The People vs. George Lucas (2010) – A Review

The People vs George Lucas documentary

Star Wars fans have a love/hate relationship with George Lucas.

At first he was viewed as a cinematic messiah, creating one of the most popular film series of all-time and in effect inspiring millions of its viewers. In the eyes of original fans he created the most important film in their young lives.

Then gradually that admiration turned into disgust. In the eyes of many fans Lucas became less a storyteller and more of a businessman selling, repackaging and profiting from his Star Wars creation any way he could. His decisions of fiddling with Star Wars and the Emperor-like grasp he continued to have on fans started to feel to many that he was taking advantage of that initial love and in turn giving them nothing back.

George Lucas has become one of the most polarizing filmmakers ever? Why? What’s the big deal? He only made a bunch of ‘space movies’. But those ‘space movies’ became some of the most influential films in cinema history, along with being a touchstone for a generation of kids who recreated scenes in their backyards imagining their Dad’s flashlights were lightsabers – an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

The People vs. George Lucas directed by Alexandre O. Phillippe, attempt to untangle this swing of emotions in the hearts of fans who a long time ago were worshipping at the Alter of Lucas and now are making declarations that he has raped their childhoods.

George Lucas in carbonite

I’ve been hearing about this film for a long time and finally managed to see it. It presents a vast collection of Star Wars fans from all walks of life who offer up their own opinions on their feelings about George and where he has taken their beloved sci-fi series. The passion with both their affection and anger towards Lucas and Star Wars is at times humorous and seemingly well-placed.

Hearing the arguments regarding the 1997 Special Editions of the films is a portion I found the most interesting and is where I would place the point where Lucas finally turned to the ‘Dark Side’ with his original trilogy.

Fans were treated to revamped and updated versions of the original trilogy (1977’s Star Wars, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s The Return of the Jedi). However, along with the enhancements this move also erased the original versions of the films – at least in Lucas’ mind. Since then he seems content to let them disappear from film history.

The work that earned Oscars for the other artists who worked on Star Wars – best art direction, costume design, visual effects, editing – their original work has been altered by Lucas’ new digital technology. Computer generated special effects now overshadow the laborious work of the model makers and technicians that helped make the film such a huge hit in 1977. The 1997 Special Editions are simply not the same films.

That’s one area the documentary explores I found the most disappointment with Lucas. Especially since he was once such a vocal proponent of the preservation of film history. There’s a hypocritical stance he has made that just makes you shake your head.

The film does offer up some laughs, particularly with the featured fan videos that recreate and parody the Star Wars films, along with criticizing Lucas. If you’re a Star Wars fan seeing them opens the door for you to want to search some of these videos out. Some are very creative and are more entertaining than the prequels.

Ah yes. The prequels. They’re also covered. The long wait and eventual disappointment is highlighted by the strong negative reactions by original fans.

The questions the film raise are some interesting ones – does an artist first have a responsibility to his audience or to himself? Does he have a right to continue to change his work after its already been presented to the public? And what was Lucas thing when he gave us Jar-Jar?

There really isn’t a definitive answer to these questions, but hearing the discussions and various opinions from the interviewees offer up a nice variety of perspectives. Being one of the millions of fans who grew up with the original trilogy and witnessing what Star Wars has become I have my own opinions on Lucas. Do I like the prequels? No. Do I like the changes that were made and keep being made to those original films? No. Do I think the best Star Wars can give me happened a long time ago? Yes. And that also goes for Lucas too.

I would like to see one day Lucas venture out of his Star Wars universe and create something new. Imagine being a filmmaker and having the money and resources to be able to tell any story you can dream up. It’s something many artists would yearn for. Instead Lucas continues to go back his Star Wars well so he can tweak, repackage and convert them to 3D. Does he have anything left to offer film audiences other than Star Wars? I don’t think so.

In a way I think of Lucas as the biggest one-hit wonder filmmaker of all time. I’ve made my peace with George and Star Wars. I love the original trilogy – the films that I grew up on. Everything Star Wars since then has either been a disappointment or I just have no interest in. Now I’ve just accepted the disillusionment that George seems to only offer me now, but I am still grateful to him for creating those three original films.

So although I’m a huge Star Wars fan and can sympathize with the frustration other fans have towards him I’m not one who’s standing in the middle of the street screaming “George Lucas has raped my childhood!” I’ve cooled down with all of that.

Then I saw Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull……


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