George Lucas greets crowds at a premiere of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in Berlin, Germany.
Lucas on the set of his 1970 feature film debut, THX 1138.
A full generation has passed since George Lucas launched a series that rocked the popular culture, and almost became a religion for some of its fans. But who is Lucas today? Has the reclusive filmmaker been changed by success, or is he just the person he was always destined to become?
Lucas got his start with two low-budget but critically lauded films -- the dystopian cautionary tale THX 1138 and the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age flick American Graffiti. But after the fairy-tale success of the first Star Wars film (re-titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when Lucas decided to film the "prequels"), critics say something changed in Lucas. He stopped chasing his artistic vision, instead handing off the director's job to the second and third installments of the original trilogy and focusing on the technical and monetary side of the movie business.
Those critics, and even some rabid Star Wars fans, say that focus was painfully evident when Lucas decided, 20 years after the first Star Wars film, to take the director's helm for the three "prequel" episodes. The first two of that trilogy, Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Episode II: Attack of the Clones, were almost universally panned for their leaden acting and ponderous plot lines -- and, of course, for Jar-Jar Binks.
Still, the faithful will return to watch Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith -- and the early, positive reviews are a welcome sign that the Star Wars magic may have been resurrected.