A long time ago, a USC student named George transformed his love of Buck Rogers serials, pulp novels and Japanese cinema into the greatest space-opera film of all time. Since then, he’s redecorated his Hidden Fortress with CGI furniture, patching holes in a cantina roof that never leaked. First it was the travesty of the Special Editions and their farting digital dinosaurs. Then came the prequels and Jar Jar Binks. And now Lucas is taking further liberties with a 3-D edition of The Phantom Menace—Star Wars fans’ least-favorite entry in the franchise.
In stark contrast is the crowdsourced phenomenon of Star Wars: Uncut. In 2009, Web developer Casey Pugh began producing a fan film remake of Episode IV: A New Hope. More than a thousand teams signed on for 15-second chunks of the film, reproducing it shot by shot, and delivering their microchapters within 30 days of assignment. The often clunky, mostly imaginative results were stitched into a two-hour whole. More than 2 million viewers on YouTube have been enthralled to date.
Click your cursor to any point in Star Wars: Uncut to see Jedi children in suburban driveways, hand puppets, motion graphics, action figures, and hundreds of other no-budget techniques on display. Due to the overwhelming whiplash of styles and content, I recommend screening SW:U in 20-minute segments (unless you’re making it into a drinking game with friends). The source material is so deeply embedded in our consciousness that no matter the style or homage—nods to Bergman, Yellow Submarine and Simpsons characters abound—it’s impossible to lose your place, or your grin.
While Phantom Menace promises Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson in 3-D (at long last, right?), Star Wars: Uncut interprets the most iconic characters from the saga from a kaleidoscope of angles. A host of vacuum cleaners moonlight as R2 units. A flurry of household pet Chewbaccas pant woodenly alongside ear-muffed Leias, lady Lukes, and IT-desk Han Solos. You can even spot Portland-based filmmaker Lance Bangs as a jolly Obi-Wan Kenobi. And then there are the SUV land speeders and screensaver hyperdrives. These are the droids you’re looking for, all there in foil and papier-mâché and Adobe After Effects.
Now that YouTube allows posts longer than 10 minutes, it feels like a waste to spend $14 for diminishing rewards at the cinema on a pair of glasses you’re not allowed to keep. Hollywood is operating like the Jawas, polishing yesteryear’s goods that are broken before they reach the farm. The Uncle Owens and Aunt Berus of Middle America are getting more Web-savvy all the time. Soon they’ll see no reason to leave the homestead, when a galaxy of creative offerings can be distilled like moisture from the air. Communal filmgoing is dead. This is the age of communal filmmaking. May the force come from you.
SEE IT: Star Wars: Uncut can be watched above or at YouTube. Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace 3D is opens Friday at Lloyd Center, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Pioneer Place, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Hilltop, Sherwood, Tigard and Wilsonville.