Like so many people, I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. I was only one-year old when Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was released to theaters, which means I grew up watching all three on VHS. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw Return of the Jedi before the other two movies. Since I was a kid at the time, I also grew up liking Ewoks. I’ll just get that out of the way right now.
When Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace came to theaters, I enjoyed it. Sure, Jar-Jar Binks was stupid, Jake Lloyd not very good, the writing clunky, but I enjoyed it. In my original [poorly written] review, authored a day after the film’s May 1999 release, I said the “dialogue might not be the greatest, and the characters might not be as enthralling as those in the latter trilogy, but it still is an exciting and awesome science-fiction blockbuster”.
Even as I was praising the movie, deluded by my excitement that a new Star Wars trilogy was upon us, it’s clear how my long-term opinions would pan out.
The Star Wars prequels are not terrible movies [EDITOR'S NOTE: Since writing this, I started watching The Phantom Menace again. Boy, is it painful to watch]. They have some good action sequences, great visual effects and some entertainment value. Each movie has its memorable sequences, and there have been far worse productions put to film. This perspective often gets lost in the Star Wars discussion.
That being said, the prequels aren’t good movies. They suffer from poor writing, lame characters, questionable plotting and a complete and utter failure to come close to the original films. Don’t even get me started on the continuous tweaking creator George Lucas continues to inflict upon his creations, and his legions of confused and frustrated fans.
The new documentary The People vs. George Lucas looks at the dilemma, the paradox, that is George Lucas. The biggest haters of Star Wars are the biggest Star Wars fans. They hate George Lucas for making piss-poor prequels and for tinkering with the originals, and yet he defined a generation and is responsible for making the original trilogy, three of the most cherished films of all time.
Having just watched William Shatner’s The Captains, which was a rudimentary documentary that looked at the lives of the six actors who’ve played Starship Captains over the years, The People vs. George Lucas is a reprieve. Whereas The Captains was dull and unimaginative, The People vs. George Lucas has flair, passion, intrigue and a story to tell.
The documentary puts to film what so many Star Wars fans feel, their utter frustration with George Lucas and their conflicting feelings for the man who is responsible for influencing so many of their lives and yet failing to deliver on the high expectations he established.
Yes, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is also discussed.
Filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe has assembled a visually creative and engaging production full of fan interviews, fan-made Star Wars footage and a surprisingly balanced view of the issue at hand. “Balanced” isn’t quite accurate. The documentary definitely comes from the perspective of frustrated fans, but manages to avoid being completely one-sided. It does raise the question of whether an artist should be allowed to refine his art after it’s “finished”, and whether fans have the right to claim such ownership over said art. After all, the movie is George Lucas’ creation; does he not have the right to do with it as he pleases?
The People vs. George Lucas is a documentary made for Star Wars fans. It’s entertaining, insightful and engaging, and well worth owning.
The People vs. George Lucas is now available on DVD.