Presenting Tim Burton's Jurassic Park
June 13, 2018 7:06 AM   Subscribe

What would the last four decades look like if George Lucas had never made Star Wars at all? The release of Solo: A Star Wars Story just five months after that of The Last Jedi makes it clear that Star Wars has never been more ubiquitous than it is now; in fact, if Solo’s box office is any indication, audiences might actually be going a little sour on Disney’s attempts to turn the property from a touchstone of childhood and nostalgia into a never-ending modern-day cinematic universe like Marvel and its imitators. Considering that tension, it makes sense to wonder: What would the last four decades look like if George Lucas had never made Star Wars at all?
posted by JoeZydeco (95 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
No Star Wars leads to no Industrial Light and Magic, which takes away revolutionary breakthroughs in special effects for Hollywood, and no LucasFilms, which was the birthplace of Pixar.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:27 AM on June 13 [15 favorites]


If you start your article referencing the "1977 space opera, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope", you're already starting from a place of being very, very wrong.
posted by hanov3r at 7:29 AM on June 13 [23 favorites]


So in this version, we trade out never having "Star Wars" for never having Fox News?

I love Han Solo and all, but okay.
posted by thivaia at 7:29 AM on June 13 [44 favorites]


Heh. This could have come out of the Usenet group alt.history.what-if.

I thought that alternative history worked well for the really 80s, but it broke down with the idea that Batman and Jurassic Park would get made. Without the advances in effects work from Star Wars and the idea that blockbusters could be Sci Fi films (as well as the toy tie-in) , neither of these films gets made.

This is also neglecting that before Star Wars SciFi films were either creature features, or incredibly serious, exec pretentious and depressing films like A Dog and His Boy and Soylent Green. I would see that trend continue into the 1980s at least, with moderately budgeted serious films.
posted by happyroach at 7:29 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Personally can't wait for Terrence Malick's remake of JP.
posted by os tuberoes at 7:30 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


A Dog and His Boy

This blew my mind.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:31 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


I mean...part of what defines the blockbuster-driven Hollywood as we know it was Star Wars, so the idea that we'd continue down a blockbuster-defined movie path is odd, just shuffling the players around a bit. Also, without the creation of ILM for special effects, a lot of effects-driven movies would never get made (would Burton's Jurassic Park be made with puppets?), so I think history wouldn't just be a bunch of blockbusters-done-by-others, but more on the side of 70s-dramas-updated-to-80s-and-beyond, really. So a lot of British historicals and kitchen sink dramas and the like, being made by a larger and larger group of small, independent studios.
posted by xingcat at 7:33 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


Much of 70's sci-fi was incredibly dystopian.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:33 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


No Star Wars leads to no Industrial Light and Magic, which takes away revolutionary breakthroughs in special effects for Hollywood, and no LucasFilms, which was the birthplace of Pixar.

And no Pixar means no Pixar IPO in 1995 where a more mature Steve Jobs earns his 'fuck you' money and returns to Apple in 1997 to revive the company from an uncertain future.

So, no iMac which means no iPod...which means no iPhone.

Next: what happens to Disney?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:35 AM on June 13 [10 favorites]


I RTFA a few days ago. This writer seriously needs to work on their world-building skills. If Star Wars never happened, I can see things like 20th Century Fox going belly up, and Raiders of the Lost Ark never being made, there is a clear cause and effect there. But things like the home video market not growing as big as it did, or certain presidents not being elected, well, guy needs a footstool, because he's really reaching.

Also, Star Trek is not mentioned, not even casually. It might not have been the merchandising juggernaut that SW turned out to be, but it was a phenomenon, and a new series was in the works well before the first Star Wars movie. I'd like to think it would have had some influence on the pop culture zeitgeist of the time, especially without the looming shadow of Lucas's film.
posted by KHAAAN! at 7:35 AM on June 13 [13 favorites]


Jaws already established the summer blockbuster thing, so I find the idea that Hollywood would continue making blockbuster films -- just not sci-fi ones -- in a world without Star Wars pretty plausible.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:35 AM on June 13 [18 favorites]


No Star Wars no 2000AD, no British Invasion at DC comics and Mo Watchmen, so a lot less grim and grittying of comics in the 80s. Oh and no Judge Dredd, so Dan Dare remains the most prominent character in British SF comics.

Does Jodorowsky’s Dune get made in this timeline?
posted by Artw at 7:41 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


You'd have no LucasArts either... no Maniac Mansion, no Monkey Island, no Grim Fandango (but probably still Sam and Max). The computer game successor to Infocom, for me. Sierra Online was always hopelessly cheesy, IMHO.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:42 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Star Wars: Merchandising Juggernaut probably inspired generations of business school graduates looking to repeat that.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:45 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


And what about Carrie Fisher?
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:45 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


Without Star Wars, what action figures would everyone else's parents buy them, setting me up from an early age to feel like an outsider?
posted by notsnot at 7:47 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


I've often fantasized about where movies would be now if Star Wars flopped and 3 Women, a movie I much prefer that was released the same year, was the blockbuster hit that Star Wars was.
posted by dobbs at 7:50 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


if Solo’s box office is any indication

If one mediocre movie, following what have generally been considered three solid films, including one "back-story in-fill" movie, is any indication, something went was changed with the formulas and processes by which the prior movies were made.

At the same time, it is possible that there's Star Wars media saturation that will require future movies to break the mold, like Black Panther, and in a lesser and different way, Thor: Ragnarok for the MCU. Really, I don't care about another All Hands On Deck For An Epic Battle MCU.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania! gets made 40 years earlier and becomes the basis for all modern cinematic science fiction
posted by XMLicious at 8:00 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]




I don't think Star Wars would have been made if 2001: a Space Odyssey had not been done.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:01 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


TBH I think I would probably take the loss of Star Wars and all that came out of it inexchange for the massive reduction in heroes journey claptrap in screenwriting culture.
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


The article is really hung up on box office receipts to determine who makes what films, which is a weird lense for an alt history. It doesn't even get into ILM/LucasFilm/LucasArts and their contributions to SFX.
posted by Think_Long at 8:10 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


would we have had the logan's run franchise we deserved
posted by dismas at 8:18 AM on June 13 [9 favorites]


I don't know a lot of Hollywood inside baseball from the time, but I do know a little about evolutionary history. If there is a niche to be filled, an organism will fill it. There was a niche here -- movies that would make a huge amount of merchandising money by delighting children and pressing on the nostalgia sweet spots in adult brains through clever screenwriting and technical achievement.

It's been at least twenty years since the first time I read an article (somewhere on salon1999.com) suggesting that if it hadn't been for Star Wars, serious '70s-style dramas would have dominated the box office indefinitely. I like this article better than that one because it does take into account that big effects blockbusters would eventually become popular. This one also offers a plaintive bargain to something deep inside of me: if you gave up this childhood toy, the world would be well. But I don't know. Like I say, organisms arise to fill a niche. There would have been an organ for populist hate if it had not been Fox.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:25 AM on June 13 [13 favorites]


Without Star Wars, there would be no Star Wars, no Star Wars merchandise and conventions, probably no Carrie Fisher, and definitely no Mark Hamill. But pretty much everything else was going to happen one way or another if it was something that mattered. Important things bubble up from multiple sources.
posted by pracowity at 8:26 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


Much of 70's sci-fi was incredibly dystopian.

Which is part of why I think Star Wars had the impact it did - it wasn't the dreary (or overly antiseptic) dystopias of 1970s SF; Star Wars was a lived-in universe with, well, a lot of hope in it. It was thrilling, exciting, and engaging and that is part of what made it stand out for its time.

I'm going to put a stake in the sand and say that without it...we would have a different franchise (or franchises) that eventually emerged in entertainment; but they would be different stories, about something very different rather than just imagining a particular other movie from the time period stepping into that hole. At some point, Hollywood would have discovered the power of the franchise ("You don't know the power of the franchise" - Darth Studio Exec), is my point, but in a universe without Star Wars there was likely room for something else to emerge, something that in this universe never left the slush pile...in this universe we got the droids we were looking for, but somewhere else got a DCU that worked, maybe.
posted by nubs at 8:31 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Carrie Fisher had already been on Broadway and gotten good reviews for her roll in Shampoo and given that her parents had lots of connections in Hollywood. I'd assume that she'd have done fine as a comedic actor, maybe in TV sitcoms.
posted by octothorpe at 8:33 AM on June 13 [14 favorites]


audiences might actually be going a little sour on Disney’s attempts to turn the property from a touchstone of childhood and nostalgia into a never-ending modern-day cinematic universe

It definitely sucked the fun out of Star Wars nostalgia when it went from a generational marker to a ubiquitous enterprise with Beatles-level EVERYONE MUST LIKE THIS fandom. It's not like I didn't enjoy The Last Jedi - it was a lot of fun! - but the warm glow of home that used to surround a rainy day SW trilogy binge has died out.

Also, re-watching the original despecialized trilogy with grumpybearbride - who had not seen the movies - made it breathtakingly clear that the only truly good film of the bunch is Empire.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:43 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Also, Spaceballs would not have made any sense
posted by XMLicious at 8:46 AM on June 13 [44 favorites]


Also, Spaceballs would not have made any sense

Robot Chicken would also be missing a lot of material
posted by nubs at 8:54 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


They missed a fun trick not making ET the dark version.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


I feel comfortable in speculating that the special effects industry and sci-fi in general would have done juuuuuust fine without George Lucas. Without Star Wars, we still have Superman, Alien, Close Encounters and E.T. And that’s only the movies, not even including the TV shows. And yes, Raiders of the Lost Ark would still have been made, it simply would have been purchased by a different company.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:59 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


Of course, we are always living in a timeline where something amazing and world-changing was never made. Sometimes bits and pieces of the proposals for movies like that wash up on the web; sometimes they never had anything to show for themselves at all. Maybe the wrong person had the idea -- without connections, without the right skin color or gender. Maybe the ideas were themselves too much -- Elfquest was a beautiful SF soap opera, but it was too strange, too sexual, too pacifist to become a big-budget series. It's an oddly reassuring feeling to consider that we are always living in the great absence of something.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:01 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


Sci-Fi would have remained done the proper way.

The 1970s British way.

As in, "let's paste four feathers onto Nigel's forehead and cheeks, now look! He's a new alien species for the Doctor to meet!"
posted by delfin at 9:09 AM on June 13 [14 favorites]


My take on most of these alternate history what-ifs is that if someone who invented or created Thing X never existed then someone else would have created it, albeit somewhat later, and everything would have gone on the similarly from there.

So someone else would have made a special effects movie with the latest technology. Would it have been a sci-fi space flick? Probably, since that's the main application for visual effects.

It's like if Edison or Bell hadn't existed would we still have light bulbs and telephones? Of course, mainly because dozens of other researchers and inventors were working on the same thing at the same time.
posted by rocket88 at 9:10 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Alex Guinness would have probably made a lot more films/tv in the late 70s / early 80s without his massive SW pay out.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:17 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


Also no Blakes 7!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:19 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


And what about Carrie Fisher?

I'd like to think rather than a sad footnote in the life of Debbie Reynolds Carrie hits bottom a bit earlier misses out on a lot of the celebrity boyfriends, catches the Jane Fonda workout wave and is with us now as a health guru action star still doing her own stunts.

Certainly there would be differences in detail in the blockbusters but tech was moving at a steady pace, Softimage and the other 3D modeling and rendering software were growing steady and many of the great artists would be making versions of the blockbusters and other properties ridiculous and sublime.
posted by sammyo at 9:19 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Carrie Fisher can devote more time to stalking and killing Jake and Elroy Blues.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on June 13 [17 favorites]


Maybe we'd have ended up with a few Flash Gordon sequels all with Queen soundtracks.
posted by Catblack at 9:40 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


The De Laurentiis Flash Gordon basically happens because of Star Wars, specifically De Laurentiis Seeing the money and deciding that Lucas guy wasn’t a nut after all.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


The whole thing went off the rails as with the absence of Star Wars, Battle Beyond The Stars would have become the coming-of-age touchstone for an entire generation.
posted by GuyZero at 10:05 AM on June 13 [9 favorites]


If there is a niche to be filled, an organism will fill it.

This. The confluence of computer technology and film was already happening. Tent pole movies had been a thing for a long time. Boomers a a lot of disposable income to spend on their young kids.

If not IL&M, it would be someone else. If not Pixar, it would have been someone else. Specifics might change, but I doubt the world would be hugely different from where we are now.

Big, loud summer movies would still be a thing. Maybe we'd be obsessed with the Jurassic Park franchise in the same way, or perhaps planet of the Apes. Maybe Star Trek would have been the big driver---without SW, the first (rather terrible) ST film might have been very different. Maybe we'd be talking about the major computer animation studios of Japan, instead of Burbank.

But there would still be fandoms as elaborate as the SW ones, the secondary nostalgia markets would have formed (have formed around other properties like ST and Doctor Who that predate SW). The world would be spinning and climate change will still be a problem. But maybe Gore might have won the 2000 election.
posted by bonehead at 10:09 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


It's an oddly reassuring feeling to consider that we are always living in the great absence of something.

On the other hand, it's *also* oddly reassuring to consider that we are always living in the absence of The Last Starfighter XVII.
posted by duffell at 10:11 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


trilogy of The Goodbye Girl prequels
posted by thelonius at 10:12 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Jaws already established the summer blockbuster thing

And when you think about it, it’s pretty weird that it was established that late, and accidentally at that. (Jaws was likely released in early summer only because it’s *about* the early summer.) And still, it took Star Wars to prove that there was really something to it and it wasn’t just some fluke thing. Did it seriously never occur to anyone that drive-ins and weekday matinees full of kids were seasonal phenomena?

So, anyway. Star Wars. Milking the Star Wars cash cow dry is just what happens when Fox and Disney join forces. In the mid-eighties, it was two cartoon shows and two live-action made-for-TV movies, all aimed at the same tantrum-in-a-toy-store demographic that everything was aimed at in the mid-eighties. We, the Ewok generation. I don’t know if that achieved much at the time besides keeping Kenner from having to liquidate its old stock, but the upshot is that a lot of those little kids now have little kids of their own, and money of their own. So now there’s all this massive deluge of new crap aimed not at the new kids, but at those same old kids whose parents wouldn’t buy them that Ewok village playset in 1985, who can now indulge their unrequited greed by buying all the Star Wars crap they always wanted while telling themselves they’re the best parents ever for doing so.

Without Star Wars, maybe we’d have socialism by now.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:18 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


I would have hoped for a better D&D 80s cartoon. Perhaps one that looked like this.
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Anything made in the 80s would have, by definition, looked like it was made in the 80s and would still look dated today.

Another crazy alternative universe is where the Space: 1999 movie explodes on screens in 1977 and summer space blockbusters are forevermore British and multicultural.

And just to cheer you up in case you though this is the worst timeline: the worst timeline is where The Starlost is revived for the big screen in 1978 with Hamill and Fischer and we end up getting three of those plus a bunch of prequels about how they built the Earthship Ark in the first place.

And Metamorphosis Alpha replaces D&D, publishing several revised editions over the years.

Yeah. Chew on that.
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


the worst timeline is where The Starlost is revived for the big screen in 1978 with Hamill and Fischer

...and Harlan Ellison is considered a movie wunderkind? (I assume The Last Dangerous Visions would still be unpublished)

Metamorphosis Alpha replaces D&D

Presumably sparing us from Gamma World too.
posted by bonehead at 10:33 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


....and Harlan Ellison is considered a movie wunderkind?

God yeah, Ellison replaces Lawrence Kasdan in this nightmare world.

Presumably sparing us from Gamma World too.

YOU SHUT YOUR DIRTY MOUTH

NO WORLD IS SO TERRIBLE TO BE DENIED GAMMA WORLD

but yeah, probably. if MA took off, it would be a world without Gamma World, truly the worst timeline.
posted by GuyZero at 10:36 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


what is this
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:38 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


What would the last four decades look like if George Lucas had never made Star Wars at all?

you should come over to my place sometime ...

Also, ctrl/F Buckaroo Bonzai ... and not a single hit. No wonder Donald Trump is President
posted by philip-random at 10:43 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


MA took off, it would be a world without Gamma World, truly the worst timeline.

On the upside, Paranoia would require only the lightest of rejigging.

...or would it? I'd bet Logan's Run would be a huge hit in Starlost-verse. Which means Michael York and Jenny Agutter might be filling the Hamil/Fisher gaps in creation.
posted by bonehead at 10:44 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


No Star Wars means that Stalker becomes the big franchise and screenwriters take classes in the hero's journey (on foot).

Also, Wes Anderson's Jurassic Park. For some reason, the raptors all speak English with French accents.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:44 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


God yeah, Ellison replaces Lawrence Kasdan in this nightmare world.

No The Big Chill?!?!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:46 AM on June 13


Without Star Wars, maybe we’d have socialism by now.

I was just sort of thinking of something along those lines. Say what you will about Star Wars and its effect on the special effects industry, the universe that had the biggest impact on technology was Star Trek by a mile. Fine, we might not have had Pixar without Lucas, but we might not have had smart phones without Roddenberry.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:46 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


They missed a fun trick not making ET the dark version.

I'm guessing this is the one where Elliot gets eaten before the credits roll. Or maybe it's more of an Alien thing with the ET later erupting out of Elliot's chest at school ... to much hilarity.
posted by philip-random at 10:47 AM on June 13


The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania! gets made 40 years earlier and becomes the basis for all modern cinematic science fiction

Thank you for this, I needed it in my life. All good stories start "When [EVENT], [CHARACTER] investigates and discovers a frozen Big Show."
posted by jason_steakums at 10:53 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Presumably sparing us from Gamma World too.

Are you asking for a tangler grenade? Are you, punk?

*googles* oh, wait, that was Star Frontiers...
posted by XMLicious at 10:56 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Star Trek is not mentioned, not even casually.

This is an utterly baffling blind spot. At the time of Star Wars' release, TOS had been burning up syndicated TV in reruns for several years, and Star Trek: Phase II had already been announced, with most sets and props already under construction and everyone from TOS but Nimoy re-signed. Paramount's failure to create a new network with the show as its linchpin (which, unfortunately, they'd try later with Voyager) would still have happened, but it's unlikely that they'd simply write off the sunk costs. Perhaps, instead of going with a movie, they'd have sold the series to another network, or even put it directly into syndication, something that they'd have a huge success with a decade later in our-verse. It's unlikely that Battlestar Galactica (another puzzling omission from the article) would have been approved--it was seen at the time as basically being Star Wars: The Series--so ST:PII would have had the space opera corner of TV to itself. Maybe, with good enough ratings, they might have decided on a spin-off movie in a few years, although probably not with Roddenberry involved... maybe with that guy who did The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Time After Time...

And I really don't see a Starlost movie being made, given Harlan Ellison's already-demonstrated tendency to very publicly shit the bed if/when changes were made to any of his scripts (see also "The City on the Edge of Forever").
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:05 AM on June 13 [9 favorites]


Also no Blakes 7!

Not to get all Blakes 7 pedant... While there's a relationship there for sure between them, Star Wars premiered in the UK on December of 1977 and Blakes 7 began to air in January of 1978. Though if you watch the series in order you can tell when the production team finally saw Star Wars (and the Buck Rogers TV show and Mad Max...)
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:06 AM on June 13


And just to cheer you up in case you though this is the worst timeline: the worst timeline is where The Starlost is revived for the big screen in 1978

Um, excuse me? Some of us LIKE Starlost thank you very much.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:09 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Battlestar Galactica (another puzzling omission from the article) would have been approved--it was seen at the time as basically being Star Wars: The Series

Glen Larson claims he'd had the idea in the 60's for the original BSG - it is interesting to contemplate whether the 1979 release was just drafting behind Star Wars or whether it would have been release don its own if SW had never existed. Mormon theology seems to be right up there with the hero's journey.
posted by GuyZero at 11:10 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Much of 70's sci-fi was incredibly dystopian.

"We'll never defeat The Corporation! They've won!!"
posted by Servo5678 at 11:21 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Yeah, in a universe without Star Wars Star Trek would not have been a movie franchise and the entire Star Trek franchise would look so, so different.
posted by Automocar at 11:57 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


I don't agree with the author on the point that Lucas would make a "cinema-verite" style Apocalypse Now. I don't think Lucas has that in him and certainly not at that point in his career. I think Lucas would have leaned more towards the avant-garde. I assume Lucas likely saw the same movie that allegedly inspired Apocalypse Now so he'd have gone on to try something a bit more experimental, maybe touching on the vibe of Jack Hill's short a bit more. Ever see the original short that THX 1138 is based on? It'd be like that I think.

Also I think a Lucas Flash Gordon would be different enough from a Spielberg schmaltz-fest like E.T. to be counter-programming so it could conceivably do well. Perhaps it is because I imagine it is as having a glossy Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon meets sexy Jess Franco vibe. If filmed in Europe. Also I could imagine Lucas having a better time in Europe, particularly France, which might be more open to Lucas' American nostalgia filtered through the avant garde.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:59 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Also no Blakes 7!

Not to get all Blakes 7 pedant...


Nah, it was definitly an influence... perhaps B7 would have still come out, but the news that this sf film had gone huge in the US when it opened back in May (and had been filmed partially in the UK - so would have been in the air in media circles even before then) gave it a massive boost in being produced.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:31 PM on June 13


Please tell me that the world that didn't get Star Wars also doesn't have Babylon 5. Because that means it doesn't have Babylon 5 fans so it's not full of people who still, all these years later, Will. Not. Shut. Up. about how AMAZING B5 is.

I would happily live in that world.
posted by hanov3r at 12:55 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Without Star Wars, we still have Superman, Alien, Close Encounters and E.T.

This article was weak sauce and to the above point, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977, only four months after Star Wars. You might be able to argue that it wouldn't have been as popular without SW, but it definitely would have existed.
posted by jeremias at 1:17 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Conjecture: CEotTK replaces Alien/Aliens in this [the Starlost] timeline, up to and including the incomprehensible and empty pre-boots in the late 2000s (Spielberg does these instead of Indy 4 and 5).

Sigourney Weaver has a lucrative comedy career making Ghostbuster spinoffs with Rick Moranis.
posted by bonehead at 1:21 PM on June 13


No Stars Wars also, I think, makes it much less likely we would have had the Nu British Space Opera... so no Iain M Banks, Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton etc, or they end up writing v different novels (just M-less Banks, Baxter with his alt histories, MacLeod and Hamilton keep doing British cyberpunk)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:54 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Luther Campbell saves $300000.
posted by pernoctalian at 2:57 PM on June 13


...and Harlan Ellison is considered a movie wunderkind? (I assume The Last Dangerous Visions would still be unpublished)

Oddly enough, there are no possible alternate timelines in which The Last Dangerous Visions does get published.
posted by webmutant at 3:09 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


ZeusHumms: "Much of 70's sci-fi was incredibly dystopian."

And oh so super serious and mostly pretty dull. Go back and watch Rollerball and see if you can stay awake during the non-game scenes.
posted by octothorpe at 3:11 PM on June 13


octothorpe, I just rewatched Rollerball last week expressly because I always used to FF through the non-game scenes and it's probably been 20+ years since I watched it. As an official Old, the non-game parts are much less boring now than when I was younger, but, yeah. Super slow.
posted by hanov3r at 3:27 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


No Stars Wars also, I think, makes it much less likely we would have had the Nu British Space Opera...

It's also doubtful there would be a cyberpunk genre either. Oh definitely there would be a reaction to the New Wave and feminist science fiction, but with a less popular science fiction genre it's likely a lot of the authors would have headed in other directions. and more diffuse movement. Maybe back to "Utopian Space Opera" influenced by a new Star Trek series and movie.

With Close Encounters of the Third Kind being the "big" SF movie, I would see a lot of imitation "Alien Contact" films, the way Star Wars had a bunch of imitators. No X-Files, because by then people will have been tired of the "Project UFO" movies. and assorted early 80s contactee series.

Thrillers and horror movies may be the big-budget blockbusters. People do like gunfights and explosions, after all. With the 80s, possibly we would see a resurgace of Big-budget "War is Swell" movies.

Science fiction in this scenario (Outise of UFO movies) remains the "Movies of ideas", with moderate budget movies similar to "Martian Chronicles" and "Lathe of Heaven".

No Ridley Scott's rendition of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep": instead the moderate budget Bladerunner is about an illegal supplier of medical devices to rogue doctors in a future where medical care is linked to sterilization.
posted by happyroach at 4:35 PM on June 13


massive reduction in heroes journey claptrap in screenwriting culture

Not just in screenwriting culture, Artw. Joseph Goddamn Campbell and George 'I only read one textbook at college' Lucas have had a pernicious influence out in the broader corporate world, too. Until last year I worked at major Australian banking and insurance company who had been trying to introduce a new theme in their corporate culture. Over a series of day-long courses, every single employee was encouraged to view their role as that of the monomythic hero, with the 'Master of Two Worlds' component representing making the sale and the 'Freedom to Live' component representing the interval between one client interaction and the next, in which one should put aside any concerns about the precious client and their needs, and be ready to 'answer the next call to adventure!'

It made me die a little inside, and eventually I pushed back. I pointed out that not only was The Hero With a Thousand Faces a mess of exclusionary bullshit directly responsible for the dumbing down of our media culture, diminishing the range of stories we are prepared to engage with to the lowest common denominator, but that - if anything - the customer should be viewed as the hero in their interactions with the company, and that careful reading of the Campbellian model puts the staff member in the role of the mentor and guide. That the company could have just saved themselves a whole bunch of time and emailed us a YouTube link to Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross since that was clearly what they really wanted, and that while we were on the topic of particularly poorly thought out ideas, Campbell's antisemitism was even more uncomfortable considering that the hiring practices and corporate culture in place disproportionately favoured straight white guys who - even within that subset of straight white guys - were unlikely to be the most woke folks around, and that the company uniform was literally a black shirt, don't you people know from irony goddamnit?

As you can imagine, it was suggested that I wasn't really engaging with the material in the desired manner. Aurgh. I was so glad to quit later in the year and take up a job with the state. Thankfully, it's that exact kind of corporate culture that has come under attack in the Banking Royal Commission.
posted by MarchHare at 7:01 PM on June 13 [8 favorites]


(I did actually mean 'previous client', but I missed the edit window, and 'precious client' still works, especially when read in an avaricious Gollumy voice)
posted by MarchHare at 7:17 PM on June 13


Ed Catmull, Jim Blinn (who knocked me to the ground accidentally at Siggraph -- he's tall fellah) Ken Perlin, Pat Hanrahan, and Henrik Wann Jensen were already asking and answering the fundamental questions of rendering and computer graphics because of the needs of scientific visualisation and NASA, for example. These folks would have been scooped up by a host of other studios like PDI, Boss Films, Duran Duboi, MPC, Illusion Arts, Pixel Magic, Blue Sky, Framestore, etc. No ILM, maybe no Steve Jobs, no Star Wars.....but visual effects as we know it would exist because nature abhors a vaccuum.
posted by lemon_icing at 8:56 PM on June 13


....and missed Countess Elena's better written explanation about nature and vaccuums and stuffs.
posted by lemon_icing at 9:10 PM on June 13


Oddly enough, in all the timelines where Star Wars doesn’t get made the Star Wars Christmas Special still gets made. It’s one of those multi-verse anchor points. SWCS exists even in timelines where humans never evolved and the Earth never formed. It exists in timelines where the laws of physics and chemistry operate completely differently making life and matter as we know it impossible.
posted by um at 9:11 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


My theory: Star Wars didn't happen because Jodorowsky's Dune adaptation happened, and there was no room for Lucas to add a bunch of bits from the Dune pitch books floating around Hollywood to the massive pot of stone soup he was trying to make around a story he called "The Journal Of The Whills".

If we assume that the zeitgeist was simply waiting for a big SF movie, then we probably have theatrical adaptations of, at the very least, the second two Dune books. Though I'm not sure those would be doable given how different the ending of Jodo's Dune sounds like it would have been.

This is also a world without, at the very least, L'Incal and Alien, because everyone involved was busy making Dune and its sequels...
posted by egypturnash at 10:11 PM on June 13


No Star Wars no 2000AD, no British Invasion at DC comics and Mo Watchmen, so a lot less grim and grittying of comics in the 80s. Oh and no Judge Dredd,


Prog 1 was published about 3 months before Star Wars came out in the US and nearly a year before it was released in the UK.
posted by biffa at 1:37 AM on June 14


Prog 1 was published about 3 months before Star Wars came out in the US and nearly a year before it was released in the UK.

Kelvin Gosnell, a sub-editor at IPC, read an article in the Evening Standard about a number of sf films that were being made in the US - including Star Wars - and thought a science fiction themed comic might be a good idea to capsulize on them... the idea was kicked around management and eventually it was given to freelancer Pat Mills to do something... and the rest is history.

The average life-span of a comic was a couple of years back then... if Star Wars hadn't been a mega hit I think it's pretty likely that interest in sf in the comics market could have never really developed as it did (most of the non-comedy boys comics at the time were mainly war, adventure/thriller or football themed) 2000AD would have either died at birth or been folded into another comic a few months later and become just a footnote in comics history and not the huge influence it would go onto be (in terms of characters, stories and creators)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:08 AM on June 14


Action figures would all be the size of GI Joe.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:08 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


would Burton's Jurassic Park be made with puppets?
I personally think this sounds amazing. I see no reason not to do it now, in fact.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:33 AM on June 14


Result: A new age of big-budget musicals and historical epics

The great innovation of Star Wars was the computer-controlled camera in model work. By exactly reproducing the same camera movement, you could composite the models with different backgrounds, and the pov could swoop around instead of remaining fixed. Great for science fiction battle scenes, but not that much use elsewhere, and to be superseded by CGI a generation later.

The pressure for wide-opening blockbuster movies remains, driven by Jaws as the article says. But without these model effects, Hollywood keeps striving for spectacle the same way it always has: huge sets, huge casts of extras, hundreds of dancers in elaborate costumes. The new age of musicals makes the "Singin' in the Rain" finale look small by comparison.

Naturally as Hollywood royalty and the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher is a huge star. Despite the popularity of her spectacular dance scene as a Roman slave in a gold metal bikini, she grows bored with being on screen and settles down to life as a writer instead.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:53 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Now what if ... George had directed episodes VII-IX, too? George Lucas Would Have Set Third Trilogy in ‘Microbiotic World’ Linked to Midi-Chlorians -- The series' creator wanted to build films around creatures called the Whills, foreshadowed in "The Phantom Menace." (Jenna Marotta for IndieWire, Jun 13, 2018)
The two-time best director Oscar nominee confided his vision to none other than James Cameron, who interviewed Lucas for “Space,” the second episode of his recent six-part AMC series “James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.” A transcript from their talk appears in the companion book (Amazon) of the same name, published by Insight Editions on May 18. In it, Lucas reveals that he would have turned his gaze from the cosmos to what can be viewed only under a microscope.

“[The next three ‘Star Wars’ films] were going to get into a microbiotic world,” he told Cameron. “There’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force.”

Elsewhere in the conversation, Lucas admitted, “Everybody hated it in ‘Phantom Menace’ [when] we started talking about midi-chlorians.” In terms of his storytelling, Lucas regarded individuals as “vehicles for the Whills to travel around in…And the conduit is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force.”

Lucas is confidant that had he kept his company, the Whills-focused films “would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did ‘Phantom Menace’ and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told.”
I ... did not see that coming.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:23 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Return of the Jedi
Revenge of the Sith
Triumph of the Whill

posted by Sys Rq at 1:45 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


(which is to say: yuck, George. yuck.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:47 PM on June 15


I ... did not see that coming.

'Course not. They're microbiotic.
posted by nubs at 1:51 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


The prequels were terrible, and no doubt the Whills would have been terrible... but it does sound like ti would be amazingly terrible. I mean how would it work? Invasion of the body snatchers / some sort of body horror has people realise these minature things are in control... or zoom down to their level like Fantastic Voyage?! From the universe to the microverse! It's total bonkers!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:46 PM on June 15


Cripes. I wonder if the fanboy moaning would have been worse or not if Lucas made those movies. At least the Disney movies have delivered spaceships, lasers, and lightsabers, which is to say, Star Wars. What was Lucas wanting to make, A Wind in the Door without any girls?
posted by Countess Elena at 3:04 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


. I mean how would it work?

Picture this: an aged Luke has retreated from the galaxy. Sought out by an eager new pupil, he reveals - through flashbacks to the OT - what he has learned: that all of his actions were controlled by the Whills via the midicholrians in his blood. And not just his - Anakin/Vader; Leia; Han. Everyone.

Except the droids. And the destruction of the second Death Star thwarted the best hope of machine intelligence taking over the galaxy.

So Luke has left it all behind and refuses to do anything, for fear of advancing the agenda of these microscopic creatures, while tormented by the realization that this might be exactly what they want him to do...
posted by nubs at 5:12 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


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