Movie Review: Star Wars: Neon Noir (Online, 2015)

It is pretty much agreed that the Star Wars prequel trilogy was….. well, “Not Good”. Admittedly, it’s not easy to tell a story when the ending is predetermined. But one shouldn’t need three whole movies to tell how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Quite a few fans took it upon themselves to edit the trilogy (removing the boring or tasteless parts (i.e. Jar-Jar Binks)) into a single, more “streamlined” film.

These fans pretty much succeeded in creating films that are faithful to the Star Wars universe, and tell the story rather well. It’s essentially a Grand Tragedy, how a young Jedi filled with promise was turned to the Dark Side.

The team at Film Addicted went a bit further. What if you not only condensed the story, but changed the tone?

They noted that quite a few scenes are reminiscent of the 80s “cyberpunk” genre. Nighttime scenes, bright neon colors…. And the unsuspecting characters getting caught up in sinister machinations behind the scenes. Well, that’s pretty much “noir” right there. They deliberately intended to copy the style of Michael Mann (The Thief (1981)) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive (2011)).

He’s even a better actor in this version.

The end result?

Obi-Wan takes his protege, Anakin Skywalker, to a nightclub on some unspecified Jedi business – presumably involving Darth Maul, who we saw them battle in the pre-title sequence. There, they are attacked by a bounty hunter, who is killed with a poison dart before she can tell them who hired her. When her killer gets away, Obi-Wan tracks the deadly dart to the clone factories at Kamino. On his arrival, the Kaminoans assume he’s checking on the progress of the army currently being produced….

And we’re off.

The basic plot line, as far as I can tell, is kept to rather well. Scenes highlighting the chosen “neon noir” aesthetic are highlighted; other scenes are downplayed or omitted. You won’t see Anakin griping about sand in this one….

A huge plus is the soundtrack they added. The Chromatics, Brian Eno, Daft Punk, and other artists from the 80s cyberpunk era. The only drawback I can think of is the rather long sequence in the middle of the film that’s just one big space battle. It looks great, but there’s no dialogue to tell the viewer what’s going on. It almost feels like padding – almost.

This lover of history (and amateur historian) also finds much to ponder with the whole subgenre of Fan Edits. With any historical matter, we are dealing with a fixed set of facts. Historians have to take those facts and assemble them into a narrative, hopefully without distorting the sense of what really did happen. As an extreme example, the “1619 Project” takes facts from the “deleted scenes” of the Complete Series Boxed Set of American History, and flips the standard story line on its head to give a radical new interpretation.

Good historians take the facts generally available to all, and reframe them in ways that shed new light on the Past. They can tweak things to some extent by giving other viewpoints, or through their choice of words, give a story a different tone.

But in the end, you’ve still got to show how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Anything else is a disservice to your audience, and your source material.

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