Friday, November 9, 2012

People Love Star Wars: Star Wars Fan Films

Chances are, I don't have to explain to you what a fan film is. If you're reading this blog, you may well have even considered making one yourself. The fan film comes from a pure well: people love Star Wars. When that passion gets to be too much, fans join in the saga by adding their own stories to the stories they love from the films, comics, video games, and books. People put weeks, if not months and years, of their lives into a fan film. It's a big love letter to the franchise that gave us so many happy memories.

Also, people want to see themselves holding lightsabers.

But the fan film has changed since I was a teenager. There was a time fans would put on bathrobes, go out into the woods behind their houses, and hit each other with lightsabers that they later added cheap glow effects to on their computers. Then came an age when fans would share their work with each other and collaborate on things like special effects, sounds, and music. Now, we have come into an age when fan films actually have budgets (albeit small ones). With a little imagination, you can feel like you're actually watching a new Star Wars movie (or, if we're honest, at least a TV show).

Who wouldn't want to be the hero of Star Wars? (from Dark Horse)

Without further ado, the list of the best fan films I've found:

A Light in the Darkness:
When I set out to write this list, I was going to write about my disappointment that Star Wars fan films have stagnated over the last few years. I watched a lot of them years ago, but I haven't really heard of any new ones since then that made a big splash. The one exception was the excellent Italian "Dark Resurrection" (you'll find it below), which combines a great atmosphere with some really impressive visuals and fight choreography. Then I found this.

"A Light in the Darkness" doesn't have the technical wizardry that some other films have, but it does have one thing that made me put it at the top of the list: plot. This actually has a strong story, with developed characters and a sense of narrative linking the fight scenes. We know why the characters are fighting and what they're fighting for. When I started watching it, I was shocked to find myself actually caring what happened to the people in the show. And that is rare, even in professional work.

The special effects and some of the costumes, on the other hand, are nothing to write to Aunt Beru about (if you can write at all, that is).

Dark Resurrection, Part 0:
This film shows that the process of creating a fan film can then be used as experience for creating an even better fan film. The first part of this series was a plodding, flat, and character-less mess. This one still doesn't rise to any galactic heights when it comes to interesting characters or even a premise beyond the most basic, but it delivers when it comes to fight scenes and special effects (and boy, does it deliver!). The story has something to do with prophecy and ancient evil and a chosen one. Shakespeare it ain't, but you're not watching for the soliloquies.
Also, the babe factor is significantly higher in this one.
Pink Five:
No list of fan films would be complete without Pink Five, made by Trey Stokes, who, as it turns out, is a Hollywood puppeteer. Pink Five tells the story of Stacey, a Rebel pilot who isn't about to end up on a victory podium any time soon. Trey Stokes and Amy Earhart are making a new Pink Five even as we speak, ten years on from the first one. That should tell you something about the way fan films capture peoples' imaginations. Once you're in the Star Wars universe, it's hard to leave.

Stacey takes increasingly unlikely roles in the Star Wars trilogy.

Sins of the Jedi:
Five years ago, if you would have asked me about my favorite fan film, I would have answered that it's hands-down "Sins of the Jedi." With interesting characters and a well-written story, this fan film rose above lightsaber fights. On top of that, the costumes and effects were top notch. Unfortunately, all that hard work may have been SotJ's undoing, because, despite a teaser for part 3, only two parts ever saw the light of day in this galaxy.

... so they never delivered on what, judging by the title, promised to be some quality Star Wars porn.

IMPS: The Relentless:
When it comes to stormtroopers in fan films, I'm of the opinion that less is more. The costumes can look tacky and plastic, and the inexplicable desire on the parts of the filmmakers to always include comm static and clicks before and after everything a stormtrooper says makes them get old quickly. On the other hand, if you love stormtroopers and can't get enough, you can't go wrong with "IMPS: The Relentless." Its tongue-in-cheek comedy doesn't always hit, but there's something basically fun about a mockumentary about stormtroopers.

Just don't try to keep track of which one is which.
If you haven't had enough stormtrooper comedy, try this spoof on the TV show Cops. I remember watching this more than ten years ago. It's genuinely funny, and answers some questions I bet you've had about Star Wars.
Also, they shoot a Jawa.

Bounty Trail:
I think it might be an inherent worry of any filmmaker that their fan film won't be taken seriously. Low budgets and questionable actors might make for an experience more hilarious than dramatic. Therefore, I can understand why the makers of Bounty Trail don't seem to be able to choose whether they're making a serious movie about Boba Fett going after a force-using bounty or making a spoof. Try to enjoy this as straight-up action; it's a flawed gem, but worth watching.
This is what you do with one Boba Fett costume. If you have many Boba Fett costumes...

Makazie One, Part 1:
There's a reason I only list the first part of this film about the conflict between some Imperial troops and some Mandalorians. The second part gets a little silly. That being said, this film highlights perhaps the biggest ally of a zero-budget filmmaker: a great location. While the ubiquitous forest may be the easiest to get to, a moody swamp does wonders for creating an atmosphere of dread and danger. This fan film also features a running gunfight between two fairly well-matched groups, which makes it a rarity among films that tend to go for either unmatched scenes where one side gets pinned down or lightsaber duels.
What the hell is a "Makazie," anyway?

Well, those are the best Star Wars fan films. I haven't included Hardware Wars or Star Wars Uncut, both of which are fantastic but not quite what I'm getting at. If you're in the mood for more Star Wars fun, check out the following flawed gems:

The Formula:
I found this hilarious years ago when I first watched it. I still get chuckles out of it. You might find its heartfelt plot and self-effacing humor charming.

Jabba on the Dais:
I don't, in general, like Star Wars song parodies all that much. That includes Weird Al and the ubiquitous Star Wars rap. But how can you say no to a tribute to Jabba?
There need to be more Hutts in fan films.

Do you have a favorite fan film I didn't mention? Let us know!


  1. I feel like there were some other decent fan films featuring nerds wearing robes, swinging lightsabers around in the woods, but I think you've rounded up all the best ones.

    May the Force be with you!

  2. I tried to find fan films that go beyond the formula of people in robes swinging lightsabers. If you want to watch one of those, just search on YouTube for "Star Wars fan film." You'll find more than you can awkwardly pretend to use Force Push just by sticking out your hand and adding a sound effect on.

  3. I thought of some other great fanfilms:

    George Lucas in Love:

    Ben Kenobi: Private Jedeye:

    Blackstar Warrior:

    Because we already have these movies that portray Kenobi as a film noir detective and Lando as a blacksploitation hero, I've always wanted someone to make similar films for the other Star Wars characters so I could set up a crossover story and/or RPG!