It’s a feeling that nearly every “Star Wars” fan has had at least once in their life: betrayal. But how far does that betrayal go, and is it even fair to call it that? Those are the main questions surrounding Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary, “The People vs. George Lucas,” and they’re ones that aren’t necessarily answered by the time it’s over. That’s not to say that the fan doc doesn’t accomplish anything, but rather that, despite being fairly biased in its criticisms of Lucas, it isn’t nearly convincing enough to change your feelings on the subject.
Compiling interviews from fans, writers, filmmakers and just about anyone willing to speak their mind, “The People vs. George Lucas” investigates the infamous love-hate relationship between the “Star Wars” creator and his massive fanbase. Glossing over his early years as a filmmaker and his time making the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Philippe jumps right into the fan controversy at the heart of the film, tracking all the way back to 1997 when the movies were re-released in theaters. Though many thought the decision to upgrade the trilogy was a great idea at the time (including those who actually worked on it), the reissues have since been a major sticking point in the argument against Lucas – and not just because of the changes made. Granted, the whole Han Shot First debacle is pretty maddening stuff, but there are far more intellectual discussions as well, ranging from the validity of an Oscar for Best Visual Effects after the crew’s miniature work was replaced with CG, to the ridiculous claim that the original negative was destroyed after the reissues were completed.
For as angry as the 1997 editions made fans, however, nothing comes even remotely as close to the outrage following the release of the new trilogy. Though “The Phantom Menace,” in particular, isn’t quite as bad as some made it out to be, expectations were set so high that it’s understandable why a lot of fans took it personally. The pro-Lucas side argues that the films were made for children (just like the first movies were), and though that sounds like a pretty bad excuse for a character as heinous as Jar Jar Binks, it actually has some value to it. After all, if the “Star Wars” movies weren’t made for kids, then why invest so much of the marketing into cartoons and toys? That doesn’t really explain why he would tamper with the mythology of the series (i.e. midi-chlorians), and while some have been able to look past those minor annoyances, others have made it their mission to complain about everything Lucas has done to ruin their childhood.
Philippe’s documentary also includes brief segments about the “Star Wars Christmas Special,” the endurance of the “Star Wars” brand, as well as the negative response to “Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” One interviewee even makes a curious observation regarding the attack on the film, noting that fans lashed out mostly at Lucas, despite Steven Spielberg’s heavy involvement in the project. So is Lucas just the guy we love to hate, or is there something more to it? Philippe doesn’t seem to know the answer, but that’s mostly because there isn’t one. While the argument over whether or not George Lucas owns the creative right to alter his movies (or if he surrenders that right the minute it’s released to the masses) will probably go on long after he’s dead, it’s silly to think that he’s somehow ruined our childhoods. After all, none of us would even have those memories if it weren’t for Lucas, and though he can be a real son of a bitch at times, it’s probably just easier to let him have his way.