Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig
ggreig

Star Wars: Revelations

Just before zooming off to visit my parents through the Edinburgh and Glasgow hyperspace jump points (O.K., railway stations), I downloaded Star Wars: Revelations after reading a story about it on the BBC news site, but I didn't have time to burn the DVDs and watch it.

Since coming back, I've managed to do that.

Revelations is an unofficial and non-commercial fan production set in the Star Wars universe between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. You can download it for free, if you have the bandwidth - if that wasn't the case, Mr. Lucas and his legal representation would be having words with the producer.

As it is, George Lucas is apparently happy for such fan productions to exist so long as they don't take any money.

So, is it any good?

Well, it certainly has its flaws but it is surprisingly good for what it is. In fact, even when you find out that the amateur producer and his wife spent $20,000 dollars on it, it's still surprisingly good - so let's get the criticisms out of the way before saying why it's worth getting hold of a copy.

It's a while since I last watched any original fan video- it was probably Bill Baggs' Auton Awakening in 2000, the third and last in the Auton series of Doctor Who spin-offs. Some of the features of fan films were instantly recognisable in Revelations though: over-complicated and stilted dialogue; a plot requiring too much exposition within the available running time; and terribly earnest but not often terribly convincing acting. There are a number of very fannish moments where the film-makers re-enact what they liked about the official movies - the R2-D2 cameo; Vader choking someone; the dismissive line about the lead character always being led by her emotions; and many more.

However, even amongst the brief criticisms, you may have spotted one of the good points. Three out of the five lead actors are women - and no more need be said about it, because no false concessions or condescensions were made to their sex.

I wasn't sure at first whether to mention the actors' appearances under criticism or praise, but I settle for praise. Neither male nor female are classical Hollywood beauties, but why should they be? We might live in a slightly better place if we saw a greater variety of faces and body shapes in heroic roles. The world needs more tubby, hirsute "dashing pilots"! In fact, I can give you my card...

Although the amount of exposition comes in for criticism, it qualifies for praise too - they made a deliberate effort to avoid it, and it could have been much worse.

And there are some things that positively shine about this amateur movie. There's been a lot of professional time donated to its making, most notably in the omnipresent CGI, but in other areas too. The first time I saw CGI used seriously in a fan production was in the aforementioned Auton Awakening, five years ago. Things have come on a lot since then!

Auton Awakening used a little CGI to bring life to the creatures of the feature; Star Wars: Revelations uses it throughout for background scene-filling just like the official Star Wars movies, and for whole battle sequences in space. They're not fully up to Star Wars standards - there's less detail in the background shots, and there are points at which, for example, asteroids appear to have a slightly plasticky sheen - but really, don't let that put you off. For a fan movie, they are something special.

There are the particular points where they just get it so right too: like the shot where one character appears to throw a grappling hook straight into the lens of the overhead camera; the night-club door guard early on (shame about the lead character's unconvincing threatening to get past it); or the impressive multi-way light-saber duel towards the end, which seems to have been organised by a professional fight choreographer.

The plot isn't quite as well handled as it might be, but it has some originality and the nature of the McGuffin is quite satisfying.

Don't go comparing this with multi-million budget movies: but it may surpass TV quality in some respects, if it falls short in others - and it doesn't cost a penny, beyond the cost of the materials you choose to provide. The downloads include the main feature, and a disc of extras, as ISO DVD image files, and graphics or PDFs for printing disc labels and a DVD sleeve insert. If these guys can put $20,000 into creating it without any prospect of recouping the cash, the least you can do is download it and give it a whirl!
Tags: dvd, movies
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