March 15, 2010 / 2:11 AM / 10 years ago

George Lucas goes on trial in fanboy documentary

Director George Lucas arrives at the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 17, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

AUSTIN, Texas (Hollywood Reporter) - A generation of fanboys has its say in “The People Vs. George Lucas,” a documentary whose obvious sympathy for one side of the battle doesn’t keep it from giving a fair shake to the mogul behind “Star Wars,” or prevent it from making good-natured jokes about those who take the saga too seriously.

As griping about the creator of Jar-Jar Binks appears destined to be an enduring pastime, the film should have a healthy life on home-video.

Writer/director Alexandre Philippe does a fine job of summarizing the points in the case — providing a quick biography of the filmmaker (and touching on his conflicts with authority that will inform later ironies) before leapfrogging to Lucas’ post-“Return of the Jedi” career, when the Special Editions of the first three films began a long downhill course for his reputation among those who once idolized him.

Philippe’s dense roster of interviewees is heavy on true believers, many of whom went on to become filmmakers and critics. He misses out on some obvious big names — Kevin Smith, whose movies have long critiqued disturbances in the Force, is nowhere to be seen — but he does score an interview with Darth Vader himself, David Prowse.

Interviewees supply a colorful, often quite funny insight into fans’ complaints, most of which boil down to two themes: When revising and reissuing the first three films, Lucas should have shown a modicum of respect for the passions of fans whose action-figure-buying dollars made him incredibly wealthy; when returning to make Episodes 1 through 3, he should have surrounded himself with collaborators who could point out the glaring flaws in his storytelling before they reached the screen.

Philippe finds some people to defend Lucas’ right to do whatever he wants with the universe he imagined, including turn it into a crushing bore. But in the end the prosecution/defense conceit isn’t nearly as involving as glimpses of the vast array of creative output inspired by these films: Even a well-informed “Star Wars” enthusiast will likely make new discoveries here, and more-casual fans will be stunned by the homemade remakes, imaginative off-shoots and eagle-eyed edits put together by ordinary people who may have a stronger feel for the Force than the man who dreamed it up.

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