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The Bootleg Files: The Lost Starfighter

BOOTLEG FILES 622: “The Lost Starfighter” (2017 “Star Wars” fan film).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Not unlike all fan films, it is based on an unauthorized use of copyright protected material.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Maybe in a galaxy far, far away, but not in this one.

I have not seen the latest installment in the “Star Wars” saga, nor do I have any plans to watch it. For that matter, I have no plans to see any more films released under the “Star Wars” banner.

I recognize that this is a minority opinion, but I believe that the “Star Wars” franchise ran out of creative steam following “The Empire Strikes Back.” The original 1977 classic was a rush of happy energy, while its 1980 follow-up was a brilliantly intense detour into mature territory. And, hey, even that loopy 1978 “Holiday Special” interlude was entertaining (albeit mostly for the wrong reasons). But beyond Carrie Fisher’s slave girl costume, “Return of the Jedi” had little to offer except a noisy, cutesy, frenetic effort to tie up the trilogy’s flapping loose ends. The subsequent prequels and sequels never duplicated the jubilation of the original production or the intellectual menace of the second go-round – mostly, all they had was a surplus of special effects (with some not being very special) and a conspicuous lack of good acting and original writing. And, after a while, if you’ve seen one light saber duel or spaceship chase, you’ve seen them all.

To its credit, the “Star Wars” series never lost its fans. These indefatigable masochists willingly put up with increasingly dismal productions with a fidelity not seen since Elvis Presley’s fans tolerated his puerile movies in the 1960s. Some of the more enthusiastic devotees took their love one step further by creating their own fan films inspired by the “Star Wars” series. Mercifully for them, Lucasfilm – and, more recently, Disney – happily ignored the obvious copyright violation problems inherent in fan film production, thus allowing these home-made tributes to Luke Skywalker and company to flood the Internet.

One of the newest “Star Wars” fan films to turn up is “The Lost Starfighter,” an eight-minute endeavor that took two years to make. This short has the virtues of the “Star Wars” concept, along with the vices the ultimately burdened the franchise.

The focus of “The Lost Starfighter” involves a team of young X-wing pilots known as the Blue Squadron. This group is on the last day of their training mission when something goes wrong for Blue Five, a young woman pilot – her spacecraft inexplicably veers away from her colleagues and goes off into unfamiliar territory. The cause of this problem is Blue Two, an obnoxious male pilot who programmed Blue Five’s spacecraft with the wrong coordinates. Blue Two brags that he “star snapped” his comrade while insisting, “Pranks like this help us grow like a team.”

Blue Five quickly finds herself facing a Star Destroyer, and her presence is immediately detected by the enemies within that monster spaceship. Blue Five is able to turn around and rejoin her squadron, but the Star Destroyer follows her. Thus, the Blue Squadron needs to employ their still-new skills to meet and destroy the better prepared foe.

On the plus side, “The Lost Starfighter” offers a special effects presentation that is as stylish as any intergalactic battle sequence from the “Star Wars” features. The filmmaking talent behind this work – directors Nick Murphy and Paul Richey, animation and visual effects master Samuel Hall and cinematographer Gino Varisano – have put forth a great-looking little film that was probably made on a budget equal to the cost of Daisy Ridley’s bobby pins.

Alas, this short makes the same mistakes as the “Star Wars” films that followed “The Empire Strikes Back”: too much attention to effects while ignoring the story and the acting. Outside of the emetic Blue Two, none of the characters have personalities, and the lack of emotional response to Blue Two’s irresponsible prank is bizarre. The weak jokey dialogue recalls the thudding attempts at lightheartedness that percolated in “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” And, I am sorry to say, nobody in this film seems to know how to act – which, of course, is in keeping with Episodes 1 to 3 and Episode 7 of “Star Wars.” (I assume the absence of acting continued in Episode 8 – after all, there is a very good reason why Mark Hamill’s star diminished after 1983.)

If anything, “The Lost Starfighter” offers a sterling calling card for the filmmakers if they are seeking to go further in the high-tech side of the business. But if they are hoping to sell screenplays and be trusted with A-list (or even B-list) actors, more work is required. Still, I am glad that I could see “The Lost Starfighter” for free on YouTube with only an eight-minute investment of my time. I’ll let the “Star Wars” fanatics enrich Disney’s coffers in the theater.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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