There is no shortage of colorful metaphors in Alexandre O. Philippe’s The People Vs. George Lucas, the quasi-diatribe documentary about the film career of George Lucas specifically as it concerns the Star Wars films as seen through the eyes of its cult-like fandom. As fans are likening believed artistic injustices to child abuse or altering the Mona Lisa or denial about the Holocaust, there is an overwhelming sense of passion that emanates from the screen. But for anyone who is a Wars fan or knows some such person knows that harsh comments are par for the course when it comes to those more important arguments: have their childhoods been destroyed because Lucas altered A New Hope to have Han Solo not shooting Greedo first? Yes, of course they have.
The film is a great basis for debate on issues of public ownership and consumerism as they go hand in hand with issues of artistic license and cultural impact. It’s a travesty that there aren’t more movies like this on other pop juggernauts, despite how thin the movie is likely to appear to most people. Movies spawned a specific kind of fanaticism that exploded with Star Wars, which makes it the perfect starting point for more such documentaries. Because fans have fallen so in love with the Wars films to a point of possessiveness, is it okay for Lucas to change the movies in spite of those fans? Is it okay for Lucas to disregard the wants and needs of those fans? Is the presence of Jar Jar Binks an insult to their intelligence? Is George Lucas full of crap? These questions are only the tip of the iceberg of the Holy Grail of super geek contentions.
The film, to be blunt, is meandering at best. There is no real plot structure or recognizable narrative, only the central topic of George Lucas discussed in a semi-chronological order. Even so, Philippe makes easy and effortless work of covering all of his bases, clearly taking true dedication as he samples a vast number of individuals from every point on the conversational spectrum from the average joe ranting on YouTube to college professors to esteemed novelist Neil Gaiman. There are also countless infusions of archival footage as well as clips of fan films that add a sense of nostalgia and take the edge off of what initially feels like a one-sided tirade. All arguments that are touched on are balanced though the hand does tend to be heavy on “the Creator” as Lucas is constantly referred to as. Yes at face value the movie views as a lot of overhyped nerds arguing ad nauseam. But it would be just as easy to dismiss this movie as it would be to forget that pop-culture, especially in the here and now, is defined by such drudgery; there is no greater indication of loving something than ranting about how much you hate it and how angry it makes you. By those standards and this movie, there will probably never be anything more loved than the Star Wars films and the work of George Lucas.