Vader: Episode 1 – Shards of the Past Review

Over the last week or so the fandom has exploded with both love and hate for the new Star Wars fan-film ‘Vader: Shards of the Past Episode 1’, Directed by Danny Ramirez and Produced by ‘Star Wars Theory’ so I decided to take a look. If you haven’t seen it yet you can check it out HERE before reading the rest of this post as there will be spoilers.

Welcome back.

To start I would just like to say that I don’t usually watch fan-films. It’s not that I’m against them but they are just not for me, but with all of the discourse surrounding ‘Shards of the Past’ I felt that I needed to give it a watch.

And I was reminded why I don’t watch fan films.

Not that it doesn’t have its strong points. Dupree Jones is a great Darth Vader. The CGI, whilst not ILM standard, is still really good. Timeline-wise the story lines up brilliantly with what we have had in Canon (I’ll be able to attest to this more next month when I start reading Charles Soule’s Vader series) and it’s a good story.

But my issues stem from the writing, the script relies too heavily on dialogue either lifted from or reminiscent of dialogue from the films. The Emperor looks off and sometimes the voice is a bit over the top, even for the Emperor and some of the dialogue is lost because of the voice.

The opening scene showing Vader under attack from Clone Troopers as he is killing an unknown Force User we are led to believe is an Order 66 survivor turns out to be a dream/vision Vader is having about killing Palpatine but his thoughts go to Padmé which allows the Emperor to get the better of him.

He wakes up, suspended by machinery, his robotic limbs missing and surrounded by more machines and Droids. The make-up/effects in this scene are brilliant. It looks just like Vader in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, definitely the highlight of the film for me.

When Vader meets the Emperor for a dialogue heavy scene in which the Emperor spends most of the time having a go at Vader I can’t help but critique the actor playing Palpatine, Steven T. Bartlett. He doesn’t embody the character, his body movements in no way feel like Palpatine whereas Dupree Jones nails Vader’s movements and body language. This scene also loses its impact for me with the voice-over for Palpatine. It’s just too much.

Vader is sent to Naboo to hunt down a Jedi with an amethyst lightsaber. Taking his ETA – Interceptor Fighter (a great nod to Lords of the Sith) Vader arrives at Naboo and is informed by the Clone Commander of the situation before he reaches a hole in the floor where fighting can be heard. Vader ignites his saber as the amethyst saber comes into shot before the credits roll.

Does it deserve the accolades it has been getting? Yes, its impressive and as it’s the start of a series I look forward to seeing it develop. Is the Director better than Rian Johnson like some have proclaimed? Based on this 15 minute short film, in my opinion no. But he’s done some solid work on this film.

All in all an OK short film, a mixed bag of performances but it’s heading in the right direction. I will watch more of this series as it’s released but I do hope the creators learn from some of the critiques and not get cocky because of the praise.

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