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Media advisory: KU scholar shares the best, don't-miss 'Star Wars' fan edits

Monday, December 14, 2015

LAWRENCE – Love him or hate him, Jar Jar Binks and his bumbling antics in “Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace” brought fan editing into the mainstream.

A year after the release of the first "Star Wars" prequel, California film editor Mike J. Nichols re-edited the film, tightening the pacing and removing many of Jar Jar Binks’ scenes. In what came to be known as “The Phantom Edit,” the alternate version of the movie popularized the idea of fan editing.

“For the past 15 years, 'Star Wars' fan edits have been appearing online, and while many of these re-edited versions offer alternative treatments of the familiar saga, some could be said to fix creator George Lucas’ changes to the original films,” said Joshua Wille, a doctoral student in film and media studies at the University of Kansas. 

In the lead-up to Friday’s release of the first "Star Wars" movie in ten years, “Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” fans are rewatching the franchise films, including the fan edited versions. Wille, whose research on fan edits has been published in books and academic journals, is available to talk to the media.

For those interested in watching "Star Wars" fan edits, Wille has several recommendations:

• “Star Wars Trilogy: Despecialized Edition,” by a fan editor known as Harmy, is an ongoing effort to reconstruct in high definition the original, unmodified theatrical versions of the classic "Star Wars" films using elements from rare film scans and various home video editions. In some scenes, the fan editor goes so far as to patch together a shot from several graphic pieces like a jigsaw puzzle.

“This ongoing project is my go-to recommendation for nostalgic fans who want to re-watch Episodes IV, V and VI,” Wille said.

A short documentary provides more information about the project and its film sources, as does Harmy’s Facebook page on the project.

• “Star Wars: Revisited,” by fan editor Adywan, is a compromise between a purist treatment of the classic "Star Wars" films and Lucas’ revisions. Adywan removes many of Lucas’ controversial changes but also incorporates hundreds of tweaks and visual effects to enhance the overall experience, Wille said. For his forthcoming fan edit of Episode V, Adywan coordinated with an international team to shoot additional video elements using costumed performers and detailed miniature sets.

More information can be found at Adywan’s “Star Wars: Revisited” Facebook page and website.

• “The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused,” by fan editor The Man Behind the Mask, provides a fun take on the original trilogy by degrading the image quality with scratches and grindhouse film defects.

“Composer John Williams’ sweeping score is replaced with tacky music, and deleted scenes are incorporated in order to present a B-movie version of 'Star Wars' that looks like it was made for cheap,” Wille said.

Internet Fanedit Database listing for “War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused.”

• The irreverent “Pulp Empire,” by fan editor njvc, transforms “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” into a Quentin Tarantino film with a nonlinear narrative structure, music cues borrowed from Tarantino’s films, Frank Oz’s voice of Yoda replaced with Pai Mei from “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and new inter titles.

Internet Fanedit Database listing for “Pulp Empire.”

• “Fear and Loathing in the Star Wars Holiday Special,” by fan editor Take Me to Your Cinema, remixes the most bizarre moments from the notorious 1978 TV program into a highly condensed televisual nightmare.

Internet Fanedit Database listing for “Fear and Loathing in the Star Wars Holiday Special.”

• Building off the work of earlier re-edits of the "Star Wars" prequel films, fan editor L8wrtr creates a cohesive film trilogy with an emphasis on characters, better pacing and less childish humor.

“These are good fan edits for 'Star Wars' fans who are seeking versions of the prequel films that feel more at home with the tone of the original trilogy,” Wille said.

Internet Fanedit Database listing for L8wrtr’s fan edits:

“Star Wars Episode I: Shadow of the Sith”

“Star Wars Episode II: The Republic Divided”

“Star Wars Episode III: Dawn of the Empire”

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