Star Wars is a remix

Everything is a Remix is an interesting video series that questions originality in creativity within the arts, technology and science. What I feel this series does well is expose how some of the most famous examples of film, music and invention that are widely considered as novel are the result of artful and intelligent copying of existing work.

Like many, I really like the original Star Wars films (fond childhood memories renting them on VHS over and over) and was amazed to discover just how much material was inspired by earlier TV programmes, films and literature. Here are some examples highlighted by Everything is a Remix:

Here Lucas mimicked the “Chapters” naming convention used in Flash Gordon serials, labelling his films “Episodes”. Also, the infamous scrolling Star Wars opening title sequence for which Star Wars is almost unabashedly ripped off from the Flash Gordon.  As well as this, the camera work and acting in Flash Gordon is very similar in parts, right down to the scene-wipes!

It is apparent that scenes from older films were used as templates. Some Star Wars scenes play so closely to those from which they take influence that they appear to parody exact moments, as demonstrated in the pictures above. War films such as The Bridges at Toko-Ri and The Dambusters proved fundamental sources of inspiration when designing Star Wars battle scenes.

When it came to character design strong comparisons can be drawn to those found in other films. Makers of Silent Running and Metropolis could pitch strong cases for inspiring the realisation of the infamous droid duo, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

One fictional story which was not mentioned in Everything is a Remix is The Wizard of Oz. Comparing this film to Star Wars uncovers some staggering similarities:

  • Both main characters (Luke and Dorothy) live with their Aunt and Uncle in arid settings. (Tatooine and Kansas)
  • Both main characters collect a diverse group of friends to help them, each with strong individuality as well as flaws in their personality..
  • Some characters bare close resemblance:
    • Artificial man: Tin-Man/ C-3PO
    • Loveable potentially ferocious animal: Lion / Chewbacca
    • Intelligent/quirky non-human sidekick: To-To/ R2-D2
  • Some action is mirrored on screen: Obi Wan-Kenobi and Wicked Witch both disappear once killed, leaving behind their clothes .

Read the following sources to explore the Star Wars/Wizard of of Oz connection in more detail:

http://www.moongadget.com/origins/oz.html, http://condor.depaul.edu/

What Lucas did was to tweak, remix and skilfully weave together his inspirations to create an incredibly fresh, new, and exciting fantasy adventure, the popularity of which transcends generations. The ancestry of Star Wars comes from so many different sources, not only within the Sci-Fi realm, helping it remain novel. Although some scenes are closely comparable to those in other films, Lucas still retains his own style and take on things so that the film feels original. Remixing at its finest.

Lucas’ contemporary interpretation of classic works I believe is his way of respectfully paying homage to the films and literature he truly holds in great esteem.

The niggle I have is that I cannot find evidence of Lucas coming out and officially listing his main sources of reference. There are many people, like Kirby Ferguson, maker of Everything is a Remix, who have drawn their own conclusions, but it remains to be seen that there is an actual bibliography-type list for Star Wars. Was Lucas’ avoiding producing such a list in order to gain maximum profit from his remixing?

His company has certainly not held back when the boot has been on the other foot and someone has seemingly violated LucasFilm copyright. Take a look at Motherboard‘s timeline of Star Wars copyright battles.

According to the website Lucas’ copyrighted the word “Droid” and so companies such as Motorola who use this work have to state “Used under licence”. Ridiculous hey?! When you consider how much Lucas’ blatantly copied from other sources you’d be forgiven for thinking he would be a little more lenient and understanding about this, but no. When it is his creations which are being copied he simply will not back down and has proved time and again to be willing got file lawsuits for millions of dollars. Whether or not he has the right to do this has been a constant subject for debate.

Recently George Lucas sold his company and all of its famously protected creations to Disney for $4.05 billion dollars. There is no doubt he has proved a shrewd business man over the years, milking as much out of his franchises as has been possible. There is a strong wiff of greed and selfishness about it all that, for me,  overpowers the magic of the original Star Wars films nowadays. I liken this effect to the way I now view the football team I have supported since I was a lad, Manchester United, and English Premier League football in general. Vast amounts of money being flaunted left, right and centre for the most trivial of things – I find it down right disgusting at times, nobody needs so much!

These days, give me Another Earth / Macc. Town FC, any day.

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2 Responses to Star Wars is a remix

  1. antmin says:

    Hi Greg, read your blogs over the past week, one point I would like to make is the one about your football analogy. Having stood on the terraces myself through the 1980’s to the early 1990’s, for me football sold out in 1992 when TV became its God, at the same time tickets prices doubled overnight. Money is ruing football, no longer a working class sport, however what I would say in its defence, football grounds used to be a violent hostile environment, breeding grounds for hooligans and racists.
    English football has come a long way since, some for the better, some for the worst, but you do need to strike a balance. The Bundesliga for example, encourages real fans, families and friends to watch matches together, making it affordable for everyone, with grounds sold out all over Germany, not only one of the cheapest leagues in Europe, but one of the highest for quality European football. The Premier League now, is and has been driving away the real fans, clubs now see fans as customers, and the real passionate fans who care about their club, have now been replaced by glory hunters and corporates.
    Oh by the way, some of my mates support Stockport County and they hate Macclesfield Town with a passion, so don’t wear your Macc scarf around Marple.

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