Note to John Seavey
I did, in fact, see your blog entry called John Scalzi and the Myth of Inerrancy, which was a rebuttal on my column on The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment. I tried to leave a long comment about it on your own site, but inasmuch as the Blogger comment tool appears buggier than an ant farm, it doesn’t appear that it took, and I don’t want to keep trying to work with it, only to end up looking like a deranged, incompetent spammer when/if multiple instances of the same comment show up in the comment queue. So I’ll just leave it here and assume you will find it in the fullness of time. It’s below.
Scalzi’s basic assertion, for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to follow the link, is that the reason the prequels weren’t any good… is that Lucas doesn’t actually have any talent as a film-maker
Well, no, that’s completely incorrect. Here’s what I think of Lucas as a filmmaker, which is detailed in the entry immediately following the one you link to:
I’ve long and publicly said that I believe he’s unquestionably the most significant filmmaker of the last 30 years and possibly ever, because of what he’s done for the technical aspects of filmmaking. Special effects, sound production, computer graphics, film editing, post-production, digital filmmaking — basically if there’s a filmmaking process around, there’s a damn fine chance that Lucasfilm or one of its subsidiaries or spinoffs was a pioneer in it or refined the process substantially. We watch film the way we do because of George Lucas, end of story, period. The guy’s a genius, or knows how to hire them, which is almost as good. Indeed, the only two aspects of filmmaking where he falls down on the job are writing and directing, which is ironic (and not only because he has two Oscar nominations for screenwriting, and another two for directing). But, you know what? No one’s good at everything.
Likewise, you both alter without notice and misattribute the subject for the following:
anything good in the movies is either (to quote Scalzi) ‘unintentional, achieved through special effects, or is the work of hired guns, notably Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett’.
The full quote, including what it refers to, is:
Now that the magnum opus of the Star Wars cycle is done, we can see that any entertainment value of the series is either unintentional (Lucas couldn’t suck the pure entertainment value out of his pastiche sources), achieved through special effects, or is the work of hired guns, notably Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett (those two wrote The Empire Strikes Back, the only movie in the series that has a script that evidences much in the way of wit, much less dialogue that ranks above serviceable. Kasdan and Brackett were clearly attempting to entertain as well as serve the mythology, showing it is possible to do both).
The argument is in fact not whether Lucas is a good filmmaker (he is, albeit better at some things than others) or whether he’s responsible for what is good in the Star Wars series. The argument is whether the Star Wars films should be considered as “entertainment,” and whether what is entertaining about the series is the work of Lucas himself or those he’s hired, whose sensibilities, as I have argued, are more attuned toward what is actually entertaining.
Because you appear to have fundamentally misapprehended what is actually being discussed in the essay, you end up making arguments that are aside the point of the essay and/or are points I find entirely unobjectionable.
For example, the point you make about Lucas ultimately being responsible for the final form of Empire is obvious; by that time he had final cut on the series. Kershner, Kasdan and Brackett (among the other filmmakers involved in the film) didn’t somehow sneak Empire past Lucas; rather they did what Lucas wanted and also contributed their own sensibilities as entertainers to the work. The argument is not that Lucas objects to the films being conventionally entertaining, rather that it’s not his goal. If others helping him make the film can manage it, great, as long as his own goals are achieved. If not, oh well.
On a side note, your smack on Empire director Irwin Kershner is a bit uninformed. When Kershner took the Empire gig he was a well-regarded director in Hollywood, both critically (for films like Loving) and commercially (Eyes of Laura Mars). For television he directed Raid on Entebbe, which garnered him an Emmy award nomination for Best Director.
To sum up, it does appear you’re making an argument countering an argument I did not actually make.