Remember George Lucas? He was that guy that messed up Star Wars like a jerk and should be hated for it. Also, he made Star Wars so he’s pretty cool. He also made Howard: A New Breed of Hero which was terrible and so he’s terrible. Oh, and he wrote raiders of the Lost Ark which is fecking awesome. And thus you see the conflict at the heart of many a nerd and the subject of today’s film, The People vs George Lucas. Click the link below for an awesome review… or the worst bloody thing you’ve ever read.
The basic premise of this documentary is a simple one. Essentially director Alexandre O. Philippe has taken the conflict within the heart of every Star Wars fan and presented it on film. He does this by exploring fans, some famous and many not. He covers the fandom of Star Wars and, to a lesser extent, other works of George’s by showing the creations and passionate opinions of these fans. The fans display and recount the impact Star Wars have on them and how the horrors Lucas exposed us to from the late 90s onwards have forced them to question how they feel about the creator of their dream. It’s like when you were a kid and you asked you parents for a Gameboy for Christmas and they got you an Atari Lynx. Like, you still love them cos they created you and stuff but now you have this near dead console that you’ll have to play with. They’ll expect you to like it too.
It would have been easy for the film to degenerate into an exceptionally one sided story. It could have easily been a polemic against George Lucas. But, by exploring the conflict fans have, it manages to avoid this and provide not just a sense of even handedness but to also explain just how much Star Wars and Lucas’ other works have influenced their lives and how personally his tinkering with the original trilogy and the messes which are the prequels have effected them. In essence, many fans felt betrayed. Like how you totally showed your parents what the Gameboy looked like long before Christmas but they still went for a Lynx.
As a nerd and fan of not just Star Wars but also Indiana Jones, and THX1138 which is one of my favourite 70s sci-fi films, I can easily relate to this conflict. I grew up with the original trilogy in their proper form. No CGI. No remastering. No Han shooting second. I still have VHS tapes of the original trilogy when they did the original remaster before the special editions, Empire Strikes Back is even in widescreen which was actually a rare thing back then. I remember seeing the special editions in the cinema on release day. All three of them. I wasn’t angered, but I was concerned a little. Especially with A New Hope. I liked the added CGI as it was a time when stuff like that was cool and new. But man. Han shooting first. A terrible, horrible, forced Jabba The Hutt cameo. If you’ve only seen the newer releases of the special editions you have no idea how terrible he looked and how pointless the scene felt. I still was excited for what George had planned with the prequels though.
Whilst I probably wouldn’t go back and erase my excitement in the build up, man they were a let down. Even before I had gotten as analytical of films as I am now I could identify many, many faults in each film. It just felt lifeless. To add to this, around the time of the prequel releases, we started to realise that George had no intention of re-releasing the original trilogy without the special edition “upgrades”. I’m convinced to this day that George felt so trapped in Star Wars, and so annoyed by how fans rejected almost anything he made since the late 80s, that he was actually spiteful of us in his decision to refuse a release. No I feel as if the guy had some great ideas and a modicum of directorial skill, there’s even a few scenes in Revenge of the Sith that show this, but he just didn’t care anymore. And as such, I question why I should care so much. Why should I give him the time of day when he’s content to just short change us? All that said, still think the guy is a genius of some kind for just the original films and at least 2 Indiana Jones films.
Along with various talking heads, although not the actual band the Talking Heads, we see various fan films and creations. This helps provide and idea of just how much fans feel Star Wars belongs to them. This is a key part of the central conflict. Lucas provided this playset of characters and worlds and he embraced fans playing within it in their own ways. It’s why short films such as troops exist. Fans feel as if those original films are such a part of their childhood, and by proxy what made them who they are now, that to be denied the chance to see them as they originally were hurts. Considering Lucas once stood up against Ted turner, who wanted to colourise a number of classic black and white films, arguing that these films belong to the collective culture of the world… well… his stance on the original trilogy comes across as nothing more than hypocritical at best.
Alexandre O. Philippe maybe could have taken a more creative approach to present this documentary, interviewing a wider range of people would have helped. By which I mean more from the cultural studies types and certainly, at least, a representative of Lucasfilm. As a talking heads doc about fandom there wouldn’t have been a need for any complex shooting techniques to have conveyed the point, ala The Imposter. It really wouldn’t have been needed, so, as it is, straight forward shooting services the film fine. One thing I could have done with was more of a look at the other works of George Lucas. Discussing how fans came to find them, be it pre or post Star Wars. Discussing if any of those films have as much of an effect on them. That said, Star Wars is certainly the exact source of contention. As Lucas directed none of the Indiana Jones films we can’t entirely blame him for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We can blame him for how long it took to be made, and that aspect isn’t touched on.
The People vs George Lucas is a fine and very entertaining documentary on fandom, much in the manner of Trekkies, and also does a great job of conveying a conflict that pretty much every nerd has an opinion on. For some, it may validate their feelings of conflict. Seeing that other fans share this same feeling of love and hate for the man and what he’s gradually done to Star Wars could maybe even be comforting. There’s a follow up planned for release around the time of Disney’s Episode VII release, exploring how they feel about their favourite stories being in the hands of anyone but Lucas. I’m positive about it. Like how when you finally got a Gameboy and it was amazing. Although that colour version was coming soon and it looked so cool. Like, your old games were now going to be in colour! Oh… and I guess you’d be less conflicted about your parents earlier mistake or something.