Monday, July 22, 2024

The Auralnauts Star Wars Saga: Parody Project

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Our most popular media may be grim and dark these days, and consistently written female characters seem to be an oddly dying breed. But don’t worry; there’s another way to combat the bullshittery besides burying yourself in children’s cartoons: mocking the pants out of the “adult” programs.

My choice for today: the Star Wars parodies by the wonderfully talented and enigmatic “Auralnauts,” Craven Moorhaus and Zak Koonce. From what I can tell, these are two men who are quite skilled at sound mixing, as well as composing electronic music. They’ve poured their talents into producing entertaining YouTube videos, from dubbing The Dark Knight Rises so that Bane becomes a rapping paleolithic diet enthusiast, to changing one vowel in Gandalf’s name and suddenly making The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a work of art.

With the massive amount of entertaining content on their channel, perhaps I’m going for the low-hanging fruit with my recommendation of their Star Wars parodies, which are as follows:

  • Episode 1: Jedi Party
  • Episode 2: The Friend Zone
  • Episode 3: Revenge of Middle Management
  • Episode 4: Laser Moon Awakens

Yes, the focus here is on the prequels. And yes, those movies are exceptionally low-hanging fruit for satire, which even we here at The Fandomentals are not above. If we want to be generous and point out how the Auralnauts are also tackling the original trilogy, there’s the fact that we’ve already got Family Guy’s “Blue Harvest” and Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs, along with countless others. 

Still, let me promise you that the Auralnauts are well worth your time. Which frankly, is a limited commitment anyway. The episodes range from 13 minutes to 40, getting progressively longer, yet still take less than 2 hours out of your life to sit through.

Its premise is also entirely unlike any other Star Wars parody I’ve seen yet; it’s not just reliant on heavily satirized versions of the existing characters, such as Pizza the Hut, nor does it consist of only direct jokes at the expense of the original movies, like Brian’s remark at the end of Blue Harvest: Part 2 about Lando wearing Han’s clothes. Instead, the Auralnauts somehow found an entirely different narrative within the films; one that fits perfectly while also poking light at Lucas’s storytelling conventions. This is accomplished by dubbing over the recorded lines (with the exception of young!Anakin Skywalker who gets to keep Jake Lloyd’s voice).

The dialogue is scripted in such a way where the mouths moving does not distract, but it is also not nearly as constrained as the famous Bad Lip Reading videos that give us sentences such as “the hispanic piranha prom had one Jew person.” In other words, it somehow feels organic and logical, as well as born out of the films.

Let’s talk about what the premise is, because I will be the first to say that nothing about it should work. It’s kind of…immature. But just trust me, okay? Instead of the Jedi being these stoic, honorable knights of the Republic, they’re freeloading party boys who like to get wasted on a variety of substances and participate in dance battles. Their lightsabers act as giant glow-sticks to help with the latter. The plot, therefore, revolves around them trying to live it up.

There’s also Palpatine, who owns a variety of mildly successful restaurants and entertainment venues (including “Space Hooters”), and is desperately in need of a reliable COO, which seems to be his guiding motivation. He’s easily frustrated by the Jedi’s party lifestyle.

Padme is there, and she’s a wonderfully normative character. She’ll crack open a wine cooler and watch a good dance battle, or sleep with Obi-Wan because she feels like it. She’ll also be reasonably turned off by Anakin’s horrific attempts at flirting, which are actually pretty mild compared to his canonical lines.

Oh, and then there’s the droids. Artoo becomes “Fartoo,” which yes, yielded a cheap laugh from me the first time it was uttered. However, Threepio is the real star of the show, dubbed to be the diabolical “Creepio,” who seems to want to take over the world, or at least destroy Jar Jar and wear his skin.

Throughout all of this, there are wonderfully inventive uses of sound mixing, such as Obi-Wan and Jango engaging in a “bass war” to show off the capability of their ships’ respective stereo systems. Moorhaus and Koonce somehow managed to sync the music up to the laser blasts. Hell, their soundtrack selections alone make these videos worth the watch (despite some fights with YouTube on occasion). Then there’s numerous original songs over top of the lightsaber battles, with video editing to make them look like epic dances. It’s bizarrely mesmerizing, and I can confirm that the songs are quite catchy.

Perhaps what works best, however, is that these versions of the characters actually feel like…characters. They’re not Lucas’s cardboard cutouts, and it’s refreshing. Obi-Wan has a specific and consistent sense of humor, and his relationship with Anakin actually demonstrates a bonding and devolution that somehow eluded the films. The voice acting is spot on too; people sound like people…again, something conspicuously absent from Star Wars I – III. For this reason, the videos also get increasingly stronger, as each character comes into their own—sort of the way sitcoms tend to improve after a pilot season.

And while I can go on praising the lines and their fit into Lucas’s films, the Auralnauts write legitimately funny scripts in their own right. It’s not just moments like the Padme double calling Fartoo a “magic trashcan.” It’s Dex greeting Obi-Wan with a rushed “I feel really bad about leaving you outside that hospital and running away. Don’t hold it against me!” Or stuff like this:

Obi-Wan: What’s the point of a VIP lounge if there aren’t any P’s to see you being V-I?

Then there’s also the fact that this series is ongoing. I was actually floored when the Auralnauts announced that they would continue with Episode IV. After all, while these videos have moments of humor in and of themselves, they do rely on the ridiculousness of certain situations and the overly choreographed fighting. The meta commentary on the prequels do not take up the totality of these parodies, but they are certainly present and hilarious:

Obi: “Let’s walk and talk.”

Anakin: “Cool. I’m really enjoying this walk and talk.”

Obi: “Right? Not only is walking visually stimulating, but also a great way to convey information.”

Anakin: “You know I’d watch a whole movie that was mostly walking and talking.”

Obi: “Definitely.”

Anakin: “Maybe a little bit of action at the beginning and the end, but the middle should mostly be talking.”

Obi: “Don’t forget about walking!”

Without the scaffolding of movies containing major narrative flaws, I was unsure how this parody-verse could even continue. But damnit, it did. It very much helped that Threepio and Anakin are two characters with major roles in both trilogies, allowing all that character-work to not go to waste…and now just reminding me of what the prequels should have accomplished.

Yet even beyond that, the Auralnauts somehow found a way to continue Palpatine’s corporate takeover, while also introducing us to a new cast with their own bizarre idiosyncrasies. Leia is the most promising in my opinion; she’s fully aware of who her father is, and thinks that he and his career can be a bit of a drag. She works hard and she plays hard, so hopefully we can keep up.

Also, Vader’s helmet allows his dialogue to be completely free of constraints, so between him and Creepio, I have no concerns that Moorhaus and Koonce can continue this in the same creative direction.

Maybe that’s the key: the creativity. You’ll watch these moments on your screen and wonder “who even thinks of this?” And yet it’s almost impossible to not be won over by their world, which is somehow familiar and peculiar at the same time. The Jedi are sitting on their asses all day, just like normal, but it’s because they’re stoned out of their minds:

It all works, I promise!

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you. My favorite moment comes less than two minutes into Episode 2, so at least try to make it there. But truthfully, I don’t think you’ll need much encouragement to continue. It’s a rare parody that cast the original films in a different light, but the Auralnauts’ videos manage the perfect balancing act of satire and an entirely new, humorous narrative in and of itself.

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