Of Myth And Men

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BLAKE LITTLE FOR TIME

KEEPING THE FAITH: Lucas and Moyers, at Skywalker Ranch, weigh the power of old stories in a new form

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LUCAS: Oh, yes. There is, definitely. You write from your own emotions. And obviously there are two sides to the redeemer motif in the Star Wars films. Ultimately Vader is redeemed by his children and especially by having children. Because that's what life is all about--procreating and raising children, and it should bring out the best of you.

MOYERS: So while Star Wars is about cosmic, galactic epic struggles, it's at heart about a family?

LUCAS: And a hero. Most myths center on a hero, and it's about how you conduct yourself as you go through the hero's journey, which in all classical myth takes the form of a voyage of transformation by trials and revelations. You must let go of your past and must embrace your future and figure out what path you're going to go down.

MOYERS: Is it fair to say, in effect, that Star Wars is your own spiritual quest?

LUCAS: I'd say part of what I do when I write is ponder a lot of these issues. I have ever since I can remember. And obviously some of the conclusions I've come to I use in the films.

MOYERS: The psychologist Jonathan Young says that whether we say, "I'm trusting my inner voice," or use more traditional language--"I'm trusting the Holy Spirit," as we do in the Christian tradition--somehow we're acknowledging that we're not alone in the universe. Is this what Ben Kenobi urges upon Luke Skywalker when he says, "Trust your feelings"?

LUCAS: Ultimately the Force is the larger mystery of the universe. And to trust your feelings is your way into that.

MOYERS: One scholar has called Star Wars "mysticism for the masses." You've been accused of trivializing religion, promoting religion with no strings attached.

LUCAS: That's why I would hesitate to call the Force God. It's designed primarily to make young people think about the mystery. Not to say, "Here's the answer." It's to say, "Think about this for a second. Is there a God? What does God look like? What does God sound like? What does God feel like? How do we relate to God?" Just getting young people to think at that level is what I've been trying to do in the films. What eventual manifestation that takes place in terms of how they describe their God, what form their faith takes, is not the point of the movie.

MOYERS: And stories are the way to ask these questions?

LUCAS: When the film came out, almost every single religion took Star Wars and used it as an example of their religion; they were able to relate it to stories in the Bible, in the Koran and in the Torah.

MOYERS: Some critics scoff at this whole notion of a deeper layer of meaning to what they call strictly kid stuff. I come down on the side that kid stuff is the stuff dreams are made of.

LUCAS: Yes. It's much harder to write for kids than it is to write for adults. On one level, they will accept--they don't have constraints, and they're not locked into a particular dogma. On the other side, if something doesn't make sense to them, they're much more critical of it.

MOYERS: So when you write, do you see your audience, and is that audience a 13-year-old boy?

LUCAS: I make these films for myself more than I make them for anybody else. I'm lucky that the things that I believe in and the things that I enjoy and the things that entertain me entertain a large population. Sometimes they don't. I've made a bunch of movies that nobody has liked. So that doesn't always hold true. But I don't really make my films for an audience per se. I'm hoping that a 12-year-old boy or girl will enjoy it. But I'm not dumbing it down. I think I'm making it with enough credibility so that anybody can watch it.

MOYERS: It's certainly true that Star Wars was seen by a lot of adults, yours truly included. Even if I hadn't wanted to pay attention, I realized that I had to take it seriously because my kids were taking it seriously. And now my grandkids take it seriously.

LUCAS: Well, it's because I try to make it believable in its own fantastic way. And I am dealing with core issues that were valid 3,000 years ago and are still valid today, even though they're not in fashion.

MOYERS: Why are they out of fashion?

LUCAS: Because the world we live in is more complex. I think that a lot of those moralities have been degraded to the point that they don't exist anymore. But the emotional and psychological part of those issues are still there in most people's minds.

MOYERS: What do you mean by the "emotional" side? LUCAS: The importance of, say, friendship and loyalty. Most people look at that and say, "How corny." But the issues of friendship and loyalty are very, very important to the way we live, and somebody has got to tell young people that these are very important values. Young people are still learning. They're still picking up ideas. They are still using these ideas to shape the way they're going to conduct their lives.

MOYERS: How do you explain the power of film to move us?

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