A pro-prequel and an anti-prequel fan debate whether the Force was ruined by the concept of midichlorians. The woman debating for the negative asks what the key principles of the Jedi are. The man arguing the affirmative lists nobility and honesty and other virtues.

“Well, according to my blood test,” she responds, “I don’t have those things.”

This weekend’s review looks at a comparatively recent film, a documentary about one of nerddom’s most divisive and enduring obsessions.

Title: The People versus George Lucas

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.

Available from Amazon.

Premise:

A filmmaker examines the fan controversy over the direction Lucas and Star Wars have taken since the 1990s. Since the film focuses on fans and the cultures they have created, it includes a number of digitally-submitted fan segments and tributes.

High Points:

Only Red Letter Media’s reviews do a more thorough job of explaining the key complaints nerds have had against Lucas since the early 90s. In an entertaining fashion, we receive clear explanations for why most of the Special Edition plot tinkerings (as opposed to the enhanced visuals) make no sense and why.

At the same time, the interviews and labour-of-love fan films give some hint of what it meant to see Star Wars in 1977, especially if you were a young nerd or crypto-nerd watching the entire world embrace the stuff you’d been into for years. Remember—before the mass-mass marketing to obsessive collectors, before the only-a-fan-can-love-them prequels, Star Wars was a mainstream phenomenon. Carrie Fisher hosted Saturday Night Live, back when it was the coolest show on tv; Mundanes wore “May the Force be with You” badges. Magazines praised and profiled the very young team that succeeded with a film Hollywood thought would never fly, and Lucas, having already had one unexpected megahit with American Grafitti, earned the status that went with being the Hollywood outsider who conquered the town.

Low Points:

Of course, maybe more of those incredible fan-film-makers should explore their own creative ideas. William Shatner also hosted SNL; his advice to obsessed fans hit a nerve for a reason.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 Films like this confound our ratings system. Originality? People have been debating Lucas’s move to the dark side alterations and developments of his saga since at least The Return of the Jedi, and certainly since the Special Editions. Countless words have been spent debating why Han shot first, why midichlorians wreck the original trilogy, and why Jar Jar Binks mussa die. However, the debate has never been so dramatically and impressively handled as here, nor has the passion of the fans been captured so well.

Effects: 4/6 The fan film effects may not be state-of-the-art, but they’re charming. The People also raises a valid point about visuals: is the Star Wars we can see now the one that won the Oscar for special effects?

Structure: 5/6: Setting this up like a courtroom debate—even one side arguably receives preferential treatment—gives us an interesting way of looking at the controversy over the films.

Acting: 4/6 It’s impossible to assess acting in a documentary, though the fan films that appear excerpted feature a lot of spirit.

Production: 5/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 Yes, it’s Lucas’s world, and he can do what he wants with it. Yes, he’s made, to quote one fan, some serious “dick moves.” But why not make the originally trilogy available as originally shown, but with clean-up transfers? As this doc notes, Brazil comes in three versions, including the terrible, director-despised “love conquers all” version created by studio idiots who clearly did not understand the film. Blade Runner may be viewed in multiple incarnations. Even Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks, rereleased with new effects to overcome the budgetary shortcomings, also contains the original version. Why does Lucas not give so many fans what they want—the film we loved in theatres so many years ago?

Overall: 5/6. The most important debates in this film aren’t about what went wrong with the prequels, or whether Lucas has gone over to the Dark Side. The most important debates concerns proprietary rights (1) when several people collaborate in the making, and later, the success, of a media franchise and (2) when things exist in digital form and can be easily captured, manipulated, and posted online.

In total, The People vs George Lucas receives 30/42.