For the 35th anniversary of the original Star Wars (May 25th 1977) I have decided to post a review I wanted to write months ago but never found the time to do it. The Star Wars documentary The People vs. George Lucas.
With a title that seemed pretty aggressive I was not very keen on this documentary about Star Wars and its fan culture. It seemed to me more like a compilation of people whining and complaining how something they liked was no longer cool.
But after reading some positive feedback I decided to give the documentary a try and was taken on a ride down nostalgia lane.
Dealing with your past
(personal ramblings that have nothing to do with the documentary)
Growing up in the 90s I only watched Star Wars on the TV-screen and later on VHS when they were released. To say that I watched the three movies a lot would be an understatement and growing up with all movies already out there Star Wars had this aura of something complete and untouchable.
And when word got out that there would be an actual new Star Wars – a movie that would be on the same pantheon as those three adventures – anticipation was through the roof.
A new Star Wars had been a fantasy for long but it would actually happen now! And being only 9 years old when Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out I was in the very demographic Star Wars fans complained about – the one demographic who found Jar Jar Binks funny.
To me – and probably all of my friends – Episode I was the coolest thing we had ever seen. The fondness for the new Star Wars movies continued to be strong and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was a culmination of my entire Star Wars fandom. So coming from the angle of someone who did not consider the three prequels to have raped one’s childhood I feared that I would not connect to this documentary
Dealing with the past of others
What this documentary managed was just reopen those memories of the anticipation. It is structured in four acts.
The first one dealing with the phenomenon of Star Wars 77-83. Here we get a very good idea of what the impact of Star Wars was for people who were young back then.
The second segment is about the hype towards Episode I. Watching those interviews is incredible when you realize that you have not been the only one who thought so highly of this movie already before it was released.
While there have been many hyped movies and big events I doubt any release will ever reach the heights of The Phantom Menace.
Part three deals with the reactions and aftermath of Episode I and the final segment is about George Lucas and what has become of the man who has given us Star Wars.
The portrait of a complicated man and his fans
The history of George Lucas and the dismay certain decisions of him have caused is something that would turn any review into an essay and thankfully this documentary makes those essays superfluous. Director Alexandre O. Philippe has compiled the biggest events in Star Wars history, their impact and what one can learn from them in this documentary.
But rest assured: this is not just a compilation of nerd nitpicking.
Much more this movie gives insight to why so many people take Star Wars so seriously. It allows people who have not had contact with Star Wars fans to see why they get so passionate about it. You have geeks, nerds, originaltrilogy.com-people, writers (Neil Gaiman), directors (Francis Ford Coppola), faneditors (Adywan who is responsible for Star Wars Revisited), historians… they all elevate and show that Star Wars is not just something special for a few people living in Mom’s basement (yeah I hate that allegory but it gets the point across).
And while a large part of the story is about the specific movies it very soon turns about a discussion about the very definition of art and how this definition might no longer be applicable in the digital world.
At its heart the documentary asks the question who the actual owner of a movie is and how art stems from how the public reacts to it.
A moment of bitter sympathy
As I said before I was afraid that this documentary would be a hate-filled compilation but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The final moments of the documentary make it much more than this.
While there is a lot of discussion how people think that the movies are great it is not until the final minutes that there is a real catharsis and thankfulness for those pieces – when it is no longer about lightsabers and spaceships but something much more deeper, a much bigger and richer story.
With a title as sensational as this the verdict is surprisingly objective and well spirited.
Score: Great (for fans) / Recommendable (non-fans)
I have no idea how a person who is not a total Star Wars nut will react to this. Maybe from a documentary standpoint it is amateurish… I can not judge those things as my experience with those type of movies is very limited.
All I can say is that if you like Star Wars you should watch this piece.
Especially if you are pretty angry with the state of Star Wars right now.
The People vs. George Lucas takes you back to revisit those fantastic times and – as pathetic as it might sound – offers a sort of therapy session to come to terms with some gripes and helps us – as the stormtroopers would say – to movie along…
35 years of Star Wars
18 years since I have seen a television broadcast of Empire
and the force is still strong with us.
Just like the documentary I would love to take this opportunity to say
Thank you George
No matter how much I hate some of your decisions
Thank you for giving us Star Wars
And for celebration’s sake:
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