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Star Wars fan film humanizes the Stormtroopers

The heartbreaking Star Wars fan film "Jakku: First Wave" goes behind the helmets as three Stormtroopers prepare to join a hopeless battle.

Stormtroopers are usually there to look menacing, attack our Star Wars heroes and then keel over in battle. It's easy to forget there are people underneath that shiny white battle armor. Director and screenwriter Benjamin Eck brings those hidden lives into perspective with his "Jakku: First Wave" fan film. Eck posted the video to YouTube earlier this week.

Three Stormtroopers stand by the door of their troop transport, helmets off, and talk about why they joined up in the first place.

The short takes place during the first-wave assault at the Battle of Jakku. Jakku is home to "The Force Awakens" protagonist Rey. You might recall the wreckage of starships scattered around the desert planet in the 2015 movie.

"Jakku: First Wave" isn't about action. It isn't about lightsaber fights or space explosions. It's about three soldiers revealing their pasts and how they came to be standing there at that moment. As viewers, we already know their ultimate fates, but that foresight just makes the exchange more poignant. It's a beautiful example of how the power of characters can trump the glitter of special effects.

Star Wars fans have a rich Jedi tradition of making their own short films and trailers. In May, YouTube user Corridor Digital released a fan film shot with drones and complete with special effects and iconic music. And just last month, fan Rich Williamson assembled "Kenobi: A Star Wars Story," a fake film trailer imagining what a standalone movie delving into Ben Kenobi's past might look like.

Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed Thursday that a new standalone Star Wars film will come out in 2020, meaning there'll be a new film released every year from 2016 until then.

First published September 23, 8:58 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:18 p.m.: Adds information on other recent Star Wars fan films.