Movies: The People vs. George Lucas

This documentary examines the love-hate relationship Star Wars (and to a far lesser extent Indiana Jones) fans have with George Lucas. It looks at both sides of various arguments and never really weighs in except to say, in the end (and just like your parents always said to you), that everyone still loves George, even when they're angry with him.

Some of the arguments I understand and some I don't. The anger that erupted with the new editions of the original trilogy . . . That I get. I hated the new scenes and the changes that were made too. And yet we have entered a point in digital history in which "texts" (cultural studies speak for films, television shows, and other media) are far more fluid than they used to be. While still mostly static—that is, for the most part a movie or television show or book is fixed once it is distributed—the rapidly declining costs of technology, the fact that self-published authors can make many changes and tweaks to a book and simply "repost" it, the shorter shelf life of films so that franchises are constantly rebooted . . . All this adds up to texts being more changeable than ever before. Even if you loved it the first time, that doesn't mean someone won't want to add to it, change it, embellish it later. George felt it was time to give Star Wars a facelift. I didn't love the final result, but . . . As a fellow creator in my own right, I do have to respect that he had a vision for his work.

Now the fact he didn't want to let people opt for the original, instead more or less wanted to force people to live with the new editions . . . That's a bit like doctoring old photographs and then trying to tell the people in them that they're just remembering their childhoods wrong. "No, really, it was always this way. Just look!" (Waving photo.) I can't really get behind that particular decision.

I didn't like Episodes I–III either, but the argument that Lucas "raped childhoods" doesn't really fly. I look at it this way: Lucas gave us something we didn't even know to ask for. Like a first taste of candy. And then, like all sugared-up kids, we kept begging for more candy. When he finally gave it to us, we complained about the flavor.

Isn't it just possible that we saw those first movies during our formative years and that nothing Lucas could do would ever recapture that magic? That maybe Episodes I–III were more for a new generation than the old one? Fans have a terrible sense of entitlement (my psychology minor was focused on fan psychology, and besides, I am a fan, so I do know). They appropriate the text, they write fan fiction, they make fan films, and they get a bit worked up when their hard work is negated by something "official," something that comes from "the source," or "the creator." Fans tend to argue that their emotional investment trumps the creator's because the creator is only in it for the money. Sometimes it's true that the creator is only in it for the money, but I'm not entirely convinced that fact means the fans know better and/or should be running the show.

In any case, Episodes I–III did not somehow cast a pall over my happy memories of playing Star Wars with my best friend (I always had to be Han). My feelings about the franchise as a whole have shifted a bit, that's true. But my original well of love for the films of my childhood remains intact; I can look back and feel that love again when I think about those untarnished hours.

They touched on George's desire for control, for which I think it's odd to single him out. Most creators want an amount of control over their creations, and George has been very open in terms of letting fans play with his toys (cf. Anne Rice's demands that no one write fan fiction about her characters). Just because he doesn't want anyone to have to endure that terrible holiday special again doesn't make him a control freak. And now he's handed off his baby to Disney anyway.

This documentary was clearly made before the news that there would be a final three films, as it ends with a plea for George not to stop. Yes, we still want more candy. We're hoping it'll taste better than the last handful. It will serve us all right if, like Charlie Brown, we're given a rock instead.

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