The People vs. George Lucas
March 13, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

"George Lucas made "Star Wars"; but it was the fans who turned it into a seemingly undying worldwide phenomenon. So I thought it appropriate to give them a prominent voice in the documentary." The People vs. George Lucas premiered at this year's SXSW. Official Site. FB page. More.
posted by zarq (42 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
The CNN interview with Alexandre O. Phillipe is originally from PopWatch at EW. They seem to be having trouble with their site, (very slow page load times/timeouts) so I put in the link to CNN instead.
posted by zarq at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2010


Additional Links:

An interview with the director at Austin 360, and one at SciFi Block
posted by zarq at 7:06 AM on March 13, 2010


In the future, fans will form a unified consciousness to write sequels to their favorite films, books, and games that the fanbase will automatically declare canonical. That way, nobody will ever be disappointed.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:26 AM on March 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


and, for a mefi connection, our studio has a 15 second piece in this film:
http://vimeo.com/6611650

(was used in the trailer, too. stop motion is a blast)
posted by mrballistic at 8:05 AM on March 13, 2010


His neck really freaks me out.
posted by chillmost at 8:41 AM on March 13, 2010


His neck really freaks me out.

It makes me wonder if they modeled the Gungan king's neck on Lucas.
posted by hippybear at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand how the filmmaker who made "Episode One" can be the same filmmaker who gave us "THX," "American Graffiti," and "Star Wars."

It's because he wasn't challenged in any way while making the prequels. Making the original films he was constantly challenged with budget issues, technical snafus, and whatnot. After watching the redlettermedia review of Episode 1, I watched the short behind-the-scenes that he used a few times. Everyone agrees with him, and they all look kind of scared.
posted by graventy at 9:18 AM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


No matter what you say about Lucas, I still want to find the largest Jar Jar toy they've made and force him to eat it.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Graventy has it right. Art thrives on limits. Once you have more money than Denmark and no one can say no to your stupid ideas anymore, you produce flabby art.

Look at the other name-brand director of science fiction. In 1986, James Cameron was a guy who had made a schlocky b-movie sequel and a minor shoestring-budgeted cult flick when he got to make the sequel to Alien. With a decent-but-not-extravagant budget, a bunch of largely unknown actors, and the requirements to follow the rules laid out by the first movie, he produced a movie that is regularly cited as among best science fiction films ever. Twenty-plus years later, with a quarter of a billion dollars, far far better special effects available, a decade to work on it, his choice of actors, and an Oscar-sweeping most-successful-film-EVAR credit under his belt, he produced a movie that is...okay.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:40 AM on March 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Everyone agrees with him, and they all look kind of scared.

Well, that sounds like a good enough excuse to link to a Monty Python sketch. Here you go.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:09 AM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, people, the Star Wars saga is obviously autobiographical.

GEORGE LUCAS = DARTH VADER
posted by Sys Rq at 10:32 AM on March 13, 2010


I've developed a theory that that the SW franchise is the First Boyfriend of the geek mind. You see a young person falling head over heels for it, and you say: look, the stories are cheap tinsel! Most of it was specifically designed out of studies to push the narrative-buttons in your head! The rest of it was designed to sell toys, or to make six-year-olds laugh. Years from now, when you've seen how a good, decent mythic arc is supposed to treat the audience, you'll understand. But if you let this go on, it might turn you off epics forever, and you'll become a hopeless mundane who thinks they're all for kids and idiots! -- Sadly, this will only make the young geek more defensive. There are some lessons the heart must learn for itself.

The Tattuinardcela saga (below) is the first fanwork I've enjoyed in a long time, because it really does put the interchangeable mythical elements into a real context.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


For a second there, I thought you might be Splunge, Sys Rq, who's commenting a couple threads over in the Netflix thread.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:54 AM on March 13, 2010


Tense correction: The film will premiere in 5 hours, pretty much where I'm standing. Nobody come to the second screening on Tuesday, okay? We've been doing this for less than 24 hours, and I've already been shut out twice.
posted by ormondsacker at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2010


Star Wars was designed to be an updated Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon kind of thing. I love watching old serials. I just turned a 1940 Captain Marvel serial back to Netflix. It's fun to watch, but it's dated. In retrospect, one of my issues with the prequel trilogy was that it was dated out of the box because it didn't feel like Lucas had gone anywhere between making 6 and making 1.

That, and not only did he not have any limits, he didn't have anyone to tell him no. This was part of the problem with Indy IV, too: nobody told either him or Spielberg no. I can see what they were going for in both cases, but they tried to do too much (including selling toys in the case of Star Wars) and fell short of really good moviemaking. Hell, even Return of the Jedi fell into that trap.

Yeah, I'm a Star Wars geek with opinions. I'm not going down to stand in line for this movie, but it's already in my Netflix queue.
posted by immlass at 11:31 AM on March 13, 2010


In thirty years I went from being a Star Wars fan to being a fan of the movies to being a fan of the original movies to being a fan of the original versions of the original movie to being a fan of the original version of the original 1977 movie.

Only some of that is because of Lucas. The fans did a lot of it as well.
posted by Legomancer at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Only some of that is because of Lucas. The fans did a lot of it as well.

I think it's ALL Lucas' fault. If he had never started changing the movies, there would be no morphing target of fandom. And it's not like the fans were given much choice in what version they wanted to view, which alterations were being made to the films...

It's all George. The fans have tried to remain faithful across the years, but he is blind to what drew people to the films in the first place.
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's all George. The fans have tried to remain faithful across the years, but he is blind to what drew people to the films in the first place.

I don't know. RETURN OF THE JEDI was a pretty damned average movie (only "good" or "great" in relation the three that followed it) and yet it made a killing at the box office and the cult of George remained STRONG. To my mind, the mediocrity started there. Blame George all you want but if you unleash substandard product on the market and it gets gobbled up anyway, why waste your time on the hard work of "quality"?
posted by philip-random at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you can kind of tell when all that Kenner money started pouring in.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:54 PM on March 13, 2010


The first overweight Boba Fett showed up 3 hours and 26 minutes pre-movie, if you keep track of that kind of thing.
posted by ormondsacker at 1:35 PM on March 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I still find it amusing that the Star Wars film I love the most, George Lucas didn't direct. Empire Strikes Back was amazing, and George wasn't the guy at the wheel. Sometimes he gets more credit than he's due. Especially for Indiana Jones.
posted by b2walton at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with Lucas is that what made the first film great was bound to bug a lot of people in the sequels.

The plot in the first one is really basic and, the whole bigger universe background was left rather sketchy. Which made it perfect because you could use your imagination thinking about it.

But as soon as you start to draw in the background of the universe, you disappoint someone.

Still, all six of these films are pretty tremendous pieces of work. Over time, my appreciation for the second series has grown, suprisingly, as well. Now that I think of it, I think it is on right now. OK, gotta go.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2010


For the two or three people here who still haven't heard it:
Patton Oswalt on the topic of George Lucas (audio link on YouTube)
posted by spoobnooble at 3:23 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


But as soon as you start to draw in the background of the universe, you disappoint someone.
I think it was the hamfisted way that Lucas did it which especially rankled. (Standard geek rant about crappy writing, crappy directing, overuse of CGI, demystifying the force, et cetera omitted.)

In contrast, I thought Isaac Asimov did a pretty good job with the Foundation prequels and his later books that began to thread the universes of his Robot novels, Empire novels, and Foundation novels together. Yes, some of the people and events that were only alluded to in the original books get demystified a little, but it's related to a larger narrative, instead of being the excuse for the main narrative itself.

(But of course, looking at Amazon I see there are plenty of people who disliked the later Foundation & Robot books too... chacun à son goût!)
posted by usonian at 4:02 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


goddamnit it's v. not vs.
posted by Trapped Vector at 5:37 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have the guys that actually wrote Empire Strikes Back ever talked about what the process was like? I can't imagine that the whole "I am your father" thing even came from Lucas. I know he didn't write the "I Love You" "I know" exchange.
posted by empath at 6:31 PM on March 13, 2010


There was a time in my life in which Star Wars really overwhelmed a lot of my time and knowledge. I used to watch the original trilogy over and over. I read and re-read and read a third time over the encyclopedia of Star Wars, and enjoyed matching my wits with friends over obscure trivia that played upon having read and retained as many sources of Star Wars knowledge as possible.

I was coming down off of that when Episode One came out. I was there opening day, and had pined that had I not been in college, I would have camped out for it. Regardless, I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed aspects of Episode II, and even more areas of Episode III. How I enjoyed it was that I was able to spot what I considered the original "Star Wars" in the new stuff. I saw those elements which were in the original trilogy and so I was able to endear myself to the new. There are things that Lucas has done, like refusing to release on DVD remastered versions of the original and Jar Jar Binks, that have irritated me, but I can't say I have any great animosity for him.
posted by Atreides at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2010


I can't imagine that the whole "I am your father" thing even came from Lucas.

IIRC, it wasn't in the script at all; Lucas didn't tell anyone about it except Mark Hamill just before shooting the big stupid reaction. That's the official story, anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if Lucas saw that silly take and wanted some way to put it in the movie, eventually getting James Earl Jones to record one more line of ADR.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:52 PM on March 13, 2010


RETURN OF THE JEDI was a pretty damned average movie (only "good" or "great" in relation the three that followed it) and yet it made a killing at the box office and the cult of George remained STRONG. To my mind, the mediocrity started there. Blame George all you want but if you unleash substandard product on the market and it gets gobbled up anyway, why waste your time on the hard work of "quality"?

Last I checked, ROTJ was directed by Richard Marquand and written by Lawrence Kasden and Lucas. It suffers not only from Ewokism (which is Lucas' fault), but also terrible pacing problems, which lie squarely on Marquand and the editing team. It's pretty clear that a large portion of the success of ROTJ comes from the multiple unresolved threads left at the end of TESB. It should be noted that its theatrical gross is only around $475million, as opposed to $538million for TESB and $775million for ANH. Based on those figures, it's pretty clear that the fans saw that ROTJ was the weakest of the films.

The film in the series which is singled out most often as being the most emotionally rich and complex, often as "the best" is the film that Lucas contributed nothing more than a story to: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Script by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasden, directed by Irvin Kershner. This was not an unknown collective opinion in the world of cinema in the years between 1983 and 1999, and if Lucas couldn't (or wouldn't) grasp this piece of information, then it IS his fault that everything just gets weaker and weaker the more he directs.
posted by hippybear at 7:13 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought RoTJ was fantastic. I guess it's hip to hate on Ewoks, so whatever. Jaba The Hut, speeder chases; I'd never seen anything like that before, not even remotely. Fantastic.

Prequels: pure garbage.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2010


To be fair, I felt that the recent trilogy actually grew stronger with every film that Lucas directed. Of all the prequels, Revenge of the Sith comes closest in my mind to representing the ESB of that trilogy. I would love to believe that it came as a product of Lucas or others involved in the creation process responding to the criticisms leveled at episodes one and two.

To an extent, I feel like the current Clone Wars series also represents this as it's a show that I feel has successfully gained in quality as it has progressed. Perhaps its because the animators are limited to an extent by budget and what can be accomplished through their animation, so there's a stronger reliance on acting (the voice actor of Anakin makes Hayden Christensen's performance come all that much worse) and script. Certainly, the show has its imperfections, but no more than ANH had and I dare say it's more like a Star Wars tv show framed with an ESB mindset, than a creature spun out of the prequels.
posted by Atreides at 7:57 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The prequels got better but not in a way that made any difference. That was, what, 7 1/2 hours of filmmaking? Were there 7 1/2 hours worth of interesting storytelling there? The stuff that sticks with me could be told in about 45 minutes and not terribly interesting ones.

Even the moments with a potential emotional charge were crapped over with ridiculous moments — such as Anakin responding to Obi-Wan's final peroration by screaming "I HATE YOU!!" or the Emperor suddenly revealing his bogeyman makeup. It was like a vaguely competent string quartet being periodically interrupted with an air horn.
posted by argybarg at 9:14 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is where I talk about one of my pet things.

People forget that shortly after RotJ the Star Wars franchise was practically moribund. Kenner actually tried to create their own villains in a virtual sequel to sell toys beyond the end, but it didn't work out. Basically, nobody really knew how to do a good job of extending a franchise into a general setting. Fanfic then didn't do the same thing. Key ideas were missing.

The only people who *did* know how to do this kind of things designed tabletop roleplaying games. So when Star Wars wasn't doing anything a company called West End Games picked it up for chump change and designed a Star Wars RPG. Where the movies didn't flesh something out, the game did. In this fashion, the RPG extended canonical elements in the Star Wars setting and made it something that could support more than a few movies. When Timothy Zahn started writing the first post Original Trilogy material he was pointed at the RPG. So were folks who followed in his footsteps.

Basically, tabletop RPG creatives developed this kind of big IP management, and when that management screws up, it's often because they don't absorb the lessons that are second nature in that field. We never would have fucked up Star Trek the way Bannon and Braga did, for example, because from an RPG design perspective you need to maintain multiple, explicitly detailed plotting possibilities with every development. (Fun fact: According to the curator, when it was clear that Enterprise wasn't working Paramount sent an intern to the Merrill Collection in Toronto to photocopy Trek RPG material, as Paramount didn't to archive this stuff themselves. That's why the Andorians get interesting later on -- it comes from this book). We never would have created JarJar Binks because somebody has to *want* to be everybody in the story.

This kind of work changed fandom. It changed the idea of what fanfic did and contributed to the idea of an autonomous universe where original creators, licensed creators and fans all contribute in some kind of crazy semi-collaboration. You can only have this movie and this idea because of these kinds of efforts, for which the creative folks and medium involved have received virtually no credit. That's a pity, especially when you see that forgetfulness manifests in the property owners screwing it up.

I don't know. Hug an RPG nerd or something.
posted by mobunited at 5:06 AM on March 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


I've never understood the adoration geeks have for ESB. Supposedly it's the best because it's "dark" and "mature", but in what way? It barely has a plot (run! run away!), it has some of the worst lines in the original trilogy ("I don't know where you get your delusions, LASER-BRAIN!" -- I'm sure we'll find out Lucas contributed that clunker), it doesn't have a real ending, it's schizophrenic about who the hell Leia is, and it contains the moment that dooms the rest of the series: "I am your father". (Transforming a story about a nobody who becomes a hero into a tiresome Daddy-drama, retroactively turning Obi-Wan into the biggest and stupidest jerk in the universe, and relegating Luke from hero of the Rebellion to hero of his family, big deal.) It completely suffers from middle-movie syndrome.

The original movie delights, entertains, amazes, and is completely self-contained. ESB builds on it, but to no particularly satisfying end.
posted by Legomancer at 8:29 AM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


it doesn't have a real ending

This is my problem with Empire. I saw Star Wars in the theater (a drive-in theater) when I was four years old. It Was The Greatest Thing Ever. The wait for Empire was so incredibly long and agonizing. It was only three years, but when you're seven, that's almost half your entire lifetime. I waited for Empire for almost half my life! And then it has some bullshit ending where everyone is just looking out a window and they leave Han Solo frozen in carbonite?!? I have to wait another 1/3rd of a lifetime just to find out what the fuck happens? BOOOO!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2010


The only people who *did* know how to do this kind of things designed tabletop roleplaying games. So when Star Wars wasn't doing anything a company called West End Games picked it up for chump change and designed a Star Wars RPG. Where the movies didn't flesh something out, the game did. In this fashion, the RPG extended canonical elements in the Star Wars setting and made it something that could support more than a few movies.

I began playing the WEG Star Wars RPG in 1992, when I was in college. At the time, the SWRPG was hitting its stride and new sourcebooks were being released with some regularity.

WEG had some good ideas and, in my opinion, did a competent job of maintaining the Star Wars "feel" in their games. It helped that their D6 gaming system made it incredibly easy to play. Everything was based on rolling a number of six-sided dice. Your stats governed how many D6s you would roll. The bigger the number, the more successful you were at a given action. There were no arcane equations like THAC0 calculation.

Because of the general appeal of Star Wars, and the ease of the D6 system, we had some people playing the game with us who weren't RPG nerds or even nerds as such.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2010


What's great about ESB is that it fleshes everything out. "Star Wars" is a good action movie, sure, but ESB gave the franchise its depth. Everything we know about the Star Wars universe that has made it appealing for the last twenty five years comes from "Empire". Darth Vader, merely Grand Moff Tarkin's thug in "Star Wars", becomes the best film villain of all time in "Empire", murdering his underlings when they mess up and delivering killer lines. "I have altered the deal. Pray that I don't alter it any further." It's the only movie in the series that's well acted. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford work great together. We know practically nothing of the force before "Empire". All of the main characters have real conflicts and show development. It's the only movie that hits on all cylinders.
posted by chrchr at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are things that Lucas has done, like refusing to release on DVD remastered versions of the original

Yet, somehow, I have those on DVD. Did you miss that release?
posted by grubi at 6:35 AM on March 16, 2010


I have to wait another 1/3rd of a lifetime just to find out what the fuck happens? BOOOO!

OMIGOD CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

Jesus. Ever heard of 'story arc'?
posted by grubi at 6:38 AM on March 16, 2010


Yet, somehow, I have those on DVD. Did you miss that release?

To my knowledge, he released the original version that were only 2.0 stereo and not really cleaned up for dvd release. By original, I meant the versions that weren't "fixed" such as injecting Hayden Christensen into RTOJ, changing the end song of RTOJ, adding scenes, changing effects in scenes, etc. If you wanted the original original, so to speak, you had to buy 'em packaged with the new versions of the original...after the new versions had been widely released for a while, thus would have forced people to buy the same DVDs they already had to get the original original.
posted by Atreides at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2010


OMIGOD CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

Jesus. Ever heard of 'story arc'?


Yes, and it sure means a lot to a 7 year old. ;)

Personally, I was more pissed off that after ROTJ he announced the prequel would be released in 15 years. More than double my lifetime!
posted by zarq at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2010


By original, I meant the versions that weren't "fixed" such as injecting Hayden Christensen into RTOJ, changing the end song of RTOJ, adding scenes, changing effects in scenes, etc.

Apparently they also cut a scene where a dancer's breast falls out of her costume in ROTJ. A friend of mine ranted at me about it over dinner one night. Changing the Ewok theme and rebooting the special effects was fine with her, but censoring a naked breast? Total blasphemy!
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on March 16, 2010


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