Written & directed by Micheal Fitzgerald and produced by Cork Racing, Storm Troopers: Siege is a Star Wars fan film set around the events of Rogue One and Andor. Starring Carolyn Bracken, Pius McGrath, Peter Cosgrove and others, the film sees an Imperial Base Station being besieged by battleship attacks, causing PTSD within the ranks of the defenders.
Star Wars has fascinated generations upon generations and thus, the love for the franchise has spawned innumerable fan films and tributes. However, what makes Storm Troopers different is the sheer authenticity at display here. The film is so well made, both thematically and otherwise, that it could go toe to toe with official Star Wars media. From the highly accurate costumes to detailed ships, extreme care has been taken here to pay tribute to what is possibly the greatest franchise of all time.
First, let’s start with the writing. Gone are the cheesy dialogue and blurted exposition that mars most Star Wars productions. Fitzgerald instead chooses to ramp up both character development and situational tensions with dialogue that actually makes sense in the circumstances. Equally impressive is Fitzgerald’s direction as it both plays homage to classic Star Wars whilst maintaining a sense of creative originality. The creative choices in both narrative and script make the story better and more authentic. So much story is packed into this 23-minute short that it whizzes by in a flash, leaving you wanting more. This is a testament to the fantastic pacing of the story as Fitzgerald perfectly balances action with drama to keep the audience engrossed.
In regard to the acting, it is good but could be better. Pius McGrath as Captain of the Marauder is a commanding presence who lurks over the entire story. While not as impressive as some of the more famous villains in the franchise, he nevertheless manages to hold his own and both his demeanour and villainy make the story better. Peter Cosgrove as Stalig and Carolyn Bracken as Lieutenant Iona are also impressive. All in all, the cast settles into their respective roles nicely and everyone from the Captain to infantry Storm Troopers do well with the material they are given.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the entire production is the set design. Made with less than one hundredth the budget of a Disney Star Wars production, this production looks just as good in most aspects. While obviously there is no comparison to the real Star Wars media out there when it comes to glitzy CGI, there is something about the sets, the costumes and the locations that screams both passion and authenticity. Fitzgerald is a maestro in this regard, taking inspiration from the sets of Rogue One and Andor to tell a gritty story. What is mindblowing is that this film was actually shot both in a dormant volcano and underwater. The real sets, as opposed to green screens, give a realistic look to the film, ensuring that it looks better than most other fan films out there.
Equally impressive are the visual effects of the production as well. The miniature models used for ships look better than most CGI I have come across; the way their scale is played up and light bounces off of them is fascinating to look at and behold. The Imperial Tie Fighters also look as menacingly evil as they come in for their bombing runs. The lighting is fantastic as well, polishing scenes both outdoors and in the dark. The way the AT-AT walker emerges from the water to take on a cruiser is simply brilliant; it is moments like these peppered throughout that make the film what it is. Technically, Storm Troopers never falters and more than lives up to its potential.
Another thing that Fitzgerald succeeds in is focusing the story on the side characters of the franchise. The way he humanises the Imperial troopers is commendable. While most iterations of Star Wars have disproportionately focused on the Jedi and the Seth, Fitzgerald chooses to go a different route. By framing the story around the foot soldiers, he succeeds in capturing something different. Shedding light on characters most ignored in the lore enables the audiences to empathise with them. Stormtroopers are supposed to be the elite shock troops of the Empire and to see them nerfed down to buffoons with bad aim in Star Wars films was painful to see.
Thankfully, Fitzgerald’s film does this army justice as we see that underneath that signature white helmet, the troopers are human with emotions, fears and aspirations just like the rest of us.
For a fan made production, StormTroopers is fantastic. Made with love, care, authenticity and deep respect for the source material, this 23 minute short is a great adventure. This short not only proves that fans are the best judge when it comes to legacy franchises, but it also shows how passion and dedication can stretch a shoestring budget into something great.