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The Beauty Of Speed

“Faster, more intense”

 

George Lucas was born May 14th 1944 in Modesto California (pop 16,379 – 1940 census), a small city by American standards.  Modesto was built on agricultural industries, and the biggest employer even today is a vineyard.  In modern America, Modesto is still a long way from anywhere.

Sound familiar?

When Luke says to Threepio, “…if there’s a bright centre to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from” it’s clear George is channelling himself through Luke’s displeasure.  The characters of Luke and Han each inherit traits from George’s adolescence, they are heroic fantasy versions of himself.  Luke dreams of leaving the farm for adventure, and fills in his free time by racing his friends in his T-16 Skyhopper, or joyriding in his Landspeeder to Anchorhead and beyond.

While Luke is the innocent farm boy, Han Solo is the version of himself that George aspired to be – worldly, cool,  above small town life.  Chewbacca is modelled on George’s dog that used to ride shotgun when he cruised the streets of Modesto.  These reflections of George’s passion for car racing that nearly ended his life in a car crash, bear the recurring motif of speed, as used throughout his early movies.  The Falcon as Han says, is a fast ship.

yellow race car from 1:42:08

 

Growing up, George struggled against the authority figure of his father, resisting joining the family business to study film making.  Luke and Anakin also struggled against their respective authority figures, and Luke literally resists joining his father in an evil space family business, to his great cost.  The events that formed George Lucas, also formed Star Wars.  The artist and the artwork created and influenced each other which can be seen as you follow recurring themes in Lucas’s films.

The first three movies George made lead to him being recognised as a talented film-maker, 1:42:08, American Graffiti, and THX-1138 all feature racing cars, and high speed or racing sequences.  Two of those sequences end in a crash.  Two feature a canary yellow vehicle.

Anakin flies a yellow XJ-6 speeder

Canary yellow vehicles also feature heavily in the Prequels, most of them travelling as fast as possible.  The Naboo Starfighter, Episode One’s Podracer, and Anakins XJ-6 Speeder from Attack Of The Clones (looking very similar to the car from 1:42:08).  The original trilogy also features an abundance of speeder’s…Landspeeders, Snowspeeders, Speederbikes.  I think you get my point by now, Lucas is fond of speed.  So fond of speed, he created Hyperspace so that his Fairy-tale spacemen could travel about at an impossible velocity.

Going to destroy the Death Star? “We’re going in,  we’re going in full throttle!”  Going to destroy the second Death Star?  The Rebel fleet is travelling into a trap at the speed of light.  Now that is podracing.

Ralph McQuarrie Speederbike chase

We know these movies inside out, we love these Lucas films to varying degrees.  Why then, are people rejecting the Disney Wars movies in such large numbers?  So many angry internet people that it make’s the hatred poured on George Lucas over the last twenty years look like mild disappointment.  The Last Jedi is still months away and people are already declaring it will be terrible.  Many people say the new movies are mere imitation only.  We feel the absence of the creator from the creation.

We grew up looking through Lucas’s eyes, over the handlebars at the blurred Endor landscape passing by at 200mph.  The Disney Star Wars movies are made in the George Lucas style.  They have all the blinking lights and Genocidal super weapons, but are not made by Lucas anymore.  They don’t have Lucas running through their blood.  Speed is shown briefly here and there but you are viewing it, not participating in it.  A New Hope trench run, vs The Force Awakens Starkiller trench for example.

It’s about more than the use of speed as a motif though.  Compare watching race cars go around the track, and watching the drivers view.  One experience is faster, and more intense.  More authentic.  The sooner Disney finds someone that can not just show us the race, but make us feel like we are in the race, the sooner the resistance will die down.  The person who can replicate not just the world, but also the feeling of the world as expressed by George Lucas.  Then Disney will truly be in control of the Star Wars saga.

 

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