Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I’m currently reading the upcoming hardcover release, THE MAKING OF STAR WARS, and before you think you know everything the book might contain... you don’t. I’ll be reviewing it soon, but it’s the single best source I’ve ever read for the real story of how George Lucas’s seminal SF film came together. The influence of that film is still obviously felt throughout fandom, and we’ve got a review here for a documentary about some fans who live and breathe it every day. Check this out:
Heart of an Empire Directed/Produced by Jay Thompson Geek- Dork- Nerd- -Humanitarian? Elvis is wielding a Light Saber? WTF? Go to any Sci-Fi convention and you'll see them proudly wearing the garb of their favorite "Star Wars" character. Darth Vader, Storm Troopers, Yoda, you name it and someone has fashioned a costume to represent a character from this much beloved sub-culture. PVC pipe, burlap, chewing gum, a little imagination, and they end up with wearable projects that would make MacGyver proud. However, there's a special group of plastic wearing Star Wars-philes out there that are a little different from the rest. The 501st, ever heard of them? You will, after seeing "heart of an empire". Look up the movie site to get a feel for what I'm talking about. At first glance, this movie appears to follow in the foot steps of "Trekkies", but it doesn't, not by a long shot. The 3,400 members in well over 20 countries (at last count) that belong to elite group of "groupies" have expanded there love for a movie franchise into something much more. "heart of an empire" successfully turns the stigma placed on Sci-Fi conventioneers inside out and shows you the sensitive and sometimes damaged side of a community hiding inside that tough armor. You are taken along on the evolution of a group of movie geeks that turn into a truly volunteer and charitable organization. You also see none to subtle examples of how the media demeans and general misunderstands what this group does. I have to admit, I used to be one of those people. Now, I am not going to give away any spoilers that would ruin the experience for you. Can you give away spoilers in a Documentary? Suffice it to say this movie has everything. A Hero (Albin), an Antagonist (Scott), Big Brother (George Lucas), lots of laughs, even more tears, and finally a Light Saber wielding Elvis round out this really unique documentary. A Light Saber wielding Elvis for cripes sake! Jay Thompson has done a wonderful job taking a mountain of material and making a pretty tight movie. Jay wanted to tell the story of the 501 st in a 15 minute short after his love and collection of movie props got him involved with the group. (Are you listening Harry?) The end result is a 110 minute feature that took five years to complete and has all makings of a real tear-jerker drama. Albin, the founder of the organization goes through enough highs and lows in his life and with the group to wither a lesser man. He has members of the group that voice a strong opinion about how they are run and all the rules placed on them. Jay does a good job of mentioning George Lucas, Lucas Films, Lucas Arts, etc. as being watchful of the group, but you aren't sure if Lucas is behind all there rules and regulations. Meanwhile, factions of the group are appearing at IMAX screenings, sporting events, (watch the coin toss), running in the NYC Marathon (the EP of the movie), and finally making visits to sick and often terminal kids in hospitals. Tears, tears, and more tears. This movie will make you feel like a lumberjack that just wiped his ass with a quarter cut piece of knotty pine. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I don't know how Neill Cumpston makes it look so easy. Seriously, this movie really digs at the old heart strings and not in a forced way. There are three kids that they focus on; Sean, Christian, and Katie. Again, I don't want to give too much away, but there are some real heartbreaking things that unfold about the kids, their families, and the 501 st. If you don't get choked up at least once or twice in during the film, you're dead inside. Dead, I tell you. The only way I stopped the water works was by punching my self in the temple repeatedly. I wouldn't advise this due to the fact that the screen gets a little blurry after a while. At times the movie pacing makes you feel like you are absorbing too much of the material and then other parts seem to drag a little. You have to give Jay the benefit of the doubt when you realize that he has a full time "corporate" job. In the Q&A after the movie, Jay mentioned this and then you realize that he alludes to this fact in the film that all these people in the 501 st have "real" jobs first and "putting on plastic" is secondary. Jay did mention that Lucas won't allow the 501st to file to become a 501 organization. This means they become a charitable organization that can supply salaries, benefits and all the trappings of a "real" job. Yes, it drips of irony. They give free publicity everywhere they go, yet they aren't allowed any coverage in case they get hurt doing an event. Currently Jay and the rest of his crew are working out possible Distribution Rights, so he wouldn't really comment when this would hit wide media release. He is working on some other projects and hopes to start filming his second work soon. If you happen to be anywhere near a screening of this, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It has a lot of layers, and like an onion, the more you peel back the more you will fight back the urge to cry. If you use this I would be proud if you post it under my AICN talkback name, Turd Furgusen.