The Hunt for Gollum (2009)

J. R. R. Tolkien spent almost an entire lifetime world-building, constructing languages and writing stories, most of them set in his fictional world Middle-earth. Yet very little of what he wrote was published during his lifetime. Most of it was for his own enjoyment. And even though many texts have been published posthumously, none have had even a fraction of the impact of his most famous work, The Lord of the Rings. So it is perhaps not to wonder that fans have taken to writing fan-fic – and making fan films – in order to satiate their need for ever more LotR stuff. One of the better fan films is The Hunt for Gollum.

Adrian Webster as Aragorn in The Hunt for Gollum (2009)

The Hunt for Gollum fills in one of the blank spots from the books and films in the LotR series. It tells the story of how Gollum was caught when Gandalf needed information about the nature and whereabouts of the One Ring. There is next to no information about this fascinating subplot in the original material, so the film makers had a great amount of freedom to make up their own story.

Aragorn is the protagonist and the hero here, and some other characters from the film trilogy also make appearances (including a computer-generated Gollum, of course). The actors do a decent job for the most part, and especially Adrian Webster manages to hold up the central role of Aragorn surprisingly well.

The make-up and costumes are really good, too. Well, at least so long as the camera stays at a distance. They should have avoided some of the close-ups, which reveal a bit too much of the budget. Even so, the orcs in particular look impressive for a film like this. The fight scenes do look a bit amateurish and awkward, though not disturbingly so. And, frankly, the fight scenes in the “real” LotR films are not entirely problem free either.

I am sometimes amazed when I look at what amateurs can achieve with next to no budget, but in this case it is perhaps not quite as amazing as it may seem at first. Director Chris Bouchard had already been a professional in the movie business for years (working with music and visual effects) when he took on The Hunt for Gollum. That is not to say that his achievement was not a good one, and indeed, it has helped to propel him into a career as a professional film director.

This film is best enjoyed because it is fun. Not only is there a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour inserted here and there, but you can also tell that the crew had a great time while they were making this little piece, and that feeling rubs off on the finished film. Even so, you have no reason to watch this unless you are a fan of Peter Jackson’s LotR movies. Just like most fan productions, this one needs the support of the original works, and does not really hold up as a self-contained production.

Gollum in The Hunt for Gollum (2009)

The Hunt for Gollum
Download link
Year: 2009
Running time: 38 min
Director: Chris Bouchard
Stars: Adrian Webster
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Low (644×290)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: MPEG4 (318 M)

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The Star Destroyer Potjomkin (2005)

For the second time in the life of this blog, it is time for Short Film Month. The reason why I want to devote an entire month’s output only to short film is that I normally only write about feature-length films, or those that are slightly shorter, and yet there is so much short film on the Internet Archive that deserves to be highlighted. This time, I will begin with the brick film The Star Destroyer Potjomkin.

Lego in the brick film The Star Destroyer Potjomkin / The Star Destroyer Potemkin (2005)

Brick film is a genre which I must admit I know very little about. Yet, on a blog about the Internet Archive it deserves to be mentioned, because there is an entire collection of hundreds of these films. The basic idea is that you use Lego bricks for your sets, props and characters. Then you animate the film, one frame at a time. Most are made by dedicated amateurs, and most are short, typically from just a minute or two up to a quarter of an hour. The occasional exception, such as The Han Solo Affair, is completely professionally made, and more in the nature of a Lego commercial.

The Star Destroyer Potjomkin is almost exactly an hour shorter than the version of Battleship Potemkin that I reviewed last week. The title, along with the tag-line “Star Wars meets Eisenstein meets Lego”, more or less says it all. The plot is condensed, but more or less intact. The film often balances on a fine edge between parody and homage.

If, like me, you think that The Star Destroyer Potjomkin is a good film and you want more of same, be aware that not all brick films are as good as this one. There are some shining examples of how this medium can be used to make good film, and then there are some really bad pieces, and most fall somewhere in between. I suggest you browse the above-mentioned collection and look carefully at the reviews. They will usually give you a pretty good idea of what you will experience, even though Internet Archive reviews in general tend to be a bit overrating.

This film is best enjoyed after you have already seen the original Battleship Potemkin, and the sooner after the better. The film’s greatest strength is its many elegant references to the original, especially in angles and image composition.

Lego in the brick film The Star Destroyer Potjomkin / The Star Destroyer Potemkin (2005)

The Star Destroyer Potjomkin
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Year: 2005
Running time: 11 min
Director: Karsten Köhler
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (720×576)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Quicktime (165 M)

Reign of the Fallen (2005)

“Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away … a jedi master had two young and ambitious pupils.” That could have been the beginning of the Star Wars fan film Reign of the Fallen, except that this film has a bit more class and style than that.

In a world where too much is governed by greed and financial power, it is in equal parts fascinating and invigorating that a concept such as fan film is allowed to thrive, or at least to live. Fan film is like fan fiction, only on the screen. But while fan fiction requires nothing but a devoted mind and a computer (or pen and paper, for that matter), a fan film by necessity needs at least a skeleton staff, a lot of time for pre-production, shooting and editing, and usually also some fairly expensive equipment. In theory, of course, a fan film needs be no more sophisticated than Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge (1936), but a lot more is required if it wants to be taken seriously.

The Star Wars fan film Reign of the Fallen (2005)

Even the best fan films are often amateurish in many ways. The actors are usually not very good, and special effects can sometimes look comically bad. Of course, this is part of the charm: The film makers actually manage to complete a film of considerable length in spite of their limitations, and the results can be endearing; even enjoyable.

Reign of the Fallen is no exception in this regard. However, unlike many other fan films, it does not suffer from its amateurish aspects to any greater extent, because it places very little emphasis on acting and special effects anyway. Here, the main focuses are the script and the photo. And both are of high quality, better than some professional films. In fact, the film is extremely beautiful at times. Also, the music is excellent.

Reign of the Fallen is set on the distant planet Prias. The Sith wish to increase their influence, but there is a way to stop them, if only one of the Jedi master’s pupils can find an ancient artefact and use it against the Sith. Such is the basic plot, but there is a lot more depth to it once the story is set in motion.

This film is best enjoyed by true geeks. Even in spite of its qualities, it is doubtful if it holds enough to be interesting in itself, without the scope of the entire Star Wars phenomenon to augment it. If you are a Star Wars geek (you know you are), watch it on May the fourth, Star Wars Day.

Sith warriors in Reign of the Fallen (2005)

Reign of the Fallen
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Year: 2005
Running time: 55 min
Director: David McLeavy
Stars: Jason Updike, Carlos Acuña
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Low (640×270)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: Quicktime (271 M)