There’s little doubt that “Star Wars” was inspired as much by Oedipus as it was “Star Trek,” with its lightsaber battles and “I-am-you-father” revelation in “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.”
Some 30 years after Darth Vader’s stunning declaration, another “Star Wars”-related Oedipal battle is set to hit the big screen: a new documentary, “The People vs. George Lucas,” in which (predominantly male) geeks tear down the king-daddy of the fanboys.
This is no ordinary film: the documentary is stitched together largely with homemade contributions from fans, many of whom were inspired by the movies to create their own “Star Wars” tributes – and anti-Lucas rants.
The first reaction to this might be to quote William Shatner’s three-word response to obsessed fans from a classic 1986 “Saturday Night Live” sketch set at a Trekkers convention: “Get a life!”
But as with all things “Star Wars,” there’s a greater Force at work.
The fans’ grievances are well known: The three prequel episodes were not greeted with huge enthusiasm by those old enough to remember seeing the original trilogy in movie theaters. Changes made in re-released special editions of the original films rankled many, and there’s near-universal hatred of Jar Jar Binks.
A trailer for “The People vs. George Lucas,” set to premier at the South by Southwest Festival next month, recently hit the Internet, exposing the raw, out-sized emotions surrounding Lucas' films and jump-starting the debate over who should be the guardian of the “Star Wars” legacy.
“Is George the sole owner of it, or does it now belong to the ages?” the documentary’s writer and director Alexandre O. Philippe told Wired.com. “And what happens to your role as a creator when your audience claims it owns your art?”
Some of the angry folks in the film don’t frame the issue quite as eloquently. To extend the Oedipus metaphor, the aggrieved fans might not have married Mom, but some likely still live in her basement.
“George, you must own up to your mistake!” one man demands.
“I don’t know what I would do if I met George Lucas in the street,” says another. “I’d want to shake his hand or hit him in the stomach.”
Lucas has learned to live with the outrage.
“It’s a work of fiction. It’s a metaphor. It’s not real. And therefore you can either like it or not like it – whatever,” he told Jon Stewart, an acknowledged “Star Wars” fanatic, during an interview last month on “The Daily Show.”
Lucas chose his words carefully, knowing better than to go the Shatner route. He certainly realizes the strong feelings spurred by the “Star Wars” saga show its power as art.
“Star Wars” also has inspired the do-it-yourself spirit that led to this crowd-sourced documentary, complete with fans’ versions of “Star Wars” scenes and their verbal attacks on Lucas, the father of this creative explosion and this complex love/hate relationship.
“Don’t ever say it’s just a film,” declares one man who contributed to “The People Vs. George Lucas,” struggling to contain his fury. “It’s not just a film!”
Now that’s a Force to be reckoned with.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.