Under Review: ‘The People vs. George Lucas’


There’s no question about it, George Lucas has inspired some of the most passionate fans on Earth. From the Star Wars saga to Indiana Jones, Lucas not only created revolutionary film, but also unique worlds that fans wanted to participate in. Nevertheless, Lucas’ more recent additions to these franchises have left some fans with conflicting emotions, and the inability to reconcile their simultaneous love and anger towards the filmmaker.

Directed by Alexandre Philippe, “The People vs. George Lucas” takes this tangled, love-hate relationship fans have with George Lucas and puts it on display – allowing it to address both sides of the conflict in a courtroom style debate. A masterfully-edited documentary, the film features original interviews with fans and filmmakers, clips from Star Wars inspired film and online video, and archived interview footage with George Lucas.

The interviews are not only funny, but often provide personal insight into the creative mind of George Lucas. Along with a few nameless fanboys and fangirls, the interviewees also include the likes of Neil Gaiman, Henry Jenkins and Gary Kurtz, who provide a little perspective on Lucas’ creative process and cultural influence.

Most impressive, however, is the film’s ability to evoke sympathy for the almighty creator of Star Wars. As a fan with many unresolved issues with Mr. Lucas, I was surprised at how easily the film was able to position Lucas as a wronged party in the great Star Wars debate. Despite the franchise’s massive success, “The People vs. George Lucas” takes a few minutes to explore the negative effects Star Wars had on Lucas’ career – pointing out that even though Star Wars made him a household name, it may have also deprived him of the chance to create countless other films.

Also, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy when you take into account his less than ideal relationship with the film studios during his early career. It’s no secret that Lucas was outraged by the studio roadblocks and interference during “American Graffiti” and “THX 1138.” As a result, Lucas vowed to maintain complete creative control over future projects, leading to the creation of Lucasfilm Limited and his decision to write“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” with minimal feedback.

Nevertheless, despite Lucas’ fear of re-edits, “The People vs. George Lucas” is quick to demonstrate that even Lucas couldn’t avoid external revisions. Although Lucas maintained control over future projects, it was the fans who took creative liberties with his work. For decades, fans have re-written and re-imagined his films,and created the movies they wanted to see (including the famous fan edit “Star Wars Episode I.I: The Phantom Edit”).

However, the “The People vs. George Lucas” isn’t just fanboys and fangirls nerd raging about Jar-Jar Binks; it also tackles some bigger issues. Most notably is the question of who owns art. The documentary spends a great deal of time questioning Lucas’ decision to re-release the original trilogy (versions that included several new, badly-received scenes), as well as the moral implications of such revisions. Has “Star Wars” become so entrenched in our society that it no longer belongs to Lucas? Or should Lucas maintain complete control over his work — including the ability to rewrite and alter the originals as he sees fit?

Like most of the issues addressed in “The People vs. George Lucas,” nothing is definitively resolved. Instead, Philippe demonstrates that there are always two sides to any story, and that the George Lucas debates you’ve had with friends — even the ones at three in the morning in your parents’ basement — were critically and culturally significant.

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