Quint renders a verdict in THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS at SXSW!
Published at: March 14, 2010, 5:13 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my thoughts from South By Southwest’s premiere screening of THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS.
To be completely honest, I had no idea what the movie was going to be before taking my seat. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what a documentary called THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS is about and it is everything you think it is.
The film opens with an animation sequence of a drawn Lucas setting up projectors and a small screen that shows the titles of his films. First it’s THX 1138 and a few bowling pins with legs (fans, I guess) show up behind Lucas. Then it’s AMERICAN GRAFITTI and more pins show up, some jumping up and down. Then it’s STAR WARS and a giant mob show up, picking up Lucas and carrying on their shoulders, taking him through a toy store and then putting him up on a throne.
Focusing on the symbiotic relationship between George Lucas and his fans the film chronicles a whole generation’s fascination with Star Wars, leading into the prequels and how those films caused a giant and negative reaction from the usually dependable and loyal fanbase.
Director Alexandre O. Philippe was able to get some impressive interviews with people like OT producer Gary Kurtz and the ever disgruntled man-in-the-suit David Prowse, but the focus is always on the fans, which is both the point and the failure of this documentary.
Failure might be too harsh of a word. It’s definitely a success at what it sets out to be, the definitive document on the arguments for and against the prequels, but the problem is that for anybody who is or was a Star Wars fan there is nothing new. It’s like listening to the discussions you’ve had with your friends ever since 1999 or even earlier… the real divide starts with the Special Editions.
There are other angles, with professors discussing Star Wars’ true impact on culture and the gray area of the creator’s artistic rights vs. the audience’s right to the art. Those are fascinating topics, but are presented and quickly moved on from so they can get a bunch of fans talking about how stupid Jar-Jar Binks is.
I’ve had these discussions, you’ve had these discussions and I’m sad to say that I think this movie’s about 5 years too late. It almost feels like its trying to open up old wounds. Most of us that hate the prequels have made our peace and moved on. Those that love them are happy anyway.
I don’t know if you guys have seen Red Letter Media’s Mr. Plinkett reviewing The Phantom Menace, but if you haven’t… it’s the smartest, hilariously funny deconstruction of Episode 1 that I’ve ever seen. Plinkett points out inconsistencies and story flaws that I never could vocalize or even noticed (like in the opening scrawl Lucas says “two Jedi Knights” are on a mission and then he makes a big deal of Obi-Wan becoming a Jedi Knight at the end of the movie!), but the reason that works 10 years on from The Phantom Menace is very simple: it’s not a fanboy review.
It’s not 70 minutes of talking about how stupid Jar-Jar is. He’s barely mentioned because he’s not the root of the problem with the prequels. The problem is in the writing and execution of the shoddy script and that’s a point I think is totally glossed over in THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS.
Interviewees state that there’s no way Episode 1 could have lived up to what the movies' fans had been imagining since Obi-Wan told Luke about The Clone Wars and the man his father used to be way back in 1977. Bullshit. What we want is a good movie. The backlash isn’t about the movie not meeting expectation, it’s about the movies being poorly made.
I won’t say THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS is boring. It’s not. It’s just beating a dead horse and lacks focus, trying to cover the entirety of what is essentially a very complicated issue. If Philippe had been able to keep the focus on the concept of an artist putting one of his creations out into the world and then struggling with his control over it, the way Lucas has, I think we would have gotten a documentary I could get excited about.
What I love about that aspect is that there’s no clear-cut right and wrong. Does Lucas have the right to recut his films and add in a ton of dancing cartoons? Of course he does. Should he do that? That’s a more difficult question, especially when he’s of the opinion that the originals aren’t fit to see any kind of real new tech release, restoration or preservation. That to me is an interesting subject up for debate, not the 400th time you’ve seen people talk about how stupid Greedo shooting first is or that Midiclorians dispel the spiritual aspect of The Force as set up in the original films.
Or if Philippe had wanted to chronicle Lucas’ arc from revolutionary, anti-corporation filmmaker to the head of a multi-leveled corporation he could have done that. There’s fascinating moments of this documentary that touch on this idea, with Lucas himself acknowledging the irony and an old interview with Francis Ford Coppola talking about how Star Wars could be the worst thing to happen to George Lucas, Filmmaker because it has forced him to become George Lucas, Entrepreneur.
Coppola states that the Star Wars franchise might be worth billions of dollars, but the whole value of that franchise is one tenth the value of the filmmaker that George Lucas was and has denied us two decades of Lucas pursuing other interests because he has to control the juggernaut that is his little space adventure.
There’s definitely a market for this kind of movie and I guess it’s valuable as a documentation of the geeky back and forths that have been going on in what used to be an incredibly tight-knit community, but as someone who has opinions that fall on both sides of the argument it just feels too much “been there done that” for me to be any more than lukewarm on it.
There’s a better documentary in there, a more interesting documentary in my opinion, but what is there is done competently and professionally. It’s just misguided. Kind of like Lucas himself.
If you haven’t seen Mr. Plinkett’s Episode 1 review I’m embedding them all below. You owe it to yourself to watch them all. It’s biting, but it’s also funny as hell and avoids snark (for the most part).
And here’s the trailer for his pending Episode 2 review:
With that I sleep. I have some reviews to catch up on tomorrow and hopefully I’ll start getting some interviews out to you soon. Already been a massively busy fest and I’m only 2 days into it.
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