There's a very interesting article at the New York Times today about George Lucas. Read it and then come back. His newly-produced film, RED TAILS, about the Tuskeegee Airmen, opens this Friday across the country, and it's a project that's been close to his heart for many years now. I haven't seen RED TAILS yet, and I haven't heard much about it one way or the other with other critics, but I think it's a terrific story in its own right and worth a big screen adaptation, especially with today's modern technology. I don't see anything wrong with injecting a subject like that with a little popcorn entertainment; some people would never see it otherwise, and it's an important part of our history. Plus, the dogfights really do look killer.
But what's more interesting is that Lucas has announced that he's done with filmmaking - at least blockbuster filmmaking - from this point on. Now, this isn't new; we heard this from him as far back as 1983 after RETURN OF THE JEDI. But I'm thinking he's serious this time, at least in his mind; word has it he was genuinely hurt with fan reaction from the prequels, - “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” - and apparently he had a difficult time shopping RED TAILS around to the studios and was only able to get it made by footing much of the bill himself. So he's probably a little bit jaded about the entire process at this point. There's still various pans on the fire, of course - the STAR WARS TV show; a possible fifth entry into the Indiana Jones franchise - but for the most part, from the mouth of the man himself, “I’m retiring. I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.”
RED TAILS will be his last hurrah in big-budget filmmaking, at least filmmaking on that kind of scale. After this, the kinds of films he wants to make will be supposedly experimental works, along the lines of THX-1138. But I have a feeling that's not exactly true. I think George Lucas will be back in some form. I don't think he can stay away from trying to make something massively entertaining again, along the lines of STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. After all, even Akira Kurosawa balanced his serious films with entertainments, at least in that middle stretch of his career that we all know and love. Frankly, I think we'll have George Lucas to kick around for a while longer.