Monday, 16 January 2017

Five Great 'Star Wars' Fan Films

The whole point of a 'fan film' is that it's made simply for the simple love it, with whatever resources you happen to have available and with no intent of actually making any money from your efforts. It takes a level of passion and commitment that, I have to admit, I don't fully understand.

That non-commercial aspect of the whole process is especially important, too - since, along with the difficulties of actually making a fan film, there is also the small matter of its actual legality.

Some fan-made projects are met with acceptance, or even approval, from the owners of the particular intellectual property on which the film is based. But, in other cases, copyright holders have actively worked to put a stop to fan productions - sending out the dreaded 'cease and desist' letter, in an effort to ensure that the film remains unseen. The fans are, essentially, at the mercy of the copyright holder, here. They could support a project, allow it to proceed unhindered, or work to put a stop to it - all at their own whim. So, not only does the making of a fan film require passion and commitment, but it also comes with the element of risk that the result of your efforts will never actually be seen.

Of all franchises that have ever been able to inspire fans to develop their own projects, there is probably none that has received quite as much attention as Star Wars. While the passion of the fans is undeniably an important factor, it would be only fair to also give some credit to Lucasfilm, itself, which has traditionally been very open and supportive of its fans - even going as far as giving out its own awards for the best fan films.

Listed below, I have gathered together five Star Wars fan films that I consider to be particularly worth watching.

Troops


First released way back in 1997, Troops was distributed online in a time when trying to download a 10 minute short film would have had to have been a painful and frustrating experience. With that in mind, the fact that the film managed to go on to, at all, is actually fairly impressive. Honestly, if there was any single film you could use as the point of origin for the modern popularity of 'fan films', it would probably be this one.

Blending the Star Wars franchise together with the long-running reality series, Cops, Troops definitely falls more under the broad category of 'parody' than it does a straightforward fan film - though, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Much like an episode of Cops, the film invites us to take a ride with a pair of loyal Imperial Stormtroopers just trying to keep the peace on Tatooine. They are, clearly, just hoping to get through the day and go home - but, things take an interesting turn when they are called out to settle a dispute between a husband and wife whose nephew seems to have recently run away from home.

You can watch Troops by following this link (Click Me!).


The Twelve Parsec Stare


The Twelve Parsec Stare is a great blend of elements of the Star Wars franchise with the film-making style of a classic 'Spaghetti Western' - all centred around one of the most popular and enduring character that the franchise has ever produced.

The story, here, is fairly simple. The infamous bounty hunter, Boba Fett, has a contract to fulfill - a target that he has tracked to a seedy cantina on a back-water planet. Confronted by his target's three henchmen, Boba Fett finds himself caught up in a tense stand-off, with the only question being whose going to flinch first?

The Twelve Parsec Stare is a very simple, though very effective, film - but, more importantly, it is also a very entertaining one. The level of quality that clearly went into every aspect of the short fan film is very impressive - with the camera-work and music, in particular, doing a fantastic job of establishing the film's mood. The film even ends with a 'Western' style rendition of the Imperial March - even if I wasn't already suitably impressed, that fact alone would have sold the film to me.

You can watch The Twelve Parsec Stare by following this link (Click Me!).


TIE Fighter


A fan film for both the Star Wars franchise, in general, and the 1994 video game, TIE Fighter, in particular, TIE Fighter (the film) is another relatively simple tale - this time focused around a single battle, somewhere deep in space, between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. What makes the film so impressive, though, is the way that this simple story is told - carefully animated in the style of the best cartoons of the 1980s, and with an epic soundtrack to match.

Sure, with the lack of dialogue there's obviously not much room for any real focus on story or character development, here. But, to be honest, there really doesn't need to be with this one. The quality of both the animation and the music are fantastic - and, the film as a whole acts as a very effective nostalgia trip for those of us old enough the time when this style of animation was common.

This short animated film apparently took the creator seven years worth of weekends to complete - so, while I would have loved for the film to be a bit longer (a half hour 'episode' ending with this battle sequence would have been fantastic, for example), I can also understand why it isn't.

You can watch TIE Fighter by following this link (Click Me!).


Dark Resurrection, Volume 0


Taking place a few hundred years after the end of Return of the Jedi, the Italian fan film, Dark Resurrection, Volume 0 introduces us to a Jedi Master's all-consuming quest to discover the location of an ancient, and long-lost, temple. The reason for the quest is never really revealed, here - though, it's obvious that Master Sorren considers it to be very important. It is also a quest which, as the film opens, has brought Sorren and his companions to a strange, derelict, ship in orbit around an uninhabited planet.

One thing to keep in mind about Dark Resurrection, Volume 0 is that it is actually the second fan film made by this particular team, and was set up as a prequel to their first. Now, I have to admit that I just didn't really enjoy Dark Resurrection, Volume 1 - but, this one I found to be genuinely entertaining. It's a much more focused film, while the first felt convoluted and occasionally sloppy. Everything from the performances of the cast, to the script, to the fight choreography seem to have seen some degree of improvement, here. I can only imagine that the people behind both films must have learnt quite a bit in the process of making the first, which served them well with this one.

Although the film is, obviously, intended to act as a lead-in to the original, I feel that it also stands on its own quite well.

You can watch Dark Resurrection, Volume 0 by following this link (Click Me!).


A Light in the Darkness


Taking place in the seemingly ever popular period between the prequels and the original trilogy, A Light in the Darkness tells the tale of a small group of insurgents doing what they can to work against the growing Empire. At the centre of the tale is Farin - a young man who, as a child, was forced to watch as the Jedi who had come to protect his small community was betrayed by how own allies, and who has now come to lead the local resistance movement on his small Outer Rim planet.

The situation is growing increasingly desperate for Farin and his allies, though, as the local governor imposes increasingly harsh measures in order to ensure that the small mining community continues to produce raw material for the Empire. But, Farin and his team have a plan - using the salvaged lightsaber which once belonged to that long dead Jedi, Farin hopes to spread fear among the local Imperial forces by convincing them that there is, at least, one Jedi still alive. With little hope of being able to achieve any substantial victory on their own, though, the team's ultimate goal is, instead, attract the attention of the newly formed Rebel Alliance.

With its enthusiastic performances (which are, admittedly, of somewhat varying quality), its over-the-top scenery chewing villain, and its low budget special effects, A Light in the Darkness quickly comes to resemble a somewhat cheesy, though still very entertaining, B-movie.

You can watch A Light in the Darkness by following this link (Click Me!).


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