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People vs. George Lucas, The (DVD Review)

18 Oct, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 10/25/11
$27.98 DVD
Not rated.

Sick of “Star Wars” yet? Too bad. Between the recent Blu-ray and upcoming 3D theatrical re-releases, George Lucas’ famous franchise doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. And that, ironically, isn’t sitting well with some fans.

That’s the heart of The People vs. George Lucas, a documentary that examines the complex love-hate relationship some vocal “Star Wars” fans have developed with their favorite franchise after Lucas altered the original trilogy into “special editions,” refused to release the theatrical versions ever again, and then made the prequels. These fans have spent millions of dollars on merchandise and can’t help but feel manipulated by a man who has turned his artistic endeavor into a cynical business model.

The main question here is how democratized a process should filmmaking be? When a movie has become the cultural phenomenon “Star Wars” has become, to what degree should the creators listen to the wishes of the fans? Attempts to answer these questions make The People vs. George Lucas a fascinating examination of the dichotomy between film as an art and film as a business, and the fans who are caught in the middle. It’s as much a character study of the audience as it is Lucas.

This isn’t just an excuse to bash Lucas for his recent treatment of the franchise. Rather, the film is in its own way a well put together tribute of “Star Wars,” comprised mostly of interviews with other filmmakers and fans trying to reconcile their love of Lucas’ creation with what they feel is mistreatment of it at the hands of its creator. There are a ton of clips from “Star Wars” parodies and fan videos, and re-creations of scenes using action figures.

For good or bad, no other franchise seems to inspire this level of passion among a mainstream audience, let alone the dedicated fans. This is a testament to the popularity and impact of “Star Wars.”

Then again, which fans have earned the right to be listened to? One of the interesting reconciliations of People vs. George Lucas is that the most vocal complainers about the excesses of “Star Wars” only profess to hate what Lucas has done as a way to declare they really are the biggest fans. Given that even the altered versions break sales records, it’s hard to think Lucasfilm doesn’t consider these vocal fans to be a loud but insignificant minority. (Indeed, the fact that the prequels are “certified fresh” at RottenTomatoes.com doesn’t give much credibility to the argument that “nobody” likes the prequels). And younger fans who came to the franchise with the prequels and “The Clone Wars” often don’t understand the love for the original trilogy.

The People vs. George Lucas makes the astute observation that the fans driving the controversy are the ones who grew up with the original films, and can’t seem to move beyond that aspect of their childhood. Nowhere is this idea better demonstrated than in a bonus music video called “George Lucas Raped My Childhood,” in which two brothers sing about all their complaints about the special editions and prequels.

Other extras on the DVD include a commentary with the filmmakers, who reflect more on how fun it was to reflect on “Star Wars” than they do rehashing the discussions of the film; some “Star Wars” poetry; and the full 21-minute version of an enlightening interview with Gary Kurtz, who produced the first two “Star Wars” movies before leaving the franchise.

Ultimately The People vs. George Lucas concedes the whole debate is kind of silly, since it wouldn’t exist if George Lucas hadn’t created this great thing called “Star Wars” in the first place. But it has a lot of fun getting there.

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