Friday, January 2, 2009

Of The People, By The People, For The People: Part 2

I've decided to keep this feature on a weekly schedule, as it'll give me time to prepare for the surprisingly large fan series I've got in the pipeline. In the meantime, let's stick with "Star Wars" for a bit - specifically Joe Monroe's "Knightquest".

I picked this film specifically because it serves as an interesting counterpoint to "Revelations", and demonstrates that fan films - for all the effort that's put into them - can still fall short due to lack of... well, I'm not sure, exactly. Imagination? Ambition? Resources? Difficult to say, but we'll try and parse that out here.

The plot of "Knightquest" is quite simple: Tarra Sunar is a smuggler who helped Jedi Master Ulic Cinn and his two apprentices, Karina and Dannikk, escape the Empire's persecution of the Jedi. Unfortunately, she falls for the old "concealed tracker" bit, and ends up leading Darth Vader right to them. You can probably guess how it turns out.

One thing I found particularly appealing about "Knightquest" is that it really manages to create an aura of terror and dread around Darth Vader, something I think the prequel films stripped away - even when Hayden Christensen finally goes dark (although, with his lack of affectation, the only way you actually know he's evil is because everyone else says so) and slaughters a bunch of Jedi, it's played so loudly, so in-your-face and over-the-top, that it doesn't work at all.

Here, though, we have Vader as a hunter, in an appropriately jungle-themed setting, and it's set close enough to the first "Star Wars" that you really get a sense of claustrophobia from Cinn and the kids - they have nowhere to run, no shelter that'll hide them, no friends left to protect them.

Unfortunately, the film trips up as it comes down to the climax(es). Setting aside the obvious problem of innovation - how much can you really add in a story where it's been canonically established that Vader completely annihilated the Jedi? - "Knightquest" treads water in its final act, as Vader gives the same "Convert or Die" speech three times in a row (DUH-LEVEL SPOILER: everyone refuses) and then gets on with his work. Tarra's the only character whose fate wasn't necessarily set in stone, but she gets written out almost as an afterthought.

Basically, "Knightquest" lacks any kind of originality, which is why it makes such a neat parallel with "Revelations", because the latter could surprise you (albeit by contradicting and toying with canon, but still, the results speak for themselves). "Knightquest" doesn't offer anything you can't get from the movies, and that - to me, at least - misses the whole point of fan films. It's not addressing something the canon overlooked, it's not putting any kind of twist on the familiar material... the question I find myself asking here is "What is this fan film trying to do? What is it trying to say?" And I don't have a solid answer to that beyond "Wouldn't it be cool to have some more Vader/Jedi duels?" I'm not sure if that's all this is supposed to be - in which case, Monroe pretty much accomplishes his goal - or if he was aiming for something higher and missed.

Next week we'll switch franchises for a bit and take a look at a particularly intriguing fan series from the "Star Trek" universe.