Have you been to the Flash Gordon Museum yet? Right next to the Adler Planetarium? Lots of fun. There’s a mock-up of Ming the Merciless’ throne room on the planet Mongo, and you can reach out and touch the fearsome Sea Beast …
OK, OK, there is no Flash Gordon Museum next to the Adler, and a good thing too.
If you are unfamiliar with Flash, he was very big in the 1930s, first as a newspaper cartoon, then as a movie, then a movie serial, which kids in the 1950s and 1960s saw endlessly rerun on television.
I bring up Flash as a reminder that fame fades, even huge fame, even “Star Wars”-level fame. It bathes its creator George Lucas in a golden glow now but will not last forever. Watching the city bend over backward to put his proposed museum on the Chicago lakefront, I hate to be a spoilsport, but I have to ask: Do we want this museum?
What’s going to be inside? The museum’s website — still is clunkily wooing San Francisco, a move rejected by those in charge of the waterfront park where Lucas first wanted to put it — describes it this way:
“The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum will be a center highlighting populist art from some of the great illustrators of the last 150 years through today’s digital art used to create animated and live-action movies, visual effects, props and sketches,” alongside paintings from Norman Rockwell — Lucas owns 57 — plus other classic illustrators such as Maxfield Parrish and J.C. Leyendecker.
All good. So it’s not just going to be Mel’s Drive-in from “American Graffiti” and Indiana Jones’ fedora from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Your average tourist in 2024 won’t care much about those.
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I should confess here. I’m the rare moviegoer who liked “THX 1138,” Lucas’ first movie, a jarring sci-fi film with Robert Duvall, far more than “Star Wars.”
I can remember seeing the first “Star Wars” debut in the summer of 1977, as a 17-year-old, worldly as a kitten. I walked out of the theater, disappointed and puzzled. Here you have a movie that is basically a two-hour running gun battle at close range between minions of the evil Galactic Empire and these four rebels, one of whom is 7 feet tall, and the ooh-scary stormtroopers can’t so much as graze the wookiee’s ear? Weak.
It was downhill from there, and by the time the Empire was overthrown by teddy-bear escapees from a toilet paper TV commercial, the charm was lost on me.