This weekend, a friend of mine sat me down to watch a recently released Star Wars fan film called “The Force and The Fury”. It just dropped last week. Now, as this is May the Fourth week, I suspect a lot of fanfilms and projects are going to come out in the following days like last year.
Before we begin, please watch the movie first, as I go in to spoilers. I’ll wait…thanks.
Like Hoshino, which we’ve reviewed earlier, Force and The Fury is a very short film at 7:28, but it gets its point across in the time allotted. The movie is written and Directed by Jason Satterlund, and stars Aris Juson as an unnamed Jedi and Deborah Smith as an unnamed Darksider. Unlike most fanfilms, which are set pieces for lightsaber choreography, Force and The Fury takes on the genre of psychological thriller. You feel less like you’re watching the first ten minutes of the Obi-Ani fight and more like you’re watching the last ten of Cape Fear.
To give a short rundown. Force and The Fury begins en medias res. A space ship carrying a Jedi has crashed down on a forest planet. The Jedi is severely wounded, and attempts to recoup from his (rather gruesome) wounds. It becomes very clear that his crash has been orchestrated, and that the person responsible left him with no hope of salvation.
Enter the Darksider, hooded and cloaked in black and dark red rags, carrying a wicked looking red bladed lightsaber (which looks like a slightly modded Saber Forge saber). The Jedi goes for his saber…which is missing. This leads to a race through the woods, the wreckage of his ship strewn about the landscape. The Darksider uses the Force around him to distract and cause fear.
Eventually, The Jedi does find his saber smoking in the ruins. As he activates it, the saber sparks, the blade dies. This leads to a game of tug-o-war between the Darksider and the Jedi for the saber and breaks when the Jedi’s saber flares back to life. This doesn’t last, however, as the saber flickers continuously throughout.
Enraged, the Darksider pounces on the Jedi. Her saber strikes are wild and heavy, and for the first time he seems to have the advantage. He pins her against the wall of an abandoned cabin, removing her cowl and mask and learning who she truly is: a woman from his past. We don’t learn the exact relationship, but the revelation leaves him stunned and adds fire to her intense rage. She continues the attack, to which he has no defense.
The last minutes of the fight end with her saber flying, but her taking control of his saber. The blade is broke, just blue sparks at this point. But she has him pinned to the floor with the emitter pointed directly at his heart. He asks her not to do it. She, with a conflict of emotions on her face, asks him to give her a reason not to. He grips the emitter, as if to reinforce its position, and tells her that doing so would lead her down the Dark Side.
The screen goes to black, and the credits roll with the sound of the forest.
I remember sitting with my friend as the credits rolled, waiting to hear what happened next. Do we hear a saber, do we hear anything after that. Does anything happen? I wanted to know dammit. And that, I think, is the sign of a good thriller. You need to know what the hell happens next, how does this continue, how does this end?
As I said before, I feel like I was watching a clip of the resolution of a two hour movie. This is aided by the beautiful production work done in the making of the film. The other is that both of the actors sell this like there is a two hour movie behind this scene. I can imagine this Jedi being slowly hounded throughout the film by an invisible ghost until he is stranded, left for dead, and chased through the woods by someone he had abandoned to the Dark.
The first half of the film shows you the ironclad weariness of the Jedi. Waking up and removing the shrapnel from his torso, something that would probably be fatal to anyone not adept in the Force, and continuing on. It makes you feel like this is just one more thing he has had to deal with. The second half is all the Darksider, though. Her intensity and rage drives the tension home, sold all by the panic and helplessness we see in the Jedi. There are few moments where we do not see her in control of the situation.
The costuming of the Darksider, the black hood and red rag mask, made me focus on her eyes throughout. She doesn’t blink, and her face is furrowed throughout. This gives you the sense she is laser guided toward this man, hellbent to see her revenge come hell or high water. When the mask is removed, I was still drawn to her eyes. The hurt when she is revealed, and then the (from what I can tell) conflicting emotions of when she has him primed for the coup de grace. You feel like she isn’t sure what she’s going to do, now that she has her prey.
The lightsaber choreography here is basic. It’s not the focus. The focus here are the people holding them. I do appreciate that we do see differences in how the two fight. The Darksider is clearly a Force Adept, able to move and control objects with her thoughts. We never see the Jedi doing as such. But in lightsaber combat, the two are both adept with the Jedi seeming to have the upperhand. If not for the broken saber, we get the impression he might have retaken the conflict.
And about that saber. I loved the tension drawn in that last moment. It’s the equivalent of putting a cocked gun to someone’s head. With the way it’s sparking, you’re not sure if the damn thing won’t go off on its own (which also adds that the Darksider probably doesn’t know what she wants either). It’s great tension and, like Hoshino, a good use of the fact that the blade is not fixed.
In the end, I recommend the Force and The Fury. It is a wonderfully executed thriller and is a great addition to the fanfilm community. It gives this sense of personal depth while also playing with the (seemingly) impervious protection of the hero in Star Wars while making the ‘villain’ someone clearly more complicated than a megalomaniac. I look forward to seeing more work from this company, and more work inspired by it.
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EDIT NOTE: Director’s correct last name is Satterlund. I was never good at buying vowels in Wheel of Fortune