Last week we celebrated May 4th, which in the geek community has become a holiday to celebrate Star Wars (May the 4th be with you. Get it?) however for many fans this day has now become a day of mourning. Now I'll start this edition of Doctor Documentary with a confession, and that is that while I really think the Star Wars original trilogy are a great set of films, it was never one of those movies that I just totally geeked out over. It's not that I'm incapable of geeking out over a series, I am, you throw an Evil Dead Blu-Ray into a pit and you'll find me falling in right after it, but Star Wars I always appreciated only on a film lover level, never as an obsessed fan who got all caught up in the continuity and universe and such. However I stand by the Star Wars fans when I hear them complain about all that George Lucas has done to the franchise, and as a film historian, someone who loves the study of film and their history, I find it disgusting how this man has gone on to just flat out erase the previous movies from existence. But I know that there are lots of arguments to be made back and forth on this issue, and that the fans deserve the chance to stand up and have a voice in the discussion, and to those fans I suggest to you The People Vs George Lucas.
So for anyone on the site who doesn't know what this film might be about based solely on the name alone, George Lucas created the Star Wars franchise, three movies that moved an entire generation and opened their imagination in a way no other film had. Cut to several decades later, George Lucas decides to reedit these films and tries to destroy the existence of the original films, then he makes a series of prequels to show the origin of the story, and they are considered widely to be... what's one notch above "garbage?" And this film is all about exploring the grief that these fans now feel and giving both sides of the argument a voice.
Now as I said, I'm not a member of the Star Wars Fandom, I don't even have any friends who are (and considering how many geeky friends I have, that's rather surprising). So I really had no idea just how far down that rabbit hole went, I had no idea that there were people creating their own plays and animated films based entirely around this universe, but this film starts you off by introducing you to just how much these people love the Star Wars films, and to understand their arguments, you really do need to see just how much the original films have touched their lives. And they accomplish this very well because if they had just have shown a bunch of people in a room full of toys and that's all they had done with their lives, then yeah it would have kind of been sad (and yes there are a few of those people in here... and yes it kind of is). But they show you some of the truly dedicated fans, who have gone on to create their own businesses around this series. They show you people who do performances across the country based on these films, they show you people who have made short films in honor of the movie, they even get celebrities like Neil Gaiman on there to talk about what the movie meant to them. And after showing you the pure passion these people have, and seeing each of them come together as a unit, they turn these fans into an amalgamated protagonist that you can understand, even if you are someone who looks at a bunch of people dressed like Storm Troopers and wonder why a grown man would do that.
And we listen to these fans talk about how much they wished there would be more Star Wars, how they couldn't believe there had been such a void in that world for so long. And from there we follow the recent history of Star Wars, and that's when things get interesting. Because we start with the rerelease of the original trilogy, with the new special effects and the change in how Han no longer shoots first. And we get to hear the fans talk about how now this seemed like a watered down version of what they loved, and we hear their arguments about why it is important to the characters and the story whether or not a certain character shoots first. And then comes the prequels, and that is probably the saddest and yet most funny part of the film, because they show all the people lining up to see the movies, we hear people talk about how they bought tickets to movies only to see the trailer for the prequels, we see how this touched so many lives just by hearing that they existed. And yet you know the whole time what's coming, so it's kind of like watching an anemic kid talk about how he's going to go and beat the crap out of Mike Tyson, and the whole time you think "Oh... this will not end well." It's like watching someone get punched in slow motion, except that until the fist finally hits them that person is smiling. I wish I could say there wasn't any schadenfreude to be had at this, but I was cracking up inside a little, especially at one scene where a man and his friend are being interviewed after camping out in line for the movie and the reporter ask "But what if the movie isn't good?" And the first guy says "Oh there is no way at all it's going to suck." To which his friend replies, "Well... there's always the chance that it might." "What? You have to be kidding me, no way is it going to suck." "Come on man, there's always a chance." "Man, you have no idea what you're talking about." And the whole while I just kept wishing that they would have found those guys coming out of the theater.
But the reason I recommend this movie to film fans, is because this really is a movie for film geeks like us. Because there is a moment where a fan is talking about seeing the prequel for the first time and they say that the moment the text scroll starts to rise, he could instantly tell that something was off, that the language just wasn't the same. And it's things like that which let you know, these are actual critics, actually smart individuals who know how to dissect a movie, and they actually make really detailed arguments for everything that George Lucas has done to them and their love of his films. But I know some of you are thinking "But don't artist have a right to change their work?" And to you people don't worry, this movie realizes that this is a complex argument, and it does spend a good deal of time talking about whether or not Lucas does have the right to change and destroy the previous versions of his movie. Even though the movie is on the fans' side, it still makes sure to give both sides their time to argue.
The only thing I really had a problem with in this movie is that they didn't get anyone representing Lucas to come on and speak on his behalf, but then I thought about it and went "Lucas has been on talkshows and held press conferences to make his argument, he's already had his chance to defend himself." And it does take these clips of his interviews and inserts them in a way that really enhances any and all arguments. And they do get some of his peers on there to talk about him, including Francis Ford Coppola, and if any director knows a thing or two about going crazy over a movie, it's Coppola (don't worry Hearts of Darkness, I'll get to you eventually). And it takes all these arguments, all these interviews, and all of Lucas's biography, and it actually does a psychological breakdown of him, and at the end, the conclusion it comes to really does make you drop your jaw and go "Oh, poor poor Lucas, you're totally gone aren't you." And the sad thing from a film stand point is that since this movie was made, Lucas has gotten even crazier and made even wilder claims, and I really wish at the end of this movie it gave you a website to go to in order to see the continued arguments being raised by this, because by the end of this movie it may not have made me a Star Wars fan, but it made me a fan of Star Wars fans.
So to any of you fans out there who last May 4th couldn't bring yourself to watch that new Star Wars Blu-ray and could only shout out "NOOOOO," well then hopefully this movie will give you some closure.