Thursday 14 May 2015

Logan Must Make Star Wars (2014)

Director: Nathan Blackwell
Stars: Logan Blackwell, Brian Blackwell, Craig Curtis, Shay Alber, Kellen Garner, Bob Caplan, Lauren Henschen, James Hoenscheidt, Christopher Hoenscheidt, Darren Ito and Josh Kasselman
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2015. Here's an index to my reviews of 2015 films.
While Stolen Afternoon was only five short films earlier in the Home Grown Shorts set at the Phoenix Film Festival this year, it felt like an aeon. The Class Analysis, Duty and Fish Hook are hardly light viewing and the documentary, Fighters Move Forward, didn't exactly avoid the darkness either. So, by the time Logan Must Make Star Wars showed up in the set, the audience were overdue for some laughs, especially given that it was a Saturday morning. I knew it would play well because I'd seen the film before; even though I missed its original screening at last year's A3F film challenge, I keep up with Squishy Studios and Nathan Blackwell kindly allowed me to screen it myself in the Apocalypse Later short film set at LepreCon 2014, a year end wrap up at the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival and a small charity event for Oakwood Care. It played well every time but it was so precisely the perfect antidote to all the dark material in this set that it surely won't ever play anywhere quite so well as this again.

Anyone who's seen the work of Squishy Studios, from Masters of Daring to Zombie Team Building via the Voyage Trekkers web series, knows their sense of humour and that's very much in evidence here, as they add the Star Wars universe to the list of sci-fi staples that they've lampooned. It won't surprise any to find that Logan is played by Logan Blackwell, but the setup is the sort of genius that Squishy Studios is known for. We're not given any explanations of how this happened (perhaps because they could easily constitute a prequel), but Logan plunges backwards in time to 1974 and accidentally kills George Lucas. To avoid an unimaginable future without the Star Wars trilogy (props to Blackwell for not mentioning more than three films), he has to make A New Hope himself, merely without any money, actors or props that he can't find himself. That's mirrored in Logan Must Make Star Wars itself, which is populated by Voyage Trekkers props and characters and a beard for Logan as transparent as those of the Monty Python crew in Life of Brian.
What we're here for, though, isn't realism, it's the Squishy Studios brand of humour, which has a habit of poking fun at culture in a deceptively light-hearted way. I'm hardly going to call this the deepest short in the set, but there's a little more going on here about both the art and business of filmmaking than might immediately meet the eye, culminating in a wonderful cameo by Josh Kasselman as a Roger Corman-like producer, all ready to snap up stock footage for another cut and paste job. The dialogue is as sparkling a highlight as we've come to expect, but not only through choice of words. Sure, Logan's glorious opening lines to potential backers are, 'So, we start on the fourth movie, OK?' but Lauren Henschen's outrageous Georgia peach accent for Princess Leia never ceases to make me laugh, even on my tenth time through. Logan gets the truest line in 'I guess the dialogue's always been bad,' but James Hoenscheidt gets a gem in the reworked cantina scene as Han Solo arguing with Greedo.

While Logan Must Make Star Wars is surely just a scratch on the surface of the Star Wars universe, a five minute short film to compare to the two seasons of Voyage Trekkers making affectionate fun of Star Trek, it crams a surprising amount of story arcs into such a brief running time. We start with a big fall with the death of George Lucas (for the time, folks; this is 1974, remember, when he was about to become great), but there's a big rise, another fall, a second rise and eventually a great finish. That's as many story arcs as the entire Star Wars trilogy. I'd love to see more of this sort of material from Nathan Blackwell, but it's hardly his focus right now with the long awaited Voyage Trekkers feature in pre-production. Maybe there will be another 48 hour film challenge that falls into a free timeslot so the Squishy Studios crew can turn this into a trilogy. After all, by the end of this short film, Logan may have made Star Wars, but he hasn't followed up with The Empire Strikes Back yet. At least he can hire another director to do that, right?

Logan Must Make Star Wars is available to watch for free on Vimeo and YouTube (the latter is longer):

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