Some of the most anticipated movies of all time have been created in the mind of George Lucas. It is nearly impossible to find a person who has not at least heard of the Star Wars films, let alone viewed the films. In the late 1970’s Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader quickly grew to household names. Then, some twenty-five years later, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were the new characters of choice. Many people have strong opinions on the two trilogies Lucas created. On one end of the spectrum, die hard fans of the series criticize the new films passionately, while even people who are not necessarily huge fans of the series have strong opinions on the differing trilogies.
On May 25, 1977, the first Star Wars was released. Soon to be known as Star Wars: A New Hope, this film set the bar for blockbusters. It also, with the help of Jaws, created the summer movie genre. George Lucas made science fiction cool. He also innovated special effects for movies, eventually created Industrial Lighting & Magic, also known as ILM, which works on most big budget blockbusters yet today.
In the first movie, Lucas used miniature spacecrafts for many of the space battle scenes. Nowadays, miniatures are hardly ever utilized in movie special effects, they are replaced with entire scenes being created digitally on computers. There is no need to build small scale models of environments, when they can be created in the digital world. When film makers decided to use miniatures, much responsibility is required. Miniatures require maintenance, constant care. Also, if you decide to blow up a model plane, you can only do it once, and it must be accomplished in one take, unless you plan on spending more money manufacturing more miniatures. On the other hand, if you decided to take the digital route, each frame is created individually to the director’s liking, that way the entire action sequence can be previously planned, and then executed exactly as previously decided.
Lucas also loved the epic establishing shots, in which he mostly used miniatures in the first films as well. Even the explosion of the Death Star was created using a much smaller scale Death Star, which then actually exploded in front of the camera. In the later trilogy, Anakin’s story, many of the scenes were filmed in front of blue screens, in a way that Lucas and the scenic designers could paint their own backgrounds and landscapes. George Lucas created the entire world of Star Wars; I believe he utilized the blue screen technology in order to truly express his visions of what he thought the extra-terrestrial planets would look like. It would be financially impossible for him to actually create tangible environments he wanted the audiences to witness. It was only logical for him to digitally build the worlds of the films.
One of the most significant changes that Lucas has made between the two trilogies is the creation process of the non-human characters. Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 were in fact all men merely put into suits (in Lucas’ most recent trilogy, the three actors all reprised their roles as Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2). In today’s films characters such as Jar-Jar Binks were created entirely on a computer. An actor maybe have been in the frame standing in for Jar-Jar Binks while shooting , but that was only for blocking reasons, and also so the other actors had a face to look at while they speak their own lines.
The advent of digital imagery has surely altered Lucas’ process for making films. Many film critics along with superfans of the series think that the new series has grown fake and cartoonish. I, however, think that the new trilogy is a more accurate representation of George Lucas’ visions. He would have used the same technology in the 70’s and 80’s, were it available. He even digitally remastered the original trilogy for its DVD release.
I thoroughly enjoy the epic landscapes he creates in the films. The fact that the backgrounds actually look like a beautiful painting is a good thing. I do not believe they look like cartoons; they may be vibrant and colorful, seeming a bit unrealistic, but the entire world we travel to when we watch the films is unrealistic. The films take place in other worlds and other galaxies, the audience should expect to see things they could never have imagined. George Lucas has created these worlds out of his own imagination, and I firmly believe he wants to express these visions as vividly as possible. The films may be for the fans, but it is up to Lucas, not the fans, to decide how to create the worlds, and what to inhabit them with; may it be people in costumes, or creatures designed entirely on a computer, it is no one person’s choice, but George’s.