Star Wars on trial

They love him and they hate him - Star Wars fans have a complicated relationshp with George Lucas

A scene from The People vs George Lucas.  Exhibit A Pictures and Quark Films
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They love him and they hate him - Star Wars fans have a complicated relationshp with George Lucas.

It's only been a few weeks since Disney snapped up Lucasfilms and the entire Star Wars universe for US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) - and already fans are gnashing their midi-chlorians and rattling their eBay-bought lightsabers about whether the house of Mickey Mouse can get it right when its promised Star Wars: Episode 7 movie comes out in 2015.

While it's hardly new for fans of any franchise to hope for a ripping yarn with any sequel, the acolytes who've made Luke Skywalker's entourage a part of their DNA don't take kindly to those who would trifle with the world of the creator George Lucas. In fact, they often go bananas when Lucas himself decides to tinker with his own cosmos - as he did by making three "prequel" movies a decade ago.

This societal phenomenon is enthusiastically dissected in the television premiere this week of The People vs George Lucas, a hilarious documentary that examines the tormented relationship fans have with George Lucas, and their widespread disenchantment with him.

This 2010 film is by the writer and director Alexandre Philippe, a lifelong Star Wars fan who grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also made movies about the evolution of the Klingon language (Earthlings) and directed the official documentary about Paul the Psychic Octopus.

The central question posed in The People vs George Lucas is this: to what extent is the Star Wars franchise an artistic creation of Lucas's and subject to his vision, and to what extent is it a social phenomenon that belongs to the general public of fans and our participatory/remix culture?

"In a nutshell, the movie is about the very strange dynamic George's fans have had with the man over the past 30 years," says Philippe. "It's really a conflicted relationship. How did this guy, who was a god, who could do no wrong back in the 1970s and 1980s, why is it people sort of love-hate him so much these days?

"It was very important for me to provide an objective account, to look at both sides of the story. In crafting a story, I didn't want to be Michael Moore in this. We opened it up to the fans and gave them the opportunity to submit their footage. We had 634 hours of footage submitted - everything from rants to puppets, from claymation to 3D animation and grindhouse films. You name it."

Among scores of notables who chime in with their two-cents' worth are the fantasy author Neil Gaiman, the original Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, the director Francis Ford Coppola and the towering David Prowse, who wore the Darth Vader costume in the first three Star Wars outings.

While his documentary has met mostly positive reactions, Philippe readily admits that even nerds can be pushed too far when it comes to Star Wars: "Death threats, we've had a few.

"I think the frustration is going to be ongoing," adds the US-educated filmmaker, "because we cared so much about those [original three] movies that whatever George was going to do afterwards was going to hurt."

Meanwhile, another Lucas-flavoured offering this week - The Science of Star Wars - argues that the force is already with us when we drive to the office, buy groceries, fight wars or save lives, as it traces the influence of the sci-fi franchise on today's artificial intelligence, cutting-edge transportation and military technology. (We haven't made a clone army, but we're getting there.)

"Star Wars movies have done more than entertain - they are now changing the way we live," says Toni Landis, an executive producer with Discovery Science. "Three decades ago, the futuristic inventions presented in Star Wars belonged to another time and place, in a galaxy far, far away. Yet society is catching up fast and a generation of inventors has brought us to the precipice of a new wave of life-changing technology."

Hosted by that duo of beloved droids - C3PO and R2D2 - each hour of this three-part series shares the personal stories of people inspired and helped by Star Wars technology and philosophies.

The People vs George Lucas will be broadcast on Wednesday at 10pm on OSN Movies HD. The Science of Star Wars will be broadcast at 8.40pm on Tuesday (Man and Machines), Wednesday (Space Cowboys) and Thursday (War, Weapons and The Force) on Discovery Science