In 2009, Slashdot ran a story about Star Wars Uncut, a crowd sourced fan creation where individuals sign up for 15 second clips from what is now known as Episode IV: A New Hope. At the time I was just tickled by the silliness of the whole concept. And It took years for them to put it together, but what they assembled was pretty amazing. It’s over 2 hours long, and it’s on Ye Old YouTube:
I can’t imagine another movie bringing together fans like this… and I won’t lie. It’s no masterpiece of cinema. But hundreds of individuals came together and each made their own 15 second block interpretation of Star Wars history. These hundreds of clips were painstakingly assembled together with impressive skill: the editor did a really good job of blending sound from one piece to another… The audio levels are constant, and intelligently mixed even when individual shots split over the boundary between adjacent blocks. Hundreds and hundreds of clips from around the world using countless different cameras both virtual and real. This was a serious undertaking of epic frivolity.
As for the art of it, this is truly a modern creation. Starting with the crowd sourced nature of the production: the shots were allocated via a web site, where individuals could sign up for 15 second blocks, and then later submit them digitally back to the site when they were incorporated into the film. But amusingly enough, A great number of shots of demonstrate technology well beyond what was available when the original Star Wars was made. Other shots are stylishly animated in CG. Others are rotoscoped in mediums from chalk to pencil to marker. There’s also a plethora of stop motion, claymation, and even some puppetry to go around. While a few shots are only slightly modified from the originals, but those are the rarity, and generally done to pull off a specific joke.
Many shots are intentionally minimized: An X-Wing is replaced with a car, a trash compactor is a sheet of plywood, the millennium falcon is… well… a hamburger. The film is chock full of references and in-jokes, from RPGs to Clerks to iChat. Every 15 seconds, you can get ready for a charming suprise: Countless shots rendered in Lego, or Star Trek action Figures, or even straws with cast names handwritten on them. And more foil Threepios than I could ever count. Seeing R2 realized as trash cans, shop vacs, to faces in makeup, to kids in silly hats… well it was frankly completely wonderful. The college humor folks show up for a couple a shots as well. I heard that Adam Savage from Mythbusters was in there, but I didn’t notice… then again maybe that was when my 4-year-old was asking a question.
I hope that Lucasfilm lets this slide. The movie does make a lot of use of the original dialog, sound effects, and of course large chunks of the original score is mixed in as well. But to my thinking this is pretty much the fairest of uses, and the most loving of tributes. The number of store bought Star Wars toys and action figures alone should demonstrate that these are all folks that care enough about the original to have shelled out some coin in the past.
Star Wars is part of our shared heritage now. Lucas achieved his goal of creating a sort of modern mythology for our era. When I watched the Blu-Ray edition of all 6 films, I was pleased to see that he included nearly 2 hours of silly Star Wars references in mainstream media, from Robot Chicken and Family Guy, to more obscure stuff. While I was a bit ashamed that I had seen almost every single clip shown, it also clearly demonstrated the impact of these silly little kids films.
With all 6 Star Wars Episodes slated to return in 3D to the big screen, starting in a couple weeks, I think the classy thing would be for Lucas to actually endorse this. He was a film school nerd, and I’m sure that the artist in him would watch this, and see a great number of these 15 second blocks for what they are: aspiring, experimental film makers striving to pay tribute to something they love…. along with a larger number of really clumsy dudes with camcorders just trying to give one of the greatest movies of all time a giant hug.
And if you have a couple hours, seriously watch this thing soon just in case it gets pulled. It’s a glorious achievement. My accolades to the guys who put this together… you proved once again that “The Internet” can make things possible today that simply couldn’t have existed even just a couple decades ago. You deserve pats on the back and appearances on talk shows, and maybe a tour of the Ranch.