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review written 2/24/2003

This is another one of those fan films that was anticipated like the Second Coming. Couple that with the coolness of being shot on film, mixed in THX and having Vader, and—well, let's just say this had high expectations attached. (As well as a trailer attached, which feels very movie-like—that's pretty clever, I gotta say.)

Hell, the THX logo at the beginning beats the pants off a lot of fan film CGI!

Anyway. Crawl doesn't look great (how does this happen?!) and is a bit too character-expositionary even by crawl standards, and occasionally is rendered illegible by Web compression. But when the crawl ends, the first shot is very impressive—I certainly wasn't expecting a ship to come from that direction!

We meet Tara Sunarr (played rather naturally by Michelle O'Keefe) and the decent-looking CGI droid Chee-2A, rushing through a space chase to a well-chosen "Asteroid Field" cue. Y'know, expositionary dialogue somehow works a lot better coming from the mouth of a droid.

And here's Vader (why do we always gotta meet this guy when he's staring out the window for no good reason?!), voiced by Ben Fletcher to perfection.

And then we meet the forest. But a forest that's subjected to some good-looking explosions, a nicely chosen musical cue (which I'm too lazy to look up the name of). May I remind the reader that director Joe Monroe could have looked at the lightsaber onscreen and said "It has two blades! Let's use 'Duel of the Fates'!" Good thing he didn't.

Jedi Karina (Doria Anselmo) isn't very well-acted, which is unfortunate, as she has to carry the show, and is the weakest of the cast. (Although she has developed an acting career—she was in The Fast and the Furious and Gone in Sixty Seconds.) Her master Ulic (Forest G. Wood—with a name like that, he was born to be in a fan film) seems… I don't know what to think of him. He talks funny, but it seems deliberate. Is this a style choice? The character acts like he's half-droid—the emotion is there, but clipped and false. It's like his take on the TPM Amidala accent.

"I will not be here forever," says Ulic, and a giant red caption flashes on the screen: "Foreshadowing!" (What, didn't you see it?) I'm not thrilled with that line. I'm not thrilled with the "Supplies!" line, either, only because it reminds me of UHF and distracts me.

Part 2 (the film is divided into three QuickTime files) begins with Ulic telling his apprentices to get to Tatooine to find Obi-Wan Kenobi. I love this. It's wonderful when a film can build itself into the OT. And it's pretty neat that they do bring up the fact that Obi-Wan did train this nasty Vader fellow that's caused so much trouble.

Then Ulic says "You must survive", and I wonder when they're gonna start playing a Gloria Gaynor song. (Am I the only one who has this kind of trouble?)

When we see Vader on a forest world, something seems wrong to me. Then I realize that it's good that something seems wrong. We've never seen Vader like this—outside, during the day, around all these natural things. In the OT, he only hung out in corridors, on spaceships—when he did play outside, it was in a dark, evil cave, or in a snow-covered wasteland that was sort of indoors. Now Vader is invading a new part of our lives. The scariness effect is killed by the fact that the sun is shining, but I think the psychological effect that Monroe gives us creeps us out a bit and is worth not going for the obvious scare factor. It's like if you saw Vader at your local ice cream parlor. It's not a scary place. It might even be a familiar, happy place for you. But nevertheless, great evil came there. Evil exists in the daytime, too. Vader doesn't go away just because the sun is up and we're in a place full of life.

I mean, I'm not suggesting that Monroe should have gone all out and introduced Vader with Katrina and the Waves singing "Walking on Sunshine", but you get the idea.

I think the only mishandled Vader moment in all this is the fact that the camera starts circling around him. Vader doesn't strike me as a 'camera moves' kind of guy. And it doesn't help that camera moves suck when reduced to 15 FPS.

Another prudent music choice comes shortly after this—a triumphant statement of Yoda's theme. Good stuff.

Padmé gets a mention. Not only does this lead to a funny line from Dannikk, but it makes me wonder how the Vader-Padmé dynamic will be handled in Episode III.

Speaking of third acts, the third QuickTime file seems to have taken a little time shift. The skies are darkening and running with color—a nice metaphor for Karina's mind at the time. I've never seen "Duel of the Fates" used so well in a fan film as when they fight, the sky's colors reflecting the colors of their lightsabers.

More Vader coolness, as Karina sums up everything that the PT has told us about Darth Vader and links it to the OT just by looking into the eyes of the Vader we know. This is strong material. Obvious, but strong nonetheless.

But why does Vader have to say "Don't make me destroy you"? Hello! Your future self called, he wants his freakin' line back! Ah well. That small annoyance is made up for by Vader's final act toward Karina. What a wonderful music choice! I'm so glad we didn't go for the obvious loud Imperial March statement!

And the skies darken...

I can't get specific now without spoiling the film. But we see a scene bathed in blue that is an astounding work of fan film cinematography... and then it goes downhill. The graveside scene is overwrought, unfortunately, as is the rest of the post-climax movie. It should have just ended.

Yes, Knightquest does sort of fall apart after the climax (except visually—it actually gets better from then on). But it's only a minute or two extra.

As a rule, I'm not as big a fan of the serious fan films as I am the parodies. That said, I was extraordinarily impressed with Knightquest at every turn. When people talk about fan filmers "making their own chapters of the Star Wars saga", this is what they're talking about. This is easily the best non-comedy fan film out there. I'd love to see a higher-quality version… a DVD… or just something else to give me these glimpses into the world of the greatest villain ever.

Heck, I'd even like this flick if they decided to call it Quest of the Knights.