Happy Birthday, George Lucas: We Come In Peace!

Today is a very special day at The Comlink. It is the birth anniversary of the man who changed our lives, mostly for the better, by sharing with us his dreams and visions. He’s the man who forever altered the fabric of popular culture, the man without whom this column would not exist.

Of course I’m talking about The Creator, George Lucas.

Is there any filmmaker alive today who’s had such a profound effect on his audience? Is there any filmmaker who has inspired such vehement worship — as well as hostility? I think not. We love him and we loathe him, because of what he gave us and what he took away.

If you’re reading this column you’re more than casually familiar with his filmography. And if you’ve not seen the fascinating documentary called “The People vs. George Lucas,” I urge you to do so. The doc, which made the rounds of festivals in 2010 and was released to theaters and DVD last year, tackles the enormous subject of the relationship between Mr. Lucas and those who have been touched in some way by his films (and there are a lot of us).

Director Alexandre O. Philippe shot more than 600 hours of footage over a span of four years to make “The People vs. George Lucas.” He interviewed fans, critics, pop culture experts, and Hollywood insiders, trying to make sense of this strange, intense, dysfunctional relationship. But there were many more people who couldn’t be convinced to participate.

“We approached everybody you can possibly imagine, and to be honest there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to us who were just afraid to,” Philippe says. “So it was a really strange process to make that film. I mean you’d think you were talking about national security.”

The people that did agree to be interviewed, such as “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” producer Gary Kurtz, spoke with both admiration and derision about Lucas, his work, and his legacy. But even now, after all his research and discussion, Philippe still can’t fully explain the actions of our brilliant but impenetrable hero.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “[Lucas] is just as much a mystery now to me as he was four years ago. The stuff he’s done, especially lately – the changes to the Blu-ray, his reaction to the fans being angry with him and deciding he’s not going to make any more ‘Star Wars’ films – it’s really baffling to me. I can’t understand the guy, I can’t understand the reasoning.”

Maybe it’s better if we don’t understand. George will continue to be George and the fans will continue to argue and gripe – but don’t we thrive on that, after all? “It’s kind of beautiful and interesting and crazy, this dynamic between George and the fans,” says Philippe. But he stresses that, love him or hate him, you’ve got to respect him. “Anybody who says they don’t respect George, I can’t possibly take seriously,” he says. “Anybody who’s made something like ‘Star Wars,’ I mean, come on – it’s an extraordinary feat.” I wholeheartedly agree.

So let’s wish George Lucas a very happy birthday… and offer him our thanks. He most definitely deserves that.

In The Comlink, “Star Wars” fan and MTV News producer Tami Katzoff explores the glory days of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Whether you’re Team Jedi or Team Sith, friend of Wookiees or wanted by bounty hunters, any and all “Star Wars” fans are welcome along for the ride.