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I just watched PvGL, a film that I had been eagerly anticipating for
the last several months. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and like most fans,
feel a deep loathing towards the prequels and the changes that Lucas
has made to the original trilogy.
Now, if you're reading this, chances are you already know the basic premise of this film (detailing the complex and dysfunctional relationship between Lucas and his fans), so I'm not going to reiterate the various intricacies, emotions, and reasoning that go along with that story. Sufficed to say, if you're a fan, you know what I mean.
And to that end, the film does a decent enough job painting a picture of who the Star Wars fans are and what the film has meant to western culture as a whole. There are some good insights from a wide range of people, from hardcore Star Wars nerds to film critics to other producers and directors. Most of what they say is easily relatable, as Star Wars really has become a cultural touchstone that almost everyone has some kind of feelings towards. It is cathartic to hear so many other people verbalize the frustrations almost every fan has surely felt towards Lucas, the prequels and the special editions.
With that having been said, there are a few flaws. The first being that the film is a bit too long. They could have easily cut about ten minutes out of the first act of the movie, which consisted almost entirely of fan parody and tribute films of varying quality. Yes, Star Wars inspires epic creativity on the part of it's fans, but that is a relatively easy point to make and didn't require quite so much screen time time to illustrate.
The other flaw is the end of the film, which completely goes soft on Lucas and abdicates its responsibility to take a firm position on the subject matter that was detailed in the entire rest of the film. After watching a whole documentary which carefully explained all the ways Lucas was ruining his work, thumbing his nose at film history as a cultural artifact (in direct opposition to positions he himself took years earlier) and acting in deliberate contempt of his fans, the conclusion it reached amounted to little more than a shrug and a soft-pedaled declaration of loyalty to Lucas anyway. Disappointing.
Any catharsis I felt very quickly melted away and once again turned to frustration. Why did the director feel the need to ultimately kiss up to Lucas? Wasn't that the fatal flaw which led to the prequels in the first place? That nobody challenged him? Let me be clear; I was not looking for a hit-piece here either; two hours of Lucas-bashing wouldn't have made for an interesting or informative film (which PvGL certainly is), but the entire premise of this documentary would have been far more credible had the last few minutes not completely undermined everything that was asserted throughout the entire rest of it.
I would still recommend it to fans as there are very interesting points to be heard in this film, but for true geek catharsis (and brilliantly insightful critique), you still can't beat the Red Letter Media long-form reviews of the prequels. People vs. George Lucas is entertaining to be sure, but it still doesn't come close to those reviews.
After seeing The People vs. George Lucas in June at the 2010 Edinburgh
Film Festival, I must say that it was the most fun documentary I saw at
the festival. And yes, my name is Shane Kester and I am a Star Wars
fan, but unlike the others, I can quit any time I want.
The director Alexandre O. Philippe stated that the documentary took three years and was made up of 634 hours of fan films and interviews submitted from all over the globe. You may naturally conclude by the title or what you've heard through the rumor mill that this is simply a "Lucas Bashing" documentary, but it's got much more depth to it than that. The director listened to the impassioned Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan's complaints and rants but also took a very mature look at it from several less "emotional" points of view that gave balance to the force, making this documentary another significant brick in the monument built by fans to honor the cultural phenomenon that Lucas created. This documentary by no means puts an end to the debates as Alexandre Philippe stated in Edinbough, there is still footage being sent in by fans all over the world. And as one of the participants in the documentary stated, "When we're in retirement homes arguing about things, we'll be having conversations about what went wrong with Phantom Menace." The People vs. George Lucas had a surprising array of interviews from the avid Youtube fan to original producers and actors all the way up to Lucas's mentor and friend Francis Ford Coppala who expressed a heart felt lament that George never ventured beyond Star Wars with his story telling.
Even if you aren't an avid fan of Star Wars or Indiana Jones you must at least be aware of the massive cultural influence that George Lucas has had on our little planet. If you're not aware, you must be on the planet farthest from the center of the universe with your head buried in bantha fodder not to have noticed. To you this documentary will be of no interest. But for the rest of you who enjoy a good rant and like to laugh out loud at how seriously people take Star Wars, you really would enjoy this movie.
The term 'documentary' is a difficult label to affix to 'PvGL' but
sadly, for lack of a better word, is one that must suffice. I say this
because the film does not shed new light or impart new information so
much as it distills and summarises what we already know. Director
Alexandre O. Philippe condenses and intercuts massive amounts of
amateur videos, conversations, and first person tirades with
pseudo-authoritative interviews in an effort to douse the acclaimed
titular director with a bucket of icy water and wake Lucas from his
delusional God-complex so that he will own up to the serious missteps
he's made with the 'Star Wars' franchise (as well as 'Indiana Jones').
Make no mistake this is a film made by disillusioned fans, for
disillusioned fans, and the issues that irk the most are well-covered:
the erasure of the 1977, 1980, & 1983 originals by the CGI-altered
1990s reissues; the character change in Han Solo by firing AFTER
Greedo; the inherent ramifications of quantitatively defining the Force
with a microbiological organism; the erasure of the Star Wars Christmas
TV special; Jar-Jar Binks; and so on.
The film nicely establishes the original trilogy's place in history and in culture, and sets the tone for why we love George Lucas. But from there, it just gets ugly. As one interviewee put it, 'I love-hate George Lucas. I love-hate him a lot.' The anger and vulgarity that erupts from the wounded fans is unsettling but even more disturbing is the fact that I often found myself nodding in agreement with their arguments. Two-thirds into it, though, I just get the sense that 'PvGL' is acting like a neglected child throwing a tantrum at a parent, begging for attention and respect. Yet Lucas' betrayal of his fans through touting his authorial and divine right to tamper is not without merit. Attributing the disrespect to his secession to the dark-side (that is, entrepreneurship and big business), rather than remain the rebel filmmaker of his youth, 'PvGL' ultimately finds itself in an un-winnable spot, wedged between arguments of public (social and cultural) domain and artistic control. Does 'Star Wars' belong to the general public, or can those that originally penned it rewrite history?
Bearing this in mind, does anyone know where can I get one of those Tauntaun sleeping bags?
No, this film is not 93 minutes of giving George Lucas the finger. It
plays out as a bizarre, but highly entertaining, mash-up of love
letter, trial, intervention, and therapy session, culminating in a
general feeling of hope.
I won't go into details, you're likely either going to really want to see this movie, or you won't. If you loved the original Star Wars trilogy and hated the prequels, you're going to want to see this. If you don't care about the Star Wars movies (and therefore, filmmaking in general) then I can't imagine you'd enjoy this movie.
Personally, I really enjoyed the original Star Wars trilogy, and pretty much hated the prequels. However, I don't enjoy Star Wars enough to want to go out and try to make my own fan film, nor did I enjoy watching the bulk of the fan film footage included in TPvsGL. I think these amateur attempts to recreate Star Wars only serve to trivialize and dilute the magic of the original trilogy, in much the same manner as George Lucas' tampering, and subsequent self-destruction of the series. Actually, one of the most interesting things about TPvsGL is that the fans are guilty of most of the "crimes" they accuse Lucas of. It's a very dysfunctional relationship.
The interviews make this movie. Almost all of the interviewees are excellent. They're, for the most part, keen, poignant, and funny. Sometimes hilarious. I laughed out loud a few times.
A must see for Star Wars fans, of all types.
In this day of mass-participatory media it is in some ways inevitable
that a film potentially destined for general release would be made
incorporating a significant chunk of such material.
You may ask why has George Lucas been singled out for this film's subject? As the film explains, the number of homages, remixes and re-workings by the public of Star Wars is far greater for this work than any other film ever made. Furthermore Lucas has courted controversy through the mass marketing of his product and the slightly dictatorial way older versions of the film have been more or less obliterated. So any analysis of the subject of the art and business of film, rights ownership and its effects on its fans cannot pick a better subject.
In terms of the normal movie goer Alexandre O. Philppe's film provides plenty of laughs and is fascinating to watch. Barely pausing for breath, the film is a visual and auditory onslaught, with a barrage of sound bites and clips from the original material and its many derived manifestations. Producer Anna Higgs - interviewed after the showing - explained that contributions were invited on one of the many Star Wars forums on the Internet. Sifting through the mountain of material that arrived in response was a huge undertaking, and in showing the pick of the crop we the viewer are given an insight into the massive fandom that surrounds these films.
While for most people just watching a movie is enough, serious fans will purchase (sometimes compulsively) associated movie merchandise and involve themselves to varying degrees in paying tribute to the film and its mythos. If you have ever wondered what kind of person will spend three days walking around in a sweaty storm-trooper outfit at Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Or set themselves on fire in order to recreate a scene from a film then this film offers an insight into that world.
A large amount of the discussion in the film is about the differences between the original theatrical release of Star Wars and its subsequent remastering and updating which angered many fans not least as the original film was essentially removed from circulation at the same time. As digital technology empowers audience creativity, the democratisation of media seems to be at odds with filmmakers who want to retain absolute control and ownership of their work. However, despite its title this film is not about simply Lucas bashing. It is pointed out that Lucas has made footage and sound freely available to people who want to play with it.
It is possible to see a similar issue between the behaviour of obsessed film fans and people with strong religious beliefs. While religious texts have been used as an excuse for inhumanity and war. One wonders whether George himself lies awake at night puzzling at how his simple sci-fi story has led to such an amazing cultural legacy even if that legacy includes such things as Ewok yiff. 4 out of 5
Cambridge Film Festival Daily
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved this movie. Was very funny, poignant, and made me yearn for a
simpler time where claymation and stop-action was the THING. This movie
made a good case for The People without being too hard on George. I had
actually never considered some of his reasons for what he did, either
in the prequels or the remastering of IV-VI. I got chills when the
movie described the build up to Episode 1, and relived the sadness and
disappointment I felt as the scroller began its nonsense about Trade
This was great fun until the last 5 minutes or so, when suddenly all that came before, all the logic and the pleas and the evidence got pushed aside for a bit of butt smooching for George.
He may not have... ahem... violated my childhood, but he took something we all loved, something that had become a part of our culture, and made it clear he had no idea or care for what it had become. To him, it was a vessel for his magic at ILM (his undeniably awesome contribution to the film industry). Star Wars was always more potential than reality, and when it came time to answer questions, to fulfill that potential, he showed he had very little respect for what the movies had become, quite on their own and with the help of the fans.
So, the George love at the end of this film, given the clear case laid out on behalf of The People, seemed a bit forced and unnecessary.
Other than that, truly an excellent film. Enjoyed it immensely.
First of all I am a fan of Star Wars and I think you need to be to
appreciate this documentary.
It talks about the decisions George made to the Star Wars franchise and for many fans slowly killing it.
We get an interesting discussion about the whole franchise and what it means to people and how hurt a lot of people were (including me) when George started to make one unnecessary change after another.
It also deals with the disappointment of the prequels and the backlash that those movies got.
It also question his intentions and shows just how little he actually cares about the fans and their opinions, and how he is making the original movies more kid friendly.
And the part that really made me a little mad was when he basically gave fans the finger concerning the original cuts of Star Wars.
It's and interesting story about a filmmaker that wanted to dazzle his audience but ultimately fell to power of greed.
And to summarize I will quote a fan from this documentary: If I ever met the man I don't know if I would shake his hand or punch him.
My first documentary at Edinburgh's International Film Festival this
year directed by Alexandre Philippe, The People vs George Lucas.
I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan, in fact I watched the star was franchise in the wrong order. I started with Episode 1 and worked my way to 6. I've received a lot of grief for this over the years from friends and film lovers but I'm not that bothered. I did it that way so as to achieve a unique perspective on the films, it may have been the "wrong" perspective but I was given the chance to watch them from Ep 1 to Ep 6 and it made sense to me at the time. I've watched all the films once, they were OK, the last three (or first three depending on what way you look at it) Ep 4 6 were definitely superior but still for me, nothing special. I can appreciate that had I been around in the 70s or watched the films at a younger stage in my life I may feel differently. I know also of the huge fan base Star Wars has. Anyway the point of saying all this is, I went into the film not knowing much about the subject, unlike the majority of the rest of the folk in my screen.
I found the film entertaining, funny and informative. I laughed, not at all the jokes but enough to say its a comedy documentary that will make you laugh despite your knowledge of the subject. If you have seen the films many times over you will no doubt get more of the jokes though.
There was great use of archive photos and footage from the likes of 'The Daily Show' and You tube etc I found this impressive as I know it can be considerably difficult to gain copyright permission for these type of things. There was maybe a lack of actual footage from the films. There was some but probably not enough in my opinion.
The structure of the film was great and seemed to be appropriate length for the most part. I'd argue the last 3rd of the film dragged on a little, and began to repeat itself a lot. There's only so many times you can make the one point. The film is 97mins and I thing should be at most 80.
The music also at points became a little distracting for me. It was played quite loudly throughout the film which was OK most of the time but sometimes the audio was not lowered enough during interviews and I was distracted. On the subject of the interviews however I was impressed at the sheer amount. There were new opinions all the way to the end of the film. Some reasonably well respected faces appearing for only a few seconds. There was clearly a lot of work put into the film which I respect deeply.
I think Star Wars fans will be happy with the film.
People who aren't bothered about Star Wars should also see the film if possible. I found it interesting finding out some of the big debates in the star wars universe. I will now be able to appreciate and join in discussions with my mates about it. I think girlfriends subjected to Star Wars chat may find it a useful tool.
I'd say the film was a very good one indeed.
We all love George Lucas. And we all hate George Lucas. We love the
way, with "Star Wars" (1977) he awakened the collective child within
the human race, giving us a visually brilliant fantasy that could be
appreciated by 9-year-old kids and 59-year-old astrophysicists alike.
And then we hate him for being so arrogant as to deny us access to the original 1977 movie, instead forcing us to replace our nostalgic memories with his 1990s re-design. He is even quoted saying something about how his new re-designs will be remembered while the original, the 30 million VHS tapes, cannot possibly last more than 40 years. Can Lucas rewrite history? I don't think so, although it's his right to try. Illegal copies of the originals will continue to float around the internet as long as the internet exists. So I believe Lucas's last stand will eventually prove fruitless, even if it takes 100 years. It just sucks for those of us who don't know how to get our hands on those illegal copies. And in all honesty, *that's* why I hate George Lucas.
"The People vs. George Lucas" focuses mostly on the hate aspect, and it doesn't pull any punches. Drawing from archival interviews of Lucas as well as official statements released by Lucasfilm in response to fans requesting the original film versions, we are shown a George Lucas who is an artistic tyrant, a corporate player, the quintessential artist who is corrupted by success. Interspersed with humorous bits by comedians and ex-fanboys alike, most of this movie is like a celebrity roast with Georgie on the spit. And my guess is, if you're interested in a movie called "The People vs. George Lucas", this is what you came for.
In that regard, it does not disappoint. It gives you everything you need to indulge your acidic, bloodthirsty resentment ...and then some (did you know that Lucas himself appeared before congress in 1988 to denounce Ted Turner for colorizing black & white films, calling it a crime to our national heritage... just years before he obliterated the original "Star Wars" with modern visuals?).
But then, as if fearing that it had gone too far, the documentary pulls a 180 in the last 10 minutes with a sudden, inexplicable change of heart. Sappy music swells while we are shown appreciative fans and children (oh not the children! Way to make me feel like a louse) praising Lucas as the guiding light of their dreams. It would have been interesting if the sudden change of heart were explained, but no, it's more like a sarcastic attack punctuated with a very contrived "No offense! We still love you!" I also took off points for the first 20 minutes which feature a bunch of grainy & unappealing fan videos designed to convince us of what an impact Star Wars had on us. Not necessary. We were there, we don't need anyone telling us how important Star Wars was.
So, like my title says, lop off the first 20 minutes and the last 10, and you've got yourself a bold, unapologetic, hard-hitting documentary that explains exactly why so many fans are angry with Lucas. And that's the important part, isn't it? The rest--the stuff about how big a cultural impact Star Wars made--is nothing new.
Final note: the documentary has a significant spoiler for the 3rd Star Wars prequel--the shocking conclusion of all the prequel movies, in fact. After Phantom Menace (prequel #1) I never saw the others although I planned to one day. If you're like me, beware because in the 2nd half of the documentary they spill the beans. So if you ever intend to see them, be sure to watch the prequel movies first, then watch this documentary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's possible that THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS (O. Phillippe, 2010) is
thought as a work done by STAR WARS (Lucas, Kershner, Marquand,
1977-2005) fans for the satisfaction of other geeks of George Lucas'
magnum opus. And yes, the debate of who shot first (in a scene of STAR
WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE), if Han Solo or Greedo, is in essence only
relevant for hard core followers of the saga, however exploring its
origin take us to other discussions that without a doubt are incumbent
on anyone interested in cinema, its social relevance (and mercantile
production), or in the preservation of the arts.
THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS is presented in four episodes but the thematic is mostly divided in a couple of issues. Firstly you'll discover, or understand better for that matter, why STAR WARS is one of the most important films ever made. Authors like Neil Gaiman give us an idea of what was EPISODE IV back in 1977. Later, we examine why people now hates the mind behind the films that they still love. Even persons that worked in the original trilogy criticize Lucas, and it's certainly not gratuitous: thanks to Lucas and his necessity/stubbornness for actualizing/changing his work (even when he testified in 1988 against the colorization of black and white films), now is impossible to watch the original version of the 3 first movies on a home format extracted from the negative, unless you still own a LaserDisc. According to Lucasfilm the negative of the original was permanently altered to create the "special editions" of 1997.
"The SOUTH PARK episode had more impact on Indiana Jones fans than INDY 4" Brandon Kleyla, director of INDYFANS
SOUTH PARK has helped to spread this generalized feeling of frustration and disenchantment that huge STAR WARS and/or INDIANA JONES (Spielberg, 1981-2008) fans has developed thanks to the decisions of the creator of both universes (those decisions certainly include Jar Jar Binks!). However, and even when he wrote episodes like "The China Probrem" (2008), in which Indiana Jones is literally raped by Lucas and Spielberg (in allusion to the childhoods that INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL "raped"), the creator of SOUTH PARK Trey Parker can be seen in the documentary 6 DAYS TO AIR (Bradford, 2011) showing off his lego STAR WARS toys. The love/hate feeling for Lucas is omnipresent in THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS.
If SOUTH PARK has given voice to Lucas' fans, this documentary gives them full presence, and fanatics of all types express their opinions without reservations. Is really funny to watch the great compilation of fan works inspired by the saga (and some by Indy) we get from parodies that combine the world of Luke Skywalker with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Donen, Kelly, 1952) to the classic stop-motion animations with the toys. Jean-Luc Godard said it: "In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie". And STAR WARS fans have done this over the years, creating their very own versions of editing the originals. Thanks to this, THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS becomes great as film criticism too.
With an exceptional work, interviews made in Spain, France, Japan and other countries, and correct use of stock footage (the life of Lucas is perfectly told with previous interviews), O. Phillippe dedicates to the man from Modesto, California a love letter that's truly complicated, and to us a documentary that's just fascinating on all levels.
*Watched it on 03 March, 2013
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