Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Edit

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This is it, the one that started it all. The Phantom Edit wasn't the first fanedit, but it is certainly one of the most famous and brought the art of fanediting into the mainstream. The Phantom Editor's work reveals the power of editing and is a clinic on structure and pacing. A must-see for all fans of fanediting.
From Wikipedia:

Star Wars Episode I.I – The Phantom Edit is a fan edit of the movie Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, removing elements of the original thought by some to be unsuccessful by critics and adult fans. The purpose of the edit, according to creator Mike J. Nichols, was to make a much stronger version of The Phantom Menace based on the previous execution and philosophies of film storytelling and editing made famous by George Lucas himself. The Phantom Edit was the first unauthorized re-edit of The Phantom Menace to receive major publicity and acclaim for making the film appreciably better, and although many other re-editing attempts followed, the original Phantom Edit is still highly regarded as a successful exercise of professional and artistic narrative film editing.
Additional Notes:

Critics and filmmakers have commented on the original Phantom Edit, in most cases providing the approval and recognition which furthered the fan edit movement.

“Smart editing to say the least." KEVIN SMITH, Film Director (Clerks, Mallrats, Cop Out)

“…Materialized from out of nowhere was a good film that had been hidden inside the disappointing original one." DANIEL KRAUS, (Nov. 5, 2001)

“[Done by] someone with a gift for editing!” MICHAEL WILMINGTON, Film Critic Chicago Tribune (June 18, 2001)

"A revelation." review (February 2, 2009)

It was originally circulated to studios in Hollywood in 2000 and 2001, and was followed by worldwide media attention in magazines, television, and especially the internet. It was acclaimed as providing a more focused and better paced version of the film.

Rumor attributed The Phantom Edit to Kevin Smith, probably because he edits his own films and his films frequently refer to the Star Wars mythos. Smith admitted to having seen the re-edit but denied that he was the editor (Reference).

The editor was revealed to be MIKE J. NICHOLS of Santa Clarita, CA in the September 7, 2001 edition of the Washington Post (Reference) and the June 1, 2002 edition of the LA Times (Reference).

Originally available on VHS and DVD, the DVD contains two deleted scenes and a COMMENTARY TRACK by the editor as well as a few EASTER EGGS. No lawsuits were filed against Nichols, nor did he sell or make any money from the edit, claiming, “I am not a bootlegger!”

The documentary film, "The People vs. George Lucas" cites The Phantom Edit as as a key example of the "remix culture" created by the Star Wars franchise.

Additional reviews and praise for The Phantom Edit: Review Review
"The Best Star Wars Movie You've Never Seen"

Winner of the Special Contest for BEST STAR WARS EPISODE 1 FANEDIT in April 2010.
Release Information
Special Features
animated menus
editor commentary
deleted scenes
Cover art by Rikter (DOWNLOAD HERE)
Original poster design by RNK FanArt

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Inspired me to take up film editing

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So here it is. THE PHANTOM EDIT.

I first heard about this fanedit from a buddy of mine somewhere around 2002 or so. He had gotten hold of a VHS copy from a bootlegger at some geek con he went to. He asked if I wanted to see it, I couldn’t care less about it so said no. I finally did see it in like 2008 or 2009, but it was a crappy XVID version I got off TPB so the quality was terrible.

So now, thanks to @Mojo_LA and his recent enthusiasm for The Phantom Editor, I wanted to give it another shot. I watched the DVD5, I don’t know if this was the one mastered by Nichols or by Boon23, but whatever. It’s the “official FE DVD release”.

Here is what TPE says in the opening crawl:

Anticipating the arrival of the newest Star Wars film, some fans, like myself, were extremely disappointed by the finished product.

So being someone of the “George Lucas Generation”, I have re-edited a DVD of “The Phantom Menace” into what I believe is a much stronger film by relieving the viewer of as much story redundancy, pointless Anakin actions and dialogue and Jar Jar Binks, as possible.

I created this version to bring new hope to a large group of Star Wars fans that felt unsatisfied by the seemingly misguided theatrical release of “The Phantom Menace”.

To Mr. Lucas and those that I may offend with this re-edit, I am sorry. :(


Ok. Without a doubt, The Phantom Edit helped bring a new hope to Star Wars fans. This edit getting so much mainstream attention started the online fanediting movement, which has created some really awesome stuff.

But the movie still sucks big time here. The pacing isn’t fixed, there’s still no hero to root for, it’s just still a bad movie.

Everybody has their own nitpicks about certain things being cut or not being cut in prequel edits. I’m not a big Star Wars guy so I don’t have nearly as many items on my list, but here are some of the little things that should be cut if you really give a damn.

“They’re stiiiiiiiiiiiillllll cooooooommmmmmmiiiiiinnnnnnggggg throooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”.
“Binxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx?” Flabby head shake.
“How wude.”

I’d keep writing but it’s making my head hurt. I mean WTF seriously, you left in Midichlorians?

None of those moments add anything to the story or character arcs. Removing them helps make the pile of shit smaller.

A/V Quality is terrible for today’s DVD standards.

A lot of the editing was great, but there were some really awkward transitions. One big one was the wipe that cuts Jar Jar jumping into the water. The audio starts to crossfade and Jar Jar trails off mid-sentence as the wipe comes up. Very unprofessional, the crossfade and wipe could have been easily done a few seconds earlier.

I had heard a lot of praise for the commentary so I listened to that as well. There are a lot of great moments there and it’s a much better commentary than I could ever do, but I couldn’t help but think “Does he really think he fixed this movie? Is he trying to apply for a job through this commentary?”

Bottom line for me is that The Phantom Menace is so deeply flawed that cutting a few things here and there doesn’t make it a “much stronger film”. Other editors have taken the time to actually re-edit these movies, so spend your time watching those.

I’d rather go sitting around Playstation or doing drugs than watch this again, that’d be a better use of my time.

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Review by Radi0n — August 20, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

Having my copy take up hard drive space for far too long, I finally decided to burn it and watch the film. Based on cutlist information only, my favour still goes out to Attack of the Federation, which I plan to watch in the very near future as well.

*There are still far too many Captain Obvious moments, including, but not all, from: Ric Oli (first half and space fight), Obi-Wan and Bravo 5 (Ellberger).
*Jar Jar’s antics have been reduced, but aren’t all gone, although some drive the plot, so cannot be removed
*Boss Nass tics are still present, which is a pity, but can be overlooked
*I seemed to have noticed some hard fade-outs, as if characters could still be seen talking, especially during the first half of the film
*Some Anakin scenes that could have gone are still present. During the first half, he still acts too childish at times, or too sentimental
*The introduction between Anakin and Obi-Wan always felt forced and terribly unneeded
*The scene regarding Midi-chlorians should have been left out. This is not Dragonball Z; no power levels or anything of that sort.
*Anakin’s part in the Starfighter was handled perfectly, although it ended on a seriously false note when Anakin suddenly told ‘someone’ to “override it”. That came out of the blue. He later again mentions ‘that’ was were the autopilot was taking them, even though the autopilot was never mentioned before. Keeping those lines in ruined the entire setup.
**On a side note: take a look at Darth Maul’s face when he discusses revealing themselves to the Jedi, and tell me he does not look like Gary Daniels?


I noticed a few hard fade-outs, as the fade-out began but the sound was still on.
Other than that, great editing work, as could be expected from a professional editor.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Again mentioning the fade-outs, it felt weird.
No other hiccups or glitches anywhere.
4.5 out of 5 stars

A great menu. Stays true to its source, and adds a fantastic touch with the question marks.
5 out of 5 stars

While the Phantom Editor has certainly improved the original, and contributed to the flow of the film, it still has its faults.
3 out of 5 stars

FINAL SCORE: 4,25 out of 5 stars

Adds up to a fanedit score of:
8 out of 10 stars.
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Review by Grauser — June 20, 2010 @ 11:05 am

In early 2001, one film projected the burgeoning scene of Fan Editing into the spotlight. The mystery behind the editor, the suspected Hollywood connections, the mass dislike of the film in it's original form, all helped to fuel the demand for Episode I.II: The Phantom Edit. That, coupled with the fact that the original filmmaker himself seemed to have committed the first well known act of fan-editing with the release of “special editions” some years prior, all made for a good story.

Although this edit should be watched on it's own merit, it is worth it in it's own right to watch it from the perspective of viewing a piece of digital history. A representation of the digital age, where everything is malleable, and one person's vision (or revision) can quickly and easily be shared by millions. This edit was a catalyst for all range of discussions regarding intellectual property, art, and everything in between. This fan edit, and others like it are not only re-edits, but as Columnist Daniel Kraus put it, are “re-imaginings, radically changing the narrative through unexpected audio and visual juxtapositions.

Yet putting aside all that, one thing cannot be denied; This fan edit is far superior to the original film. The Phantom editor cut nearly 20 minutes of film, and I will touch upon those that stuck with me most.

-Throughout the movie the detestable abomination Jar-Jar has been reduced to a small supporting role, as opposed to stealing most scenes via antics.
-Battle Droid dialog has been reduced
-Redundant Exposition throughout the film has been reduced.
-Much of the political rhetoric has been reduced.
-Anakin is less so the whooping child who somehow stumbles his way through danger, but is now more of a silent brooding character, more believable as a capable special child.
-Entire scenes such as the underwater chase scene have been removed, leaving you with the feeling that they should never have existed to begin with.
-The overall feeling of the movie has indeed been changed. By using early wipes and transitions, the Phantom Editor has edited TPM into a watchable, enjoyable beginning of the Star Wars anthology. All of the edits were very professional, and not once did I feel like I was watching a re-edited version of the film.

While Jar Jar has not been completely edited out, and you do still have to endure hearing the sound of his voice, The Phantom Editor has done a great job of reducing his presence, to an almost bearable measure. While you will never like the character (just seeing his face saddens me to a degree) I was actually able to enjoy the film without being chased away by Jar-Jar (I have only seen TPM once, and avoided watching it a second time by changing channels, or leaving the room).

The DVD extras great in their own right. The Commentary is worth watching the movie for, it gives a wonderful insight into the Phantom Editor's editing process, as well as his motivations behind his changes. Watching the commentary was an experience unto itself, and I am now even more than ever enamored with the idea of the fan edit itself. The Phantom Editor is not merely an editor, but an artist.

Episode I: The Phantom Edit is a very clean and professional edit. Some people prefer other edits which include dubs over Jar-Jar, the Neimoudians, and the Gungans. While I wish the Phantom Editor had done that in this edit, I still feel that The Phantom Edit is the best fan edit of TPM out there.

Thank you Phantom Editor, this is my definitive version of TPM, and is a MUST WATCH!

Video Quality: 8.5/10
Audio Quality: 10/10
Editing: 10/10
Improvement: 9/10 over the original
DVD Menu/Extras: 10/10

Overall Impression: 10/10
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Review by zpe78 — December 28, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

*This rating was given before reviews were required*
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