My go-to edit for this monstrosity of a Star Wars movie....I do like having as complete as possible a Star Wars chronology; it is interesting that the majority of the films in the chronology are fanedits! L8wrtr has made two films in that chronology I deem essential go-tos (this one and Republic Divided); his Hobbit edit is also one of my absolute treasured miracles of fanediting.
Alas, completely salvaging "The Phantom Menace" (my suspicions on the new Star Wars movie began with this title), short of re-shooting, is a mammoth task. Adywan has stated he will no longer attempt to tackle the prequels, and that's fine. Making this film into something that could eliminate 100% the absurdity is just not going to happen, EVER. The tendency for performances in Star Wars movies to be second-tier priorities began in ROTJ, continued throughout the prequels, and was thankfully jettisoned by JJ Abrams.
But l8wrtr has made something here worth noting. I don't even remember how much awfulness permeated TPM, since I've been watching only fanedits for years now and comparing them.
What do I like about this one compared to others to recommend it first?
1 - no announcers at the podrace. I don't know why people think this is innocuous enough to be left in; it is Lucas at his most shameless. Now, the podrace, sans music, announcers, and in its entirety, is thrilling by any standard.
2 - Gungan City is a necessary component for the movie. It introduces the Gungans, who obviously play major in the final act, and also gives us an explanation as to why the hell Qui-Gon allows Jar Jar to follow him around. Too many fanedits eliminate this scene; here it's kept in and tastefully recreated (although the TMNT Nintendo game antics of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon swimming in the water are still there). Now we 'get' Jar Jar's need to be around and "me-so" everything.
3 - Anakin is, yes, less annoying (not Jake Lloyd's fault - this is pure Lucas shlock)....and the way the final battle is edited, with Anakin as the catalyst for success against the trade federation (minus his own commentary), is fantastic.
4 - The final scene, at Qui-Gon's funeral, is very, very effective. Leave it to Yoda and Windu to have the final exchange.
5 - The streamlining of the film does indeed make it fast, exciting, and ineffably itself. More on this below.
6 - Jar Jar's antics. Although I do tend to look at Jar Jar with different eyes since all of this Jar Jar as Sith Lord insanity has come to light in forums, either way, he has never been as charming as "goofy Yoda" will always be.
What could have been salvaged, but wasn't?
1 - I'm no expert at fanediting, but some things could have been trimmed/changed further - first off, I have seen some very effective fanedits that dub Jar Jar and the Trade Federation dudes. And that work is really, really well-done. Could such work be used here? Sure!
2 - Some of Any's mom's dialogue is beyond inane, and left in. The 'divine birth' has no real bearing on the story, and is as expendable as midichlorians. The one line, however, that still galls me is "my life is here, my future is here". While I can understand a mother saying such things to her child in a situation like this, the film's utter lack of self-consciousness about the line is what bugs me. Her "future" as a slave? okaaaaayyyyy.....
3 - "take this!"
What CANNOT be salvaged -
1 - the performances. Ewan gives the film's lone performance worth anything. Liam looks like he'd rather be back in Poland in the snow than in this movie. But the twin terrors of Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley represent the ultimate nadir of the Star Wars universe. One's worse than the other. ANYONE who found worth in Portman based on this performance deserves to be commended, because she is utterly unsalvageable.....but Knightley, seriously....every time she opens her mouth I look for an icepick to jab into my ear, because it would be a far more pleasant, rewarding, and enjoyable experience. I've seen more life looking at my toaster - when it's off. Short of re-shoots (Adywan, where are youuuuuuuu?????), you can't do anything about this. The 'twist' with the decoy and all that is also unnecessary and silly, but if you're going to have the ending play out logically, you have swallow and endure it.
***On a side note....it is interesting to watch the film and notice the pacing. At 96 minutes, this is a fast, streamlined Star Wars. I'd like you all to imagine GL releasing this exact version in the theater in 1999. First off, there would be a LOT of talk about the runtime. 96 minutes would indeed match GL's retrospective dismissal of TPM as a "jazz riff", but would the narrative ***flow***? I would imagine there would be a lot of talk of lack of "padding", those obligatory shots professional directors and editors need to establish "down time" between characters and build relationships. This edit moves so blindingly fast that we have little time to process all of these new characters, vision, and scope...but that's a good problem to have! If people want more, you've succeeded on some level (check "Raiders" or "The Maltese Falcon" for ultimate examples of success along these lines). An edit like this would have been received certainly with a high amount of excitement and bewilderment, and since the cheese is gone there wouldn't be too many distractions (Knightley aside).
Still, what could a faneditor do with the ultra-cheesy source material? Everything that has been eliminated is necessary to make TPM watchable. I think any self-respecting editor understands the value of these scenes - certainly L8wrtr gets it when it comes to his beautiful, immaculate Hobbit edit. I've introduced my 2-year old daughter to Star Wars via a lot of fanedits, and this is another. She loves the pod race. This kind of approval is where it's at, as far as I'm concerned. L8twrtr, thanks for these continuously enjoyable gifts. Star Wars is too much fun and, dare I say, important, to be left in the doldrums of the original cuts.
I was always of the opinion that the prequel trilogy was a complete mess and pretty much beyond redemption (with a few exceptions) but L8wrtr's edits for each of the three prequel films has proven me wrong and I couldn't be happier about it!
It can't have been an easy task to try and salvage "The Phantom Menace" but this edit goes a long way to restructuring the narrative of the film to make it far more cohesive and in large part makes more "sense". The film gets going much faster and has cut out a lot of the gripes fans had with the prequel such as the overlong podracing sequence, the clunky dialogue and of course Jar-Jar in general. Not to mention all the stupid over-the-top CGI scenes and that awful parade scene at the end of the movie. All gone!
Even the title is far superior. "The Phantom Menace" was a really weak title but "Shadow of the Sith" fits better with the overall story that the Sith appear to have made a return. I recommend this edited version to all my Star Wars friends as a way to try and redeem the Prequel Trilogy and I am happy to say that it has changed their opinions of them after watching these edits.
Have you thought of combining your edit with the dubbing of Jar Jar and the Neimodians from Magnoliafan's edit? It seems like that would create the near-perfect version of this flawed film. I'm not sure what the etiquette is in the Fan Editing scene for using other people's improvements...
I watched all of l8wrtr's prequel edits not long ago during a machete order marathon of Star Wars over a few days. Accompanied by the de-specialised editions by Harmy (which I also recommend).
At first I was a little worried reading the cutlist about some parts of this movie and the others that I was fond of, but mostly interested to see how far l8wrtr had come after been inspired as so many were by the infamous Phantom Edit.
To sum it up, I was blown away. Any doubts that I had about things I liked were quickly forgotten. It sweeps you up and thrusts you into the great story that was hiding within this movie and doesn't let go until all is said and done. Rather than casually trodding through odd places until something interesting albeit confusing happens.
Even the pod race, which I've always loved with its whacky deaths and Tusken Raider interferrence was perfect in its new form. Only a couple of deaths remain and they're the ones that keep just the right tone in the overall Star Wars universe. The raiders are gone but now I'm sitting here on the edge of my seat, watching with an intensity that I've never felt for the pod race. I don't miss 'em.
No more distractions, no more crap, just the inspired Star Wars universe that Gearge Lucas imagined in all his craziness. And I mean that as a complement, this is Lucas' brilliant dreams, fine tuned and honed to tireless perfection from the eyes of a keen fan, and it allows them to glisten and shine as great companion pieces to the original trilogy and even greatly entertaining movies in their own right.
What about this episode in particular?
Jar-Jar's a background character, no-one wants to watch something so unlikeable.
As mentioned the pod race is tense and thrilling.
Gungans are surprisingly stomach-able.
Neimoidians are just evil side characters with intentions undescribed, as opposed to unsure fools.
Young Anakin is very tolerable without removing the character completely from the story. (tricky to say the least)
Scientific explanations are gone, you can fill in the mystical implications with your imagination, as Star Wars should be.
The third act is compelling and character building, an excellent staging for the next episodes.
Only cristisicm (if you can call it such), deleted scenes look a little out of place, but only professionals with the source material could refine the visuals of these to 100% compatibility. And the benefit of having them over not, is fantastic.
I almost feel that there's next to no way to further improve on this edit. Unless you did more shooting, which we can't now, and that would no longer be an edit anyway.
It was so exciting to see what was made of this movie and very entertaining itself that I went on to watch the next two of l8wrtr's prequel edits in the same day. I think that really says something about these edits, as the last time I did a single day prequel marathon it was tiresome as I'm sure you understand.