By the fans, for the fans

By Klax Zlubzecon

Translated by George Hyde

Picking the best film of 2015 at this point is probably way on the side of easy. It’s post-Oscar season, but the summer blockbuster season is still ahead of us, so for major movie studios, this is the time of year to dump movies that they know won’t do too well. At best, this time of year might give us a sleeper hit like “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” or “The Lego Movie.” At worst, though, we get comedies starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, or thrillers starring Liam Neeson or Will Smith.

But at this point, I do have an early favorite. You can check it out by scanning that QR code down there.


Yes, it’s a seven-minute animated short based on “Star Wars.” It’s done in the style of an old school 1980s anime series. There is zero dialogue. And yet, it’s arguably the best “Star Wars” story since “Knights of the Old Republic.”

Now, perhaps I’m biased. George and I are huge “Star Wars” fans. George downloaded that “Despecialized Edition” fan edit that basically remasters the original, theatrical cuts in HD, because screw the special editions. And of course, seeing as the animated short is basically a piece of glorified propaganda for the Galactic Empire, I can’t help but admire the quality of its production. This was made by one guy, and yet it’s so much cooler than anything the Slug Empire has conjured up!

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If Disney’s smart, they’ll get permission from the guy to screen this in front of “The Force Awakens” later this year. It’s that good.

And this film isn’t alone. The next best film so far is “POWER/RANGERS,” another short fan film on YouTube that gives “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” the gritty reboot treatment. It was another small, independent production, and yet, if you had told me that it was a trailer for a new “Power Rangers” movie later this year, I would have totally believed you, because the special effects are as top-notch as top-notch gets for summer blockbusters. And that’s not to mention the big-name stars backing the project up, or the exaggerated, cheesy nature of the whole thing.

Fans did that! These were average Joes that decided to take up the cameras, learn Blender and After Effects, and make something awesome. And while the 2015 film lineup has failed to impress so far, the “Star Wars” animated short has managed to wrangle up over 2 million views on YouTube, and “POWER/RANGERS” has wrangled up 14 million. 14 million views! That’s almost three times as many tickets as the film version of “Insurgent’!

One way to theorize the popularity of the two shorts is storytelling quality. Both shorts tell concise stories. Well, except for “POWER/RANGERS,” which assumes the viewer has some experience with the old TV show. And having a lackluster story didn’t keep James Cameron’s “Avatar” from bringing home big bucks. So maybe it’s something else.

Marketing, maybe? Wait, no. The “Star Wars” short had pretty much zero advertising except for word of mouth. The same is the case for “POWER/RANGERS.”

Wait! That’s it! Word of mouth!

In today’s viral marketplace, it’s word of mouth that makes or breaks a movie. Or anything, for that matter. The reason “Grand Theft Auto IV” continues to sell well on Steam almost seven years after its debut is because people see crazy mods on YouTube and want to try them out. And going back to what I said in an earlier column about the Streisand Effect, the owners of the “Power Rangers” franchise have been trying to shut down the fan film for a while now. So I guess that just adds more views, right?

This is a phenomenon that humans have yet to cope with. For the longest time, the only way to get your product out there was with traditional advertising techniques, and only a few works would end up becoming sleeper hits or cult classics. But now, all a work has to do is gain enough attention on Twitter or Facebook, and bam! Popularity just keeps coming in, like a circular motion machine of pop culture.

To be fair, though, that’s not all a work has to do. In order to catch on in the first place, it has to have something that turns heads; be it the painstakingly rotoscoped animation of the “Star Wars” short, or the crazy CGI effects of “POWER/RANGERS.” Traditional media is struggling to keep up, while YouTube continues to pump out hit after hit. It’s an era where anyone can be a star, and we’re still just getting used to it.

It’s definitely something to keep in mind for the Slug propaganda machine. I mean, what could be more viral than an alien invasion? People will totally dig it.