In the wide supply of fanfilms about Stormtroopers, TK-436 sets itself apart with unique filmography. Many shots feel like adaptations of comic-book pages, only lacking thought and text bubbles. This style is enhanced by some sub-par special effects and many shots that play with focus, which actually serve it quite well. The story is also well-inspired, and manages to capture my attention.
The opening sequence shows a young couple, and the voice-over tells us: "As a cadet, the first thing you learn is forget." The tone for this poetic story is immediately set with this rhyme, dramatic music and complementary editing. The quick shots of battle alternating with his memories of his girlfriend show his struggle to really embrace that teaching.
"Some things are unforgettable, a promise is one of them." Before showing us that promise, we get some other moments that leave memorable imprints. Walking through debris on a battlefield, and an awe-inspiring view of two AT-ATs standing behind a squadron of parked TIE-fighters. Then a back-flash from before the war. He wants to join the Empire, but his girlfriend doesn't trust them. A promotional Imperial holovid inspires him to want to serve, to protect his people and especially his girlfriend, and perhaps most of all becoming a hero.
The first shot of a memory that shaped him throughout his career delivers a strong image of the horrors of war that he could not have imagined. But even more powerful is the following scene of a fire-trooper burning two civilians that have to serve as an example. Right before going into battle he reminds himself that enduring these traumas are his sacrifice, his burden to bear in order to keep his promise. I can imagine this scene will hit very close to home for any soldier.
The next scene is perfectly accompanied by a crescendo as he gets blown up. Luckily for him Stormtrooper armor gives some protection against that, as opposed to blasterfire, and he´s only knocked out. When he regains consciousness, the promise to his girlfriend gives him strength to go on. He narrowly avoids being shot by an X-wing and drops down from a cliff, where he meets a sniper who just lost his comrade spotter.
The scouting drone and its connection to the HUD in his helmet is really cool. Although I would not personally have chosen for the glowing white eyes, it makes it really clear how it works. I had this feeling with a couple of previous shots already, but the following scenes really seem like comic-book pages to me. And the special effects work because of that. I do wonder if this was intentional, but in the end that doesn't really matter.
And then the twist. The HUD from the drone shows him that the attacker is his girlfriend, so he tackles the sniper. Then he walks up to her, and he takes off his mask to show her who he is. Their reunion is short-lived though, and she dies in his arms. The chemistry between the two lovers who find themselves on opposing sides makes this a powerful moment. What makes the film even more powerful is her funeral, where instead of realizing he's on the wrong side, TK-436 blames the rebels instead of her. The indoctrinated Stormtrooper finds freedom in her death, to be the number that the Empire made him. "My skin is my armor. My face is my helmet. My name is my number." A very poetic end to this story. I also really like how this ties in with Legion: the Stormtrooper Chronicles, while being made by completely different people.
Review by: Joel "Mith" Storms