I always rather liked AOTC, and even much of Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker. I don't mind the saccharin sweet elements of the Anakin/ Padme romance. I think it was okay that he was awkward,weird and hated sand.
The original film suffered from a few problems, though. There were issues of bloat, pacing and excessive exposition of trivial points, plus bringing in trivial, and irrelevant stuff: why say the initial assassination attempt on Coruscant was by disgruntled miners from a place no one has heard of, especially if it is not even explained why they are feeling murderous? Does it really matter of Jango is a clone? There are jarring efforts at humour and cuteness, like Jar-Jar Binks' idiocy, Dex's diner, some of the night-time chase after the assassin on Coruscant, too much of the droid factory, and R2D2 and C3PIO in the arena. Then there are stunning gaps on major issues. What was so crucial about Padme's appearance in the Senate that people keep trying to kill her? Who exactly is she?
This edit is absolutely amazing in how it speeds things up, guts the padding, and reintegrates crucial, game-changing deleted footage, notably Padme in the Senate opposing the call for an Army of the Republic (why the original cut dropped this is beyond me), and more on Padme and her family on Naboo (including a much better sense that she is attracted to Anakin, marriage and children from an early point). Whole scenes are gone, like Dex's diner (great) and the droid factory (surprisingly, this is a plus). There is less Anakin/ Obi-Wan bickering, less Anakin strangeness, minimal Jar-Jar (and when he does appear, he's a pretty run-of-the-mill and competent Star Wars alien e.g. when he speaks in Senate, rather than a complete numbskull),and, in general, a lot less talking that goes nowhere.
That said, I think there are two cuts that really do harm the story, both in the film and in the larger Prequel arc I completely admit that preferences of this type are pretty subjective, and that doing an amazing, masterful piece of work like this edit is completely beyond my abilities. I also recognise that anyone can criticise, while not many can create.
That said, I think that in making Anakin a bit more likeable, the edit bends the stick too far in the other direction. The presentation of his darker side was a bit heavy-handed in the original, but a significant part of this should be retained because it is important for understanding his evolution over the story arc, and how his fear of loss leads to anger etc., all the way to going full Sith, galactic dictatorship and mass murder. Otherwise we have a cute kid in Phantom Menace, a geeky guy in AOTC, and suddenly, in the latter part of the ROTS movie, a man who massacres Jedi, and becomes the right-hand man of an evil dictator...
Right now, there is very little left that shows how dark Anakin can be.
The massacre of the Sand People after he finds his mother dying after being captured and apparently tortured at their hands, is gone in this edit;it should have been retained, including Anakin's explanation to Padme that he killed everyone, including kids, and considers them all animals. Here is the direct link between his fear of loss, his rage and his simmering brutality. Without this, its simply shown he killed a few Tusken men after his mother died, rather than going well beyond this into simple evil; without it, the vow at his mother's grave not to fail again is no different in principle than Peter Parker deciding after the death of Uncle Ben that with great power comes great responsibility. Where is the precedent for Anakin's murderous actions in ROTS? With this Sand People material, we get a very clear sense of the depths he can easily plumb, and of the fact that he has no remorse afterwards. It is also a crucial moment of loss in which -- like in ROTS -- he acts emotionally and darkly, rather than being a good Jedi stoic.
Likewise, Anakin's hard-right political views and rants should have been retained, even if trimmed. These views show Anakin's dislike of politicians goes well beyond run-of-the-mill cynicism to something more substantial. Obi-Wan also distrusts politicians, so the contrast between how the two translate this into political views is important and revealing. It also indicates how deep the gulf is between Anakin and Padme on politics and the future of the Republic is. It remains clear in this edit of AOTC that Anakin is being mentored and influenced by Palpatine/ Darth Sidious, and since he is not (yet) being mentored in the Sith arts, on what exactly is Palpatine engaging him?
And, most importantly, these expositions are crucial to moving the development of Anakin from simply the personal and emotional trajectory to the dark side (fear leads to anger etc.) to his political, and (later) quite public (as Darth Vader), trajectory towards dictatorial rule, repression and demands for order. His drive for power, as a response to fear, is not just about getting more power through the Force (and ultimately, the Sith approach) but also about a drive for power over millions of others through the state. That Padme stayed with him is not a huge improbability. Plenty of people marry horrible partners, and plenty of couples disagree on politics in the most profound ways.
That said, I want to thank you again for your incredible efforts in fixing the film. Thank you!
From the opening crawl, to the inclusion of a much-appreciated deleted scene, we start off with a real sense of Padme's fundamental importance in the political drama of the burgeoning Republican-Separatist fight...and that she is the leading figure trying to prevent war. A deleted scene shows the "important vote" she was to attend after the assassination attempt, though the visual quality is regrettably low. I assume that it's theoretically possible to greatly improve the visual quality of this scene (using technology not yet widely available), nevertheless it's a minor concern next to what the scene adds to the story. Excellent choice. Right off the bat, we have much more dramatic context, and the assassination attempts and her protection by Obi-Wan and Anakin carry that much more narrative heft.
Octoroxx's editing is so seamless that you barely remember just how ridiculous, pushy, wooden, and stilted Anakin's creepy obsession with Padme was; it's GONE! Instead, we have the perfectly relatable, realistic situation of a teenage boy with a crush on a beautiful young woman. The dialogue is edited to perfection: subtlety and realism are the key here (or at least as much as can be wrung out of the material). To say that the progression of the romance is improved would be a vast understatement. Deleted scenes in which Anakin meets Padme's family are shown, and the viewer is gradually eased into the situation in which Anakin and Padme are falling in love...
As others have mentioned, the "moonlight" effect during the altered first kiss scene is not believable, but neither was the entire romance in the original film; another minor issue easily forgiven since the scene is so perfectly done: it's their first kiss, as simple as that (none of that horrifically bad dialogue or vomit-inducing wooden acting). Even better, it's implied they're in bed together when Anakin has the vision of his mother and decides to leave (I don't remember that being the case in the original, but I might be wrong); they're now officially in love and have bonded, making Padme's choices in the rest of the film much more understandable. Well done.
One quibble I originally had was the fight between Obi-Wan and Jango on Kamino was greatly cut down...but once the movie ended, I came to the conclusion that this greatly helped the pacing and believability of the film; the original fight was definitely over the top.
Anakin *doesn't* tell anybody about the slaughter of the sand people; no more whiny confession scene. PERFECT!
No more cartoonish droid factory scene: Instead, this sequence has miraculously been made obsolete, replaced with a far superior deleted scene. Padme has been the leading voice for diplomacy, she's not giving up yet. While she and Anakin obviously fail in their negotiation with Dooku, it continues to add importance and narrative weight to Padme's character (sorely lacking in the original films, in which Padme felt like nothing but a cardboard cutout with no reason to exist except for the sake of Anakin's story).
Another minor complaint: We still get Padme's laughable "Uh huh" when asked if she's okay after she falls out of gunship. I think it would have been much better to have her simply remain silent, ignoring the question, and then leave the rest of the dialogue as is.
Overall, the edit is damn near close to perfect. Indeed, this edit is so good, I found it amazing that I ever hated this film so much to begin with. I can't stress enough; this really is a GOOD, enjoyable Star Wars movie now. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
Thanks for the review! It's funny, because my previous version of the edit did include a version of the droid factory sequence but I got so much negative feedback about that particular scene that I flip-flopped and took it out completely. It just goes to show that you can't please everyone. It's no secret that Attack of the Clones is my least favorite prequel, so I was a little more ruthless with this one than the other two. I'm glad you gave it an honest review!
I think the two biggest issues in this movie were originally pace and immersion. Sanded Down definitely fixes both by streamlining narrative and cutting out the most distracting CGI visuals and sequences (ie digi-doubles, diner, naboo cuisine and wildlife, droid factory and most of the arena).
The edit is competent at cuts but there are at least two really jarring transitions (that I spotted) that plucked me right out of the experience. For me the extreme one was when Obi-Wan is about to record his message from Geonosis after his eavesdropping on the separatists, and then there's a split-second out of place transition to Anakin speeding back in Tatooine only to immediately return to Obi-Wan (00:59:30).
The second most abrupt cut is from Naboo to Kamino, from the moonlit kiss to the kaminoan emerging from the sea, where the music harshly changes from one scene to the other (00:37:54). The moonlit scene artificial grading itself did not bother me as much as other people seem to have taken issue with.
Considering the edit borrowed extensively from previous works, however, I think some of the dialogue could have been further trimmed. Mainly the awkward exchanges between Anakin and Padmé, like "you're always going to be that little boy" to an unwarranted "I love you" for an infatuation affair that's only been going on for less than a week, apparently. But overall I think their romance was well handled with the addition (and omission) of some little details here and there.
Personally I'd also like to have seen some lore tightening as in seciors' cutlist, such as removing red-herrings as Syfo-Dyas and Darth Tyrannus mentions. But that, of course, is not mandatory fanfixin'.
All in all, Sanded Down might actually be the more balanced AotC edit out there, but not without it's downsides. It's easy to overlook the rough cuts and missed opportunities with dialogue, though, in exchange for a bloat-free, better Star Wars episode.
Thanks so much for your review. The cut from Obi-Wan to Anakin that you mention is not present in my copy. You may have received a version with an error. Feel free to PM me for another link.