Taking The Stand
Director Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary ‘The People Vs. George Lucas’ takes an amusing look at both the fervour and rage George Lucas and his legacy has incited.
Director Alexandre O. Philippe, whose documentary The People Vs. George Lucas has enjoyed success both critically on the festival circuit and among hardcore Star Wars fans, is in an awkward position. On the one hand, his knowledge of Star Wars points to his being a fan himself. On the other, the success of The People Vs. George Lucas has undoubtedly profited from the ongoing backlash against Lucasfilm that started with the failure of The Phantom Menace to live up to expectations.
It's those extreme peaks and troughs of appreciation for Lucas' work that has been captured by Philippe's film through a collection of video testimonials and animated sequences submitted by the fans themselves. There are plenty of rants and raves throughout, but Philippe insists this is all proof of the intensity of emotion Lucas has inspired through his work. "There are some very strong feelings out there. I think the fans who feel the hate, so to speak, feel it for one reason and one reason only, which is because their love runs so deep. They wouldn't care so much about it if they didn't love that franchise so much in the first place."
Philippe even claims that fans have approached him after screenings to thank him for the therapy. "That's a pretty high compliment for a hardcore Star Wars fan," Philippe laughs. Part of the anger and frustration expressed during the film can be pointed to the perceived gulf between Skywalker Ranch and the alienated fanbase. However, despite the venting demonstrated in the documentary, the recent re-release of The Phantom Menace 3D will no doubt once again be a box-office smash. "I think what Lucas truly understands is that there is such a thing as a Star Wars ritual," Philippe observes wryly. "It's a franchise that you cannot break. It really doesn't matter anymore whether he gives us good Star Wars or bad Star Wars. If it's Star Wars and it's on the big screen, people are going to go see it. Because it's a ritual."
Philippe insists on his sincere respect for Lucas' work. "Even if Episode One was a complete flop, at the end of the day who cares? He's already earned his place in the history of cinema." With his choice of subject matter and approach, inviting fans directly to participate in the process of making his documentary in such a transparent fashion, the director has found himself in the unenviable position of being questioned on the motivations of Lucas. He notes that the director's defensiveness in interviews must seem confusing, but Philippe has his own theory. Either Lucas has, as disgruntled fans claim, lost his mind from the pressures of running the Star Wars empire, or he's just pushing fans' buttons. This one man has become synonymous with a vast franchise, which also rests on the work of Ralph McQuarrie, Marcia Lucas and Gary Kurtz - an impossible position for anyone to be in. So why not have a little fun at the fans' expense?
Another interesting example of the depth of feeling surrounding the films is the ‘Star Wars Uncut Project', which is attempting to preserve the original version of the original movie using crowdsourcing methods. As Philippe points out: "That's the ultimate expression of fan appreciation - the recreation of something that they love."
Philippe's next documentary will focus on Paul the psychic octopus who kept World Cup viewers amused with his predictions in 2010, but as to the immediate future: "I am not going to see The Phantom Menace 3D. I'm not going to give fifteen bucks to Lucasfilm to watch a terrible movie, again."
The People Vs. George Lucas is available on DVD from February 22.
Score yourself a copy of the DVD here.