Trouble at Lucasfilm (and more)

My apologies for the nearly two week-long absence, I’ve been quite busy lately getting a new semester of classes underway. I have a lot of cool reviews and other posts in mind for the near future, but for now, I thought I’d do a bit of an informal news recap and post my reactions to some of last week’s most interesting movie and TV-related headlines.

We start at Skywalker Ranch and Lucasfilm Ltd. headed of course by Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator George Lucas. Last week, Lucas started doing press rounds for Red Tails, a film he produced about the all-black Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Lucas describes the film as “very patriotic, very jingoistic, very old-fashioned, corny.”

First off, I think making an homage to classic, patriotic dogfighting films of yesteryear is a great idea, especially while paying tribute to lesser-known heroes of the war. Lucas also talks about how important it is for being an “all-black movie.” Completely agreed, just look at this article…Hollywood could use a change in that glaringly discriminatory attitude.

That said, the movie itself looks like total shit. Lucas claims the reason why the film didn’t see release was because of Hollywood bias, but I have a hard time believing it wasn’t primarily because the movie itself looks absolutely terrible. The film’s trailers illustrate some terrible dialogue, awful CGI, and an overdose of cheese. It’s no wonder this thing came from Lucas’ camp.

The real kicker comes from Lucas’ claims that he wants the film to give young black teenagers role models. Yes, who better to tell young black people who to look up to than a jaded old white man.

And it doesn’t stop there. The usual stigma of dead-on-arrival January films led Lucas to declare that Red Tails is as close to Star Wars Episode VII as we’ll ever get. Yep…George Lucas is so desperate to get people to see this movie that he has to draw comparisons with Star Wars. Wow.

Our next bit also comes from Lucasfilm, where producer and Lucas ass-kisser Rick McCallum discussed the now seven year-gestating live-action Star Wars series, tentatively titled Star Wars: Underworld.

McCallum talks at length about how the company has 50 scripts ready and waiting for production to begin, but budgetary concerns will keep the series from getting greenlit. It seems until they can make the show for around $5 million an episode, as well as find a cooperative distributor who will let them keep their hold on the rights and still make a profit from the show’s earnings, the show will not be made.

Which, I get that. It makes good business sense to wait for an opportunity and a way to retain the rights to your material all while making money and investing the lowest possible amount. But really, this is Lucasfilm we’re talking about. George Lucas is still one of the highest-earning filmmakers in Hollywood, there is no way cost can be such a prohibitive issue. It’s a classic example of Lucas’ team nickel-and-diming everything. Hell, when he announced the new Star Wars Blu-Rays, Lucas gave the flimsy excuse that the reason the theatrical version of the Original Trilogy were not included was due to expense.

I also understand the need to keep the rights to the brand to prevent studios from getting their hands on it, with likely disastrous results (see the Star Wars Holiday Special). But really, how many venues out there wouldn’t jump at the chance to cut a deal with Lucasfilm on a new Star Wars property? There are seriously cable networks, premium channels, or online services who would give up potentially huge sums of money from distribution profits and not let Lucas have his precious rights? Look, I’m not claiming to fully understand the financial side of things in the moviemaking business, but it seems to me like this is just Lucas being a cheapskate.

On a side note, I never knew the Star Wars prequels only cost $100 mil each to make. That would explain why the CGI was so terrible.

Finally, moving away from movies, we turn to the world of television and the announcement that a pilot for a live-action Green Arrow TV series is being written for the CW, the network known for the bafflingly popular Superman-perversion Smallville.

Apparently Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, who were involved in last summer’s sickeningly disappointing Green Lantern, are writing and producing. While that may be a red flag to some, I’ve read that their first draft of the Green Lantern script (widely available online and which I have yet to read, but will get to eventually) was actually pretty good before Warner Bros fucked it all up. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how Green Arrow fares.

As some may know, Green Arrow is a character very near and dear to my heart, and I believe a TV series has huge potential to capitalize on the anti-corporation zeitgeist. In the comics, one of the many changes Oliver Queen undergoes is the loss of his company and fortune, leading him to go from a thrill-seeking vigilante/playboy billionaire to a full-on social activist and champion of the oppressed. Talk about perfect timing.

Deadline mentions that the series will see Oliver Queen “in a new world with an original story that is not based on the comics.” My guess is that would mean none of the baggage the character has accumulated in the comics over the years (fathering a new Green Arrow, relationship issues with Dinah Lance/Black Canary, his ward Roy becoming a heroin addict and later turning evil, etc.) will be featured. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to introduce characters like Roy and Dinah down the line to keep things fresh. And certainly including villains from the character’s rogues gallery like Merlyn, Count Vertigo, and hopefully other DC Universe villains, would be welcome additions.

Despite my excitement however, I would not be at all surprised if this project met the same fate as the infamous David E. Kelley Wonder Woman pilot. In a future article, I’ll talk about WB’s many failures in producing adaptations of its characters, and Green Arrow could very well be another sad casualty. Not to mention, quite a few recent incarnations of the character (Smallville, DC Comics’ New 52) have stripped Green Arrow of his trademark identity, turning him into what is essentially a Batman/Iron Man clone and all but eliminating his distinct, outspoken personality. In the New 52 especially, it’s a misguided attempt to introduce new readers to the character, and I will certainly not support this project if a similar approach is taken.

That about sums it up, thanks for reading and feel free to post your own reactions in the comments.

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