Film Review: “The Dark Resurgence”

“The Dark Resurgence” brings a galaxy far, far away to a screen here on Earth.

It’s a small event, but you certainly know why you’re there. The moment they step into the lobby of Price Center Theater, attendees are greeted by none other than Darth Vader himself and one of his loyal Stormtroopers — a terrifying sight for any galactic rebel, but none of the filmgoers seem too perturbed. Inside the theater is the April 10 premiere of “The Dark Resurgence,” a “Star Wars” fan film directed (and written, produced, and edited, among an entire host of other filmmaking duties) by UC San Diego student Michael McCumber.

“The Dark Resurgence” opens much like any other “Star Wars” film — the familiar phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” is almost comforting. The music cues are also identifiably “Star Wars”, using many of the same scores from the film, but any other borrowing from the franchise stops there. The characters are all McCumber’s originals, now brought to life in a “Star Wars” story of their own, and the storyline takes place in the undocumented interim between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.”

The plot is thus: After the fall of the Galactic Empire, another group of Sith rises up to fill the opening the Empire left. One Sith — our story’s villain — has been exiled to a strange planet where he is confronted by a rebel group and a powerful Jedi, and some pretty spectacular fight scenes abound. The fighting was choreographed by McCumber, who filmed himself acting out lightsaber battles with sticks and, along with one of the film’s actors, adjusted the choreography from there.

The Sith Lord is the stand-out performance — maybe the voice changer embedded in his mask gives him an advantage, but he easily captures the terrifyingly confident cool that makes the galaxy’s greatest villains so memorable. The special effects are impressive too, with space weaponry and an opening shot of some galactic ships looking like they could have come straight out of one of the canonical films.

The process of filmmaking was demanding, though. During the Q&A after the showing, one filmgoer asked the cast what the process’s greatest challenge was, only to be greeted with a resounding chorus of “climbing up the mountain.” “The Dark Resurgence” was filmed on nearby Mount Laguna, so each day of filming involved hauling everything from camera equipment to stormtrooper costumes up and down the slope. Not to mention, much of the filming had to be completely redone after one of the lead actors dropped out of the project entirely. By McCumber’s estimation, filming the 15-minute project took about a year.

“Did you expect it to take that long?” the UCSD Guardian asked when given the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss the film.

He just laughed. “No, I did not.”

Though this is McCumber’s first major project, filmmaking is far from new to him. He began with small projects in high school, eventually working up to something longer when inspiration struck. “It was when ‘The Force Awakens’ was coming out,” he said. “I’ve always liked ‘Star Wars,’ so one day I just decided that I wanted to do it, and I just went out and did it.” There was a big learning curve, he admitted, to starting a project with people he hadn’t worked with before and to figure out the intricacies of short filmmaking, but, he said, “I think that’s one of the biggest rewards.”

Why “Star Wars?” Well, there’s certainly a fair amount of passion involved; McCumber has his opinions on all eras of the franchise — from his interest in the Sith to his appreciation of the Old Republic to his disappointment in “The Last Jedi” — but there was definitely a strategy to his choice as well.

“Typically, when it comes to doing your own projects when you’re unknown,” McCumber said, “it’s hard to get people to invest in something when they’ve never seen you prove yourself and what you can do. But if you do a fan film for a known franchise, they’ll watch it because they like the franchise, but you can also show that you know what to do and you can bring people together to show them what you can do with things that aren’t ‘Star Wars.’”

“So you lure them in with ‘Star Wars?’”

He nodded good-naturedly. “You lure them in with ‘Star Wars.’”

To be released on YouTube on May 4 (appropriately, “Star Wars” Day) on McCumber’s channel “Mike The Marine,” “The Dark Resurgence” is a well-crafted, entertaining look into what other stories may have occurred in that galaxy far, far away. In a franchise growing increasingly more complex and controversial, sometimes it’s enough to just fight some Sith Lords.

Directed by: Michael McCumber
Release Date: May 4, 2018
Rated: B+