Days Past – A Star Wars Film is a marvel.

To create a film that stands on its own is hard. To create one that lives in somebody else’s universe can save you work in some ways, but comes with its own steep demands. Failure to match the quality of the original material can distract from the film so much that the project fails as well – but with careful attention to mood and setting, story and characterization, a fan film can recreate the atmosphere of the milieu that inspired it and make us instantly believe.

So it is with Days Past – A Star Wars Film.  In this one, a desert rat, and former Captain of the Imperial Fleet named Valera has carved out a life for herself in the galaxy’s outer rim.  But when an old student returns, she is thrust back into the life she left behind.

The writer / director Aaron Kunkel has an unusually artful eye for staging, lighting, and pacing. Attention to detail creates the solid grounding in the Star Wars universe the film requires. The characters, Shirley Jordan as Captain Valera and Liam Cronin as Ensign (sorry, Lieutenant)  Daws, are brilliant in their roles, and the story exposes the characters’ souls in a complex and unexpectedly deep dive into the principles of right and honor.

Rounding out the cast, playing the Rebels and Storm Troopers are Angela Henderson, Justin Vasquez, Kate Compton, Ryan Howard and Jacob Glenn Aquino.

We’ve written about lots of Star Wars fan films before this one, so an additional note here is warranted: it is extremely, vanishingly rare that a Star Wars fan film will contain an original creature in it as a practical effect, and this film opens with one. It’s the ragnok, about the size of a cat, and Kate Compton (who also served as the film’s production designer) created the puppet, and she and Brad Clapper served as its puppeteers. There’s a reason it’s rare. This is master’s level work, and that the director chose to trust the opening shot of the film to a closeup of it is not only an homage to the practical creature effects used in the theatrical Star Wars films themselves, it is a tour de force demonstration of just how strong that work is.

All taken together, Runkle and his team have delivered a soaring achievement in cinema, and there is a bright future ahead for everyone involved.

May the Force be with all of them.

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