If Red Tails doesn’t take off, that’ll be it for him. Here’s why:
What the blistering fan reaction illustrates is one downside of Lucas’s naïve style. By persuading us to drop our snarky defenses and embrace his fables, Lucas had forged a bond with fanboys like no filmmaker, outside of Spielberg, before or since. (Adjusted for inflation, the three original “Star Wars” movies and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” still rank among the top 20 highest-grossing movies of all time.) But naïveté is a fragile emotion. When Lucas goes back and futzes with his mythology — has Greedo shoot first or creates a goofball like Jar Jar Binks or makes Indy uncool by sticking him in a refrigerator — he isn’t just messing with beloved movies. He’s telling fanboys the naïve belief they gave to him was misplaced.
In other words, the spell is broken, and the guy who made the mother of all popcorn films doesn’t understand that you can’t screw with people’s nostalgia and expect them to forgive it. Instead of getting that, he rails about the movies being his — with his name on them. Which is as true as it is irrelevant.
Because you can only keep shoveling garbage for so long before people get wise. If the prequels were half as good as Empire Strikes Back, then Red Tails would not be getting dissed by the studios. But since Lucas has spent the last fifteen years doing everything in his power to stick his finger in the eyes of the very people who should be his bulwark against the studios, no one cares about watching more CGI pixelations explode against a matte painting. Everyone would rather see Warhorse.