The People Vs. George Lucas
It suffers from being just a tad too long (it’s a rare movie that needs to be more than 90 minutes, and it’s a very rare documentary that needs to be more than 60) but I liked this documentary quite a bit. Here’s The Atlantic:
The central question is this: What does a creator owe his fans, and what do the fans owe the creator in return? […] Does Lucas have the right to go back and change his films, and then make the originals more or less unavailable? At what point do creative works become more the domain of the public than the creator?
As a casual fan of Star Wars, I actually learned a lot about Lucas. For instance, I didn’t know he was in a car crash as a teenager, and that was a major event in getting his life on track: “I thought, well, I’m here now, and every day now is an extra day.”
While I despise the existence of the prequels and the tinkered-with versions of the original episodes, I also found myself really sympathizing with Lucas. (He is, after all, the man who created Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and my beloved LucasArts game company.) Lucas started out as a film student who wanted to make personal, experimental films. In a lot of ways, Star Wars is the worst thing that could’ve happened to those ambitions. This idea is most clearly expressed by Francis Ford Coppola, one of Lucas’s oldest friends:
The great success of Star Wars didn’t leave to the [independent films] and the personal filmmaking. George never made another film after that. Instead, he became a producer and an entrepreneur…We were deprived of those films that he was going to make and might have made. And instead we have an enormous industrial marketing complex…. No matter how many billions of dollars Star Wars could earn, no matter how valuable that franchise is, it isn’t worth a tenth of what he’s worth as an artist and what he’s capable of doing.
There’s a ton of things Lucas’s story makes me think about: the perils of success, how often worldbuilding and merchandising go hand-in-hand, the importance of constraints, criticism and collaboration, how the auteur theory can spin out of control, knowing when to quit and be finished…
Well worth a watch.