Like Han Solo returning to knock Darth Vader's TIE fighter sideways just when nobody thought he was gone for good, "Star Wars" has at last come blasting back into our lives. (On the other hand, like the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it has never gone away.)
Much will be said, good, bad and indifferent, about "Episode VII: The Force Awakens," but even their harshest critic can't deny that the "Star Wars" films, including the awful ones, which (not counting No. 7) outnumber the good at least two to one, have long since possessed the global consciousness -- have become mythic public property, like "Peter Pan" or "Alice in Wonderland." And as such they provide the raw material for further invention, for recombination and parody and elaboration and homage, for dumb jokes and works of art, for individual inspiration and shared celebration.
Many of these efforts reside on our friend the Internet. Here are a couple of personal favorites to watch while you wait for the lines to die down, or even while you wait in line. Technology!
"Star Wars Wars" (YouTube). Marcus Rosentrater, an Atlanta-based filmmaker and animator (he works on "Archer") took the first six "Star Wars" films -- all the films there were at the time -- and overlaid them into one single mind-bending experience. Many will find it noisy and unwatchable; I think it's spectacular and beautiful.
The six films run simultaneously; the several superimposed images make a single new one, and though there are moments when it is easier than others to tease the layers apart, really the thing to do is to surrender to the whole, its shifting depths, its psychedelic light show, its collisions and consonances, its jumbled reordering of memory. The stories may be lost -- not such a bad thing, maybe -- but the new work has its own intelligibility, albeit one that has nothing to do with the original narrative(s) or with any traditional narrative at all. And yet there is a dramatic motion to it, an almost musical progression.
I don't know what was on Rosentrater's mind -- if he were just bent on realizing a moment's crazy inspiration, or what. The trailer for his 2009 film "Clandestine," made with Gideon C. Kennedy from bits of old ephemeral films, shows him playing with images in a similar way. But it reminds me of certain works by John Cage, in which superimposed elements, following their own chance-determined paths, create an unpredictable whole. Chance plays a part here, too -- Rosentrater doesn't determine how the scenes align. But he does fine tune them; there is technique involved, and artfulness.
"Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut" and "The Empire Strikes Back Uncut" (www.starwars.com). Dating from 2010 and 2014, these crowd-sourced patchworks remake the first two "Star Wars" films in bite-sized segments, re-created, reenacted, reanimated and recontextualized by fans from around the world. Conceived by Casey Pugh, formerly a developer at Vimeo, they are, foremost, hilarious and strange, a stunt and a hoot, a crazy idea that actually got done. But in the way it engages mass and individual enthusiasms and kaleidoscopically refracts the source material, focusing so many different points of view back on the same, well-known object, it is also exhilarating and beautiful. It's also just a party, a celebration of a fantasy whose influence unites generations and blows across borders.
Appropriately, the characters are played by persons whose size, age, sex or nationality do not necessarily mirror those of the original cast. But there are also roles for store-bought action figures and paper-bag puppets, for items of food and household appliances, for dogs and for cats. It has been shot in bedrooms, backyards, offices and automobiles, animated with pen and with mouse, in ink and in clay. Some of it is rough and naive; some of it expert and allusive. The "Empire" remake, which comes with an introductory seal of approval from Lucasfilm, has the technical edge; but both are wholly wonderful. There are parodies of anime, of "Yellow Submarine," of 1970s grindhouse flicks. There are talking deer. But it's that very range of styles and of capabilities that makes it so unpredictably brilliant. The whole is exactly the sum of its inventive, rapidly changing parts.
For all that this is newfangled, it's also fundamentally old-fashioned. In days of yore — not so long ago or far, far away as all that, but before movies and television, radio and records turned us into habitual consumers of other peoples' inspirations — humans made their own fun: They entertained themselves by entertaining one another. They played the piano, sang in the parlor, wrote poetry, painted pictures. "Star Wars Uncut" may exist by virtue of a fleet of modern technologies, but in that it is homemade and participatory, it recalls an older world of amateur theatricals and party pieces.
It's an argument for the way in which digital technology can profitably democratize the production and distribution of arts and crafts. But at the same time it's also a reminder that "Star Wars" itself comes out of a different, pre-digital-everything time, that it was once made with models and sets, hand-painted mattes and old-school optical printers, back when ILM was just a warehouse in the Valley filled with crazy kids paid to build stuff and blow it up. That's the spirit at play here.
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd