it's going to be that difficult to see. I stated that I have every intention of seeing "Phantom Menace." I assume that I'll enjoy it a lot. I just don't find it necessary to camp out (for WEEKS, in the case of a few people) in order to see it!

    I'm really not trying to be insulting. Nor did I really intend to berate anyone. I just don't get it, that's all.
  • by Fish Man (20098) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @04:54PM (#1889583) Homepage
    I remember seeing the original Star Wars movie in the theater.

    I was living in Minneapolis when it came out and the St. Louis Park Cinema had an area exclusive on it.

    This was almost the last hurrah for that theater, which was a grand and gigantic one screen movie theater of the old fashioned kind.

    It had a humongeus curved "surround" screen that had been designed for "Cinerama" moves (the type shown by three projectors at once). A thick gold glittery curtain slowly parted to reveal the screen as the movie started.

    I did think that Star Wars was perhaps the best movie I had ever seen.

    The St. Louis Park Cinema closed a year or two later, run out of business by the multi-screen cineplexes at the malls.

    Now, all these years later, "The Phantom Menace" is about to debut. I'm sure it will be an enjoyable movie, and I intend to catch it within it's first few days out. But, I truly never thought I would live to see such hyperbole and hysteria over any movie.

    To those who have been camping out for the last three or four weeks to get a ticket, I'll be about the millionth person the scream at you: "IT'S A FSCKING MOVIE FOR CRISSAKES!"

    By definition, anyone who has nothing better to do than to sleep in a tent on a sidewalk for weeks on end just so they can make sure to see the very first presentation of a FSCKING MOVIE at their local cineplex has no bloody life whatsoever, period!

    After this mythical "first showing" at hundreds of theaters nation wide, I'm sure that I will have no problem calling the automated ticket sales phone line of my local mega-cinema ("The Palace" here in New Orleans), and scarf me a couple o' tickets to a showing on the second, third, or fourth day. No big deal, and I'm happy.

    The fact that there are so many people out there willing to dedicate weeks of their life to camping out to ensure they see that "first show" indicates just how the masses can be brainwashed by hype and effective advertising. In a very real sense, this is scary. Individual independent thinking is apparently a rare commodity in today's society. Suppose the hype engine that is producing the "Phantom Menace" hysteria were to be used to sell the masses on some sort of race hatred or ethnic cleansing campaign? Think about it.

    Since there are so many people willing to get this worked up over a FSCKING MOVIE however, I really can't say I blame Lucas et. al. for milking them for all they're worth!
  • On the contrary, Mr. Katz. I'd like to offer the view that "The Phantom Menace" is nothing other than the biggest independent film ever made. Note that Lucas personally put up the $115 million to make the film: no studio money. This gave Lucas complete artistic freedom to do whatever he wanted. This is normall the realm of art/independent film makers, people too independent to tow to the studio line. Lucas is so wealthy from his success that he can afford to blow off the studios, and make exactly what he wants.


    Look at this as a brave new experiment in film: the very first time that 9 digits of money was spent on a film totally under the control of an imaginative film maker, instead of a gang of bankers and focus groups.



    Crispin

    -----
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  • Look, people, the hype DOESN'T MATTER. It's safe to say that any movie/director who appears on every major news magazine's cover in the space of a month is pretty well hyped. These very news magazines are whipping themselves into a froth about the hype surrounding this movie, hype which THEY are responsible for making.

    What's Lucas to do? There's a HUGE grassroots fan movement around this movie. The fanboys (myself included) are beside themselves with anticipation for this movie. It IS only a movie, but it's a BIG FUN movie that I've been waiting a good long time to see. If he declines all these interviews, he becomes a reclusive antisocial hermit. If he accepts all these interviews, and tries to communicate his goals for these films, he becomes a narcissistic sell-out. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. What would YOU do in his situation?

    As far as the marketing blitz, it's annoying. It's kitschy. It's pretty darn grotesque in the form of that Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut commercial. However, it's ALSO American business. Would YOU refuse that enormous pile of money? I know that I can't say I would.

    George Lucas is in my opinion making quality films for children. They're not soft-pedaled Barney crap, but they're also not Reservoir Dogs (and that's a Good Thing IMHO). It just so happens that a bunch of us who were the target audience for his last films are VERY VERY excited about this next batch. I can't understand why that's a bad thing.
  • While I too long for simpler times when it was possible to have a piece of art, an event, or a building that wasn't sponsored by some huge corporation, I have to question Jon's integrity.

    I think that he honestly believes that he believes what he wrote, but his own actions in hyping Run to the Mountain here, differ from what Lucas is doing only in degree, not in essential manner.

    Jon: would you honestly have refused a Pepsi ad campaign for RttM if it had been offered?
  • by JEP (28735) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:28PM (#1889604) Homepage
    Yes, I too have been a bit annoyed by Lucas. Most recently, I was saddened to see he plans to not release Star Wars on DVD until all 3 prequels were done. This is just ridiculous. The fans are what made Lucas, yet he is incredibly selfish when it comes to meeting the requests of the fans.

    --

  • Go see it or dont.
    Pay attention to the hype or dont.

    Yes, its a damn shame that Lucas has chosen this route to pitch his film. It is a sort of slur against the 'soul' of the original film(s)... But is it so bad?

    I mean, Katz just said it.. Lucas is no longer portraying himself as a hollywood rebel. So he's gone mainstream. So what? The guys got a right to do so. We stand here and covet a movie made twenty years ago for its beautiful values and ahead-of-its-time special effects that gained popularity through its purity more than anything else... And then we decide to make Lucas the villian today when he has grown up and grown into his station in Hollywood. A station he has because WE gave it to him.

    Its his life. Its his movie.
    He's hardly Gates-ish.

    .02
  • When I first saw SW as a kid, I didn't know what to make of that scene where Luke halucinates the voice of Kenobi telling him to turn off the targetting computer.

    Now, I'm an adult living in a "new-age" world where appearances and "feelings" often have more weight in decision-making than conclusions reached by research and strenuous exercise of logic. True, SW was about heroism and making hard decisions, but it was also about tech. Why does it have to be spoiled by a rejection of technology and the hard work and logic behind it?

    Presumably a hell of a lot of military technologists sweated blood to build those X-wing fighters and their weapons systems and here comes this bozo who switches to manual just because he hears voices in his head. I can only regret that I didn't have the presence of mind to shout "Turn ON the targetting computer, Luke!"

    Can you dig it? He risks an entire revolution against opression, just for a voice in his head. And of course, he hits the target. Proof that wishful thinking is an effective Force in dealing with the Universe.

    Crap. If Lucas had been a European film-maker things would have been slightly different. Luke switches to manual, misses, the Death Star destroys the rebel base, and Luke escapes, only to commit suicide by plowing into an asteroid when he realises what a terrible mistake he made. A Greek tragedy - man destroyed by hubris.

    Now I run across people who had "mystical experiences" when they saw SW and these are the same people who wear a piece of pink quartz around their necks (or maybe pitchblende) because "it improves their energy flow". Thanks, George.

    The level of influence of SW on "new-ageism" is certainly debatable, but I can't help but believe that it added to the crud. Too much hype? Who cares?! What about the destruction of critical thinking and effort?

    I would like to close with two quotes, the first by Richard Stallman from the book "Open Sources".

    Yoda's philosophy (There is no 'try') sounds neat, but it doesn't work for me. I have done most of my work while anxious about whether I could do the job, and unsure that it would be enough to achieve the goal if I did. But I tried anyway, because there was no one but me between the enemy and my city. Surprising myself, I have sometimes succeeded. Sometimes I have failed; some of my cities have fallen. Then I found another threatened city, and got ready for another battle.

    And the second, from fortune(1):

    In the force if Yoda's so strong, construct a sentence with words in the proper order then why can't he?
  • As I recall with great interest, 'The Prince of Egypt' didn't merchandise very much, believing it tasteless to have little plastic Moses figures in your McDonald's Happy Meal.

    As for 'no one needs that much money'... that's like saying 'no one needs to live forever'. The implicit question is: 'What would you do with it all?' If you honestly have no idea how to spend 'too much money' responsibly and in a way that would benefit several good causes, check out Elizabeth Barrette's excellent What to Do With Entirely Too Much Money [worthlink.net]. I bet you'll think twice next time you buy that lottery ticket.

  • by Quaternion (34622) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:36PM (#1889620) Homepage
    It's probably pretty obvious by now to everyone over the age of 13 that Lucas has sold out... But clearly this isn't the first time, right? I mean, I remember buying the Star Wars cereal when I was five or six, collecting the Ewoks cards at the bottom of the box... I had Land Speeder and the Ton-Ton with the rubber belly that I could stick my Luke action figure in, and my next door neighbor had the plastic Ewok village. I don't know about Empire Strikes Back, but the Return of the Jedi had *plenty* of associated marketing. Asking for purity from Lucas at this point is probably like asking for honesty and integrity from a politician. He talks big, but when it comes time to make the decisions that make the money..... If you go in for the movies today, you go for the story and the nostalgia, and attempt to avoid the hype. That's about the best anyone can hope for...
  • Katz = Complain O' Matic

    Lucas = poet with a camera, who did his best to keep hype to a minimum. He also has a following, he knows it. And released the trailers/previews in such a way as to tease, but to give nothing away.

    Early Reviews = from what I have seen, alot o reviewers have been giving it lukewarm reviews. But, what it all comes down to is what the fans think. Also, Ebert has seen it, and thought it a good film.

    Selling out: I dont think lucas has sold out at all. He honestly hasnt had time, if you think about it, as he has been involved in production right up until release. In addition, ive noticed that there is a trend to slam those who have something big, mainly by people who lack any talent of their own.

    I also think it should be pointed out, Lucas is doing this with his own money. He has every right to recoup some of it. If he didnt care, he would have pulled the money out of Fox.

    I noticed that someone mentioned something about Lucas resisting DVD release. So what? Its his film. Not yours. He has every right to control how/when it is viewed, and the medium in which it is viewed. And, knowing lucas, he has something in mind.

    In other words, lets stop all the complaining, see the movie. form an opinion. But or gods sakes, quit complaining about what lucas is/isint/could be/hasnt done to *your* satisfaction.

    Having a vision of something isint easy. Making the vision a reality is even harder. Making a vision a reality when you have a bunch of people telling you what a bastard you are for this or that is even more tough.

    Cluepon = get a vision. make it happen. you'll see what Im saying. Ill bet Linus knows what its all about.

    Supernaut
  • I think it's very interesting to look at The Phantom Menace, and even Star Wars itself, as a Postmodern phenomenon. If Jean Baudrillard's theory applies, and I think it does, then Star Wars has reduced the mythical Hero to mere hyper-reality or "simulacra". According to Baudrillard, this false reality, created by simulacra like The Phantom Menace, actually exists to conceal the anxiety we have over the absence/disappearance of something real, in this case Real Heroes. It's easy to see how this might be the case in our world. Heroism fundamentally isn't about success (in particular, it's not about self-actualization, which is essentially anti-Heroic!). And so, in a society where individual social status and financial success are considered to be man's highest calling, it's not surprising that we'd need simulacra to remind us of what Real Heroes used to be like. Baudrillard is really on to something here, if you stop and think about it for a while.

    The more I think about the (fairly recent) explosion of simulacra in our society, the more I recognize the core Truth in what Baudrillard is saying. We are mass-manufacturing simulacra to replace Real Truth. And we're doing it at such a rate that it we're now essentially bent on destroying, concealing or subjugating Truth almost everywhere. Why? Because we don't want to face the reality of what we're losing or what we've already lost. And the actual losses have been truly staggering.

    I'm pretty sure this is what early religions were concerned with when they tried to stop people from worshipping idols and creating "graven images". They were worried (and rightly so, I think) that mere simulacra of God would replace the living Truth of God that (they believed) surrounds us. In fact, they were probably too late even then: God was already dead or dying (as an inherent cultural Truth), and thus all the simulacra -- to try to conceal it from ourselves. Certainly an odd way to behave (on the surface of it, anyway), but with multi-million dollar athletes, TV stars and politicians like Clinton held up as our leaders/heroes/role-models, it's easy to see why we might need The Phantom Menace to remind us of what heroes used to be like.

    It seems to me that the more evident the absence of Heroes in our society becomes, the more our anxiety grows and thus the louder and more omnipresent the replacement simulacra must become to conceal the issue. Thus all the hype. If even to name something is to kill it, then surely The Phantom Menace is the epitaph of the Hero.

    Jonathan

  • I don't normally read or listen to movie reviewers, but I do enjoy Roger Ebert and his tastes seem to mirror mine in terms of movies.

    He loved the movie, said basically what others are saying about great visuals, flat characters...but he saw the movie for what it was...great entertainment! Which is exactly what I'll be seeing it for.

  • by LordRathma (44890) on Sunday May 16, 1999 @03:58PM (#1889635)
    The original Star Wars movie didn't have any hype or toys before it opened...it was a small movie at the time and it didn't even get a premier! But after a few months when the movie took the world by storm, the toys, the bed linen, the product endorsements etc etc....took off like nothing before it!

    But you seemed to have forgotten The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Both these movies were surrounded by incredible hype. The Empire Strikes Back was surrounded by the hype almost as much as Phantom Menace is. It was most anticipated movie ever made (the same sort of thing people have been saying about Phantom Menace).

    What is the point of your article? Did Lucas sell out? Of course he did, and he'd be a fool not to! If he hadn't sold out 22 years ago with the original, we wouldn't be here today talking about the Phantom Menace...which he financed totally by himself.

    What's the deal with you Katz? Your whole article reeks of hypocrisy and of the Rolling Stone magazine article submission guildlines (were they tell their writers to make sure they hate everything and slant it to make the artist look like they sold out because they were smart enough to make a buck).

    Wow, you're so controversial! I hope you don't get paid by Slashdot for your articles...after all, you'd be a sellout!

  • I don't understand you people.

    You seem to have nothing to do but bitch about the hype and call Lucas a sellout. Why can't you just accept that fact that people are having FUN? People are going out and buying star wars toys and getting them with their mugs and being excited and having FUN! There's nothing wrong with that. Even if the movie isn't that great, people have had fun anticipating it.

    Also, what's with the opinion trends towards The Phantom Menace? Suddenly, everybody decided it was cool to say "It's all hype!". You've lost something valuable if you've lost the excitement present in antipating it.

    It may be "just a movie", but that doesn't mean you have to slam people who think it is more.

    -dh
  • It's easy to be captivated by the amount of money being thrown around - mostly because I (and most of us) don't operate in that kind of money on a day-to-day basis. If Pepsi walked up to me today and offered me $10 million, my first response might be "Who do you want me to kill?". However, if I had $800 million in the bank I would be in a better position to consider what that measley $10 million was worth as far as image and values are concerned.

    So considering that in just ticket sales alone, it's pretty clear Lucas will be able to make his kids braces payment, it's a fair question to ask how much responsibility Lucas has himself for approving all of the ad campaigns and product tie-ins. This created the hype which he then goes on record as denouncing.

    Dave

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