For 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 1″.
Peter Mether (director)
CAST: Leah McLeod …. Mara Jade
Peter Sumner …. Lieutenant Pol Treidum
David Wheeler …. Garrock
Martin Greus …. Boba Fett