Prelude to Axanar
I have always been a huge advocate of fan-made short films. I love the fact that non-industry people take something and make it great. Unfortunately, while I find that these films are usually a lot more creative and take much more risk, they are also understandably very low budget. The norm for a low budget film will often include bad green screen effects and on top of horrendous acting. So you can imagine my surprise when I found one of these films that was not only extremely well written, but the acting and visual effects were on par with mainstream studios!
I am talking about Prelude to Axanar.
The movie was entertaining because it did the other aspects right as well: the plot, writing, performances and visual effects so spot on that you can’t help but enjoy it.
The structure is a documentary style short film chronicling ‘The Four Years War’ between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It is impossible for any Star Trek fan to take a look at that premise and not squee in absolute delight. The film mimics famous documentaries by using an interview style with the cast and including cut scenes of the battles and ships.
The mark of a good movie is not if you enjoy it, but if it makes you care about the story it is telling. The story engages you throughout by adding just enough action, intrigue and curiosity. By the end of Axanar, I cared about Garth, I cared about the struggle of the federation, and I even cared about the Klingons.
The documentary chronicles ‘The Four Years War’. It starts with the beginning of the war and ends on a very enticing cliff hanger. You go through several different interviews from Captain Garth to Admiral Ramirez. It follows the disparity of the federation, the need to build better ships, and how the federation slowly overcame an adversary that had them outmatched and outgunned.
The film does its best to mimic an actual documentary, all the way down to the endorsements in front such as “brought to you by…” A fun little touch was using ‘Memory Alpha’ as a source. Trekkies will recognize that as the well known Wiki for getting information on all things Star Trek.
It is a wonderfully engineered story.
The writing is excellent, creating very believable characters. The voiceover is wonderful, continuing the documentary vibe. The story and lay out of the Four Years War is very convincing culminating in a solid premise.
The only thing that I would begrudge the writers of Prelude to Axanar is their lack of creativity. Fan films tend to use the source material of larger entities then add their own spice. This can be seen in other fan films such as Star Trek: Renegades. However, unlike their contemporaries, the writers of Axanar rely on the source material far too much. They utilize too much of the original work, to the point that it can feel like plagiarism.
As of the writing of this review, there is a lawsuit from CBS/Paramount pending against Axanar. I can definitely understand how they would feel that Axanar has gone too far into using the original source material.
One of the biggest issues with fan films is that you do not have real actors – those individuals that don’t act for a living, and you can tell. The performances in this short film are outstanding continuing to bring humanity and realness to each one. There was not a single actor that did not do exceptionally well. Alec Peters as Captain Garth, for example, absolutely knocks it out of the park.
It is the role of music to enhance the emotion of the viewer. It helps set the tone and push the narrative. That’s why you don’t often hear BackStreet Boys in a horror film or eerie music in a light hearted comedy. The music, both well timed and well constructed, is used in an outstanding manner – it made me feel distress when the Federation was losing, and determination when they were starting to push back.
I was nearly tempted to simply leave it at that for this category. There is not a single fan film that I can think of, across any genre, that does visual effects better than Prelude to Axanar. The company that produced this film denotes their work as professionally done, and it shows. I can honestly not see a difference in the effects used this film and upcoming movies like Star Trek: Beyond.
If not already apparent, I am a huge fan of this film. The documentary style used to tell the story, the acting, the visual effects – everything is done immaculately. I know that there is currently a law suit going on and instead of following through with that, CBS/Paramount hire should this company to write stories for them. This is one of the best short films that I have ever watched and I really can not wait to see what they do with it – if given the chance.