Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut, a full-length sweding of the original Star Wars made by hundreds of participants, might be the greatest viral video in the still-young history of the Internet. It's also the best argument I've seen for an overhaul of outmoded copyright laws which, if enforced to the entertainment industry's satisfaction, would make such works illegal and essentially un-viewable.
The project started out as a bit of a lark. In 2009, director Casey Pugh asked fans to re-create a fifteen-second piece of Lucas's 1977 Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope as a building block for a feature. To everyone's surprise, the result won an Emmy last summer in the still-young "interactive media" category. That accolade is surely one of the reasons why YouTube, which has been slammed by big media companies over unauthorized uploads and forced to adopt a "guilty until proven innocent" attitude toward infringement, is hosting all two hours and ten minutes of the project. Well, that and the fact that Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, rapacious big media companies for the most part, have often adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward the Star Wars saga, a franchise that has somehow overcome its deficiencies as drama to become as much a part of everyday life as the lyrics to "Happy Birthday" (which, of course, is also copyrighted).
The sheer variety of storytelling modes showcased in Pugh's cut-rate epic is a show in itself. Star Wars Uncut includes countless examples of live-action "drama" (scare quotes mine), some of it staged on elaborately decorated sets, the rest performed in kitchens, rec rooms, living rooms, basements, and backyards. Some of the actors are surprisingly good; others are merely spirited. The movie also boasts cel animation, flash animation, Claymation, 3-D animation, old- and new-school video-game graphics, stop-motion-animated action figures and Lego characters and paper dolls, masked performers, and sock puppets.
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A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for New York Magazine and the founder of Press Play.