November 19, 2011

With Star Wars Blu-rays sitting on everyone’s shelves that offer both an amazing presentation of a childhood classics and even more of the irritating changes that George Lucas insists improve the movies, the love/hate relationship between the flannel-loving fantasist and his fans has never been more intense. It’s kind of amazing how in the ten years since the release of The Phantom Menace, Star Wars has gone from one of the most beloved film franchises in existence to being simultaneously the most loved and despised. In an age where geeks run the world, Lucas seems to enjoy prodding and irritating the fanbase that made him a multibillionaire for reasons best known to himself. Fortunately, the ongoing obsession and frustration of Star Wars fans has been given a definitive documentary in The People Vs. George Lucas. Short of a confrontational interview with the man himself, the film covers every aspect of the Star Wars phenomena and controversies in a breezy, entertaining manner. The new DVD is an ideal companion piece to the best selling Blu-ray to examine how the Star Wars phenomena has awkwardly evolved over the last decade. Hit the jump for our review of The People vs. George Lucas on DVD.

the-people-vs-george-lucas-imageWriter/director Alexandre O. Philippe approaches his feature length George Lucas critique from a place of love. The first half hour of the movie is dedicated to interviews discussing the incredible success and impact the films had on an entire generation of who held the original trilogy on a pedestal. The documentary doesn’t come from a place of hate, but from spurned fans who desperately want to continue their lifelong love of Star Wars, yet feel burned by irritating special editions, terrible prequels, and the never-ending parade of merchandising. It’s a rallying cry from the geek community that’s been heard many times before, but not until now has the argument ever been presented so concisely and entertainingly.

With no footage from the original trilogy included out of context for fear of a lawsuit from the delightfully litigious Lucasfilm, Philippe instead packs his documentary with entertaining footage from fan films. Everything from recreations to a hilarious Misery spoof in which an obsessed fan kidnaps Lucas and forces him to rewrite the prequels are features, while interviews range from fans on the Comic-Con floor to Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz (now considered something of a fan hero for dropping out of the trilogy on Return Of The Jedi because he felt it was becoming too commercially minded), and rather amusingly some French film critics who passionately dissect the importance of Jar Jar Binks as they would have analyzed Jerry Lewis a few decades ago. There’s a real sense of how passionate the fans of this series can be, even after having been burned by their once favorite filmmaker for years.

the-people-vs-george-lucas-image-2The only real problem with The People Vs George Lucas is that it doesn’t really offer anything that hasn’t been covered many times before. Anyone with an interest in what’s happened to Star Wars will know all too well about Lucas’ dismissive comments about the prequels being for children or his hypocritical tirade against colorization and the importance of film preservation in the 90s. It’s unlikely anyone interested enough in this material to buy the DVD will find anything new, but it’s nice to have all of this material compiled into an easy to swallow documentary. Hearing these arguments again in one cohesive piece can be reassuring to tearful Star Wars fans who feel alone in their frustrations. The film certainly has a purpose as a 90-minute piece of geek group therapy. It would be nice to think Lucas might get his hands on the doc and finally decide to even release a Blu-ray of the original untouched trilogy to make things right, but that ain’t going to happen. Lucas clearly couldn’t care less about burning the millions of fans who made him one of the richest people on the planet and given that he loves finding ways to repackage his movies and pad his bank account, we can assume those original versions will eventually get an official release if only for the immense profits that will inevitably come along with it. The documentary is a welcoming rallying cry, but sadly it’s only going to be appreciated by people who already share the opinions expressed in the film.

the-people-vs-george-lucas-dvd-coverThe DVD comes with a nice, if fairly small collection of extras for fans, although the hours of deleted scenes and interviews that we can only assume were left on the cutting room floor weren’t included. Still, here’s the package you’ll get along with the movie

Audio Commentary:

  • Director Alexandre O. Phillppe, director of photography Robert Muratore, and editor Chad Herschberge sit down for an informal chat. It’s a lively an entertaining commentary, though as with all documentaries the filmmakers thoughts are clearly expressed in the film, so it’s mostly just reiteration.

The People Vs. Star Wars 3D

  • A lot has happened to further irritate Star Wars fans since this documentary’s production, but the only update offered on the DVD is this discussion about the fans’ reaction to the impending 3D re-release of all 6 films. The low-fi interviews were taken at Comic-Con and play out exactly as you’d expect. It’s a nice extension of the movie, but doesn’t add much to the debate that hasn’t already been written about endlessly online.

Music Video: George Lucas Raped My Childhood

  • Exactly what you’d expect, but with an insane amount of blurred footage from the movies.

Poetry Slam Videos

  • The full anti-George Lucas poetry slam sets featured in the documentary. If you’re a poetry slam fan, these are probably great. But for me…meh…

Gary Kurtz Interview

  • By far the most interesting special feature is this extended interview session with Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz. The producer worked with Lucas from the American Graffiti days and has some unique insights on what went wrong with Star Wars and Lucas in general following the unexpected success of the series. Kurtz always has plenty of interesting things to say about his involvement with series even if it’s a little unclear whether or not he’s a genuinely passionate Star Wars co-creator or a spurned former employee reveling in late-career fan support. Either way, it’s an intriguing watch.

Grade: B

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