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