Attack of the Clones 

As grand pooh-bah of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas deserves props for generosity to his admirers. Lucasfilm grants Star Wars fans permission to make original films in his thoroughly licensed universe, as long as they don't profit from them.

Many fan productions are spoofs, but Star Wars: Revelations keeps a straight face for what might be the most elaborate fan film ever made. Since going online in April, more than a million fans have freely downloaded the $20,000, three-year labor of love by a volunteer cast and crew. (You can even burn a DVD version with commentary tracks at www.panicstruckpro.com.)

The 40-minute story takes place not long after the events of Revenge of the Sith - actors even impersonate the Emperor and Darth Vader in cameo. An awkward archvillainness and some unconvincing fugitive Jedi (including director Shane Felux) race to get their hands on an Ominous Artifact. The performances could be described as "record store employees - in space!"

Backhanded compliment alert: Revelations seldom proves so bad as to be actually funny. Felux brings genuine care to setting up confrontations at a prison planet and the requisite freaky alien bar. A surprisingly exciting dogfight takes place in an orbiting shipyard, ending when one of those long-ass Imperial battleships blows up.

Tellingly, Star Wars: Revelations provides more strong female characters in 40 minutes than Lucas offers in six films. Revelations also points to a future in which fan films routinely fill in gaps and flesh out implications in beloved fictional universes. As cameras and computer effects become increasingly sophisticated and accessible, perhaps we will see pop "shareware" franchises, in which the episodes created by fans become indistinguishable from the "real" thing.

Disappointed with the new Star Wars movies? Go make your own, then.

Curt.Holman@creativevloafing.com

Star Wars: Revelations. Directed by Shane Felux. www.panicstruckpro.com.

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