17 years after The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul has finally gotten the on-screen due he deserves.
A fan-made short featuring Maul as we always imagined him (read: festering in a cave, only to be unleashed on an army of Jedi) has quickly gone viral.
Pairing advanced visual effects with a clear affection for the source material, Darth Maul: Apprentice is a faithful and riveting account of the famous antagonist’s early days at his strong and silent best.
Appearing fleetingly in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, despite his titular role Maul was quickly killed off, disappointing a legion of fans who (justly) viewed Maul as the best character in the film and, aside from the score, the sole redeeming feature of the ill-advised prequel.
Denied the chance to see the character wield his signature double-edged lightsaber in the later iterations, writer/producer/director Shawn Bu and team have gifted us with some of the best choreographed Jedi-on-Sith drama yet. Couched in 15 minutes, the short is replete with action and instantly recognisable Star Wars insignia. Soft on dialogue, Apprentice draws from the simple filmmaking techniques evident in Episodes IV-VII; show, don’t tell.
The film is also notable for the more than casual allusions to December’s The Force Awakens, with dramatic sequences similarly situated in the confines of a forest; waiting until the end to explore the internal conflict raging within those who embrace the dark side of the force.
Pastiches of popular films have a chequered history, least of all the Star Wars Holiday Special, albeit not fan-made, with George Lucas commenting, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”
On the Star Trek front, an independent, crowd-funded fan prequel named Axanar was close to concluding production in December when rights holders CBS and Paramount took out an injunction to stop the film being made. A 20 minute prelude for the prequel managed to amass over a million views online.
Last February, the fan-made, fantastically bleak Power/Rangers, starring Katee Sackhoff and James Van Der Beek garnered over 10 million views on YouTube (and renewed calls for a Power Rangers movie). Taken down after the lawyers were scrambled, protests from Power Rangers devotees saw it placed back online.
It is less than likely that Darth Maul: Apprentice will be made into its own film or Star Wars chapter – but for the first time the now-iconic antagonist has been given the scope, and screen time, he was so long denied.
Glen Falkenstein on The Big Smoke