Monday, December 5, 2016

TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story







I'll just be honest here... I think Fan Films go in the same general bin as Fan Fiction. 

Yes, I'll acknowledge that the genre as a whole seems like a good starting place to flex some creative and technical muscles. They're also a nice venue to create the type of stories and character representations that you usually don't get to see in the more mainstream versions. I can also see how they might be a fun distraction too, 

Maybe.

However, I also believe they're ultimately a creative dead-end, and more often than not, they're just flat-out not worth your time as a consumer. 

Discussions related to this kind of stuff comes up somewhat often in some of the circles I run in, and so, of course, I have an opinion on it, but I don't want it to seem like I came to this decision without being at least somewhat informed on the subject. Sounds reasonable, right? Also, the worlds of fan-created art is a pretty fast moving one, so if you don't check in now and then, you can get left behind pretty quickly, so even if you were familiar with the stuff a few years ago, you might not be now.

Which brings us to my little project...

Y'see, I've been watching a bunch of Fan Films lately, specifically for the purpose of seeing whether or not my beliefs still held true, and let me tell you right now, the films I've seen over the past few weeks have not done much to dissuade me from my previously held opinions. Not much at all. In fact, it's been a bit of a slog. You can see what I've been through by clicking here. And now, finally, this is it. This is the last Star Wars fan film I sought out. 

After this, I'm done.


The last Star Wars Fan Film I watched is entitled TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story. It was Written and Directed by Samgoma and Samtubia Edwards and this is pretty much their first big thing ever. That is often a Red Flag in the short film world, but right away we have two big reasons to be excited to check this one out. 

1. TK-436 won the Official Star Wars Fan Film Award for Best Fan Film 2016 over at Starwars.com.

2. I'm assuming this one doesn't focus on god damn Jedi. 

Here's the synopsis: The gritty tale of an Imperial stormtrooper who is forced to confront his past in the heat of a battle.

Uh oh... a "gritty tale", huh?

Shit. That's a Red Flag...



Hmmm...

Not bad. Not good.

There seems to be two basic problems when it comes to these fan films. They're either just hands down fucking terrible, or they are excessively "grim 'n gritty" and bogged down with way too much unearned pathos. This film is pretty much the latter. It looks good, it's "well done", but it's got tons of problems, and they all boil down to the same thing: It just takes itself waaaaaay too seriously, and none of the crying or clenched teeth has a strong enough character foundation to give it any emotional weight at all, and that is what makes it kind of dull.

But...

Like I said, the film looked pretty good, for the most part anyway. There were some really great shots, with the diving TIE fighters, and the smoke and the Stormtroopers walking and shooting beneath the AT-ATs (pronounced AT-AT, always). All that kind of stuff looked great. Ultimately, I like what they were going for too. I'm a fan of exploring who the Stormtroopers are, who the galactic citizens are, and how they view the Empire and the Rebellion, that's interesting to me.

But...

This time out, at least, it just didn't work for me. On one hand, you have the tragic romance, but the motivations of the two characters and why they split between the Empire and the Rebellion is never clear, mostly because the female character is a complete non-presence. Then you have the whole fireside declaration of badassery, which is just plain old ill-advised to begin with, and really, like the old saw says, it would've been a lot more interesting shown instead of told.

So, while there are some definite pluses, ultimately the cons weighed it down too much.

Not bad. Not good.

Free at last,
Jon



Thursday, December 1, 2016

TROOPS





As an experiment, I've been watching a lot of Fan Films lately, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's only a few left in the queue. I will finish this. I will not let these "films" defeat me. I will not.

To bear witness to my trials, click here.

Today's Fan Film is a much needed reprieve. It's an oldie, but a goodie, an ancient artifact from those halcyon days before the Prequels existed, from a time when Trump was just this weird, semi-famous, orange-skinned, creepy rich asshole and not the latest form of Gozer the Gozerian, from an age when everything in the world wasn't shit. It's called TROOPS, and it's a classic of the Fan Film world, a riff on the TV show Cops, and a pretty entertaining watch. Which means, yes, I've seen it before, so this isn't going to be the usual watch and respond song and dance. Today, I'm going to do this a little differently. Blame the last three fan films, those fuckers almost broke me.

Here we go...

Synopsis: TROOPS is a fanfilm directed by Kevin Rubio that had its premiere at the Comic Con International convention in San Diego, CA, on July 18, 1997, before becoming more widely available on the Internet later that summer. The film is shot in a documentary (or mockumentary) style, parodying primarily A New Hope and the television series COPS, as well as Fargo and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (by featuring Tom Servo). In the film, Stormtroopers from the infamous Black Sheep Squadron on patrol run into some very familiar characters while being filmed for the hit Imperial TV show TROOPS. The running time is approximately 10 minutes. It was filmed at El Mirage, California, in late March of 1997.

Man, that is a terribly written synopsis...

1997? Holy crap, this thing is almost 20 years old.

Anyway, let's do this.



Yep. A classic. Sure, the Owen/Beru scene goes on a little too long, and it gets kind of creepy toward the end, but it's mostly good stuff. Plus, all of the parts where the Stormtroopers are talking to the camera are really great, and it was clever enough to use events from the first movie. Also, the crappy video feel really adds to the whole aesthetic, but that could actually be due to simple age, and not the result of an artistic choice, I can't remember if it was like that the first time I saw it. That makes sense, I guess, it's been almost 20 years.

Either way, I still love it.
Jon

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

FALL OF THE JEDI


Great. More Jedis...

Okay, so here's the deal, I've been watching a bunch of Fan Films lately, because sometimes I make bad decisions, and man, let me tell you, this particular decision has turned out to be a rough one. Y'see, after years of working at several different movie theatres, and a couple of video stores, there's one simple truth I learned a long time ago: Most movies are terrible. There's a lot of good ones too, of course, but the overwhelming majority...? Terrible. And after watching several of these fan films for the last few weeks, I have discovered that they aren't all different of a situation, except for the part about there being lots of good ones...

Don't believe me, take a look here.

Today's short film is called STAR WARS: FALL OF THE JEDI zzzzzzzzzzsnort! Huh, what? Sorry, I fell asleep there for a moment... Anyway, today's fan film has... hmmmm... let's just say, there's a few of the traditional Red Flags, but you know what? Fuck it. Forget it.

Let's just get into it.

Here's the synopsis: Years after the Galactic Civil War, Kylo Ren has killed the new generation of Jedi that his mentor and uncle Luke Skywalker was training. Padawan siblings Carena and Donta managed to escape the massacre, but are soon forced to once again fight against the ever growing temptation of the dark side.

Great... a sidequel...



Holy shit. Those were some uber nerds.

Okay, so here's the thing... this fan film was terrible. Embarrassingly terrible. I mean, the line delivery? The fight choreography? The girl in the evil corset? The way the heroes apparently decide to go for a angst-fueled run immediately after landing? And how they then just kind of run into a pair of bad guys randomly choking some dude to death in a field? I mean, yeah, that was total shit.

But...

This particular train wreck was apparently made by a bunch of 1st Year "Screenology" students, which I guess is a film school in England, so I feel kind of bad ripping on it too much. Also, it answers my question as to whether or not those accents were fake. I was pretty sure that they were, but they were not, supposedly. So, the point is... wowsers, that was bad, but hey, they tried. I think. Either way, I'm not going to rip it up too much. God bless you, you nerdy little bastards.

But seriously though, you know that kid in the white face paint totally wears a trilby and a long scarf thrown back over his shoulder like, all the time. You know he does.

Terrible,
Jon

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Star Wars: Emergence





As an experiment, I've been watching a bunch of Fan Films lately, and let me tell you, this little experiment is real close to breaking me. Why, you ask?

Well, click here to see how it's been going so far.

Today's fan film is called Star Wars: Emergence, and guess what... it's about god damn Jedi... again. Emergence is Directed by Jacob Watson and Bryson Alley, and Written by Bryson Alley and Chelsea Alley, and this is basically the first time out of the gate for all of them, personal film project-wise. So, let me just say good luck to them right here at the start of things, mostly because I'm assuming that the long hours of devotion, of slaving away at the thankless task of trying to get this film off the ground, has resulted in a love triangle forming between the three of them, despite the fact that two of them are most likely married. It's sad, but unfortunately, logic can't stop the heart when it sees something it wants, even if realizing this desire can only mean tears and broken hearts and shattered bonds that were once so, so strong, truly a tale as old as time. No one wants something like this to happen, of course, but artists--especially young ones--are a passionate people.

Alas...

But whatever... here's the synopsis: Alenna, a Jedi Padawan, is blinded in an ambush designed to leave her dead. Facing inner demons and dangerous foes, she must rediscover her purpose and identity as a Jedi Knight.

Oh, fantastic... another blind Jedi. I guess we all know what's coming, huh?

Well, lets get to it.



This is a good example of some of fandom's biggest problems.

To begin with, the film is trying way too hard to be considered a serious piece of art, and it just ends up looking silly. It's a short film, people, and yet it seems to completely lack any awareness of the constraints of its budget, length, or capability, so what we end up with is a story with no context, and what little narrative we do know centers on space wizards, so this deep well of emotional weight the film is striving for just ends up seeming shallow and unearned. The film also spends so much time trying to get us to feel the main character's incredible pain and loss and the steely determination with which she overcomes her obstacles, that it forgets (or never realized) that the character is a complete stranger to the audience, someone we just met like, 46 seconds ago. It just doesn't work. And to top it all off, in the end, right as we finally reach the crescendo, right before we get to the actual fun stuff, the big pay-off of all that weeping and melodrama... Roll credits.

What's the point?

Jon


Monday, November 28, 2016

Star Wars Revengant



First things first... What the fuck is a Revengant?

So, as some of you no doubt will recall, lately I've been watching a lot of fan films. I honestly don't know why at this point, maybe I feel like I deserve to be punished, maybe I think I need to do atonement for past sins, I don't know. I don't know why I've been subjecting myself to this torture, flagellating myself as I trudge along on this lonely back road of the genre world... but here I am.

Anyway, you can see some of the fan films I've been watching here.

Okay, so, today's fan film is called Star Wars: Revengant... for some reason, and there's a lot of red flags going on here right from the start. First, there's no IMDB page, just a Vimeo page. Second, on the Facebook page, the Writer, Director, and Producer, a man named Marc Ferdinand Korner, lists himself in several different places in the credits, but changes his name around each time... Oh ho! How droll! Thirdly, there's almost no pictures of this film to be found on-line, and of the few that there are, most of them are behind-the-scenes stuff, there's almost none of the actual film. Last, but certainly not least, this film was apparently made in a week's time. Now, this is something I would normally point to as perhaps the biggest red flag of all...

But then I read the synopsis: KYLO REN is on the HUNT for a ancient SITH HOLOCRON that the Resistance gathered on the planet DAHENDOR in the Outer Rim. Will KANE ALTIS be able to rescue himself before the HOLOCRON is found by KYLO REN and his REVENGANT?

Oh great, so  basically this thing is both a fan film AND a Prequel?

At least it isn't totally about Jedi...



This fan film was... It was just a mess. I mean, sure, it was made in a week, but, man... Literally nothing made any sense here, not why any of the characters were where they were, both in relation to each other, or why they were even there in the first place, or why they were even doing what they were doing. The story was practically nonexistent, and most of its telling was left to the crawl. And maybe worst of all, at one point, 90s Hair Guy goes from hiding behind a tree to lose a Drone, to finding his girlfriend being murdered about 10 feet from him, simply by looking to his left. I mean... utilize some space, man. While watching this, I made a joke about the film being confined to someone's mom's backyard, but it might really be the case here.

Also, after reading the synopsis, you'd probably assume the answer to whatever the fuck a Revengant is will be answered in the film. You assumed wrong.

I guess there's really nothing else to say about this film, except to point out that including a third rate Kylo Ren, and that someone involved actually bought Poe's Jacket from somewhere (presumably on-line), somehow made this whole thing even worse,

Woof. This is a low point in my fan film experiment.

I sincerely apologize to anyone I got to watch this,
Jon


Friday, November 18, 2016

Call of the Empire






Yep, more Star Wars fan films.

I told you, there's no end to these things. Believe me, I've been watching them lately, there is literally no end, and I will swear under Oath that I am not misusing the word "literally". This shouldn't surprise you, really. After all, this god damn franchise is the backbone of nerdom,

Anyway, today's fan film is called Call of the Empire. It was created and directed by a man named Trevor Kerr, who describes himself as "a 3D Generalist and designer with FX/Environment experience." I don't know if that's a real description or what, but who cares? Either way, that's about it as far as this fan film's net-presence is concerned. There's no easily found website, no IMDB, no facebook link, nothing. Also, the credits on Vimeo do not credit anyone as the writer, which could perhaps be considered a bad sign.

The synopsis goes like this: Call of the Empire is a non-profit short film produced for the sole purpose of personal enjoyment of the cast, crew and all Star Wars fans. Please enjoy this addition to the Star Wars universe.

Okay, so... lots of red flags right at the start, but at two and a half minutes, how bad could it be?

Let's find out...


Ah... I see...

This was more like an Effects Reel, than it was a short film.

There's really not too much to say about this. It looked good, for the most part. The perspective on the dive (up? down?) into the clouds was a bit wonky, but otherwise, sure, it looked good. One problem I had, I'm not sure where this is supposed to take place or when. At first, I thought it was the wreckage of the Imperial presense on Endor, and this was set after the events in Return to the Jedi, but then there's a Death Star hanging in the sky, so what's that mean? I don't know. Also, a quibble... in the beginning, the titles say that there are those who are "forever loyal to Lord Vader" and shouldn't that say The Emporer? 

Whatever. This was quick and painless, more of a blink then a short film.
Jon

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jakku: First Wave






I've been watching a lot of Fan Films lately, and I've been sharing them with you all. I figure, why should I carry this burden alone, right? You can find them here.

So, while on this journey, I have discovered that apparently 60% of all fan films are of Star Wars stuff. After that, maybe 45% is Batman (and man, you want to talk about bad? I may not even share any of the Batman fan films... Oofta...). The last 5% of fan films are so god damn random, I would designate that percentage as the place where the truly devoted fans live. I mean, it's easy to be a fan of Star Wars or Batman, and then go out and make a short film, but when you make a Predator short film? That's some real fan devotion right there. Like, who's watching that, besides you and your friends, and me of course... Anyway, the point is, here's yet another Star Wars fan film, but as a nice silver-lining, this is one of the rare few that has nothing to do with the Jedi, the Sith, or the Force, so thankfully, that means it doesn't feature any Community Theatre Second-stringers running around their mom's backyard Force-Parkouring their sweaty asses off.

Thank the Maker for small favors, amirite?

Anyway, as some of you may recall, the Force Awakens came out last year, and people loved the shit out of it, despite the fact it was a terrible movie that coasted on nostalgia, had no story to speak of, made no sense, didn't earn a single big moment, and pretty much wasted some legitimately good new characters. So, one of the film's main problems was that it introduced a buttload of new Star Wars history, but provided almost no context or explanation.

Enter the fan film.,,

Which brings us to taody's offering. It's called Jakku: First Wave.

Y'see, in the Force Awakens, it opens on a planet that looks and acts almost exactly like Tatooine, but it is not Tatooine, despite having almost exactly the same features. No, this planet is called Jakku, and at some point between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of The Force Awakens, there was a battle there. The result of that battle is apparently the only economy on the entire planet.

Because, no context... Like I said.

Anyway, Jakku: First Wave is an attempt to fill in some of that narrative gap, all told from the point of view of a trio of Stormtroopers who are heading into battle. It was written and directed by Benjamin Eck. He has a lot of Crew experience, and some short films under his belt.

Let's see how he does with this one...



I liked that.

It was simple, direct, and it took an interesting angle that you don't see often. I really liked how these guys were presented as just regular citizens with believable motivations for joining the Empire. To the characters, the Empire isn't this obviously evil organization that makes no sense why anyone normal would join up, let alone support. I like how it's presented as a regular facet of their lives. It's just the Government, just a fact of life, and these characters were people have a different point of view on the greater conflict then we normally see. That's good stuff. I like that. Plus, this short film, while obviously not its original intent, actually has a lot to say about our current election.

I like that too.

Y'see, while these characters may have different points of view, and are maybe not intentional monsters, and have maybe not-evil reasons for joining, in the end, they are still Stormtroopers. Despite their intent, they are still genocidal monsters, still willingly part of a murderous and oppressive regime. Still on the wrong side of galactic history.

Yeah, not bad. 

This was a surprisingly interesting and well-executed idea. 

Also, I'm a fan of any short film that is able to make something like this, a film that is a clever and believable part of a much larger sci-fi epic, all while working with an almost non-existent budget, and yet not advertising that fact. 

Well done.
Jon