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Is This the End of George Lucas’s Reign of Terror?

There was a time when George Lucas’ name meant automatic box office gold.

Even during the release of the Star Wars prequels, rabid fans (me included) lined up ready to eat George’s CGI eye candy. In the Lucas universe, critical opinion seemed to be inversely proportional to box office receipts.

But the Gods of Common Sense are finally looking down on Hollywood, and they are not smiling — at least when they are watching the latest LucasFilm release, The Clone Wars. Audiences aren’t smiling either. The first weekend of Clone Wars netted only $14,611,273, Sure, that’s enough to feed many small countries, but in Hollywood terms, especially in LucasSpeak, that’s a measly opening. Perhaps modern audiences are expecting something more than being force-fed cool visuals?

Consider these weekend totals (also noted: the 1990’s Special Edition re-release numbers of the original trilogy to make these unadjusted dollars more comparable):

Star Wars (1977/1997 re-release) $1,554,475 / $35,906,661
The Empire Strikes Back (1980/1997 releases) $10,840,307 / $21,975,993
Return of the Jedi (1983/1997 re-release) $23,019,618 / $16,293,531
The Phantom Menace (1999) $64,820,970
Attack of the Clones (2002) $80,027,814
Revenge of the Sith (2005) $108,435,841
The Clone Wars (2008) $14,611,273

Even a re-release of the Ewok-infested Return of the Jedi fared better on opening weekend.

Critics aren’t being kind, either. Some choice quotes assembled from MetaCritic, where The Clone Wars rates a sad 35.

“George Lucas is turning into the enemy of fun.” – Entertainment Weekly

“…a mechanical attempt to milk the kids for every last dime.” – Chicago Reader

“Story is entirely insignificant in The Clone Wars.” – Austin Chronicle

“At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings?” – Chicago Tribune

” Unfolds with all the entertainment value of watching somebody else play a video game.” – Washington Post

“The whole thing feels like a continuation of Lucas’ experiments to see how much sh– his dwindling supporters will take before finally saying “enough” and moving on to adult pursuits.” – Film Threat

To borrow from another film – a good one – if you build it, they won’t necessarily come, George.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on Is This the End of George Lucas’s Reign of Terror?

  1. Just a quick note, but numbers adjusted for inflation (to 2007 dollars) would be:

    Star Wars (1977) – 5,317,735

    Empire Strikes Back (1980) – 27,283,166

    Return of the Jedi (1983) – 47,919,733

    Thanks to

    Also note that Star Wars when it first came out was restricted to about 43 theatres, whereas The Clone Wars debuted in over 3400 theatres!

  2. FYI: George Lucas had very little to do with ‘The Clone Wars’ he did not direct it, he did not write it, this is the first time he’s had a very hands-off approach to a Star Wars film, and with the cartoon coming this fall followed by live action show in 2-3 years he’s planning on becoming even more hands-off.

  3. It should also be noted that Star Wars was in the first run theaters for over a year.

  4. I was turned off by the character graphics.

    The Whole:

    I saw Star Wars when it first came out, so I assume that there’s a fan base in their 40s and 50s who would like to see quality material.

    What about us?

  5. I think fans of all ages would like to see quality material. We sure as hell didn’t see it this time around.


  6. Star Trek Rules All // August 20, 2008 at 12:33 pm //

    Bah.  You guys wouldn’t even have Star Wars if it weren’t for STAR TREK!  That continues to make money each and every time.  Star Wars for the last decade is the entertainment equivalent of Dr. Who.  Come to think of it, y wouldn’t have neither if it weren’t for the might, majesty and wisdom of Trek.  HAH! Fact! 

  7. That was awesome. We need more rampant Trekkers (Trekkies?) roaming the internet and shouting. I miss that. Now if we can get the overly obscene Quake gamers to start posting rampantly, the internet would have gone backwards and I can reconnect to Prodigy (the ISP, not the music).


    And anyway, it’s a happy Star Wars year for me. The movies have always done much, much less for me than the Expanded Universe stuff has, and this year, I am really jazzed (as an adult AND as an inner 6-year-old) for “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed”


    Saw a trailer for it and just giggled happily. It may suck, but for now, I have hopes and dreams.

    (A final aside…er…Trekker fan, buddy, pal, Doctor Who’s doing pretty darn well these days. And, er, Star Trek is OFF THE AIR. And believe me, I adore me some Trek, but that was a silly and fun argument…)

  8. I sure hope any gamer interested in Star Wars has played Knights of the Old Republic.  All this talk has made me want to play it again, it’s so good at portraying a Star Wars universe in a very interesting game.

  9. Every woman, every man join the... // September 6, 2008 at 8:48 am //

    Where is Caravan of courage on the box office takings list?Or did I just hallucinate the existence of that movie?

  10. Well, as much as i would love to say that the clone wars was completely pointless, and the animation was dumb, and the movie is totally a fun sucker, it was a nice little tidbit for my little nerdly infatuation with star wars. and i can forgive LucasArts. hell, they made my life so much better already.

  11. Hey, “Star Trek Rules All,” you say it is a “fact” that there would be no Doctor Who without the wisdom and the might and majesty of Star Trek? That’s cool. Here’s another little “fact.” Doctor Who started in 1963. Star Trek started in 1966. I don’t think Star Trek influenced Doctor Who, say, AT ALL, when it came first. So get off your elist high horse, recognize that different programs do different things differently (I like DW, ST and SW) and please, calm down.

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