There's three of us taking this ride. Two of us have seen all of the films in their original forms. One of us has never seen a Star Wars film in their life. The original plan was to watch the original trilogy that's it. No fuss. Somewhere in the two weeks between watching episode 4 and 5, I read an article about what order is the best order to watch Star Wars. In that article I read an interesting perspective, you watch episode 4 and 5, and then watch episodes 1-3, before watching episode 6. That way episodes 1-3 acts a flashback for darth vader, there's some time to let the cliffhanger sink in from episode 5, you preserve all the reveals in episode 5 (including I AM YOUR FATHER) and you end on a happy conclusion in episode 6.
Here is the article for reference.
I thought this was a cool idea, I'm already having fun watching these movies with somebody who never watched them before and it's been at least 10 years since I've seen them myself. But there's no freaking way I'm watching the prequels in theatrical format, nope, not happening. So I do some research and lo and behold there's a dozen prequel edits. There were two that catched my interest the most Q2's and L8Wrtr's. Based off of the number of positive things I heard about L8Wrtr's that's the cut I went with (also accessibility was a factor). I was on the roll, after some convincing of the other Star Wars watchers (especially the one who had seen the prequels), we were on our way.
Coming to tonight, our first adventure into the prequel fanedits. And what an adventure it was. While the first time watcher only rated the film at about a 5 and a half to 6, he had no knowledge of how truly awful these films were. I thought it was tremendous how much better the film was. Seriously.
Technical Specs first:
Most of the audio video quality was superb, only one or two scenes where the video looked slightly grainy (I think it was the deleted scenes, which I didn't realize were deleted scenes). The audio quality was mostly excellent, I had my usual problem with the effects/soundtrack being way higher than the dialogue. 9/10
Video Editing/Audio Editing:
You would almost never have guessed that any changes were made. Some things come off slightly odd, narrative wise, but mostly it's all very well done. Totally digging the old school swipes and it made it feel consistent with the rest of the saga. 10/10
The story was way tighter and more importantly it mostly all made sense. It's very straightforward and I appreciated that very much. The politics are still politicky and need some focused concentration, but the gist of it is clear. The plan talked about by Padme before the climax lays out what should happen in the final act, but it goes by too fast that I had to reiterate it a couple of times to the rest of my crew watching with me. At times the movie seemed too fast paced for it's own good, but I don't know how you could have done it any better without leaving more crap in the movie.
WOW. I really enjoyed this movie. First of all, from the beginning, Shadow of the Sith is a badass title. The opening crawl is clear and concise, gets to the point of the movie right away without delving into too much politics.
The opening is a blast to watch with Qui-Gon and Obi Wan fighting their way out of the tough spot. Love that opening scene and it sets the pace masterfully. The scenes with the emperor pulling the strings makes it clear there's more at work here. Jar Jar is beautifully excised all his dumb stupid crap is gone, he looks slightly out of place just following around, but because he plays a role in the third act, it's impossible to excise him completely. The conversations are light and get to the point moving the plot along switfully. Act 1 is a blast and clearly has no problems.
It's in act 2 where the choppiness begins to take a toll as the whole movie feels like a chase picture. The Jedi's rush from the ambush to the Gungan City from which they rush to Naboo palace, which they rush away in an escape, which crash, which they rush to get back in the air, rush back to the senate, and rush back to Naboo. It starts to feel a little choppy, but really it's still worth it because the underlying problems are with the actors and the characters (especially Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman who are both stiff as all hell). I think the dialgue and the chemistry between the two could have been sold better by more capable actors. Even "Are you an Angel" doesn't bother me nearly as much as the batshit crazy things the mother says and will allow her son to do. Nonetheless, she is probably overwhelmed by the situation for his birth and is thinking crazy shit about who he is altogether. Qui Gon and Palpatine shine pretty brightly in this picture, each one playing up their character. Qui Gon especially sets the stage for his kind old jedi act to utmost devotion to his belief in the child. Oh and thank goodness that Pod race is heavily cut, it feels much better playing out like a drag race near the end more than an endurance test. I wish you could have cut the rest of the racers all together really.
This is when the movie came together for me. I finally saw something that I never saw before thanks to this cut. And it's this: I love the dichotomy between Anakin and Luke in this move and Episode 4. The naive boy who leaves home with an elder stranger who he has just met, and more importantly that same boy saves the day, by making a shot when no other pilot could. For Luke, the force was a struggle, here it's Anakin uses it with such cavalier attitude. Nothing that good comes easy. Also reading the notes from L8wrtr makes this edit stronger, with nobody else saving the day, no decoy princess, no other crap. The situation is dire and it's saved by the boy that nobody believed in except for Qui Gon. Same with Kenobi and Luke, how much crap did Hans and Leia talk about before Luke jumped in that X-wing. Tons. 7/10
Now I understand a faneditor can't go back and reshoot scens and get rid of bad acting.. I understand that, but this movie is jumping from a 2 or a 3 to about a 7 and that's a big jump.
Nonetheless, the politicks sometimes gets a little unclear even if it is super streamlined, and the plan for the climax is really unclear with one scene to describe it. I definitely like the urgency of the whole situation especially on the escape from Tatooine but it does at times feel choppy. And as someone else pointed out, Anakin is told by Qui Gon to tell the ship to take off, but Obi Wan says the same thing a few minutes later. Also the reveal that Padme is the real princess and the princess is the double, is cool, but it's never used for any useful purpose. I understand it's necessary to cut to get the ending wanted here, and it's necessary to show for the Gungan alliance negotiation, but it just didn't fit right with no legitimate use for it.
In the end we had a great time watching this. And that's really what matters. Great job, and we're looking forward to the next two parts of your prequel trilogy for the next two weeks.
I gotta say I always liked the movie in general, but I felt that a lot of stuff simply didnt need to be in it and was actually keeping the movie from being as good/entertaining as it could have been.
Watching your version I was quite surprised at how much this movie was improved by simply deleting a few "ingredients".
Jar jar not being a total goofy is probably the biggest improvement, followed by the Gungans being much more graceful in general.
Next big thing on my list is having a lot of the unfunny dialog/comments of the battle droids removed. Makes them seem a lot more like an actual threat, instead of a total (unfunny) joke.
Without going too much into detail (and repeating whats already in your list of changes) I gotta say I really like this edit. Watched it about 8 times so far, and I´m slowly starting to forget a lot of the crap thats shown in the original version. I think I´ll keep this one as my definitive version of the movie, the version that should have been the official one. The regular version will simply serve as an extended cut.
There are only 2 things I am really missing and I think they shouldnt have been removed.
Number one would be Obi-Wan´s comment about it not having been their day of warm welcomes, before diving down to the Gungan city. I liked that comment and cant figure out why it was cut out.
Number two would be the Tusken Raider attack during the pod race.
Both scenes/comments keep on popping up in my head while watching the movie and I miss them somehow. Other than that I´m perfectly happy with this movie.
So thank you for all your efforts on trying (and achieving) to make this a much better movie that actually feels like a star wars movie!
Thank you Basswalker!
I honestly cannot recall what my line of though was regarding Obi-Wan's line. Without going back and watching the theatrical my suspicion is that in order to cut out Jar Jar's ridiculous high-jump this was required, but I could be mistaken. The Tuskin Raiders however I can specifically note had a purpose. As genuinely funny as their scene was (one of the true laugh-out-loud moments I had in the theater) I felt that given the overall place of the Sandpeople is too serious to make them the butt of a joke which didn't contribute to the story. The Tuskins brutally torture, assault and kill Anakin's mom, and Luke refers to them as a dangerous threat. For reasons of tone and continuity I just felt it best to remove them completely, even though it meant losing one of the few naturally humorous moments of the film.
But I'm glad that overall you enjoyed both Episode 1 and 2, and if you enjoyed how those played out I hope you'll give Dawn of the Empire a shot, like the rug in the Dude's room, it really ties it together nicely.
Thank you for taking the time to review both edits!
To start from the beginning - I love the title 'Shadow of the Sith'. It's so much more intriguing and cooler than 'The Phantom Menace' (what was George Lucas thinking!) The new opening scroll is great too. L8's editing technique throughout is excellent and hardly noticeable.
He has of course cut out all the worst aspects of the movie but also majorly improved the story and how you feel about and relate to the characters. I'm frankly amazed at what he's managed to do with the story. When I watched the Phantom edit, although it was an improvement over the original, afterward I felt disappointed as though the movie just couldn't be saved. What a difference with this edit though. He's managed to show that there was a great story hiding under there all the time. This is certainly not a movie solely for under 8 year olds anymore.
As for Jar jar, he was fine, hardly bothered me at all, the Gungans seem like a more noble race, the politics is actually interesting now as is watching Palpatine's manipulating things. Everything's so much clearer now.
Anakin's character is vastly improved. He's still a little annoying occasionally but it doesn't bother me because his character is so much better overall. It's a great move IMO to have him destroy the mothership on purpose, I think it really works. After all he's already shown that he's strong with the force through the pod race, he can clearly fly a pod and exceptionally well. Qui-gon says he has Jedi reflexes and can see things before they happen. So yeah I can take the leap of faith to say he could blow up the mothership. Plus he is meant to be the chosen one. Which brings me to, that I'm not sure that it was necessary to keep in the chosen one idea. In fact I'd be interested to understand L8's thinking on the matter. Perhaps I missed it on the commentary? Anyhow it doesn't spoil the story at all, and thankfully there are no midiclorians!
The commentary tracks on all of L8's prequel trilogy are great, very much worth your time. (For some reason the volume was very low on Episode I's commentary though?) They are up there with the best of even commercially available DVDs. In fact I listened to it first before I watched the movie. And I think it really helped me to "unlearn what I had learned". It made me realise that the story, pacing and creating characters we can empathise with has to come first, even if that means cutting out scenes that some people may like and would prefer left in. That goes for all three of his prequel edits and I have to say that it really works. And believe me, the way he's crafted these films really pays off by the time you've finished watching Episode III - Dawn of the empire. It all leads there..
The blu-ray quality is incredible! Beautiful in fact. It's an excellent transfer. Looks amazing on my projector. It does unfortunately make the 2 deleted scenes (despite the fact that they've been up scaled) stand out like a sore thumb. This is a lot less noticeable on the dvd DL version though. It's a difficult one because it does take you out of the moment, which is not a good thing but on the other hand the scenes really do add a lot. Overall I think it's worth them being there. Shame Lucas hasn't released the scenes in HD, maybe one day...
Despite it being cut by 40 mins it still feels like a complete movie, it doesn't feel rushed to me and yes it feels like Star Wars. As others have commented, the re-edited last 3rd of the movie is a master stroke. Works so well. And there are so many other masterful cuts that bring the movie to life. I'm not saying its perfect, no edit of Phantom could be, but the small things that bothered me just didn't matter over all because the Edit itself is just so good.
If you watch this once and don't like it, honestly give it another go. I've watched SOTS four times now and it continues to improve. The Phantom Menace has almost completely been erased from my mind and replaced with this :-D
Coming to the end, I love the Duel of fates track playing in the credits instead of the normal Star Wars theme. It really sets an ominous tone for the next movies. Of course if you'd prefer the movie end with the original theme you can select it in extras.
Original movie rating 4//10
SOTS movie rating 8/10
SOTS is an amazing edit and IMO the best Episode I edit out there!
I'm new to the fanedit phenomenon and don't feel like my experience is such that I can comment on L8's technical expertise. All I can in this regard is that, with very rare exception, did any of the edits jump out to me and say "I'm a fan edit!" It could easily be confused with an actual studio release.
I prefer this version not only to the theatrical release, but to the famed phantom edit as well. While I would concede there are a few moments captured in the Phantom Edit that are missed, L8's pacing and storytelling is completely consistent.
Until something better comes along, which considering how high the bar was raised here I doubt will happen soon, this will be my go-to version of the movie.
This is the version of Episode 1 I hope to show my future kids.
*8/10 for enjoyment, as compared to 3/10 for the original.