Honestly, this is about the best one could hope for when it comes to Prequel edits. Darth Awesome has put together what is, by far, the most bearable version of the narrative I've seen. "The Empire Begins" removes the fluff and gets on with the story, and the results are impressive, most impressive.
Visual and sound editing are solid. There are some hiccups in the musical score where cuts are made, and there was that one awkward transition between Anakin and Padme's reunion on Coruscant at the beginning of "Revenge of the Sith." Otherwise, the editing was technically superb.
"The Empire Begins" opens with the Kenobi/Jinn/Maul fight from the end of "The Phantom Menace." That is to say, the scene comes before the opening crawl. It's a creative way to begin the movie, and it would've been more effective had the scene added anything to the story. Unfortunately, none of the material from "The Phantom Menace" is necessary to include in the tale of Anakin Skywalker (not only does Qui-Gon being Obi-Wan's master contradict pre-established canon, the outright exclusion of "The Phantom Menace" would warrant cutting that silly scene from the end of "Revenge of the Sith"). This is a striking way to begin the film, but an unnecessary one.
The Padme/Anakin romance is cut down to the least cringe-inducing scenes, and the story of their love is told mainly visually. And it's actually pretty engaging. Though it comes off as a bit rushed, it's the best that could be done, given the material, and the inclusion of the scene at the Amidala home was well-implemented in fleshing out that subplot. Honestly, I thought it couldn't be salvaged, and Darth Awesome has surprised me. Well done.
Past the opening crawl, the pacing gets a little clunkily, and the character introductions aren't really introductions. Characters are just... there. It's clear by the way the scenes are shot that the audience should already know who these people are, which, in many ways, can't be helped. The first time Jango Fett appears, Obi-Wan is rushing out the door, swinging a lightsaber at him, and the audience is sitting there thinking, "What? Who?" Again, this is largely because many of the character introductions are tied up in dialogue that is either awful or deals with plot elements that have been removed or altered. A minor issue at most, though, and, for the most part, a necessary evil.
Probably the most satisfying elements of this edit was the transition from "Attack of the Clones" to "Revenge of the Sith." Phenomenal. Simply beautiful.
The problem with fanedits is that editors are working with material that the audience has already seen. Nothing is new. Often, even if an edit makes for a better movie, it's hard for the viewer to feel really satisfied because they're just watching the same thing they saw before with a few parts removed, and maybe rearranged a little. Perhaps the aim of a fanedit shouldn't be to make a better movie, but a different one. For example, "Pulp Empire" took "The Empire Strikes Back" and turned it into something drastically different. New music, new voiceovers, a completely different tone and a significantly more cohesive story. Njvc's fanedit is a model to aspire towards.
Darth Awesome's transition between Episodes II and III was something drastically different. It was the most striking, memorable, exciting, and emotionally connective moment of the film. The rest just felt like the same poorly-written schlock that I've been watching for the past ten years, and that's not Darth Awesome's fault. I've analyzed and re-analyzed them and cross-analyzed the Prequels with the Original Trilogy and repeated the whole damn process, and I'm sick of them, I'm sick of talking about them, and I'm sick of thinking about them. It's hard for me to enjoy a Prequel edit because I think the movies are unsalvageable garbage. However, Darth Awesome did just about the best anyone could, and I did enjoy his fanedit.
All in all, great job, Awesome. Keep up the good work. You took some of the worst movies in cinema history and made them into something watchable, something I can emotionally connect with and enjoy. Well done. You've taken your first step into a larger world.
I thought this was a really interesting take on merging the 3 prequels into one film. It certainly covered all the main elements that contribute to episodes 4, 5 and 6. It seemed very well done and certainly felt seamless. The only crits I have would be,
1) I think the crawling into text should always come at the start. Personally, other than letting us know who Qui Gon Jinn is, I felt the Darth Maul sequence could be missed out.
2) I felt the discovery of the clone army seemed very dumbed down. I remember it being a bit more exciting in Attack of the Clones and it was a lot more mysterious and interesting seeing the clones in production and training.
Other than that I was pretty impressed. I enjoyed seeing the deleted scenes inserted into the film as I hadn't actually seen those before. Good job :)
Brief Summary: A great 3-in-1 Prequel edit, although the first half feels a bit rushed.
Some negatives & nitpicks:
I don't know why you used "Episode III" in the crawl. You should have just gone with the title and no Episode numbering.
We should have seen more on Kamino. We see Obi-Wan leaving and thanking the alien, then he makes a report to the Council about the droid army, but we didn't see any of that. Remember, show don't tell. Also, the Jango and Boba introduction scene should have been kept.
I didn't buy the romance between Anakin and Padme. But to fair, so far the only prequel edit I've seen that handled the romance well was L8wrtr's Episode II.
I agree that Anakin and Obi-Wan's duel should have been cut down. I especially hate the moment where they just twirl their lightsabers and look like idiots.
I really liked the opening.
Overall the way you stream-lined the story was wonderful. Amazed at how much can be cut out without losing anything too important.
Excellent work cutting out the Geonosis battle and the way you transitioned to Episode III.
I still don't know how I really feel after the prequels. I think I regard them much higher than the Disney attempt and I even have a soft spot for Phantom Menace, but I can understand why the editor mostly left that out (only the Maul/Jinn/Kenobi fight remains) due to focusing on Anakin's story. I think it was an interesting choice to start with that. But I think it was a little odd to have the title crawl appear straight after Qui Gon's death. I know the audience isn't supposed to know who he is, so would have little sympathy, but for me it still felt like an oddity and didn't feel very Star Wars to open with that. Maybe the title crawl should have been placed at the beginning before that scene? But just that's my lowly opinion and feel free to ignore it. That's my main criticism over with.
I was overall happy with the trimming down of Attack of the Clones (as I've never been a fan) and you can't tell where the editor has cut for the average casual viewer such as myself. You may see a lot of screen wipes at times, but I can't say that it put me off as I was simply happy watching the bare bones of the story without the filler. The main narrative is put forward such as Anakin and Padme falling in love, Count Dooku announced as a Sith and the creation of the Clone Army. When watching it I never thought "Oh, I really missed the Yoda/Dooku confrontation" or "This film could really do with Dexter". Finally, some other things to note is that Hayden Christensen's mostly bad acting is toned right down (or better still - removed) and that helps lift the entire film and actually helps with his portrayal of Anakin. I find that you can actually sympathise with Anakin more when his mouth is actually closed. The love scenes flow and are mostly minimal so that the audience can fill the in-betweens themselves. All of the AotC's chapter is seamlessly made within a snappy 55 minutes. What fans may miss? More battle on Geonosis footage. But that's it, frankly.
The clone army is announced, we do see some minimal footage of the battle on Geonosis and led straight into "Revenge" onto the Palpatine rescue mission with a quick title. The actual rescue of Palpatine is done and dusted in around 10 minutes from when they land, but the suspense is left in. What is missing from the entirety of "Revenge" is General Grevious and it makes you realise how inessential he is to the plot. I can't say I missed him or his little multiple lightsaber action at all.
From this vision of "Revenge" I felt Anakin's battle with his thoughts was at the front of the edit. Something happens and then it's back to Anakin unsure of himself. Something else happens and Anakin is still in turmoil. The editing and pacing works in that regard, which somehow never really works in it's original release as there's simply too much going on. Additionally throughout the film I should add that the audio is spot on and nothing seems strange or off-key.
The rest of the film is pretty straight forward and there's no "shocking" things taken out. Some lines have been trimmed down or removed. Bail Organa witnessing the padawan's death is gone - probably for pacing, I don't know. Some things that I thought may have been taken out such as the Yoda's/Sidious fight and Padme dying of "unexplained circumstances" or a "broken heart" remains. But it's the editors work and I applaud the editor for it.
Finally, Jar Jar Who? .... midi-whatiants? Gone. ;)