Using a courtroom debate analogy this documentary explores issues of filmmaking, fan fanaticism and tampering one’s own art around one of film’s most famous franchises and its creator. The film combines filmmaker, and celebrity interviews with fan films and fan interviews as it moves through a number of issues that have emerged since the original trilogy special editions.
‘The People vs. George Lucas’, was not something I was looking forward to reviewing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Star Wars fan, I loved them growing up, I’ve enjoyed both the films and the expanded universe thoroughly and I’ve been deeply immersed in the books, comics, video games for as long as I can remember. Here’s the thing though and this is where we’ll likely part ways in our opinions….I don’t hate the prequels. There, I said it….I found a lot to enjoy in the prequel films and I don’t consider the disparity between them and the original trilogy to be as great as many fans would argue.
That said, and having grown a little fatigued of the countless passionate arguments I’ve engaged in over the years mostly since the release of Episode 1, and to a lesser extend the release of the special editions, hearing the issues of Han shooting first, Luke screaming as he falls away from Vader (or not depending on what version you watch), not to mention Sarlac beaks and more recently blinking ewoks countless times I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat dreading watching ‘The People vs. George Lucas’ anticipating a presentation of many of the arguments I’d grown to be so familiar with over the years. While the documentary explores the many issues that will be familiar to all Star Wars fans, by the end of the running time what it achieves is much more than a simple rehash of these debates.
Less confrontational to George Lucas than the title implies the documentary goes back to the early career of George Lucas’s, before exploring the cultural phenomenon that was the original Star Wars film. It is instantly obvious that this was a passion project for director/writer Alexandre O. Phillippe that is being told not from the eyes of film makers, but primarily from the perspective of the fans.
It is a thorough presentation that explores the franchise from the original trilogy, to the merchandising, the special editions, and of course the prequel trilogy. What is interesting is that it recaptures some of the feverish fandom leading up to the Phantom Menace, reminding us of the height of anticipation leading up to that release date and then the crushing disappointment that so many fans felt, not only after the first screening but after multiple screenings as it took time for some audiences to digest and reflect on what they’d just seen. In this respect the documentary reminded me of the film ‘Fanboys’ directed by Kyle Newman which sought to explore some similar themes to this part of the documentary.
All the issues that you’d expect to see are included here and spoken about by fans. Of course it covers Han and Greedo, Jar Jar Binks, midichloreans and Vader screaming ‘No!’, however it’s also within a wider context of artistic ownership, fan experiences with the original trilogy, George Lucas as a changed filmmaker, the preservation of original artistic works, and the ownership of art which has been released to take on a life of its own amongst people who love it.
This is where ‘The People vs. George Lucas’ tends to shine, it takes many familiar issues and compiles then in an interesting manner regardless of where your opinion may be. Overall it feels like a fairly balanced presentation, and takes some time to linger on the legacy of both George Lucas and Star Wars, closing with various fan commentaries about that. Despite an obvious intentional focus on the fan base of the franchise, there is also some content from higher profile individuals such as Gary Kurtz whom provides some further experienced and informed views on some of these issues.
Whether you love or hate the prequels, no Star Wars fan can deny the passionate controversy that has grown around them since those special editions hit screens in the late 1990’s, and by that token this film is a great watch to see those same controversies explored in a manner that seeks out the heart of the issue while also exploring some of the grander issues that come into play.
I’m giving ‘The People vs. George Lucas’ 3 out of 5 stars.