You may have heard that the Force will be awakening on December 18. To provide a necessary outlet for our excitement, we’ve assembled another Vulture Advent Calendar — in this case, 25 Star Wars–themed stories, one per day until Christmas. None of them will involve midi-chlorians.
The Star Wars franchise has always been ripe for parody, from Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs and SNL’s many lampoons, to Family Guy’s and Robot Chicken’s takes on the series. Taking a smaller-scale and more legally vulnerable approach to Star Wars spoofing, the found-footage remix outfit Auralnauts have, since 2012, taken George Lucas’s works and, in the style of Bad Lip Reading, turned Jedis into hard-partying jerks, C-3PO into a sleazeball named Creepio, and Darth Vader into a jaded office manager.
The core series — what the Auralnauts consider “canon” — comprises four videos, each focused on a specific Star Wars movie, plus a pair of PSA-style shorts (see example below). A seventh video (above), arguably their funniest, takes the final scene of A New Hope and removes all of John Williams’s score, turning Han and Luke’s medal ceremony into a truly awkward affair.
The project started in 2012, when friends Zak Koonce and Craven (both noms de guerre, for professional reasons) took their talents in the broadcast and advertising industries and made a video called “Bane Outtakes,” turning The Dark Knight Rises villain into “a health enthusiast with aspirations in freestyle rap.” Following the success of that video (8.6 million views to date), they turned their attention to the Star Wars prequels. “As soon as we started brainstorming, the opportunities to poke fun at what has been such a polarizing series of films just spiraled,” says Koonce. “There was no real goal in mind, other than to re-contextualize a bunch of scenes and create audio/sight gags.”
To create the clips, the Auralnauts watch the movies and record themselves cracking jokes and brainstorming ideas, in a fashion similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000. (“We plan on live-streaming our next session,” Koonce says). They then edit the original footage to fit their new plot and manipulate the footage to match their jokes, which take precedence over the story line. Their favorite gags are throwaway lines, like Queen Amidala’s bodyguard yelling “Make sure everyone gets Zimas!” or two soldiers facing a dilemma over coleslaw. A major running theme also emerged from a scene where Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi kills someone in a bar when the situation could’ve been handled peacefully.
“It’s a world where the only power the Jedi possess are enhanced partying and dancing abilities, and they have chosen to use those powers for evil. The rest of the galaxy is just trying to get by while these guys are running around ruining it for everyone. Business owners suffer the most.” While they’re currently working on an Empire Strikes Back episode, both looking forward to seeing The Force Awakens. “Most of our viewers expect us to cover Episode VII, so we’ll go into it knowing that it’s going to happen,” Koonce says. “Whether that ruins the movie-watching experience for us or not remains to be seen.”
As expected, there are ramifications to tweaking George Lucas’s intellectual property. “These things are one never-ending stream of legal issues,” says Koonce. “They used to get blocked outright once the upload was finished, which we would then appeal as fair use. They always came through in the end. Now YouTube has given more options to people making claims, and the option to monetize the content has become a popular one. Any ad revenue the video gets goes to the claimant — so we get away with it simply because the films we parody are making the studios money. Great for them, kind of sucks for us.”