Thursday, June 24, 2010

EIFF Premiere: "The People vs. George Lucas" (2010)

This is such a fun documentary to watch as it presents the fans' perspective of the "Star Wars" franchise along with the man behind it all, George Lucas, who, throughout the course of the film, becomes an icon and a metaphor for something greater than even himself. George Lucas is a man easy to love as well as a man who's easy to hate, and to these fans, it is strictly a love-hate relationship.

"The People vs. George Lucas" takes on a topic that has an endless amount of material to address, and it does so in a concise and inventive way that is not for one minute boring or tedious. Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the movie shows how "Star Wars" exploded into the dynasty it is along with the passionate and loyal fandom it sparked. It begins with the importance of what Lucas had created back in 1977 as a defining film in a culture that would soon explode.

There is an arc to the fandom story that goes from admiration to raging hatred back to admiration. The hatred started with the announcement of the special editions, the updated versions of the three original "Star Wars" films that provoked mass outrage among fans due to its changes that Lucas considered improvements while others certainly did not. From here the movie dives into a fascinating contemplation on the responsibility of the artist. At what point does a film become a product of the times that should not be tampered with? Does the public eventually own the rights to a product of its culture? Fans felt Lucas removed that very privilege by refusing to re-release the original versions stating that the special editions were the real "Star Wars" he had envisioned.

And then came the prequels. Fans took these as George Lucas smirking and spitting in their faces, especially with the introduction of Jar Jar Binks. But then again, the fans of the original "Star Wars" films were adults by then, and Lucas argues that these are children's movies. Is it truly generational, or should have the franchise grown up with its original fan base?

As one interview states, it wasn't that the fans were asking for more "Star Wars" that were good but just for more "Star Wars."

The movie is strung together with a series of a variety of talking heads providing an array of perspectives from fans, critics and filmmakers. Interspersed with these are clips from fan films of the original "Star Wars" and humorous fan edits of how fans thought the prequels should have been done. Before seeing this movie, I simply had no idea how much "Star Wars" merchandise and fandom there really is, and the wide range of it is displayed here.

One of the most compelling moments comes from footage of an old interview with director Francis Ford Coppola. He labels the making of "Star Wars" as the loss of an auteur and says George Lucas is unfortunately trapped inside the corporate machine that "Star Wars" has become. Take into consideration films like "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti" Lucas had made before this, and just think about what else he could have done if it weren't for this.

"The People vs. George Lucas" manages to circle back around to admiration even as fans sure may despise him because, yes, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" gets mentioned along with the "South Park" episode that parodied what it meant to fans when Lucas made it. In spite of this, though, they can't put behind them the great entertainment he provided them with the original "Star Wars."

While playful in tone, this documentary is insightful into how media can play into one's own representation and memory of childhood along with what it means to be an artist in terms of what kind of control they have against the public's digestion and consequential adornment of the work. So then, did George Lucas really rape the people's childhood?

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