Ok, I just geeked out and watched 3 Phantom Menace fan edits in a row. The Phantom Edit, followed by JasonN’s Attack of the Federation and finally L8wtr’s Shadow of the Sith. For a while I considered Phantom Edit to be the definitive version, but having rewatched it tonight I came to see a lot of the problems that have been previously highlighted by others. I didn’t feel like JasonN’s cuts went nearly far enough, while the emperor’s cloaked face seemed quite clumsy. Finally, I viewed L8wtr’s edit, which I have had on my laptop for a while but never ventured more than 20 minutes into.
Well, blow me away, I now have a definitive Episode 1 for my collection. *But* – and this is a massive but – there are a couple of problems that I feel should not only be highlighted, but if at all possible edited. L8wtr, I hope you’re listening! :P
First and foremost, the ending. I can understand you cutting the celebration: personally I’ve always enjoyed it, I love the music and I think its shot well, it’s a highly enjoyable end to a movie which is as much an old-fashioned adventure as anything else. But I think ending on the funeral also works: it’s a beautiful scene and it also perfectly mirrors the ending to Return of the Jedi… however, the final cut of the film into the credits DOES NOT WORK. It has three major problems.
Firstly, while the scene is good, the final shot of lingering of Palpatine is too heavy handed. The PT is pretty clumsy with its reveals; its not clear at what point the audience is actually supposed to realise that Palpatine is Sidius, but to anyone with the slightest understanding of film language, the pyre scene makes it abundantly obvious. Within the original film I dislike how the shot stops on Palpatine (I feel it’s one of the scenes that should be edited) but at least it is immediately followed with the street celebration scene and the audience is just left with a pretty major hint. But to make it the very last scene of the film is simply too heavy handed in my opinion. The fix to this would be to try and make the shot linger less, or to use a different final shot. (This ties to the third problem, but I will get to that.)
Secondly, the use of the standard star wars music doesn’t work. Somebody else has commented on this, and I see you have provided the option of an alternative score. This would be fine, except for…
The third and final problem, is the cut itself. The timing is too abrupt, and the use of the circular wipe just doesn’t match what is in the frame. I know this is the standard way to end the films, but just as you are willing to change the music, I would strongly suggest you consider a different wipe. In my opinion, the best cut would be simply to either fade or cut straight to black. I know this isn’t very ‘star warsy’, but it does fit the film itself.
I adored your edit from start to (almost) finish, but that last second of film really left a sore taste in my mouth. I would beg of you to consider either tightening it or changing it for a slightly different climax, by changing the final shot, timing or wipe and keeping either Duel of Fates or another score that is different to the original.
Now, I will briefly mention the other (lesser) issues I had with the edit, before moving onto praise.
The opening crawl
The dialogue is good, but the crawl itself isn’t great. There is too much space between the letters and it just looks slightly cheap. The other edits I have seen – including the Phantom Edit – had scores which could be mistaken for the original if it weren’t for the altered text. Also, the timing and speed of “STAR WARS” seemed a bit off.
Within the film itself, one of the droids says “roger roger” as mentioned by another viewer.
The probe droid deleted scene
The colouring is very apparent. I don’t really mind this, but anything that could be done to lesser the contrast between this and the other scenes would be good.
The timing of almost all the subtitles could do with tweaking, they tend to appear too early. Also, perhaps using a smaller font would make them seem more natural.
Things I missed: Padme’s pouty “Well I don’t like it” and “You assume to much”. I don’t mind their absence, but I do like the lines.
Finally, the only other thing I wasn’t a huge fan of (and this is simply an opinion) is the inclusion of the “chosen one” subplot. It could be dropped entirely from the prequels and we would be left with a more grounded tale of a man’s corruption and its terrible consequences. However, its not really a problem and I’m jumping complaining about nothing now.
Now, this is where the film excelled:
The crawl. Yes, the actual graphics need changing, but the dialogue is probably the best fanedit TPM opening crawl I’ve seen. It’s both concise and interesting, and I for one don’t mind the TPM reference at all.
The dialogue: all of it. You have done excellent editing throughout, although of particular note were:
Boss Nas – I didn’t think I’d like this change as Boss Nas’s ticks are pretty central to his character in the early scenes and I felt the altered dialogue would be too abrupt. However, I feel it works very well and you succeed in your goal of presenting the Gungans as being genuinely dangerous (quite an accomplishment considering the material).
The ship escape – removing all the horrible references to R2 makes these scenes considerably better. No cleaning, no naming of R2, etc.
Anakin’s mother – This is the finest editing I have seen of this entire part of the film. Removing Qui Gon explaining the he couldn’t free his mother adds intelligence and emotion to the scene. Similarly, I have been waiting a long time for somebody to clean up Anakin’s goodbye and remove his reference to “returning to save” his mother. Brilliant stuff.
Also, the dialogue during scene at the dinner table is really well edited. The removal of the horrible “I die everytime…” line is very well done; now all the characters appear stronger and more likable. Again, the emotion you managed to get out of Anakin’s separation from his mother is incredible: I was genuinely moved by his loss. You also highlight a great deal of the humanity lost in the PT, Qui Gon now comes across as a wise, kind and caring – yet still dangerous – individual. Anakin is now a scrappy and slightly volatile yet fundamentally decent kid, which is exactly what he should be. Bravo!
If I continue highlighting dialogue I’ll end up discussing almost every scene in the film, so I will move on.
Anakin’s fight – great inclusion, it works really well, showing a violent side to Anakin that isn’t normally shown. Removal of his friends also improves the Tatooine scenes considerably.
The Pod Race – less is definitely more. I was sad at Jabba’s removal, I like him in TPM, but you manage to present the pod race as a genuinely dangerous and thrilling race. Its shorter length definitely adds to the effect, it feels less like an endurance and more like a no-limits drag race.
The final battle – I questioned your inclusion of making Jar Jar a general. It seems an unnecessary scene, especially as *all* of Jar Jar’s actions in the final battle are horrible slapstick. As it turns out, you didn’t include any of them – which is excellent – although I’m still not sure if making him a general is necessary. I was also unsure about making Anakin’s destruction of the Control Ship the focus when I read it, but you’re right it works perfectly. The sense of loss when *every* plan fails really works. I did miss the conclusion to Padme’s capture, I wondered if the throne room scene could be re-edited, but I suppose its conclusion is easy presumed and I probably miss it most because I’m so used to seeing it.
All in all, this is a truly excellent edit, by far the best TPM I have seen. You manage to capture a sense of danger, excitement and emotions that the film has never shown before. However, I would truly implore you to change – 1) the opening credits to one that looks more official, and 2) the final few seconds which really undermine so much of your good work.