I convinced my friends to watch a Star Wars marathon with me and then spent a lot of time determining the edits we'd watch. I decided on Machete Order, with Harmy's DeSpecialized Editions for the Original Trilogy and Hal 9000's edits of Episodes II and III.
Within the first 5 minutes of Episode II, they were clapping and enjoying themselves far more than they thought they would. With a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes, this may not seem like a lot gets cut or changed until you watch it. Many one-liners, awkward phrasings, and too-long conversations get cut in half and put back together seamlessly or just plain left out.
Some highlights: Jar Jar and some other bit characters have massively reduced roles. Obi Wan's investigation that leads him to the clones is less clunky because there are fewer steps along the way. Anakin and Padme's relationship is basically a highlights reel, but it plays out so much better than the original; the wedding at the end of the movie is touching. Anakin and Padme's confrontation of Dooku is straightforward and there is no bizarre machine shop scene where R2D2 flies all over the place.
The edit: Seamless. Music and audio played over everything just fine - no choppy bits anywhere. Visuals were great as well, with some clever filters to fix up colors in many areas. Some good side-wipes were used to eliminate certain characters from scenes, these sorts of edits were only noticeable if you're familiar with the original cut.
One issue: The scene at the end of the movie with Dooku and Palpatine was left in. Our group tends to like the theory that Dooku became a separatist because he discovered the truth about Palpatine and doesn't know who he can trust on the council, so that scene burst our bubble.
His whining gone, Anakin is now a talented, albeit hasty, young Jedi. It is appropriate that Anakin no longer tells Padmé he slaughtered Tusken Raiders, which she should have been unable accept. The packing scene surprised me. Hal removed the awkwardness and changed it into a conversation between two adults.
It is great to see Padmé try to negotiate with the Separatists. She is a powerful politician, vehemently against the creation of an army, it only follows that she would try to solve things peacefully.
Reinstating deleted scenes vastly improves the story. Unfortunately, the transitions from the film to the deleted scenes are a bit jarring. This is no fault of the editor, but it still distracts from the story.
There are a few things I would have done differently. It is hard for me to part with Yoda and Dooku’s lightsaber duel, and there are many minor trims to dialogue I would have included. However, Hal’s cuts, especially those involving Anakin, out-value my disagreements.
Overall, I really enjoyed this edit. It adds new depth to the film, and fixes Anakin and Padmé’s love story. When we watched AOTC, we used to skip all the painful “love” scenes between Anakin and Padmé. Thanks to Hal, now we don’t have to.
This is a pretty stellar edit. It feels so much more like a Star Wars film - not perfect, but I think as good as it's going to get unless someone comes along to fix the spotty CGI in the 2nd half of the film. I would put this edit about on par with RotJ in general.
I have to say that the use of deleted footage was a pretty big plus here. It's odd that some of this necessary material was ever cut. There are lots of gaps in logic that these scenes help fill in (at least with this edit, not so sure about the original film but probably there too).
As strange as it is to hear myself say it: Anakin and Padme's relationship growth actually feels much more natural, even if Ani is still a little creepy. It's still very "movie"-like but it doesn't feel strange and awkward like in the original.
I also never thought I'd feel better about not seeing Yoda jumping around like a maniac since it was one of the most memorable parts from when I saw it in the theater, but I can honestly say it's so much more fitting without it. It keeps Yoda the Yoda we all know: little and mysteriously powerful with THE force, rather than just powerful with "force" (and speed).
I only found one noticeable editing issue with continuity and that involves when Anakin and Padme get caught and brought before Dooku. They landed in the exhaust shaft but never actually seem to get captured before simply being put on trial. It's a strange omission I don't recall from the original. Not sure what's missing here but it seems some sort of transition is lacking.
Other than that, I think the only thing that would make this edit better is if key parts of Ep1 were integrated into this as a bit of an opening, followed by a "10 years later" and just eliminating the entirety of Ep.1's independent existence.
Now let's see how Ep 3 turned out in HAL's hands...
This was a weird case for me as I remember despising this film as a kid (a kid who loved Episode I mind you). I think that I've only seen it twice before watching Hals edit and both times it felt like a chore, so i was in no way looking forward to seeing this movie. But ALAS! Hal hath worked his magic on this film and turned it into something actually somewhat enjoyable!
The video quality is fantastic overall! All HD and pretty, but with less pretty deleted scenes added. You honestly don't notice as the scenes themselves add so much to the movie that you just don't care to pay attention.
Audio is also very very top notch!
Assassination story line makes sense and for once I actually understand whats going on with the whole political side of things!
I really can't think of any gripes with this edit. You took out all the stupid comic relief and made a more moody, interesting film that I would've loved to see back in 2002!
This is undeniably my go-to cut of Episode II and if you're curious then don't even think twice about viewing this film!
After feeling let down by HAL's Star Wars I Cloak of Deception (too much JarJar), I still wanted to give his Ep II The Approaching Storm a try.
I can't really spend the time to go back to L8wrtr's version and compare the two in depth. While watching it, I did take note of slightly different approaches to this movie from these two editors. One of the things that stood out for me was I felt disappointed by L8wrtr's trimming of the fight between Django and Kenobi. HAL leaves this scene intact, which I am in favor of.
I also like how HAL got Kenobi from inquiring about "Kamino" to the actual planet. Others have pointed this out and I agree. It works! Good job!
The "love scenes" on Naboo work better than the theatrical edit. I know why HAL tried to change the day time interrupted kiss scene to night but it does look off. But kudos for the attempt and thought.
L8wrtr also trimmed Anakin's reunion with his mother more than I was comfortable with. HAL left the scene as it was (as I remember the theatrical anyway) and it's one of the few scenes where we can empathize with him truly. So plus for HAL there.
HAL got rid of the whole battle droid factory sequence (which from the first time I watched it came across to me as "And this will translate really well in the video game adaptation!"). I'm in favor of what HAL did but it does have repercussions character-wise: Anakin seems to now just meekly go along with Padme to resolve the situation diplomatically, enter the Lion's Den and give up without a (physical) fight.
OK so I compared the Geonosis battle side-by-side between these two edits (yay for dual monitors).
HAL sticks mostly with the theatrical edit on Mace vs Django. L8wrtr shortened it and on comparing the two, I have to say, both work very well. L8wrtr loses some moments for Windu but I can appreciate what he did here in moulding the fight slightly differently. But I do prefer the theatrical cut on this scene. HAL keeps too many "local martial arts students in Australia posing as Jedis" (always bugged me the way they moved to my trained eye), whereas L8wrtr cut a lot of them out. HAL also got rid of the silly banter between Anakin and Padme in the battle ("aggressive negotiations", groannnn), which L8wrtr kept.
All in all, L8wrtr's Ep I Shadow of the Sith is my go-to edit. HAL9000's Ep II The Approaching Storm is my go-to edit. Looking forward to watching HAL9000s Ep III Labyrinth of Evil!
Do you recommend this edit?
Point of clarification: I kept the "aggressive negotiations" banter on Geonosis.