It’s no secret The Last Jedi is among the most divisive films in recent memory. Many Bothans/fans across the internet (both fairly and unfairly) purport that it is the most un-Star Wars of all the films in the saga. But a fun thought exercise for those fans would be to challenge them to whether they would sit through another screening of Last Jedi or the Star Wars Holiday Special. The Holiday Special is almost universally regarded to be the worst piece of Star Wars content ever produced and George Lucas is on record saying that he has tried to hunt down all of the negatives (i.e. original film prints) of it that exist with the intent to destroy them. However, the newly released documentary A Disturbance in the Force: How the Star Wars Holiday Special Happened attempts to contextualize it while also chronicling how it came to be.
Disturbance opens with a clip of Conan O’Brien asking Harrison Ford about how he could possibly have agreed to appear in the Christmas Special, and this is more or less the question that the filmmakers set out to answer when making this documentary: how could anyone agree to be involved this train wreck? Well, it turns out that it’s not as complicated as we thought. They detail how Lucas was scared of his new movie leaving the pop culture zeitgeist if he didn’t find a way to keep it in mind and so let the flood gates open allowing his characters and their likenesses to appear in anything and everything.
The infamous first line of Star Wars toys hadn’t been launched yet and the way that Lucas sold on the idea was that it would potentially sell more toys (which would be released soon after the Holiday Special aired. He is definitely cut from the same cloth as Walt Disney and loved the idea of a “fly wheel,” where a plethora of products associated with a film would not only make more money, but also that each ware would cement the property in pop culture.
They are able to interview a remarkable amount of people, ranging from the actual creators of the Holiday Special to geek celebrities like Weird Al and Patton Oswalt. They don’t get any of the big names on record (i.e. Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, etc.) but they do use a cornucopia of clips from when the main stars talked about it publicly.
Of the many shocking things learned in the first hour (and they are legion), probably the most surprising is that the first draft and basic outline of the Holiday Special was actually written by Lucas himself. The story was turned over to variety show writers (a very oddly specific genre of writer) and what they ended up creating was the abomination we know today.
If there is one negative about the documentary, it’s that in order to truly “document” the travesty, the filmmakers have to subject the viewer to clips of the Holiday Special, and that can be a difficult task. However, the perseverance will pay off as the whole record is set straight in detail on how and why it was made.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite it being hard to sit through the retelling of the train wreck known as the Star Wars Holiday Special, A Disturbance in the Force is essential viewing for true Star Wars fans. It details in astonishing detail how the worst piece of Star Wars media came to be and its impact on pop culture.