Madison, WI
April 12, 2007
Story and Photos by Chris Spice (Darth Spice)


For several months we’ve taken the time to view a few of the latest Star Wars fan films. The creativity of Star Wars fans knows no boundary and the film Heart of the Empire most definitely captures that magic. There are many Star Wars fans that have heard, but do not know the incredible lengths the men and women of the 501st Legion put into the hobby of costuming. We get a good look at the founder of the Legion, Albin Johnson. To hear first hand some of the trials he went through to put the group on the map was more than interesting. From trials with the big dogs at Lucasfilm Ltd. to the great pains he endured in his life personally over the last ten plus years was nothing short of heart wrenching.

There are many lessons to be learned from this film. One man most definitely make a difference, and it’s a lot more than dressing up like a bunch of Star Wars bad guys. The film did a great job of capturing the charity work the 501st takes part in at local children’s hospitals. This is where the film was heavily focused and I think fans will feel somewhat sad, as it is not all about conventions, parades and slapping high-fives. The desire to bring joy and help someone who is in a perilous situation, to escape that reality for a few hours is more rewarding than anything you might ever do in your life. One of the more interesting quotes in the film was “You haven’t seen life until you’ve seen it from inside of a helmet.” Based on my own personal experience with the Legion over the past two years, nothing could be further from the truth. This film is somewhat vague on timeline and I do think it provides a more in-depth look at the beginnings of the Legion.

We arrived at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison late afternoon yesterday and the Midwest Garrison was treated to a private screening of the film. Afterwards the group suited up in armor to show the crowd of literally hundreds what they were about to see. We took time to have Lord Vader lead us throughout the campus grounds and assisted in driving more bodies towards the 9:30 p.m. screening. There were quite a few members of the ground forces on hand and overall it was a great time. I had a chance to speak briefly to Jay Thompson about the film, who informed me he was just another fan, only this one happened to sell off his entire collection to finance the film. I know being the father of a child with special needs, I have to say it was difficult for me to watch the hardship of two small kids named Katie and Christian go through and give the ultimate sacrifice. The film does a wonderful job of showing how the group evolved from a simple website to a worldwide organization that carries the nickname “Vader’s Fist.” For this reason alone it is worth the viewing, although I will say remember to pack a few Puffs in your field pack!

To see the photo gallery containing 37 photos click here.