Stalwart web journalist Edward Douglas of Coming Soon had a chance to sit down with George Lucas at ShoWest yesterday after the Warner Bros presentation, where clips from the new Star Wars animated movie/TV show premiered. Ed asked Lucas about work on Red Tails, the Tuskegee Airmen film he’s producing from a script by union-busting scumbag John Ridley. He blah blahed about that film, which you can read here, but what caught my eye was this:

That’s probably going to be the last movie I do, apart from my own movies, but my own movies are going to be more esoteric and probably will come and go in a week and be in one or two arthouses. It’s basically the same as what Francis (Ford Coppola) is doing.

Holy fucking time warp. How many years has Lucas been spouting this same line? Why does he keep trotting this ‘plan’ out in interviews without seeming to ever actually follow up on it? We all heard that he was going to be doing this when he finished inflicting the Star Wars prequels on us, but then he went and started work on more Star Wars nonsense.

George Lucas is the single guy in Hollywood – maybe even moreso than Steven Spielberg – who can say that he wants to make arthouse films and turn around and do it. Unlike Steve, he’s spent his whole career keeping himself away from Hollywood, and he’s created his own system where he could crank out his versions of Youth Without Youth at his leisure. It’s funny that he namedrops old mentor Francis Ford Coppola – after a decade in the wilderness that included lawsuits, the death of a child, the destruction of a dream project and massive  money problems, Coppola has returned to make decidedly non-mainstream movies. What’s been holding Lucas back all this time?

Let’s be fair: nobody wants to see an arthouse film from George Lucas. I don’t even think he wants to make one. He’s interested in technology, and I think that maybe he’s ashamed of this; he comes from that USC crowd that wanted to change movies in ways that didn’t mean ‘Turn them into commercial for merchandising lines.’ But the truth is that Lucas has never been a great filmmaker, or even really poised to be one, and maybe he should just accept what his legacy will be. He’s a wizard, not a storyteller, and he wows audiences with pretty lights and tricks that have no emotional resonance or meaning. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess.

I have to admit to finding the whole thing a little bit sad. I feel like George isn’t happy with where his career has gone, and that he maybe doesn’t really understand why it is what it is. He still looks to Francis Ford Coppola in the same way that he did in his 20s. And the truth is that in a hundred years Francis Ford Coppola will be someone people talk about as an artist, while George Lucas will be the late 20th century version of Thomas Edison or Lumiere – technical visionaries whose films are not seen as much of anything. In a hundred years The Godfather films will still be relevant and meaningful in the same way the great novels of a hundred years ago are relevant and meaningful today. But who gives a shit about the pulp wackiness of a hundred years ago? The works are not remembered but rather it’s their ripple effect of influence. In one hundred years nobody will be watching Star Wars but the mass appeal movies (or whatever the art form is then) will be influenced by it in ways that it maybe doesn’t even realize. And that’s not the legacy Lucas wants.