Star Wars Wars (2015), a found-footage film by animator Marcus Rosentrater (under the pseudonym “maurcs”), consists of the six Star Wars films, in their entirety, overlaid through a digital filter that only displays the brightest layer for each pixel. It begins with six simultaneous opening text crawls, accompanied by six out-of-sync renditions of John Williams’s score. The films drop out as they end, so Star Wars Wars concludes with the credits of the longest and worst Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones.
In a year in which images from Star Wars are increasingly unavoidable, the audiovisual chaos of Star Wars Wars plays as a reaction to the ubiquity of the franchise. In its use of digital compositing, it slyly comments on the increasing centrality of digital effects to the prequel trilogy and “Special Edition” releases of the original films. Star Wars Wars is perhaps most valuable, though, as a demonstration of how textuality might regain its place in a “digital humanities” that often errs toward abstraction and quantification, achieving instead what Raymond Bellour calls a “true quotation” that draws on the unique “quotability which film allows to film.” In this clip from the 47th minute, the six films seem to take a simultaneous breather, giving way, briefly, to layered closeups and muted expository dialogue. We might speculate as to the reason for this commonality among the films. The average runtime of a Star Wars films is 132.8 minutes, so the 47th minute comes very near the beginning of the average Star Wars film’s second third. Is this what an act break is?
Star Wars Wars is an exemplary piece of digital scholarship that performs a textual and textural comparison that would be impossible in any other format. It reveals structural commonalities among the films’ narrative strategies and also makes an implicit argument for a model of comparative media studies that values not only description and argumentation but also experimentation, contingency, and speculation.
Raymond Bellour, “The Unattainable Text,” translated by Ben Brewster. In The Analysis of Film, edited by Constance Penley. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2000. Page 27.