A Star Wars Holiday Special Doc SXSW

Maybe it’s because the marketing for the first “Star Wars” is a relatively lesser-known part of the history of the franchise, or maybe it’s because the subjects related to the special remain so embarrassed they don’t like talking about it, but this first section is engrossing and thrilling where the rest is not. But once the documentary gets away from that and starts covering the making of the “Holiday Special,” breaking down every sketch, and every aspect of production from the side of Lucasfilm and also CBS, momentum slows down. 

While informative, “A Disturbance in the Force” relies too much on a cast of famous people talking about how infamous the special was in the ’70s and ’80s and how cool they are for having seen it — or for being close enough to Lucas to talk to him about it. This gives the film a rather detached tone, like your older brother telling you about a cool party he went to while reminding you that you couldn’t go, and will never get to go. 

Yet some of the talking heads are rather informative and entertaining, particularly the ones actually related to the making of the special, or the few times George Lucas shows up through archival footage talking about his intentions for the special and his disavowing it. 

There is a fascinating throughline between the way archival Lucas talks about actually wanting to use the TV special to expand the world of “Star Wars” and tell stories he couldn’t fit into the film, the way his ideas were mostly ignored by the CBS team of variety specials comedy writers, and how Lucas would go on to take absolute control over his franchise two decades later when the prequels started rolling — plus his future treatment of “Star Wars” parodies like the “Detours” show.

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