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Star Wars never went as hard as this X-wing-inspired fan film

At nearly an hour long, Wingman tells a compelling story of space combat

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron movie has apparently taken a dive, but that hasn’t stopped filmmaker Michael Koepff from bringing Wingman: An X-Wing Story to life. The action-packed film, screening free on YouTube, takes place entirely inside nimble starfighter cockpits. And for 50 solid minutes, it goes harder than any Star Wars fan film I’ve ever seen.

Wingman tells the story of a complex raid by rebel forces against an Imperial transport. In the opening scenes, a group of X-wings and Y-wings lie in wait for a passing convoy. They ambush it, take the Imperial shuttle down with ion cannons, then send in a boarding party to claim the officer on board. It’s a complex, dangerous mission, but the composition of the film makes it easy to understand, telling the story of an extended battle sequence that easily tracks for viewers.

Good dogfighting sequences are hard to film, mainly because the action is difficult to explain to the actors sitting under the hot lights in full costume. Koepff and his team do an incredible job of integrating the basics, like maintaining proper eyelines and getting actors to appropriately shift their weight into a turn. They extend that skillset to more advanced elements, like lighting and CGI effects. But then they go even further, adding in stylistic flourishes, including clever cuts and editing techniques that very clearly nod to the original trilogy.

What really caught my eye is just how much space Wingman makes inside its cockpits. The camera seems to turn ever so slightly farther than usual, revealing new and interesting angles never seen in any of the existing Star Wars films. The attention to detail goes right down to the rarely seen X-wing control stick, which looks more like the remote for an RC car than a traditional flight stick.

In aggregate, Wingman doesn’t just look like a deleted scene from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I think it looks better. You can find more about the making of the short film online, in German, with broadcaster SWR.

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