“I’m an alcoholic because George Lucas ruined my life…and I mean that in the nicest possible way,” quips Carrie Fisher during a Lifetime Achievement Award tribute at the American Film Institute. “George is a sadist,” Fisher continues as she satirically roasts Lucas. Her words, however intentionally or unintentionally, acknowledge the tenuous bond between Lucas and his fan base the world over. Director Alexandre O. Philippe documents the fickle relationship between one of the most successful filmmakers ever and his fanbase in The People vs. George Lucas.
Interviews with fans, fan fiction writers, media commentators such as Henry Jenkins, and Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz are all interspersed between snippets of dozens of fan made videos. Ranging from satirical pieces and retellings to simple carbon copies of Star Wars, the videos articulate the level of impact George Lucas has had on popular culture. Notions of participatory culture locate the documentary’s primary focus: where does the line stand between public consumption and ownership of a text. The film questions the rightful ownership of a film without giving a definitive answer.
Calculating the rise and (in the eyes of many fans) fall of Lucas’ Star Wars saga, Philippe tracks the historical decline in public opinion back to the restoration of the original prints after Lucas’ own congressional proclamations. Speaking against Ted Turner’s colorization of black-and-white films by way of preservation protection, Lucas then alienated his own fan base by replicating this very behaviour. Re-releasing restored versions of his personal preference, Lucas then filmed the loathed prequel trilogy that stands as a strong debating issue with Star Wars fans everywhere.
Dejected by the commands of the studios in his earlier career with American Graffiti, Lucas went on to become the very ideal he so vehemently fought against by becoming the establishment himself after revolutionising movie merchandising. While the consumables proved too tempting to resist for die hard fans, the problematic essence is presented with the disappointed echoed by countless fans after the release of the prequel trilogy. The People vs. George Lucas at its best documents the palpable reactions and feelings of abandonment that are left with the fans.
Injecting genuine respect and humour, Philippe fairly represents the two main sides of the debate while paying tribute to the legacy that Lucas created. Paying close attention to the capricious relationship that exists between Lucas and his fans, Philippe has made a documentary highlighting a compelling dynamic between inventor and consumer.
The People vs. George Lucas is released on DVD in Australia on February 22 through Hopscotch Films.