or fans who can't wait for next year's
"Episode III", this fan-made offering should help tide them over
for the next several months. While not on par with the official films,
"Star Wars: The Dark Redemption" is well done and more ambitious
than most amateur fan films. It's an enjoyable, albeit brief, treat for fans
of the franchise.
Set days before Episode IV,
"The Dark Redemption" shows the galaxy in a state of crisis. The
Empire has seized the legendary Spice Mines of Kessel, greatly concerning
Jabba the Hutt. Fearing the loss of his supply of spice, the intergalactic
gangster has dispatched the nefarious bounty hunter Boba Fett to settle the
matter. But there is more going on than just a trade disagreement -- the
Empire has captured a young Jedi named Mara Jade, who possesses the secret
plans to the Death Star and is trying to deliver it to the Alliance.
While Mara Jade may be presented as the principal character, it is Boba Fett
who shines. Martin Greus does a spectacular job of playing the taciturn
anti-hero, giving him an air of menace and athleticism. You can seen why
Fett is the best at what he does; he's willing to do just about anything to
survive and accomplish his goal.
On the other hand, Leah McLeod isn't nearly as
impressive as Mara Jade, a character who in her own right has achieved an
amazing amount of popularity among fans. Here, the actor fails to project
the strength the character has displayed in the novels and comics, and
it's hard to see why the Emperor is so interested in her. Her conversion
to the Dark Side is also unconvincing, as if switching sides was as
important to her as changing hairstyles. The character is cheated of the
evolution she deserves, and becomes too one-dimensional as a result.
The screenplay by Dwight Boniecki and Peter Methers is obviously tailored
for "Star War" fans. There are some nice cameos by Kyle Kataran
and Darth Vader, and we even get to witness the legendary scene of Han
Solo dumping Jabba's spice. But despite their desire to please fandom,
there are problems. The lines frequently come across as awkward, and
there's too much shtick dialogue. Also, the few attempts at comedy fall
flat and seem out of place during such dramatic times. The short film also
alters the origin of Mara Jade, turning her from an Imperial to a Jedi. It
may be a minor alteration, but it's easier to imagine an Imperial agent
willingly serving the Emperor than a dedicated Jedi.
In a short like this, the special effects carry such importance that they
can make or break the production. Fortunately, the creative team is up to
the task. While Theodore Manietis' visual effects occasionally look
obviously computer generated, overall he does an excellent job. The
costumes are terrific, and look like they were snuck out of Lucasfilm just
for this filming. Also, Boba Fett looks just like he does in the films.
The makeup is also very good, realistic and on par with the original
films. It also helps that the short film was shot on Fox's Sydney studios,
the same locales the prequels were lensed. At the very least, it cements
the film's connection to the "Star Wars" universe.
With about 30 minutes to tell his story, director Peter Methers knows he
needs to work fast and avoid needless exposition. Under his supervision,
the plot moves at light speed and has plenty of action scenes to keep
fanboys happy. The one cardinal sin Methers commit is putting a pop song
over the closing credits. "Darkside" may be a nice tune to play
in your car, but it's totally out of place in a "Star Wars"
film. This is especially true given that an upbeat pop song follows Mara
Jade's seduction to evil; it's about as appropriate as singing "Ding
dong, the witch is dead" at your mother's funeral.
In the final analysis, "The Dark Redemption" is an enjoyable way
to spend half an hour. There may be continuity errors, the special effects
may not always be up to the standard we expect, and the semi-professional
actors may not perform as well as their Hollywood counterparts, but it's
still fun to watch and appreciate the effort being put forth. At the very
least, it beats the stuffing out of "Episode