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Steven Spielberg Vs. George Lucas
Spielberg vs. Lucas: Two Directing Juggernauts Get It On
By Joe Oesterle
December 03, 2009
Spielberg and Lucas. The names alone conjure up so many memorable images, moments and characters; it’s impossible not to smile (or wince in some cases) at the mere mention of these two great Hollywood heavyweights.
The pair teamed up a number of times over their illustrious careers; but which one of these two top-tier titans earns the right to be called, “The Greatest of All Time?” The question has long been debated, and it comes as no surprise that the answer has never been clear-cut. Spielberg supporters are quick to trumpet their champion’s variety of work, while those on the Lucas bandwagon would sooner throw themselves upon their own light saber than to admit defeat in this heated contest.
And so we’re here to settle this long-awaited score, and while John Williams was not available to actually score the actual score settling, feel free to hum the theme to the Indiana Jones saga while reading along.
Round 1- Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
While only a television movie, 1971’s Duel is considered by many to be Spielberg’s first foray into feature-length cinematic storytelling. Written by Richard Matheson and starring Dennis Weaver, Duel’s protagonist, an ordinary everyman, is unwillingly pitted against seemingly insurmountable odds. Thisbecame the blueprint for many of Spielberg’s future films.
Main character David Mann, an undistinguished middle-aged fellow, whose biggest sin is being too timid and reserved at times, becomes the target of a murderous open road cat-and-mouse game when an unseen tanker truck driver makes it his mission to teach Mann a deadly lesson in the rules of the open road.
From giant sharks, to UFOs, poltergeists and dinosaurs, and even to more personal and smaller scale stories, Spielberg has employed the David and Goliath theme in most of his work, and this particular tale is as tense a “small story” as you’re likely to find.
While Spielberg’s first effort was a gritty story about one man against one particular deadly machine, Lucas’ debut, THX 1138, is the story of one particular man against a deadly Orwellian political machine. THX 1138 also hit screens in 1971, and while the movie is set in a futuristic dystopia, and the visual differences between Lucas’ sterile android regulated society is light years from Spielberg’s lonely desert road, the theme of one man trying to survive against all odds is too similar not to mention.
Starring Robert Duvall as the title character and co-starring Donald Pleasance, Lucas’ movie certainly boasts more star power than Spielberg’s offering, and both films are considered cult classics to this day.
And the winner of this round… Steven Spielberg! Spielberg gets a slight nod if only because the timeless quality of Duel. THX 1138, is still an enjoyable movie, and while most of the movie seems a bit done before and dated, it is worth mentioning that while not a critical or public success at the time, it was regarded as cutting edge sci-fi for 1971.
Round 2- Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
Truly both men have been instrumental in defining popular culture for anyone born after 1960. Children who have long ago become adults and adults who now have children of their own have all pretended at one time or another to have faced off against villains from the films of these two creative forces.
While Indiana Jones and his various friends and enemies will have to be spilt equally down the middle, the two still have a large number of indelible fictional individuals to call upon.
It’s true after halfing Indy and friends the Lucas’ iconic army consists primarily of Star Wars related characters, but there were quite a number of unforgettable personalities in those films. Thanks in part to the action figures, many of the peripheral characters (Greedo and Boba Fett for instance) took on a larger life than was likely planned by their creator. People also tend to forget Lucas had a part in movies like Willow and The Land Before Time. Both movies have big followings by adults who loved the movies as children, and again, in case of the Land Before Time, there was a ton of collateral merchandise and sequels, which were ingrained on the fertile minds of yesterday’s youth.
Lucas is also credited for his contributions to the movie, Labyrinth and for Michael Jackson’s 3-D musical space adventure, Captain Eo. Hard to get more pop culture than Wacko Jacko and Luke Skywalker.
Spielberg himself is no slouch in the popular culture department. Ever hear of E.T.? How about JAWS? Lucas had cuddly baby cartoon dinosaurs, and Spielberg had monstrously believable dinosaurs. But if you want animation, Spielberg is responsible for Tiny Toon Adventures, and The Animaniacs and executive produced An American Tail. By the way, if you thought Michael Jackson’s moonwalk was impressive, you can’t forget the importance of Chunk’s “Truffle Shuffle,” from The Goonies.
And the winner of this round… George Lucas! This round would have been a slaughter if Lucas were up against nearly anyone else other than Spielberg, but when you’re talking popular culture, the Star Wars saga takes a back seat to no one. Even if we penalized Lucas heavily for introducing Jar Jar Binks, the Ewoks, and Howard the Duck, Lucas still receives those points right back, because as silly as many believe those characters to be, they have all been used as pop culture references-even if to describe the ultimate in lameness.
Round 3- Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
At least this one category where the winner is absolutely indisputable. Of course, when we’re talking about this kind of scratch, the loser of this round will not likely be found crying on his diamond encrusted 24-carat gold-framed bed.
Spielberg has carved out a comfortable living for himself as a writer, director and producer and his personal wealth is estimated at $2.7 billion.
Lucas is also listed as a writer, director and producer, however, he also took up a side interest in special effects, and that little hobby became very profitable, pushing his net worth to an amazing, $3.5 billion.
And the winner of this round… Well suffice it say, we’d all have liked to lose this round if second place was $2.7 billion, and while it’s doubtful Spielberg ever decides not to dine at a restaurant Lucas frequents because he can’t afford it, there are clearly too many zeroes separating those bank accounts to not declare George Lucas the winner of this round.
Round 4- Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
It would be hard to imagine very many people rolling their eyes if their secretary suddenly announced either Spielberg or Lucas was holding on the phone for them-that said, everyone has his or her preferences, so let’s go to the tale of the tape.
Though a few years Lucas’ junior, it was Spielberg who first became a household name. JAWS was arguably the very first phenomenal summer blockbuster. The movie was so popular that it routinely created a prior to unheard of hours-long lines around which winded around the block of the movie theater. Close Encounters of the Third Kind handled the competition of another 1977 flick called, Star Wars, pretty well, and E.T; The Extraterrestrial also did fairly nice at the box office.
While Spielberg certainly hasn’t given up his love for blockbuster tales of action, he has also undertaken some projects he felt compelled to present. More mature stories, like The Color Purple, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan seem to play a bigger part in Spielberg’s repertoire as he progresses as an artist. Of course this doesn’t mean he has abandoned the popcorn movies he loved as a child, as Jurassic Park, Minority Report and War of the Worlds can all attest.
Lucas apparently does not share Spielberg’s desire to diversify as a storyteller, preferring to go back to the same fertile well over and over to satisfy the yarn-spinner within himself. The Star Wars movies have proven to be an amazingly profitable and influential franchise, and while even his most ardent supporters have felt cheated during some of the later live action films, it didn’t stop them or the rest of the movie-going public, by and large, from purchasing tickets over and over for the same Binks-jinxed flick.
And the winner of this round… A draw. Sure Star Wars is a much beloved and powerful moneymaker, and Lucas has been a brilliant pioneer in movie sound and special effects, but Spielberg ties this up simply with the undeniable success of the wider range of his subject matter.
Round 5- Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
Well this is an uneven round to say the least. Sure American Graffiti is a wonderful movie, but if that’s all the non-Star Wars stuff he’s got, it’s never going to withstand the barrage of Munich, The Color Purple, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List.
And the winner of this round… Spielberg. Lucas took such a beating in that round we thought the doctor was going to come in and stop the fight.
Spielberg Vs. Lucas:
Let’s Go to the Scorecards
In a decision that will surely be contested, for years to come, the judges have reached have reached a split decision. Both warriors believed they had done enough to win the battle. As the two battered heavyweights hugged and leaned each other in an exhausted post-fight revelry, each congratulated the other on a job well done.
Judge #1 decided based on creative range alone “Scrapping” Steven Spielberg did more than enough to pull out the victory.
Judge #2 felt George Lucas may only have one punch in his arsenal, but that one weapon was lethal enough to do significant damage.
Judge #3 simply said, “The force is strong in this one, and if there was a category for Best Hair, he could beat all the Baldwin Brothers at the same time.
The winner, and world champion is………..Gorgeous Georrrrrrrrrge Luuuuuuucas!
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