There are lots of essays and open letters, telling J.J. Abrams how to make Star Wars great again. We even tried our hand at one. But this video is still something unique. It lays out four simple rules for Star Wars, with superb animation.
This video is the brainchild of Prescott Harvey with the creative agency Sincerely, Truman, and we're excited to premiere it on io9. Harvey was actually a production assistant on J.J. Abrams' directorial debut, Mission Impossible III, where he had a single conversation with Abrams in which Harvey recommended some games for the Xbox 360. "He probably doesn't remember that, but he might remember the PA who got an earpiece stuck in his ear and had to go the hospital," says Harvey. Harvey is also the author of The World of Warcraft Guide to Winning at Life.
Harvey explains the genesis of the above video:
Like so many people, I've spent most of my recent years wondering why the original Star Wars trilogy was so awesome, and the new movies were so terrible. What are the factors that make Star Wars, Star Wars? I took an empirical approach, determining what elements were in the original movies that differed from the prequels. My first major epiphany was that, in the originals, the characters are always outside somewhere very remote. The environment and the wildlife are as much a threat as the empire. All three movies had this bushwacky, exploratory feel. Contrast that with the prequels, where the characters are often in cities, or in the galactic senate. In order for Star Wars to feel like a true adventure, the setting has to be the frontier, and this became my first rule. After that I started brainstorming with friends, and reading online opinions. Gradually a script took shape.
There were some rules that they experimented with including, but which didn't make the cut — for example, some rules were about film technique, but "that didn't seem fair since the original trilogy was so revolutionary, and filmmaking has changed so much in three decades," says Harvey. So they decided to stick to rules that had to do with story elements and setting. He adds:
My favorite rule that didn't make the cut is "The Jedi are Pacifists". In the prequels, Qui Gon, Mace Windu and Yoda are a bunch of acrobatic ninjas with crazy special abilities. But what makes the original movies so interesting is that the Jedi (Yoda and Obiwan) are true pacifists. They refuse to fight, even to the point of death. Now, that doesn't make them as interesting for the action sequences, but it really contrasts the good guys from the bad guys. It also made Luke's internal struggle more compelling. Who do you choose, the morally sound boring guys, or the corrupt guys with all the awesome abilities? I think this rule really contributed to the strong mythology created in the original films. But it was difficult to explain this concept in twenty seconds of video. Plus I don't speak for all fans on this one. Lots of people cite the Darth Maul lightsaber battles as the best part of 'The Phantom Menace'.
The video took five months to put together, mostly working after hours because the team had to work on actual client work during the day. None of the team really expected a two-minute video to take that long, says Harvey.
As for why the soundtrack is a capella music, that's a simple copyright issue — at first, the film-makers were going to do their own custom orchestral score, but it seemed wrong to use music that was just sort of reminiscent of Star Wars. They wanted to be able to use the actual Star Wars score, but they were worried about running into copyright issues since this isn't a licensed video. So one of the animators, named Jason, came up with the "a capella music and sound effects" idea, and they ran with that.
J.J. Abrams doesn't need anyone to tell him the prequels suck — but if even one of these four rules influences the course of the new films, the creators will consider it a huge success, says Harvey. They've created a petition, over at DearJJAbrams.com, which you can sign, and they're committed to hand-delivering the signed petition and video to the Disney offices in Burbank.