Review: The People Vs. George Lucas

The People Vs. George Lucas

"I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films that I watched when I was young and the films that I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them."

George Lucas expressing concern over the Colorization of black & white films

George Lucas. Damn. It’s amazing how quickly that name completely changed meanings. Remember when we were young and that name brought up images of some of the greatest films ever made? Yeah, he was responsible for some that were maybe not great, but the good… oh, man the good outweighed the bad.

I mean, “Star Wars,” and “Indiana Jones” aside, this is the guy who brought us things like “American Graffiti,” “Willow,” and “The Land Before Time.” While these aren’t all great, the are, at the very least, interesting and original.

So, what happened?

It is this exact question that “The People vs. George Lucas,” attempts to answer.

Like it or not, “Star Wars,” has become part of our national culture. Other than making scads of money, changing the way films were made, changed the basic principles of movie marketing, spawning its own extended universe of fan fiction, creating an entire global fan culture, and becoming damned near required viewing for citizenship in our global community, it’s a pretty damned good movie.

Think about it this way, this is one of the first films to be included in the national film registry of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.” It was inducted alongside, “Citizen Kane,” “Vertigo,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The General,” for God’s sake. Hell, it was included before “The Godfather,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “King Kong.” To say that the original Star Wars Trilogy is important is an understatement.

So… why?

Why would he go back and change these landmark films? Why alter these genre defining, cultural landmarks?

It is all a question of ownership, sad to say. To paraphrase Lucas from his appearance on “The Daily Show,” People don’t know that my middle initial is W. I am the other George W. I’m not just the decider; I am the creator.

Like it or not, the films are his.

This film looks at the impact of the Star Wars films as well as the reaction to the changes and the prequels. It’s an interesting look at something that has gone beyond national phenomena and entered the realm of global obsession.

There are some interesting points and questions raised in this documentary. From Lucas’s vehement opposition to colorization because of a need to preserve the films that were important to him growing up, to the ethics of altering a film that has been tagged for preservation in the national registry, to questioning the altering of visual effects in a film that won the Oscar for best visual effects. These are all addressed.

Make no mistake, this is a film targeted at fans. You don’t have to be a fan to watch it, but I have a hard time imagining anyone who isn’t a Star Wars fan putting this on.

From a personal standpoint I have grown to a point of indifference about “Star Wars.” More accurately, I am of two minds. Yes, the films are Lucas’s. He imagined them, he created them, and he owns them. But, at what point do you just let them exist? Is it ethical to alter fundamental character moments (Han shooting first is a fundamental character defining moment) on a film that has this level of cultural currency?

Hell, Harper Lee is the creator of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but does that mean she could go back and save Tom Robinson from dying? Yeah, she could, but it wouldn’t make any sense.

I guess that’s what gets me about it all. Going back and improving something that didn’t work the first time is understandable, but I think one could state objectively that “Star Wars” worked. But in the end, what can you do?

Ever since the special editions I have been a bit reserved about “Star Wars.” I didn’t like the content changes at all. Everything from Greedo shooting first, to the appearance of Jabba in the first film, to Luke screaming as he fell, to the unrealistically annoying musical number in Jabba’s palace felt completely unnecessary and detracted from the film itself. The cleaning up of the visual effects was… well, unnecessary. Yeah, they look better now, but did they really look that bad before? The may not have looked cutting edge by today’s standard, but remember these were groundbreaking at the time. Yeah they’re outdated now, but damn it that is how history works. It would be like going back and digitizing all the Harryhausen effects. They would cease to be what made them special to begin with.

But, he is the creator, the owner, and the ultimate authority on what is and is not “Star Wars.”

I have not spent one dime on Star Wars since “Revenge of the Sith,” which, incidentally, I hated. Let’s be honest, all the prequels are bad. They just are. I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. This isn’t me just hating, it is me stating an honest opinion. They were hastily written, amateurishly directed exercises in cramming as much CGI nonsense on the screen as possible. The stories didn’t really make sense and didn’t really add anything to the overall universe. Add that to the continued changes to the original movies and it adds up to me being done with it.

This is the difference between me and the fan boys who deride Lucas. Why should George take us seriously when we complain a about the changes he’s making? I mean, yeah, they complain… and then go out and buy the new versions that have all the changes they claim are “ruining” the movies. Well, if they are ruined, stop buying them.

If you know that something is bad, and a betrayal, and “raped” your childhood, then stop. Just stop. Don’t buy the Blu-Ray boxed set. Don’t go to the 3D re-releases, don’t spend any more money on them. It’s a difference between words and actions. You are saying that he is ruining the movies, but you are paying him to do it. You aren’t just paying him to do it, you are paying him over and over again. So, stop. Just…

Why am I bothering? I mean, next year he could come out with a version that has Yoda back flipping through Degobah, or everyone escaping Alderaan before it gets destroyed, or Vader saving a basket of puppies at the end and people would still flood theatres to see it. I guess addiction is a funny thing, and Star Wars is a hell of a drug.


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