The Mother Brain Files: The Top 5 George Lucas Properties That Should Be Revisited
By Mother Brain
In 2012, George Lucas initiated his own retirement plan when he sold Lucasfilm and all other Lucas properties to the Walt Disney Company. The deal guaranteed greater box office potential to the house of the mouse while insuring the legacy of Lucas’ work for long after he’s gone from the world. While we all await the continuation of the Star Wars saga as well as the possibility of a 5th Indiana Jones installment, let’s take a look at some lesser known Lucas-related properties worth digging up:
Long before Lord of the Rings hit the screens, this ambitious sword and sorcery epic from 1988 was produced in hopes of becoming Lucasfilm’s third successful franchise. Lucas enlisted the help of Ron Howard to put his magic touch at the director’s chair as Steven Spielberg had done with Indiana Jones. Its star dwarf, Warwick Davis, was a unique choice for a leading man as he previously played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi. It also helped to cement Val Kilmer as a leading man. I had only seen the movie once as a child when it was released in theaters and remember collecting some of the toys and board games that tied in with it. Though Willow was a modest hit, it did not generate the blockbuster numbers that Lucasfilm had hoped; however, the cult following that resulted when it hit VHS caused Lucas to take his outline for potential sequels to former X-Men writer Chris Claremont to adapt them in novel form. Even Davis spoofed his own attempt at a Willow sequel on his mockumentary series, Life’s Too Short.
Labyrinth 2 aka Return to Labyrinth
Another cult classic of the 80s that mesh two amazing minds: The fantastical imagination of Lucas and the creative genius of puppetry himself, Jim Henson. As Henson’s second non-Muppet movie after 1982’s The Dark Crystal, 1986‘s Labyrinth was a dark musical fairy tale featuring Jennifer Connelly in her breakthrough role as a teenager who is transported into an otherworldly maze to rescue her brother from the Goblin King played by David Bowie in a chilling performance. Though not a hit, Labyrinth was praised for Henson’s visual effects work, creating some of the most impressive three-dimensional creatures and sets ever witnessed on screen before the advancement of CGI. Lucasfilm has not expressed interest in producing sequels or a reboot to Labyrinth due to Henson’s passing in 1990; however, there are comic book adaptations out there that advance the story. Perhaps with Disney’s deal with the Jim Henson Company on the latest Muppet movies, there can be hope of revisiting this world.
We now look at the LucasArts properties that proved to be very popular back in the day. The point-and-click adventure game was about a small town teenager and his friends attempting to rescue the teen’s girlfriend from a mad scientist and his family controlled by meteor. Though it was not a Lucas idea, the game makers had previously adapted Labyrinth as a PC game and were influenced by their love for B level horror movies. When Mansion was translated to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, its profanity-ridden text and nude graphics were heavily censored and still managed to be a big hit with NES as well as PC gamers. It was so successful that along with a sequel, Day of the Tentacle, a television series starring SCTV’s Joe Flaherty was spun off and produced for The Family Channel. I remember watching the show and being disappointed with how different it was to the game not realizing until years later that the show was actually a prequel to the game. Maybe it’s time Lucasfilm sets that right.
The Secret of Monkey Island
Another highly successful LucasArts game in the same point-and-click style of Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island was essentially Star Wars at sea. The gamers follow its protagonist, Guybrush Threepwood, who trains to become a pirate and goes on a quest to the mysterious island while encountering voodoo witch doctors, cannibals, and ghosts. The game spawned four sequels as well as a remake in 2009 and I had played the Sega CD port in the early 90s. With the massive success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series on the big screen, it might be a conflict of interest for Disney to have two very similar pirate movie franchises in their well. Perhaps they’re a little TOO similar.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
Rather than indulge in recasting a 70 year old Harrison Ford on the big screen, why not revisit a genius idea for a show that was gone too soon? From 1992 to 1993, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was a perfect way to give the world’s favorite archeologist a full backstory before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Inspired by the Young Indy intro featuring River Phoenix in The Last Crusade as well as Lucas’ outline of Indy’s full life, the show featured Indy at different stages from a young boy at the turn of the century to a teenager in the 1920s, and even an old man in the 1990s! Not only did Chronicles help to set up characters featured or referenced in the films but it also had Harrison Ford reprise the role in a special TV movie called The Mystery of the Blues. Lucas hired close friends such as Carrie Fisher, stuntman Vic Armstrong, and Joe Johnston to direct episodes and he also used the show as a platform to shepherd new talents including Mike Newell and Frank Darabont. The enormous budget for the episodes cut Chronicle’s run short in 1993. The reruns have been played on the History Channel following the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull alongside historical documentaries produced by Lucas that coincided with the episode themes. Lucas had always envisioned the show as a strong vehicle for history education. There’s no question that the missing unproduced episodes could be revisited and revived for today’s generation.