Revelations: Not Necessarily Star Wars


The Five Brothers

That should push the bounty up on me.
Declan, after blowing up a Star Destroyer

Our film begins by letting us know who to blame by telling us that this is a Panic and Struck production. How appropriate.

Following this is the iconic "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" opening, followed by the typical Star Wars logo and introductory text crawl. And right away we can tell that something has gone terribly wrong. Why?

The music.

It's not John Williams. But it's not just a different composer; it's a completely different piece after it gets past the iconic intro. I don't know if this was a copyright issue (it's a fan film guys; you're already shitting all over copyright law) or what, but they went with a very different piece.

The opening text crawl sets the situation, as usual. Seers were a special branch of the Jedi Order, who's visions of the future guided the Jedi in the elder days. However, those visions became unreliable ("Always in motion is the future"), so the Jedi... cast them out. Yeah, that sounds like the prequel-era Jedi Order: it's a little weird, so throw the bums out. Those who wanted to remain in the Order had to hide their talent.

This is post-Revenge of the Sith, so Lord Vader is wandering around. He's in conflict with Zhanna, the Emperor's Hand; they're both trying to kill off the last of the Jedi to gain the Emperor's favor.

The crawl ends with a cryptic reference to the main character and a quest for an ancient secret. And that's where the text crawl becomes problematic. The opening crawl in every Star Wars film exists to infodump what's going on, which this does for the first two paragraphs. But the opening crawl never has cryptic references or allusions to things; it's there to provide information, not imply stuff. A proper crawl would have told us this woman's name and the fact that she's a Jedi at the very least.

The situation alone is supposed to entice us; you're not supposed to use vague and mysterious wording to do it.

Anyway, the music actually returns to the John Williams proper soundtrack. We pan to a star field, where an empty ship flies off towards a planet. Here we get a shot of our hero, who's name was not mentioned in the opening crawl.

She gets a message, and the first word out of the mouth of the person on the other end of the vid link is "Taryn," the protagonist's name. The woman calling Taryn is Zhanna, the aforementioned Emperor's Hand. What follows is Zhanna telling the audience that Taryn is looking for the secret on some planet, Quarran 3. Yet another fact that could have been told to us in the title crawl.

Zhanna asks her to join the Empire, that a Seer can be useful. But Taryn is slightly curt as she says, "My visions are my own," and cuts her off. And welcome to the first problem in this story.

This scene makes no sense at all.

How in the hell does Zhanna know how to contact her? It would be like Darth Vader being able to talk to Han Solo when he was hiding in the Rebel Base on Hoth before they found it. Taryn is trying to not be found and killed by the Empire and their legions of Jedi killers.

This scene exists for two reasons. First, it infodumps things that should have been in the opening crawl. That's what the damn thing's for, to get the exposition out there without having forced scenes. Like this one. All they needed to do to make this scene superfluous was turn the last paragraph into this:

Now, Taryn Anwar, Jedi Knight and hidden Seer, travels to Corellia to unlock an ancient Jedi secret that could spell the salvation of the Order, or its destruction...

See? The scene instantly becomes pointless. I just saved you 15 seconds of film in your 40 minute movie.

The only other thing this scene does is that it implies that Zhanna and Taryn have a history. We don't need 15 seconds for that.

We continue with Zhanna, on some planet. She is approached by what I can only assume is one of her apprentices, who tells her that their troops on Corellia are ready to act. So Zhanna gives the order to secure some artifact.

But they were being watched, as we see Lord Vader seeing all this on some screen. Wow, the Emperor's Hand has shitty security. Lord Vader figures he can play Zhanna like Xanatos's fiddle. So he tells some guy off-camera that they're to have their agents on Corellia watch her people but not take action.

Cut to Corellia, where we see Taryn fly to the planet and land. This takes over 30 seconds of time, but at least the special effects hold up. Cut to Taryn, where we spend another solid 30 seconds trying to establish the tone of the underworld as Taryn wanders through CG backgrounds until she reaches a door. There, she has an argument with a replica of the eye-thing on Jabba's door. For ~20 seconds. Again, this serves no purpose and does not progress the plot, as the door eventually opens and she gets in the lift.

We see her travel up the lift for a good 20 seconds, with more effects shots of the landscape. Then Taryn steps out into... holy shit, an actual set! I'd forgotten what those look like, what with all the blue-screening. Generic music plays while holographic women dance; this is all established in about 20 seconds.

Since the plot is about to start, I'd like to explain why I keep harping about how long the various scenes take. This is not a 2 hour movie; this is 40 minutes long (minus the end credits). They have a 20-second establishing shot for a city, and a 30 seconds of her walking. Followed by her arguing with a door for 20 seconds. That's not efficient storytelling, and if you're going to make a short film, you need efficient storytelling.

When she's flying in to her landing pad, why not have her talking to her contact? Why not have the contact meet her at the pad, instead of spending all that time meeting him here? There are so many ways that they could have restructured this sequence to save time and still have the effects, but no. It's all just establishment.

And the best part? The main action of this film isn't on Correlia. All the time establishing these locations is mostly wasted. I know it helps give a more epic, Star Wars feel. But you need to do it in a way that compliments the story, not conflicts with it.

Oh, then the plot starts by Taryn having a vision, perhaps the laziest way of moving the plot along. Taryn sees a being from that species Leia was disguised as in Return of the Jedi talking to some Stormtroopers. The worst part of this vision is that it's entirely irrelevant.

After the vision, a guy in a uniform invites her over, and is rather forward about it, what with the grabbing her and all. But she turns him down and he's a sport about it. This scene exists solely to establish that this guy and his uniformed friends exist.

Taryn goes to a bar, where a random, perfectly human guy talks gibberish at her. She tells him to leave, then some other guy tells him to leave, so he does. This new guy tells her that he has what she wants, she says he believes her, and they walk away together. Well, that was awkwardly paced and spoken, but it also has the virtue of being essentially pointless. Next scene!

This guy, who's name has not yet been mentioned but we can assume it's Declan (she mentioned him while arguing with the door), takes her to Cade, a friend who has the item she's looking for. There is instant dislike between Cade and Taryn. Cade has the artifact, but he needs a Seer to unlock it. Taryn doesn't like working with people, "not anymore." But when Cade grabs her arm to stop her from leaving, we get more laziness from the writers.

Rather than have Cade tell her stuff, Taryn has a vision of Cade and someone we'll learn is Raux, Taryn's little sister. In the vision, Cade is in Storm Trooper "armor" and the pair are running from some troops. They come to a cliff face, and they look longingly at each other. I assume words were spoken, but if they were, it was off-camera. Raux runs towards the troops to buy time, but failed her deflection roll and is shot. Meanwhile, Cade uses a grapple gun and escapes.

Back in the real world, Cade informs us that this was her sister (since we couldn't have him simply explain what happened), and that she wanted Cade and Taryn to work together. Cade then walks off after telling Taryn that she's not like Raux. Taryn's pissed, wondering how he knew her sister, but Declan says that they can discuss it on the trip to Quarran 3. Taryn sees Storm Troopers talking to that guy from her first vision, but does nothing about it. She doesn't even mention it to Declan. Then they literally walk into the Troopers.

No, really. They're walking forward, and bam: Storm Troopers.

Behold Taryn Anwar: savior of the Jedi.

The Trooper tells her that she's under arrest, but she says, "Now Sergeant, I'm sure you understand why I can't accompany you." Wow, that line made absolutely no sense. At all. Now, if she were trying to pull some kind of mind trick, then it might make sense. But she's not. It's just powerfully bad dialog.

Indeed, it takes the uniformed guy from earlier and his cronies to save her. They're CorSec, Corellian Security (though the film never clears that up), "still the reigning authority here." Well, there's three Troopers and a dozen CorSec+misc others who just want to shoot people. So Declan and Taryn run for it... for some reason.

Declan shoots a window, and they jump through the fakest, most obvious blue-screen shot I can recall seeing in recent memory. They drop 40 feet onto a moving ship, yet suffer no ill effects and land like they just jumped down off of a step.*

They climb into a ship, and after a few shots of the ship flying around, we cut to space where a pair of Star Destroyers approach the planet. We then get horribly unconvincing shots of Tie Fighter pilots running around.

Cut back to our heroes. Declan bitches about the timing of the rescue, saying that he signaled Cade earlier. Um, what? From the time of Cade leaving to the time they jumped out the window was about a minute. You're telling me that in a minute, he went to wherever his ship was docked, started it up, and flew all the way back. And Declan still expected him earlier? Was something left on the cutting room floor?

Anyway, Cade plays more havoc with the timeline, as he mentions that there's a lot of Imperial interest in her. Again, one minute since he left. We then get shots of the ship approaching the two Star Destroyers, followed by a bit of dialog, then Tie Fighters launching. Declan tells Cade to take the aft guns, but since doing it the Millennium Falcon way would require a new set, he can fire them remotely from the cockpit.

What follows is a chase scene, where the unnamed ship flies around various other ships (that don't seem to be reacting at all to a pitched battle happening around them) chased by Tie Fighters. They then head through a large Star Destroyer factory, where we get a lot of dodging around bits of stuff. They take out the Ties one-by-one. The last one's debris falls into a sensitive spot, which causes a large, Tie Advanced-like solar panel to break off. In keeping with Episode 3's nonsense gravity physics*, the wing falls down onto a Star Destroyer, making it go boom and allowing them to leave.

This is a pretty well done sequence, as far as the effects and cinematography go. There's some decent editing work at play, and effective camera movement. Obviously the effects are dated, but it still works to a degree. I'm sure some CG haters out there will say it looks too "videogamey," but fuck them; it's still better work than most model-based ship effects. It all feels very Star Wars, though the music could have punctuated important moments better.

The main downside of this is really quite simple: for about a three minutes of the film, from the moment the Ties engage until the Star Destroyer's death, there is exactly one scene of characters.

No, I'm not kidding. For about 3 minutes of film time, in a 40 minute movie, there's just one character scene. And all that scene does is let us know they're about to go into a factory. All plot and character stop dead for 3 minutes so that we can see somebody's special effects reel.

As annoying as you may have found the frequent cutting to See-Threepio whining in the Empire Strikes Back when they're trying to escape in the asteroid field, it did serve a purpose. It reminded us that we were looking at something other than just special effects. It had the characters actually be characters. We didn't just see the ship dodging stuff; we got their reactions to close calls and so forth. It gave a human element to what could have just been a bunch of effects shots.

And if you want to see what happens when you don't do that, just watch this film.