Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Claudia Puig and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including: the fantastical legend of “Kong: Skull Island” starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson; Julia Ducournau’s cannibalistic-thriller “Raw;” “Personal Shopper” starring Kristen Stewart in the underground fashion world of Paris; and more.
Fans films, frankly, are not something that I generally review, or for that matter, often think about. I’m savvy to fan fiction in all its forms; literary, graphic novels, there are even people who do fan films using nothing but Legos – which is fascinating – but it’s the use of the Legos that’s the point of those projects, rather than the films themselves – generally. Then there are fan films that are purely about the source material – the thing the fan is – most deeply – a fan of. Such that they create an element of that beloved film themselves, complete with all the accoutrements of the source material.
On the heels of the reboot of the Star Wars series (again), a plethora of fan films have blossomed and I’ve got one here that I found particularly interesting for a few reasons. It’s good, for one, and for two and three, its features some very capable black actors – who are not British. Which – is kind of a thing.
In anycase, for Exile – EP 1, the on-going Star Wars saga is the source of the fandom, and the universe in which these capable filmmakers have set their unique SW narrative. Set after the Clone Wars, with references to classic figures (including Obi-Wan), Exile is the 15 minute and 50 second story of an Empire plot to turn young Jedi’s to the to the dark side of the Force. An “Inquisitor” called Quinlan Vos (Sal Perales), has been dispatched to engage those Jedi particularly sensitive to the dark side, and bring them over. One such Jedi Padawan is Makal Lori (Noel Braham). Makal attempts to marshal forces and repel the Empire’s plan, but when he faces the Inquisitor (alongside his Master, Boemana Tora), his heart may betray his deepest desires, which may be darker than even he knows.
Exile – EP 1 opens with a bracing action sequence. Imperial soldiers and someone who looks like Boba Fett track Makal thru a dark forest. Laser blasts zip all round as the Jedi deflects and evades before landing deft light-saber strokes on his pursuers. Then the scene gets even darker. Maybe a little too dark for the PG-13 viewers the Star Wars films are usually directed at, but that’s a matter of taste and parental guidance, especially since anybody can just click on the link above – and watch the whole movie anyway.
Which I recommend.
Exile – EP 1 is very well done. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Star Wars iconography, but I know movies and everything in this one is awash in production value. The style and scale of the Star Wars universe space ships zipping across the sky, the costumes and props and performances – all detailed and well done. The dialogue is a little on-the-nose for my tasted, but so was George Lucas’ in the original film so this may be a true fan’s deliberate choice. To my mind Lawrence Kasdan wrote the only really good Star Warsmovie dialogue, including the Empire Strikes Back and much of the recent reboot.
Exile – EP 1 is an action driven, darkly hued take on one battle in the Star Wars universe of films. It’s a fan film with heart and filmmaking chops – and I must admit – I’m impressed by both.
Directed by Pokey Spears and Noel Braham. Written by Noel Braham. Starring Noel Braham, Georginna Savoye, Sal Perales, Pokey Spears.
Produced by Mario Contini, Georginna Savoye. Director of Photography Mario Contini. Edited by Ryan Stevens Harris. Visual Effects Supervisor Bryan Gonzales. Sound Design Michael Kao. Costume Design by Elizabeth Rage. Music by Ryan Leach.