Overall I really enjoyed L8wrtr’s take on The Phantom Menace. Though some of the cuts seemed obvious to me, this could be because I’m so familiar with the original that exorcised material just stands out to me. I don’t think it’s anything technical. This version moves along at a brisk pace, a most welcome change. The ending is very well done and never gets boring like in the original. I only have a few minor gripes:
- Droid dialog removed when sent to check on the Jedi in the beginning. We still have the head nods, something I don’t think they need to do.
- When the ship is destroyed in the hanger in the beginning we still have the awful dialog, “Captain! Look!” “Shields!” IMO this should have been cut.
- When Anakin brings his guests home and they have their conversation at the table, there are some pauses that could/should have been cut to help it flow just a bit better.
- While I’m happy to see the end parade gone, the transition to the credits seems abrupt. Perhaps a fade up on the preceding music to ramp up the crash into the standard end credit music.
These minor problems aside it’s a strong cut and worth checking out.
The Phantom Menace. What is there to say about the original 1999 prequel? Well, I would like to say that when I first saw it, I loved it. There were certain annoyances (ahem…Jar-Jar…ahem…Jake Lloyd), but I mean, I was pretty young, so I thought it was awesome. I don’t completely disagree with my less wise self, as there are some genuinely cool parts of the film. However, as I’ve gotten older, these annoyances have intensified. I can still watch the film and enjoy it, I just cringe a lot. One other annoyance has become more evident though, and that is the pointlessness of the story.
Unfortunately for L8wrtr, he’s only managed to intensify this fact. In this process of cutting the film down to the bare necessities, he’s dramatically increased the pacing of the film. While many might think this a good thing, it’s really detrimental. The original’s problems were conceptual. I re-watched it recently, and I noticed something I hadn’t really noticed before: it’s pacing is actually much better than I remember. For awhile I’ve been trying to pin down what makes TPM and Attack of the Clones different in badness. I’ve figured it out. TPM’s story is pointless, however, when shown with a 2+ hour runtime, there is time for the story and the world time to flesh out, which allows me to enjoy the movie as a self-contained little tale. AOTC’s story is kind of what TPM’s story should have been, but the movie still sucks because the pacing’s all screwed up.
So, sadly, by making the movie 1 1/2 hours, circulation has been cut off to the plot. The movie now feels like just a set up for the next movie, but it can’t really even function this way because, like I said, the story is pointless. This is the movie that starts the saga, it doesn’t feel right that it would be this short, faced paced adventure. Now I don’t really miss anything L8wrtr cut, but the movie doesn’t really work when its that short. I know many people will disagree with me, but its just how the movie feels when I watch it. The pacing is so quick that I feel like some of the sequences go by so fast that you’re almost questioning what happened. I like getting rid of Jar Jar’s banishment, but the whole scene with Boss Nass and Qui-Gon goes by so quickly that your left trying to figure what just happened after the scene is finished. One scene that really lags in my opinion is the pod race. Without the announcers, the opening is really quite uneventful. Speaking of things that are uneventful without voices, the battle droids. Also at the end of the film, when all hope is supposedly lost in the battle, the editing is so quick that the possibility that our heros might actually lose doesn’t even occur in the mind because, before you know, Anakin has just saved the day.
Something that I know people, including me, don’t like is the ending. Yes, no one really likes the celebration, I know I’ve hated it since I first saw it, but the ending as is in the edit is far too downbeat. Now, I saw in one of the forums someone said that they think the movie should end with the scene of Obi-Wan talking to Yoda. I didn’t like this idea the first time I heard it because I think the funeral scene is a good one. But it got me thinking, what if the funeral scene played first (sans Anakin and Kenobi dialogue) and then the Yoda and Kenobi scene is the final scene of the film? One other random edit suggestion that came to me while watching the movie is during the scene when Padme discusses the battle plan. As she goes over the different parts of the plan, there are cutaway shots to the other people listening. When she mentions the pilots, in the original film the cutaway shot is of Obi-Wan, but I think it would a good edit to make the shot of Ankin instead, showing that he’s taking interest in that particular part of plan, which makes his decision to join the battle later make all the more sense.
One technical problem I noticed was when Watto is first introduced, the subtitle starts and ends too soon.
Okay, rant done. I just felt I needed to explain the main flaw of the edit properly. Now, like I said before, none of the cuts are really missed, or noticeable. There were a few that I definitely noticed, but they were only because of my knowledge of the original film. The only really slightly almost sloppy editing came at the end during the final battle. The music was just all over the place, but I honestly don’t think there was much that could be done when so much was being cut out. Don’t get me wrong though, this is by no means a bad edit. I really enjoyed all the little plot points that have been changed. Making Anakin the hero was particularly ingenious. Also, the editing was superb in the scene where Obi-Wan kills Maul. I have to say one of my favorite parts of the edit was the opening crawl. To me, it was the perfect way to set up the film, and its what the original movie needed. It put emphasis on the real point of the movie (the sith have returned), which, in the original movie, felt like an unimportant sub-plot. It also reduced the complexity of the trade dispute because, honestly, we really didn’t need to know exactly why there was a blockade, especially considering less than 10 minutes into the film Darth Sidious says f*** it, and reveals that the whole thing was part of an invasion.
Anyways, I would give the original TPM a score of 6 out of 10. As a movie I would give Shadow of the Sith a 7 out of 10. Since I know that it wasn’t really L8wrtr’s fault that the movie still isn’t great, and that, for the most part, the editing is supreme, I give STAR WARS EPISODE I: SHADOW OF THE SITH 8/10.
EDIT (2/12/13): I just re-watched this edit, and wanted to give my (second) thoughts. Like I said in my review, when I first watched this edit, I had recently re-watched the original film. I think this negatively affected my opinion of the edit. I was, frankly, kind of tired of the movie, and wasn't paying too much attention to all of what this edit had to offer.
So here are my thoughts. Almost everything I said in my original review still stands, but more over-all feelings are more positive. I stand by the fact that the pacing of this edit, while good, leaves something to be desired. There's no breathing room. Things just keep happening. There's no introduction to the world of Star Wars. But this isn't quite L8wrtr's fault. What this edit gives us is one hell of an enjoyable movie, one that is without the Phantom Menace's cringe-worthy distractions. Everything that's in works, and is fun. Yes, is goes by too fast. Yes, the length isn't Star Warsy. But I blame George Lucas for that - for not giving us a meaty enough story. So no, the edit doesn't work as a standalone film, like the original film does. No, it also doesn't really work as opening to the saga. But it works as a good version of Episode I, that you can watch in order of release, Machete order, or really whenever you want (providing you understand the world). It's a great edit.
What else can I say that others haven't already? This is one of the best fan edits I have watched. The fan editor did have other edits that paved the way, but this one takes TPM to a new level. The movie still has flaws (8-year-old Vader being the most obvious), but this edit really makes it a better movie by at least a full star, maybe two. I got to experience a film that I have watched many times in a new way. Cut scenes are not missed. The movie flows so much more smoothly now. I agree with other reviewers that there is no reason to watch any other version of The Phantom Menace.