|Any attempt to argue
the artistic importance of George Lucas was bound to fall on a lot of critically
deaf ears, so Charles Champlin was probably wise to produce instead a high
quality coffee table book for the converted.
George Lucas: The Creative Impulse uses impressive pictures and a liberal sprinkling of text to mark the 20th anniversary of the formation of Lucasfilm. It follows Lucas from his days as an innovative film student and protege of Francis Ford Coppola, through the huge success of American Graffiti and Star Wars, to his directorial retirement to become one of America's most powerful film producers.
Dale Pollock's excellent 1983 biography Skywalking contained a lot of material that isn't mentioned here. For example, Champlin doesn't deal with Lucas' hatred of writing and fear of directing, or the production problems which blighted Star Wars (including the rows with the British camera crew which resulted in Lucas carrying his own lights around). But where Champlin's book scores is in its use of sumptuously reproduced colour and black and white stills to remind us just how many enduring icons Lucas' relatively few films have given to the culture. From John Milner's yellow deuce coup in American Graffiti to Han Solo's Millenium Falcon, he has created some of the most memorable hardware in movie history, and filmed it lovingly.
Apart from acknowledging Howard The Duck as a fully- fledged disaster, this book celebrates all of Lucas' output adoringly. It never quite asks whether the filmmaker has fulfilled his early potential, but it does remind us, usefully, that Lucas has been important in backing some off-beat and experimental films, and in allowing work by Kurosawa (and even Coppola) to reach the public.
Many will still wonder whether Lucas will ever produce anything as impressive as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films again, or whether his desire to make more unusual, independent movies will ever come to anything. But the book does show how Lucas is still ploughing millions into creating the kind of well-resourced, out-of-Hollywood production facility he and Coppola once dreamed of creating. Hopefully, the best could be yet to come.