It looks like Star Wars, it feels like Star Wars, but officially it’s not Star Wars.
Birth of a Monster is a Star Wars fan film written by Ian Eskander and directed by Tim Martin. The film is in the vein of the Star Wars Story narrative created by Disney to tell the history of a galaxy far, far away outside of the Skywalker triumvirate of trilogies.
One of the first things you’ll notice watching the approximately 20-minute short is that the beautiful cinematography and recycled universe feel like they were compiled with unused footage from George Lucas’ original trilogy (OT) films. The filming environments look otherworldly and the characters have that worn and oppressed appearance seen in Lucas’s OT. While the acting isn’t Oscar-worthy, it’s on par with what you’d expect from a cinematically released Star Wars film, so it’s fitting.
I found the story of Birth of a Monster refreshing because it reminded me of the classic fantasy / sci-fi movies of the ’70s and ’80s where blockbuster special effects were in their infancy and a little bit of imagination went a long way. I’d equate it to the way Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was captivating because the technical glitches that plagued the animatronic shark meant we didn’t see Jaws until closer to the end of the film, making for a more dramatic reveal. Today, that type of viewer interpretation has been eroded by computer-generated visual effects, which while stunning when done right, can force an almost linear narrative.
What further makes Birth of a Monster compelling as a Star Wars fan-film (and I’d argue one of the best Star Wars fan films ever made) is how it embraces existing characters and locations to tell its story. The events in Birth of a Monster feel like they could take place just off the screen from a scene in any of Lucas’ OT movies and the story fits nicely into the existing universe. The fan film isn’t trying to fill in the gaps in the timeline of a main character like Darth Vader, Boba Fett or Han Solo, recreate a battle between the Rebellion and Empire on a fan-film budget, and it isn’t shot on a landscape that looks like the forest area near my local park. Birth of a Monster exudes Star Wars in its purest sense.
In an era where Star Wars has run off the rails as Disney tries to cobble together a trilogy disjointed by differing visions from multiple directors, Birth of a Monster should serve as a blueprint on how to tell a classic Star Wars tale. The fan-film is serial-like in nature, which is the format that inspired George Lucas’ original vision for Star Wars, and draws upon Lucas’ extensive library of existing characters. I, for one, would prefer Disney leave the lore of Han Solo, the mystery of Yoda’s origin and the time Darth Vader spends between movies to the imagination. Instead re-engage core fans who feel ostracized by the creative direction of the franchise with a web series (on an all-access network like YouTube) based on the scum and villainy of the Mos Eisley cantina, the aliens in Jabba’s court or even the Ugnaughts on Cloud City. Inspire fans to share their passion for Star Wars with others, again, by harkening back to the franchise’s roots, as Birth of a Monster has.