As a Star Wars fan, one of the biggest disappointments of sitting through 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” was watching the creation of one of the most amazing villains of the “Star Wars” cinematic universe, only for him to show up for about five minutes, be killed, and then never spoken of again. This character that was on mugs, and t shirts, and posters was almost non-existent in future films. “Apprentice” is a fantastic and dare I say perfect, fan film that shows what would have happened if George Lucas subtracted twenty minutes of screen time from Jar Jar Binks in favor of more emphases on the sheer danger and threat that was Darth Maul. Maul should have been the recurring villain in the prequels and could have salvaged the otherwise terrible films.
There was just a realm of possibilities that Lucas and co. seemed uninterested in exploring. That said “Apprentice” attempts to fill in the blanks acting as unofficial canon to the prequel series. Set some time before “The Phantom Menace,” the film by director Shawn Bu shows what happens when the Jedi set out to stop Darth Maul before he sets off the chain of events in the prequels starting with the death of Qui Gon Jinn. The film involves the last ditch efforts by the Jedi Order as they send out a troop to stop his inevitable reign of terror, only to find out that one of Darth Maul is too much for a small group of the most skilled Jedi in the Galaxy.
Everything from the direction and editing from Shawn Bu right down to the stunt work and choreography by Vi-Dan Tran is absolutely mesmerizing, channeling the emotional resonance and dazzling skill behind the lightsaber battles and what stakes they involve. The entire cast are phenomenal, especially Ben Schamma who is unbelievable as Darth Maul. His portrayal of the fierce and merciless swordsman is on par with Ray Park’s original portrayal, and it’s great to see Bu and co. don’t cut corners with his character’s turn. Even his scowl is just as frightening as Park’s was. Shawn Bu and his group do a wonderful job of filling in the holes with Darth Maul’s back story, offering a fan film that deserves to be considered as canon for the current “Star Wars” expanded universe.