All your droids are belong to us
You know the story, the one that begins a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, with lasers, spaceships, a princess, droids and a sect of spiritual warriors intent on rescuing the galaxy from the black-clad, intergalactic villain and his army of clones.
Star Wars debuted in American theaters in 1977, just a month or so after I turned 7 years old. And here’s a resentment to which I’ve been hanging onto for a while: My parents took the family to see it when I was visiting my grandparents, and because my father had a strict rule about seeing movies twice — he wouldn’t, under any circumstances — I didn’t see the original film in its entirety until many years later.
But in the summer of 1977, just before I entered second grade, my friends and I would play Star Wars, re-creating scenes from the film using action figures that had just begun to flood the market, or sometimes we’d be the characters ourselves, chasing each other around the neighborhood making that pyoom sound when we fired our blasters.
I thought about that summer as I watched Star Wars Uncut, a project created and assembled by Casey Pugh, an engineer and internet entrepreneur who was involved in the College Humor website and the formation of Vimeo.
Vimeo, which is something like YouTube but more focused on artists and original content. Pugh was working on the flash player on which Vimeo is based when he had the Big Idea.
“I spent all my time thinking about how to get filmmakers to work together to collaborate on a film, but without being in the same place,” he says from his home in Brooklyn. “What is the simplest way to get filmmakers to collaborate on a feature-length film? The common denominator would be splitting a film into pieces, asking individuals to remake each scene and then just stitching it back together somehow to make the film.”
Inspired by the crowdsourced Michael Jackson white-glove tracking project — which you’ve got to see at whiteglovetracking.com to believe — he settled on everybody’s favorite space opera, which he dissected into 15-second clips, 473 of them, and invited readers of his blog to reshoot the scenes.
“It became organically viral,” he says. “The concept was easy to digest and participate in. The site had all the thumbnails — you just click on it and claim it for yourself. Now it’s yours and you have 30 days to complete it.”
This version of Star Wars opens with a Tweet. The text intro has comments at the end of it with handles like “4ce4real” and “ChewyLewis.” The opening scene features an Imperial Star Destroyer made of corrugated cardboard. The film quickly morphs into crude animation, then live-action, with C-3PO played by a guy a wearing gold foil suit. R2-D2 is made from an upside-down garbage can, juice boxes and an upside-down mixing bowl. Though the players vary, the characters are instantly recognizable — even when they’re just some guy holding his cats and reading the lines offscreen or banthas played by babies. Jawas are kids in blankets. Stormtroopers are go-go girls. There are Legos, sock puppets, children, animals. One clip is in Korean. With a laugh track.
“It’s so easy to parody,” Pugh says. “The acting was not that great; some of the writing was cheesy. But it was a prime opportunity for people to really poke fun at a childhood classic. As you watch the film there’s a lot of laughter. People are making some really great jokes.”
When Ben Kenobi brings Luke Skywalker back to his [place and gives him his fatehr’s lightsaber, the scene morphs into an infomercial. Then cut — the lightsaber is now a flyswatter. Then the whole scene is taking place in a hot tub. Then Kenobi is wearing a red fez on his head and he farts. And then, all of a sudden, the characters are speaking Spanish.
Pugh laughs over the scene on Tatooine, when Luke is contemplating the double sunset of his home planet. In this version, Luke is humming the French horn from the John Williams score.
At heart, he’s a fanboy too. As a kid, he and his two older brothers collected the action figures and playsets, just like I did.
“We had the original Millenium Falcon that could open on top and you could play with the insides,” he says. “I think we had the Ewok village, too — you put them in the tree and they fall through a booby trap.”
He and I have something else in common: He didn’t see the original film during its theatrical release — though he has a better excuse.
“I was born in 1984,” he says. “I can’t even remember the first time I saw it.”
Star Wars Uncut; Mixed Tape Film Series; Carolina Theatre; 310 S.
Greene St., Greensboro; Thursday, 8 p.m.; $10 ($7 students with ID). Proceeds benefit the Masonic Children’s Home at Oxford.