Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
If you were to come up to me and say 'Chris, George Lucas changed my life', I could get with that.  I was nine years old when I went to see 'Star Wars', one of the few movies I think that the entire family went to… Mom, Dad, my two year old sister and my sixteen year old brother.  I can see where one could watch that movie and say 'I know what I want to do with my life'.  It was that epic.  'The Empire Strikes Back' is the better movie… but that's a discussion for another day.  Point being, I understand the sentiment because 'Star Wars' changed lives.  Now if you were to tell me that 'Star Wars' is the most important thing in your life… well… who am I to tell you what should be important in your life?  Nobody, that's who.  I might secretly wish, deep inside, that there were things more important in your life such as friends and family and your career and the like, but it's your life, correct?  But if you were to tell me that George Lucas ruined your life because he made three inferior sequels to the legendary 'Star Wars'… four if you count 'Return of the Jedi', which some do, but that too is another story… That would make me sad.  Only because that's giving Mr. Lucas far too much power.  He probably doesn't deserve that kind of power over us, and I'm almost equally certain that he doesn't want that kind of power.  This documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe, 'The People vs. George Lucas' examines, in detail, the conflicted relationship that George Lucas has with his legions of fans.

The film gives us a brief history of a young filmmaker who made two movies, 'THX1138' and 'American Graffiti', note that Mr. Lucas, other than his student shorts, has only officially directed six films in his 40+ year career, and this young filmmaker was sick and tired of the studio messing with his films and obstructing his vision.  Though I'm not quite sure how he pulled it off, but somehow George Lucas had complete control over the creation of his 50's styled space opera serial 'Star Wars', and if the film industry were categorized as Greek gods, on May 25th  1977, Zeus has just been born.  Then came arguably the greatest movie ever made in 'The Empire Strikes Back', the Indiana Jones films, Return of the Jedi, toys, TV shows, Industrial Light and Magic, videogames… have you ever played X-Wing or Tie Fighter?  It just doesn't get much better than that.  My goodness…
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Now we have an issue though.  The man who created something so he could avoid the system, has now become the system… and in a big way.  Now as a kid I was unaware of all of this talk of 'systems' and 'controls' and 'commerce' and whatnot, but I did realize early that Mr. Lucas was a pretty hardcore business man when, on the strength of one of my first jobs, I went to buy a Star Wars VHS Box set.  Do you buy them individually?  Do you wait for the box set?  Do you wait for the special edition box set?  Do you get the anniversary box set?  I knew the fanatics would buy them all, and even as a seventeen year old I wept inside because I knew these poor people were being taking advantage of.  True, none of these people are being forced to by all of this junk, but we know the laws of addiction, now don't we?

Then the film eventually gets to what has ripped the fans of George Lucas apart, 'The Phantom Menace'.  This is probably the best part of the film as we get to the various talking heads and how they reacted to the announcement of the film, to the epic release of the trailer of the film, the anticipation of the release date of 'Star Wars: Episode I', and from the moment the John Williams classic orchestra hit reveals the classic Star Wars logo… and then the fallout.  True enough, I'm not a Star Wars fanatic, but I am still on record as saying that 'The Phantom Menace' is the most disappointing movie ever made.  There are worse movies, way worse movies, but I don't believe I've experienced such as letdown, or saw anything quite as lackluster or as detached as 'The Phantom Menace', especially when factoring in expectations.  Are those expectations the fault of George Lucas?  A little bit, yes, but mostly it's our fault.  Follow that up with two better, but still lackluster films, and now the man who was once a god has to see his subjects turn on him.  Some of them in the worst way.  And we won't even get into the backlash about the digital tinkering of the first three Star Wars films which pleased almost no one.

The question asked, especially in regards to the first three films, becomes one of ownership.  The next three films… that's a deeper issue and possibly plays more into a lack of collaboration and George Lucas being slightly overrated as a filmmaker… yet another  discussion for another day perhaps.  But in regards to episodes IV, V, and VI, The People have taken ownership of these films and prefer them in their original states.  George Lucas maintains ownership of these films and feels that he can do whatever he pleases with them.  In principle, I agree with The People on this, especially when the young man points out that tinkering with the miniature and real world effects that were in the first films and adding digital enhancements, or replacing them outright, belittles the hard work of those that originally worked on these films.  I honestly can't verbalize the disappointment I felt at the end of my DVD re-watching of 'Return of the Jedi' and seeing David Prowse replaced with Hayden Christenson.  Minor perhaps, but pretty major for me.  But in reality, the films belong to George Lucas and he can do with them as he so pleases.  It pains me to say this, but it is nonetheless the truth as I see it.

In my opinion we just have to be thankful for what we have.  Of my personal top ten films, a list I'm sure we all have, two of them belong to Lucasfilm in 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', so the importance of the existence of George Lucas isn't lost on me.  So while some may question the value of George Lucas as a filmmaker, he is still a visionary and a genius on many levels, and his films have altered the course of many lives.  The people definitely have a strong case against George Lucas, and the evidence at times is damning.  But when it's all said and done… it's his ball and his court.  We are forced to declare him Not Guilty.
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