The Stormtrooper Scandal (2024) Documentary Review – The Dark Side Of The Digital Art World

The Dark Side Of The Digital Art World

A few years ago, in a galaxy exactly like the one you’re sitting in now, an art curator named Ben Moore came up with a charity project labelled Art Wars, in which he showcased Stormtrooper helmets that had been customised by such legendary British artists as Damian Hirst, Anthony Gormley, and Chemical X (presumably not his real name).

The force was strong with this not-for-profit project but it wasn’t long before Moore was swayed to the dark side. After touring his exhibition of helmets for a couple of years, he devised a possible get-rich scheme. His plan was to sell digital images of these helmets as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The price tag for each was £2000.

Who would pay such money for something they couldn’t physically own? This is a question likely to be asked by many, as it seems rather pointless to own a piece of art that can’t be hung up in one’s living room. But the answer is surprisingly simple – savvy traders bought these to profit from their purchases.

After buying an NFT, a trader would sell it online to another investor at a price point way more than they had purchased it for. The more valuable the NFT became, the higher the demand for it, and the greater potential to rake in the cash. 

With regards to the Stormtrooper NFTs, the investors weren’t the only people standing to make big money. Moore stood to make his fortune too, by taking a share of the sales of the artwork. However, to maximise his income potential, he needed more images than the ones he had displayed at the Art Wars exhibition. To ensure his fortune, he teamed up with the “crypto brothers” – two shady guys hiding away in Bosnia – who were able to mass-produce digital artwork for him so he could sell them at his online auction.

Demand was high for these NFTS, which is a pity because it turned out the force was not strong with Moore after all. After the auction, when the buyers of the NFTs saw what they had bought, sight unseen, they discovered that not only was the artwork shoddy (in some cases) but that some of the designs were near-duplicates of others. Needless to say, they weren’t happy with the person they had put their trust and hope in. 

Also upset were the established artists who had freely given away their artwork to Moore for the Art Wars exhibition. What they hadn’t agreed on, however, was Moore using their art to sell as digital artwork. 

The BBC documentary features interviews with some of these artists, as well as those unlucky enough to have spent thousands of pounds on NFTs that, for reasons that are explained in the doc, would later become worthless. These investors lost a massive amount of money, as did Ben Moore. For a short while, he became richer than he ever imagined from the sale of the artwork, but as Qui Gon Jinn once said “There’s always a bigger fish.” In this case, that bigger fish was Lucasfilm who sued him for copyright infringement. 

The Stormtrooper Scandal documents Moore’s rise and fall and tells the story of the investors and artists he cheated. It also provides a sobering reminder that we should be mindful of any investment that is essentially a gamble. While it is possible to make big money from NFTs, there’s also a very large chance that we could lose everything. This is something the investors in this doc learned to their cost. 

One person who doesn’t appear to have learned his lesson is Ben Moore himself. He comes across as narcissistic and arrogant during his interview in the documentary. At its conclusion, he is given the chance to say sorry to those he financially wounded. Sadly, while he does give an apology of sorts, it’s evident from his final statement that he does not have the compassion of a Jedi.

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  • Verdict - 7/10