Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In May 2012, I was invited to a private screening of the Star Wars prequels that had been edited down into one 85-minute movie by actor Topher Grace. I was one of a couple bloggers that were invited the the screening. My report on the Star Wars re-edit went EVERYWHERE. The actor never expected that news of the screening would have exploded in the way that it did.

“Wanna know how many people it takes to set the internet on fire?” Grace asked Chris Hardwick on a recent episode of the Nerdist podcast. “It’s two bloggers, which we happened to invite. I was trending #1 on twitter [and didn't even have a twitter account at the time].”

It was one of those headlines that had “viral” built into every word. Star Wars fans who were disappointed by the prequels were interested to read just what changes Grace had made to the trilogy. Others were just happy to socially share an article about how some actor took George Lucas’ 7-hour saga and was able to edit it down to 85 minutes.

Last week I received an invite to Topher Grace’s next “remix” private screening, this time a re-edit of Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Topher Grace even cut a trailer for his CE3K remix, which you can watch embedded below:

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Last month I received a cryptic e-mail inviting me to a private screening of a new Star Wars film edited by Topher Grace — which is funny because I had no idea there was a new Star Wars film in the works, with or without Grace’s involvement. I was told the screening was a secret private event arranged only for friends only and was asked not to talk about it beforehand. The event was held somewhere in the Hollywood area in a a screening room filled with filmmakers, editors, actors, actresses and only a few press friends. I was told I could blog about it afterwards if I wanted, so here goes…

For those of you who don’t know, Topher Grace is a film geek. He loves the Star Wars films, the Back to the Future movies and all the same signature titles of any film geek who grew up in the 1980s. He recently became interested in the editing process and wanted to learn more about the art form. Instead of cutting a short film, he wanted to use something he was more familiar with.

His idea was to edit the Star Wars prequels into one movie, as they would provide him a lot of footage to work with. He used footage from all three prequels, a couple cuts from the original trilogy, some music from The Clone Wars television series, and even a dialogue bit from Anthony Daniels’ (C-3PO) audio book recordings. He even created a new opening text crawl to set up his version of the story.

The result is an 85-minute movie titled Star Wars: Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back. It should be noted that the Star Wars prequel trilogy is almost 7 hours in total length, and the shortest film (Episode 1) is more than 51 minutes longer than Grace’s fan cut. What this means is a lot of footage ended up on the editing room floor, and a lot of creative choices were made in the editing process. And the result? Topher Grace’s Star Wars film is probably the best possible edit of the Star Wars prequels given the footage released and available.

Whats most shocking is that with only 85 minutes of footage, Topher was able to completely tell the main narrative of Anakin Skywalker’s road from Jedi to the Sith. While I know the missing pieces and could even fill in the blanks in my head as the film raced past, none of those points were really needed. Whats better is that the character motivations are even more clear and identifiable, a real character arc not bogged down by podraces, galactic senates, Jar Jar Binks, politics or most of the needless parts of the Star Wars prequels. It not only clarifies the story, but makes the film a lot more action-packed.

UPDATE: The movie still isn’t online but Topher Grace has published a trailer of his Star Wars Prequel edit online, watch it here.
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