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Star Wars VI

From the May 23, 2005 issue: Naboo, Dooku, and a mission to the Wookiees.

May 23, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 34 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
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Back in 1977, we were told in the original Star Wars that Darth Vader "was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force"--that Vader had become a villain because he had been consumed by a lust for power, so that he could boss people around, blow up planets, and, generally speaking, control the universe. Like all great villains, the Darth Vader we saw in the first Star Wars actually loved being a bad guy. He enjoyed being able to choke annoying underlings by pinching his thumb and forefinger together. He relished his swordfight with his old mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. He didn't even mind slicing his own son's hand off (in the second film) just to prove a point.

But the Darth Vader we see at the end of Revenge of the Sith hasn't been seduced. He's been tricked. He's not a villain. He's a schmuck.

And what of George Lucas? He is, by leagues, the most commercially successful moviemaker in history. Forget the billion-plus dollars he has earned from the Star Wars movies. Industrial Light & Magic, the special-effects firm he began with his Star Wars profits, grosses $1 billion per year.

But what happened to the director who made the thrilling mood piece American Graffiti, that deceptively casual account of a bunch of teenagers in a California town in 1962 hanging out on the last summer night before the school year begins? What happened to the guy who revolutionized science fiction by making an outer-space adventure that managed to be cheerful, exciting, and lighthearted?

The tragedy of George Lucas is that he made billions of dollars, and all it did was turn him into a drag.

John Podhoretz is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.