Aljean Harmetz wrote this article for the New York Times on June 5, 1977, eleven days after Star Wars was released in the United States. Harmetz focuses on the fact that the human actors in Lucas's technological, futuristic spectacle are clearly upstaged by the amazing robots, C3PO and R2-D2. Most of the other articles that were written about the film, at the time that of its release, focused on George Lucas, the actors, and/or the various technological wonders of the movie. However, this article shines light on two central stars of the film who are rarely recognized as people, never mind stars in the conventional sense. Did you know that there are actors inside the robotic encasings of C3PO and R2-D2? Anthony Daniels spent five months in Threepio's fifty pounds of aluminum, steel, fiberglass, vacu-form plastic, and vulcanized rubber. Kenny Baker was C3PO's "plucky, cheerful, fellow robot. The vacuum cleaner shaped Lou Costello to C3PO's Abbot." Each of these robots has a carefully crafted persona. Lucas said that he strove to make the robots human - characters to which the audience could relate. In fact, these robots are far more central to the Star Wars storyline than one might think. When Lucas first wrote the script, it centered solely on robots. There was no Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Princess Leia.
George Lucas devoted almost four years of his life to the production of Star Wars. In the year leading up to the release of the film, he spent 361 days, sixteen hours a day, working on the film. It was his "baby" and he wanted everything about the film to be perfect. It was through Lucas's perfection driven personality that C3PO and R2D2 came into being and through his obsessive craft he created a film with unique character, scenery and sound. In the usual film there are 200 sound units. In Star Wars there are 2,000. Even the sound of a door opening is not the ordinary sound of a door opening on earth. Lucas created a new sound effect. Everything in the film was developed through intense and precise thought. Nothing was "thrown in" to a shot just for the sake of it being there. As a result, Star Wars became a spectacular film replete with meaning. The complexity of C3PO and R2D2 are representative of this intricate process. They are robots, with human like qualities and emotions, a unique product of George Lucas' creativity and vision.
This article was published in the New York Times in May 1976. Thus, it was written and researched prior to George Lucas becoming famous primarily for his Star Wars projects. The first paragraph of the article states, "[he is] in the middle of shooting Star Wars, a 6.5 million dollar space adventure spectacular for Twentieth Century Fox." It is astounding to think that the original Star Wars was budgeted at 6.5 million. This article provides a view - at a moment in time - of the director of one of the industry's most successful movie concepts.
In the article, Lucas states that his intent following the success of American Graffiti was to retire. This is an interesting statement given Lucas' even greater success with Star Wars, post American Graffiti. Since American Graffiti, Lucas has gone on two make a two part trilogy of the Star Wars films (six films), becoming one of the most successful directors and producers of all time. George Lucas has earned millions from the Star Wars films and all their merchandising. As a result of the phenomenal Star Wars success George Lucas created his own production and special effects company on his own compound. It is amazing to think that midway through the first installment of Star Wars, Lucas was ready to throw in the towel.
I suppose it is admirable that George Lucas wanted to retire and do a lot of experimental work that no one would ever see. His love of film is for the sake of the art, not the business or the money. That is why he proclaims that he has no desire to make eighty films or any more "big studio pictures." All of this is admirable, but the bottom line is that he went on to make five more Star Wars movies.
After producing American Graffiti, which Lucas targeted to a sixteen year old audience, he made Star Wars, which he saw as "pure fun" and targeted a fourteen year old audience. He sought to produce a film of pure fantasy that audiences would enjoy at a relatively superficial level.
I believe that this article was used to generate publicity for Star Wars. The article gives a concise summary of the film and its characters. It provides a preview of the film with the intention of peaking the reader's interest and leading him to the theater. An inside look at the movie making process is another aspect of this article. It also provides insight into the mind of a developing filmmaker. In the aftermath of American Graffiti's success, people wanted understand the director and his thought process. They wanted to get closer to the source. This article accomplishes that for its readership and provides the insight that will bring people in to see the next George Lucas movie - Star Wars.
This article was published in the New York Times in 1977, the year that Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released. It is interesting to read and undertand this article in light of its timing which coincides with the film's release. As the article states, "the movie was released yesterday" and Vincent Canby, the author of the article, refers to Star Wars as the "most elaborate, most expensive, and most beautiful movie serial ever made." However, even given the magnitude of the film, Canby warns not to expect anything too significant. "It is fun and funny." The article paints a vivid picture of Star Wars, generating a fabulously positive review of the film and revealing what critics thought at the time of the film's release. As a critic, Canby depicts aspects of the film in a trite and somewhat mocking tone. He reviews all of the characters and major plot lines finding each one funny and amusing in its own way. Canby recognizes that George Lucas has recognized a particular achievement in the manner in which he is "able to recall the tackiness of the old comic strips and serials he loves without making a movie, that is, itself, tacky." However, directly following this complement, he closes his review by stating "Star Wars is good enough to convince the most skeptical eight year old sci-fi buff, who is the toughest critic."
This article reveals that although Star Wars is one of the most financially successful films of all time and has a significant fan base, there are still those who mock the film. One can never make everyone happy and this article exemplifies that fact. It is satisfying to know that Vincent Canby's criticisms did not derail George Lucas from going on to make five other immensely successful films in the Star Wars series. While Canby probably felt the same way about each of Lucas' successive films, his views did not dissuade millions of other people from seeing and supporting the Star Wars adventures.
There is a feeling in the industry that the technology of the future is 3-D cinema. George Lucas, head of Lucas Film and one of the most successful and revolutionary filmmakers of all time, seems a bit more hesitant. At a time when theater attendance is slipping, three dimensional projection could be a creative new way to attract an audience, particularly a youthful one. 3-D films were very popular for a short time in the 1950s. However, since then there has not been any significant attempt at rejuvenating the technology. Only recently has there been talk of a future for three dimensional cinema.
On April 3, 2005, Variety reported that George Lucas had revealed at ShoWest that he was "eager to release all six films in the ‘Star Wars' saga in digital 3-D. His plan would be to release one film a year starting in 2007." But "Trekkies" are going to have to wait a little while before they can see their movies in a third dimension. Rick McCallum, producer of Star Wars (special edition), said that the films will not be converted to 3-D until the industry "gets its act together." However, The CEO of In-Three Inc. stated that it would probably be a short time before all films can be and will be converted to 3-D. In the future, In-Three Inc. will be able to provide the technology to convert films produced in status quo format to 3-D for five million dollars.
At the time the Variety article was published in April, 2005, there were no definite plans to release any of the Star Wars films in 3-D. However, there is a distinct possibility that this may change in the very near future. Star Wars is one of the most successful, highest grossing film franchises of all time. As one of the industry's most savvy, technologically advanced filmmakers it would seem reasonable to believe that George Lucas could very well be one of the first to take advantage of the newest technology. If Lucas does make the move towards 3-D, he might be the innovator who influences other producers to do the same. The Variety article provides new information on a topic relevant to the direction in which the future film industry is moving.