I saw “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” over the weekend. While watching the movie, I noted that a good comparison can be made of George Lucas’ creations with Bill Gates’ creations. Believe it or not, all the money in the world won’t let the rich do whatever they want—create a quality product.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the latest Star Wars movie. Frankly, even as episode #3 it was better than Star Wars episodes #5, #6, #1, and certainly #2. But it wasn’t as good as the original Star Wars, episode #4.
What struck me was the similarity between the Star Wars saga and the Microsoft saga. In their arena, heads of state George Lucas and Bill Gates are similar. They’re stinkin’ rich from a hugely successful franchise and they can do anything they want. Except make something great.
Take Star Wars; please.
The original was a remarkably entertaining movie. The four sequels and pre-quels that followed were entertaining but remarkable only for extending the franchise of effects movie-making. Otherwise, forgettable.
It was as if George Lucas sat down one afternoon with a bunch of 6th graders and said, “OK, how should Star Wars end? You know, what should happen to tie it all together so it fits with the original (episode #4)?”
A couple of hours later the 6th graders had supplied George with all the script components, characters, action, and effects he needed for a movie. Then, he turned the whole thing over to Industrial Light and Magic, gave them a blank check, and waited for, well, the magic.
Except the “magic” was left in the original episode and couldn’t be recreated no matter how much money, time, effort, and talent was devoted to it. Remember episodes #5, #6, #1, and certainly #2? I rest my case.
In other words, no matter how much money George Lucas has, he can’t capture the essence, the innocence, the excitement of the original Star Wars movie. The one that was produced at a fraction of the cost of the sequels and pre-quels.
So it is with Bill Gates, Microsoft, and the Longhorn saga.
All the money in the world won’t make a Windows version that captures the essence, excitement, and personality of the original Mac OS, let alone Apple’s hugely successful Mac OS X Tiger.
Bill Gates has more money than any human being on the face of the earth. Ever. His company, Microsoft, is one of the most profitable (ill-gotten gains, say some) corporations ever to rule an industry.
Yet, despite his riches, power, glory (really?), and the talent of those intelligent people slaving in the lush Microsoft bit mines, the company cannot produce anything like what Apple has produced. Twice. The original Mac OS and Mac OS X Tiger (not that both didn’t and don’t have flaws).
“Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” is nearly two and a half hours long. The digital effects are the most stunning of any of George Lucas’ movies. Perhaps the most stunning ever in a movie.
Think of the use of digital effects in Star Wars as the features packed into Windows (even more features to be packed into Longhorn, should it ever ship). They overwhelm the senses and prohibit the real excitement of the movie, the characters, and the story from shining through.
Anakin Skywalker is Bill Gates, not the evil Emperor. Droll. Paranoid. Selfish. Unable to capture the sweetness of life displayed by all the revered and pleasant Obi Wan Kenobi characters. While seemingly more powerful, Skywalker as Darth Vader as Bill Gates, cannot receive the adoration laid before Obi Wan Kenobi as Steve Jobs.
The Star Wars saga is the Microsoft saga. Hugely successful. Worshipped by many. Rich beyond imagination. Yet, inside, both are empty of soul, devoid of personality, attracting the multitudes willing to prostrate themselves and worship at the Temple of Features, yet never able to achieve redemption.
Did I enjoy “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith?” Yes. But only for the list of effects. The story and characters do not match the original. Again. Even after the lowered expectations resulting from episodes #5, #6, #1, and the awful #2 (reminds me of Windows ME).
As much as many of us would like to have access to all the money in the world, it should be obvious that there are limits to what can be done with such riches. Good movies and good operating systems are not guaranteed productions.
Yet, with a reputation for being tight with a buck, Steve Jobs and the rebellion at Apple Computer (and at Pixar, if you’d like to extend the analogy awhile longer) manage to thrive, grow, prosper, and receive overly undue media attention and customer adulation.
So it is in life. While the rich may get richer, they don’t necessarily get better.