i don’t know if you know but apparently the new star wars trilogy is hated by a lot of people, especially fans of the original trilogy. these are episode i, ii, and iii.
the 2011 documentary the people vs. george lucas spends 90 minutes or so to describe such phenomenon. phenomenon may not be the right word since i am not a star wars fan and i already know about the reactions to the two trilogies before watching this documentary. in fact, we had our own divorce letter to george lucas (not written by me, i don’t really care enough to be disappointed), and if you are into popularity, there is the onion av club’s keith phipps on letting go of star wars, written fourteen months after ours.
i read a theory somewhere online that if you first saw the original trilogy before you were old enough to drive legally, you’ll be a fan for life. watching them after a certain age, say, after you’re legally allowed to vote, they’ll look no more than some dated space soap operas with stilted dialogues, wooden acting, and dated special effects that borrows heavily from westerns, samurai movies, and old shaw brothers sword epics. i am in the second group since i saw them for the first time while i was in college, in 1997, when the digitally remastered special edition was re-released in theatres. i fell in love with movies in my teens, and not too long afterward i discovered die hard, which shows that all you need in a movie are good guys, bad guys, and a building, and maybe some guns. to quote al pacino in heat, “well, i’m over-fucking-whelmed.” or if you like those sat analogy questions, the star wars movies mean as much to me as elvis to chuck d.
though i never quite feel…the force, it’s undeniable that the original trilogy is a big part of pop culture psyche. the first half-hour of the people vs. george lucas interviews fans from all over the world. it does a good job illustrating how the first three movies are not just movies to those who saw them in theatres but a life-changing experience.
the majority of the film, of course, is devoted to the complaints. again, there isn’t much in the way of new information here. there’s jar jar binks, the jay leno/superman 64 of star wars characters. interviewees accuse lucas for creating such a juvenile character in their holy mythology along with fart jokes. there are also accusations of mr. binks being a racial stereotype. having heard so much grumbling about this character, i wasn’t really bother by this character when i watched the phantom menace. but then i was also trying not to fall asleep and was praying for the movie to be over soon. so he didn’t seem that much worse than the ewoks in return of the jedi.
though most hardcore fans hate him, this documentary shows that kids, especially those who saw this before the original trilogy, love him. someone who’s supposed to be funny and appeals to the lowest common denominator, maybe he is jay leno. or two and a half men. or the big bang theory.
lucas’s defense is that he is supposed to be a character for kids, but someone in the movie made a good point that if it’s supposed to be a kids movie, why are there endless scenes of senate hearings and trade agreements? also interesting, mr. binks’ screen time is drastically cut short in attack of the clones and revenge of the sith, though some interviewees insist, it’s hard to tell if lucas was caving in to fans reactions.
that’s about it for the new trilogy. episode ii and iii aren’t really mentioned in the people vs. george lucas. they must be good movies, and i can’t wait to finally see them. i guess i can kind of understand the disappointment they feel second handedly. it’s an extreme case where the first entry (or trilogy) is so admired that the following episodes in the series can only be a letdown. kind of like the matrix sequels in that i tried hard to want to love them but ultimately failed; or the jurassic park sequels, in that i like but didn’t love the first one and the sequels turned out to be huge disappointment to some people. this causes the serious love/hate relationship fans have with the series and lucas himself. it’s not all that different from an abusive relationship: i walked into a door, i guess i’ll watch the movie again, this time it’ll be different, maybe he/she will change this time, (s)he promised. if you think that’s an overly dramatic comparison, i should tell you that holocaust and rape are mentioned in the documentary by fans, as a way to convey their feelings towards the nasty, skanky second trilogy and digitally remastered original trilogy to the holy virgin that is the original, untouched childhood trilogy.
the other anticipated major complaint has to do with the digitally remastered original trilogy, known online as “hans shot first.” there is a whole wikipedia entry and even a whole website devoted to it, so i don’t have to repeat it here. i guess it does change the han solo character. still, it’s not as embarrassing as say, six days seven nights, what lies beneath, firewall, random hearts, the devil’s own, the sabrina remake, indy 4, and those pedestrian jack ryan movies. it’s definitely not as pathetic as fbi agents carrying walkie-talkies instead of guns.
this leads to the problematic sections of the documentary. quite a few people in the movie claims that lucas made the original version of the original trilogy unavailable and it’s simply untrue. the 2006 dvd release has both the original and the digitally remastered versions, while the people vs. george lucas was filmed between 2008 and 2009.
another charge that doesn’t quite stick is that lucas is accused of being a sellout. he’s viewed as such an artistic auteur in the first act (the honeymoon period) that they are mad at him for turning into a corporate man. i am not sure how true that is, and the movie doesn’t try to prove this point. early on they seem pretty amazed and positive that the star wars toys are so popular that at the time, you would have to buy an empty box first to get the dolls when they make more. but then later on they seem to chastise him for turning everything into toys.
the auteur theory also doesn’t hold water with francis ford coppola being the sole defender. coppola blames it all on the unexpected success of the original trilogy. poor george couldn’t do any artistic movies he wants to do because of all these damn money. funny how woody allen, who’s had various degrees of commercial and critical successes and failures, manages to make the movies he wants annually. he doesn’t have to tell us, but maybe coppola can explain to lucas how he went from the godfather part iii, dracula, jack, and the rainmaker to making youth without youth and tetro. maybe i can watch the godfather part iii after episode ii and iii. i don’t think lucas has a godfather, or annie hall/manhattan, or wings of desire in him that can be blamed by the popularity of the original trilogy.
as much as i love to hate lucas as a filmmaker, the people vs. george lucas isn’t quite successful as a documentary. the fact that lucas only directed (the beloved) a new hope and all three of the (hated) new trilogy is never mentioned. the nuke the fridge sequence in indy 4: crystal shia the beef is shown as if it can be blamed entirely on lucas. like jar jar binks, the nuke the fridge scene doesn’t bother me as much as the rest of their respective movies. they can point fingers all they want, but spielberg is credited as the director so i don’t know, maybe he’s just as responsible? and is it really worse than when mr. shia the beef swinging like tarzan with cgi monkeys?
while i’m happy that there is mention of the star wars holiday special, they seem to use it as proof that lucas sold out. but they didn’t mention the fact that it came out between a new hope and empire strikes back. and for a documentary that involves such cultural impact, aren’t there more people they could have interview, other than coppola and archival footage of lucas? not that the fans aren’t interesting to watch but kevin smith could probably talk about these six movies entertainingly for an hour and a half. and if it’s meant to be a fan service documentary, i’m sure someone from a cool news movie site would have something to say about it. they could have also at least spent more time on the various fan edit recreations that occupy most of the film’s screen time.
it may be fun to watch the people vs. george lucas with your hardcore star wars fans/friends, to see them talking back to the screen. there is nothing here that’s worth seeking out, especially if you haven’t seen the two south park episodes on the same subject: free hat, and the china probrem. those two episodes make the same points in shorter amount of time.
p.s. since i watched the people vs. george lucas, there are two rather interesting news: lucas finally decided to leave the blockbuster arena and make movies “in his garage,” and the guns (instead of walkie-talkies) and the “penis breath” will be on the upcoming e.t. anniversary blu-ray. too late?
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