The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'Indy 5'? Say it ain't so, George

August 6, 2008 | 12:48 pm

Lucas_3 With "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" hitting the theaters next week, George Lucas has been out on the interview circuit, beating the drums for the latest installment in the franchise, this one an animated film featuring the derring-do of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Every time I read a new interview with Lucas, my heart sinks. Once a bold, experimental filmmaker overflowing with great ideas, he's been transformed into your wheezy great uncle, boring you with the same dreary old yarns about his youthful exploits.

The "Star Wars" series ran out of gas years ago. This summer's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (though it made tons of dough) should have stayed in the garage. Sandwiched between sleek, imaginative, jet-propelled summer fare like "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight," it felt like a jalopy rumbling along behind a pair of sleek Porsches. In a long interview with the London Times, Lucas suggested--perhaps threatened would be a better word--that he isn't through with "Indiana Jones" at all. As Lucas put it:

"If I can come up with another idea that [Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford] like, we’ll do another. Really, with the last one, Steven wasn’t that enthusiastic. I was trying to persuade him. But now Steve is more amenable to doing another one. Yet we still have the issues about the direction we’d like to take. I’m in the future; Steven’s in the past. He’s trying to drag it back to the way they were, I’m trying to push it to a whole different place. So, still we have a sort of tension. This recent one came out of that. It’s kind of a hybrid of our own two ideas, so we’ll see where we are able to take the next one."

All I can say is--Yikes! For years, Lucas has been giving interviews, saying how he's eager to return to smaller, more personal filmmaking. He does the same in the Times interview, saying he wants to direct some "esoteric films that have a personal significance." But it's time to put up or shut up. As the slogan goes: Just do it. George's old pal Francis Coppola finally dragged himself away from his vineyards and made a personal film, "Youth Without Youth." It wasn't so hot, but at least Coppola shook off the cobwebs and put his unique cinematic skills to work. He's already headed down to South America to shoot another film.

These days Lucas sounds like a museum curator, fussing with dusty memorabilia. It's time he challenged himself. In the interview, he called personal filmmaking an "expensive hobby." I disagree. It's a craft and a rare, wonderful skill. Lucas has always been as much of an inventor as a filmmaker. If he has any inspiration left, he shouldn't waste it on exploiting something old when he could put it to use dreaming up something new. 

Photo of George Lucas from Lucasfilm Ltd.