Execute Minute 47: On Star Wars Wars

Curator's Note

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.


It strikes me that this method of analysis would be especially interesting for film franchises as they all seem to be variations on a theme. I'm thinking specifically of the Transformer films which the folks at Screen Junkies have hilariously critiqued (see link below). There is clearly a relationship between movie studios, research departments, and "common wisdom" of how long movies should be and when act breaks should occur. Given that knowledge and this analytical tool, what kinds of questions could we answer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ik2ikgOyNU

Daniel, thanks for your contribution to kick off the Star Wars week. This is a remarkable piece of excruciating fan labor, whether the fan represents an outside faction or an industry insider fighting for a voice (and employment). This kind of media bricolage alters the performance to the films, as Ethan suggests, in ways that call into question the "industrial" praxis of Hollywood. As experimental fan-film (all copyrights secured, I am certain...ly not serious), this kind of experimentation brings to mind the psychedelic PCP cult films of the 1960s, a kind of taboo critique that performs the grotesque in a way that creates a potential audience double bind (you can't watch but you cannot not look away!). Interestingly enough, the net result reads like a kind of Star Wars nightmare, which feels eerily close to home when juxtaposed against what my social media newsfeeds look like in the weeks leading up to The Force Awakens. As topical sense making, well done and well played. (I might be picky when I say this, but it does not seem as if this particular clip aligns the six films at the same chronological moment. Am I wrong? The Attack of the Clones clip feels like it happens later in that movie compared to the others, but I could be completely mistaken.)

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