Author George R. R. Martin famously stated that the true battle between good and evil is not fought between men cloaked in white against hordes of twisted, dark creatures – the true conflict lies in the human heart. There is good and evil in everyone, although fiction would often have us believe otherwise. I definitely take this sentiment to heart, especially in my chosen genre fantasy which all too often falls prey to this age old cliché.
But I think all too often people misinterpret what this means and I am by no means saying a story with good vs evil is a bad one. A story with shades of grey adds complexity, depth and an increased sense that these people are real, given their three dimensional characterization. On the other hand having wholly good and evil characters adds a sense of tension, raising the stakes and making you root for the good guys – after all if everyone is just shades of grey, who the hell are you supposed to root for anyway?
For the record I’m with House Greyjoy, pirates and all.
I mean as much as I love Game of Thrones, the inherent flaw, by which I mean the unavoidable flaw considering how it is written is that there really is no central protagonist, because all the warring factions have POV protagonists, and they’re all fighting each other. In a way they’re all heroes and they’re all villains. Confusing, huh?
With this in mind, that is how both good and evil lie in the hearts of all people I bring forth the theme of this week’s discussion, an age old archetype and one of my personal favourites- the fall of hero to villain, from light to dark. There is something endlessly fascinating about this. Now there were lots of example I could have used, all intriguing in their own rights. Some that came immediately to mind are,
Michael Corleone from the Godfather…
King Arthas from Warcraft 3
Harvey “Two-Face” Dent from Batman…
And of course the greatest of them all, Citizen Kane
But do you know what the most intriguing example I could discover was?
I think some people reading this will be fairly surprised by this. The guy who created Star Wars? Surely not? But when you look at the facts in recent history no man has gone from so iconic, so beloved…to so absolutely, universally panned. George Lucas’s story arc is so poetic, so utterly haunting, he’s practically a real life Citizen Kane (by the way if you don’t know who Citizen Kane is, that’s fine, it’s kind of obscure, but just wiki it, and look smart, it’s widely regarded as the pinnacle of American cinema).
Born in Modesto, California, May 14th 1944, hotshot George Lucas originally wanted to race cars, and spent much of his youth racing and hanging around garages. His love for cinema came later, at a most crucial juncture. You see, Hollywood, just like the publishing industry has gone through several radical changes over the years and when Lucas was coming up, it was at just the right moment when Hollywood studios were all on the hunt for young directors to mix up the formula and re-energize what was largely perceived (and correctly) as an ailing industry.
With the critically acclaimed THX 1138 and American Graffiti under his belt, George Lucas Along with his buddies like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, set about creating the kinds of films that had never been made before, but none more so than Lucas. You see Lucas had long been a fan of Flash Gordon and desperately wanted the chance to make his own version, but being the poor indie director he was, he couldn’t quite afford the rights. So he set about making his own space epic…which was pretty crap to be honest. The original script for Star Wars was a mess and (little known) was actually mostly a complete rip off of the early space opera Dune.
The original sci-fi masterpiece, a must read for all with any interest in sci-fi, though like everything else a little slow by today’s standards.
What followed was an insane struggle of a single man’s vision. I can’t possibly explain it all without going on for pages, so I’ll just get to the point. Before Star Wars, there was no big budget sci-fi, no special effects, no Industrial Light and Magic, no Pixar, zilch. All of these things were created by George Lucas – independently. He had little to no support from any of the big players in the industry…or even his own cast and crew. Everyone thought the movie would fail, thinking it was some weird children’s story with really odd dialogue of “Jedis” “lightsabers” “Darth Vader.” Money was just pouring into this thing, and nothing was happening, it went way over budget and timescale too.
But Lucas held strong. He wrote the script, he directed, he even fired his editor, and did it all himself. He was pushed to the limit, but he just kept going because he had this insane vision and more importantly he was going to do things on his terms. You see, he’d always hated big corporations, which was why he did it all himself, created all these new companies and technologies. He wanted freedom from the system, pushing himself past breaking point. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I don’t need to tell you what a huge success Star Wars was, that’s a matter of public record. What isn’t so widely known is that The Empire Strikes Back, one of the highest rated and highest grossing films of all time is an Independent Film. That’s right, forget the Cannes Festival, Empire was entirely funded by Lucas himself off his profits made from Star Wars. Why would he do this? Why would he risk it all? Because he wanted freedom from the system and corporations and big business and he wanted to do things his way. And once more the rest is history.
It’s been over thirty years since a young George Lucas defied the odds came out an impossible winner. He’s still, to my mind, a living legend. And yet if you say his name today all people can think of is Jar Jar Binks, that god awful Clone Wars film and the endless merchandise that has turned this,
A little off topic but how awesome do pictures look in black and white?!
What turns a young independent, maverick director who hated corporations into well, to put it bluntly, everything he once hated? And with the sale to Disney in excess of $4 billion and even more Star Wars films, one has to ask, just what happened?
George Lucas freely admits he has become what he once despised. Does that make him a bad person? A sell-out? Should he be vilified? I leave my own judgement outside the door and yours to ponder on,
If nothing else the tale of George Lucas a long time ago, in a place far far way gives hope to any new storyteller – the industries don’t always have it right and if they had things their way Star Wars would never have even been released. And wouldn’t we all be poorer for it?
P.s – I swear to the great Dragon God, that I will talk about my own story in the next post!!