NEW YORK, April 21 -- A confidential Lucasfilm marketing pitch to Hasbro dealers about part two of the new Star Wars trilogy, obtained by Newsweek, promised that "Attack of the Clones" will be an action-packed movie with a "darker feel, closer to the original saga" and "no silly characters or kids." It also plainly states, in bold type: "The last movie did not live up to expectations." Writer and director George Lucas, has two jobs on the new film -- which opens May 16: make a better movie than "The Phantom Menace," one that recaptures the magic of the original trilogy, and woo back a jittery fan base, writes Associate Editor Devin Gordon in the April 29 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 22).
After "Menace" finished its run in theaters, Lucas knew he had work to do. In his opinion, sources say, his chief blunder was allowing the merchandise tie-in bonanza to get out of control. But he also realized that his film-making skills were "rusty" on "Menace" -- his first directorial effort in 22 years, and that its juvenile tone alienated many devoted fans. "George is now much smarter about what he should do and should not do," says one associate with no stake in the sequel, "Attack of the Clones." "He's not a stupid man. He doesn't want to hurt the franchise."
Even though "The Phantom Menace" is the fourth highest-grossing film of
all time and even though it made almost $1 billion worldwide, the movie was a dud for Lucas. It was a lame kiddie flick and the dialogue hurt, writes
Gordon. To change that for the new film, Lucas's first and most humble
concession was bringing in a co-writer, Jonathan Hales, to soften his
wrecking-ball touch with dialogue. And an early draft of the script read by Newsweek showed improvement. Lucas was clearly more committed to changing the overall tone of the new film.
As to merchandise tie-ins, Lucas made up his mind to do it better than he did for "Menace," and there had to be less. The marketing pitch to Hasbro conceded that the toy line for "Menace" was "over-licensed," "over-shipped" and "over-saturated." To avoid a repeat, Lucas sliced the number of licensees for "Attack of the Clones" by two-thirds. The tie-ins will still be everywhere, but not quite as obnoxiously everywhere as last time. There will not be a soft drink sponsor as there was for "Menace" and Hasbro, according to Jim Silver, publisher of trade magazine The Toy Book, has scaled back dramatically.