Saturday, May 26, 2007

Star Wars- The Beginning of the End

Friday, May 25 was the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. That film, along with Jaws, are the two films that changed American cinema forever. The late 1960s and early 70s was a renaissance time for American film. How about this for a partial list of filmmakers- Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Peter Bogdanovich,Francis Coppola,Mike Nichols, Alan Pakula, Roman Polanski (not American, sure, but is there a better film about LA than Chinatown or the upper west side of New York than Rosemary's Baby?) Martin Scorsese- who came of age as a director between 1968 and 1975. Pretty impressive, but with the exception of The Godfather films, none of the movies made by those men were box office smashes.

But with Star Wars Hollywood changed and the studios began to bankroll big budget spectacles- even Oscar-winning Rocky from 1976 was a low-budget, no star film. It became easy, and then the norm, for Hollywood to bet 25 million dollars (now 200 million) on one BIG film, than 25 million on six or seven smaller films. Would a Harold and Maude, The Last Picture Show and Taxi Driver get made today and shown at the local megaplex? Probably not, not when Spiderman 3 dominates the screens and people's entertainment dollar.

Some quick statistics. Star Wars budget was $13 million it opened on 43 screen in the United States. By April of 1978 it had grossed $218 million. Spiderman 3 had a budget of $258 million dollars and it opened 4,252 screens in the United States, grossing $151 million its first weekend.

Star Wars is a good film and I like it. The question, however, is this: Are we better off with Star Wars and all the blockbusters that followed, or would we be better of with individual, iconoclastic films like the ones mentioned above?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We would be better off with a "one off" of Star Wars. Despite everything that Lucas has said concerning the Star Wars mythos, I believe he is lying. I do not believe he intended on doing a whole series of films on the subject. The 70's was all about creating films that would give viewers a window into an alternate life, or reality through Sci-fi (Silent Running, Close Encounters to name two) . But those realitys I believe were intended to make us think. We were never supposed to know what "Vader's" life looked like before he became Vader any more than we need to know what Leary did once he got off the Mother Ship at Alpha Centuri (Close Encounters), that was the stuff of dreams and the imagination of the viewer. In the imagination it was much more powerful than it could ever be on the screen. Subsequent films were purely for profit for the film maker and Lucas's production company and destroyed the creative pondering of the viewer. Do we need Micheal Angelo to come back to life and tell us why he painted "The Mona Lisa"? or to do a follow up on her..."The Mona Lisa Part II"...Indeed, it was because of his refusal (Lucas)to move forward as a director/artist that he has done little since...except to tinker with what he already did. Thats called stagnation from the fear of not creating something as big as the first time around. So he has attempted to re-make his "Sgt.Pepper" five times now. The first one was good enough. Roger Waters was wise to disolve Pink Floyd for this very reason. How many "Dark Side's" do we need? The reality is, when an artist starts to copy themselves it becomes never ending, its the Asian Dragon Tail Myth all over again. If a young film student were to look at a director such as Ridley Scott (Blade Runner and Legend) one can see that Ridley gives us the glimpse into a future world, the glimpse into a fantasy land...then leaves it...leaves us to the work of our own imagination. We do not need to go back after 20yrs and see Jack as a balding old man and Lilly white haired with bratty teens...the magic of the moment, indeed the magic of what the future may and can possibly hold...become lost. These things are better left to our individual leave the stone unchiseled, is to leave the stone with possibilities. So no, we are not better for the addition of the other 5 films in the Star Wars pantheon...all that needed to be said...was said the first time around-JP Marcel