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.
Ah, Episode II. What a strange creature this film is. Surely it's the worst Star Wars film, but if that's so, how is it that this edit makes for such great viewing? Hats off to Hal9000, and I suppose a weird sort of thanks to Lucas for hiding a good movie in his original garbage bag.
It's an interesting thing that the theatrical version of The Phantom Menace is better than Attack of the Clones, but even the former's best edit is not nearly as good as the best edit of the latter. I guess at its core, Episode II is better than Episode I. Take the bits of trash out of the Episode II bag and you're left with a pretty cool movie. But take the bits of trash out of the Episode I bag and still left with what that film is: a pretty dull movie. But that Episode II bag has so much trash in it. And seeing a good edit like this is very satisfying.
My metaphor is simplifying things too much, though. If it was just a matter of taking out the trash, editing this film would be easy. But it's much harder than that. Possibly my favorite part of this edit is the handling of the Anakin and Padme romance. If an editor were to simply take out the trash in the romance, there would be no romance. To make it work, an editor needs to use what he's given to make that romance believable, which it definitely wasn't in the original. Hal does this perfectly. I've researched it, and it seems like his reordering of the scenes comes mostly from Slumberland's, which I'm more than cool with. No problem borrowing from other editors, Hal maybe made the best there is of Episode I by doing that. But it seems like Slumberland left in the horrendous interrupted kiss, while Hal9000 cut away before the interruption. This change alone, which is critical, means I have no problem proclaiming Hal9000 as the absolute best handler of the romance.
My previous favorite Episode II edit was L8wrtr's, and Hal9000's is very similar, which is a good thing. The substantial differences (the aforementioned romance, Obi-Wan discovering Kamino, Obi-Wan and Jango fisticuffs) are all changed for the better in Hal9000's. This would be enough for me to call it my new preferred Episode II. But Hal also fixes something I wasn't sure was possible to fix: the assassination plot. In the original it makes almost zero sense. But here it makes a whole lot of sense (thanks to some choice deletions and the inclusion of a deleted scene) and ties in nicely with the fact that "Palpatine's behind it all."
Long story short, this is the best edit of Episode II there is (at least in my opinion), and it is undoubtedly and substantially better than the theatrical cut. Great work Hal!
Do you recommend this edit?
I did indeed borrow a page from Slumberland, following his general template for the romance. You pointed out a different angle for the assassination plot in this edit. Just for the record, fellow fan editor seciors did something similar first in his edit, 'Attack Of The Federation.' Mine isn't identical and plugs into the main story in a different way, but the idea itself comes from seciors.
Right off the bat, let me just say Attack of the Clones is by far my least favourite of the Prequel Trilogy. I'm a big fan of the period in the lore - I love the Clone Wars shorts and The Clone Wars series - but AotC is just so full of BLARG awkward Christensen and/or McGregor I can barely stand to watch it. Which brings us to this very welcome reason to revisit Episode II.
AV QUALITY, VISUAL & AUDIO EDITING
Nigh faultless. If HAL9000's third objective is to shroud his editor's hand and convince the audience they're watching a theatrical cut, from a technical perspective: job done. The wipes and cuts are all extremely in-universe, the replaced audio fits beautifully, the score is seamless - I really struggle to find anything wrong with any of it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I found it far less all-over-the-place than the version I saw in the cinema all those years ago.
I almost docked one point off A/V Quality because I was specifically looking for any kind of artifacting or drop in quality on the 720p m4v, and thought perhaps I saw some on one of the re-inserted deleted scenes (part of the replacement for the factory sequence) - but in the end, I decided that if there was any, it was so minor as to be negligible.
Finally, I thought it worth noting that I'd have liked to have heard the audio on the gladiatorial scene worked up a bit - some sound effects added or replaced, maybe some score; much in the vein HAL9000 improved the pod race from Episode I - but it was still weird and disconnected in a couple of notable instances. It is in the original, so this is by no means a criticism of the edit. More, a note to the editor in case he decides to (re-)revisit it.
Despite the extreme technical prowess on display here, the crafting of the narrative is undoubtedly where the magic of this fan edit lies.
The new crawl sets the scene perfectly. The action is pacier and the story flows far more naturally. The Jedi Order comes across less like a bunch of pious monks. Obi-Wan is less preachy. Yoda is the calm, collected legend of the force he should be - instead of that angry green chipmunk thing. Jar Jar is (almost entirely absent!) the simple-minded everyman, instead of a complete idiot. The clones are more autonomous (like their spin-off series equivalents). There's no droid factory craziness.
And as for Anakin... well, Anakin is still annoying. But well within the realms of being tolerable, if not out-and-out likeable. I felt I could actually get behind his decisions and behaviour in this cut, where in the original I'd like to see him crushed to death by that giant Nabooan flea. And the love story, although it moves at a whirlwind clip which neither party seems wont to comment on (even more so in this edit), works pretty well. It's not perfect but with less laboring over it, you can imagine now that for them it is just that: a whirlwind affair in an insane time. Top marks for ridding this movie of its worst source of angsty/saccharine nonsense.
That said, the cut to the conversation at the picnic was just this side of jarring... but I reflected even as I watched it that the reason was because it genuinely gave me a sense that we'd joined them in the middle of a conversation, (and Padme's statement therefore seemed unprovoked), which is exactly what we did - so it kind of works. And it's certainly a fine trade-off for cutting the guff there.
Overall, I found myself making connections which had been lost in the noise before: Anakin's ridiculous flea-ride parallels his taming of the rhino-thing in the arena; the little back and forth between Anakin and Padme about diplomacy fondly echoes shared memories of conversations they'd had earlier. It was the same, but different. Really good job.
The only cut I was sad to see (so far there's been precisely one cut I'd prefer to have seen left in, if edited, in each of HAL9000's Prequel Trilogy edits) was the Death Star plans. I know it's unnecessary, I know it's universe-shrinking, I know it's just fan service - but I liked it. If HAL9000 does a re-(re-)edit here, I'd like to see part of that scene, however brief, re-integrated.
(Finally, another note to the editor: if there's a way to splice the scene where Anakin says, "I have a bad feeling about this," so that it occurs before the beasts are released, but after Poggle gives the command, it will sound MUCH less forced. As it is, it sticks out as a series catchphrase like there's a big neon sign pointing to it.)
Probably goes without saying that I actually enjoyed this movie this time around. Quite a lot, in fact.
It was still full of little moments of annoyance - Shmi's Oscar-attempt death, Anakin and Padme rolling in the fields, Jango's abrupt demise, EVERYTHING GREENSCREEN ALL THE TIME - but in the round I felt the rest of the movie bore up those moments well. And hey, the Original Trilogy weren't perfect - there were a couple of moments there which don't stand up as well on rewatching - so this sits for me as a fine addition to the series.
I can actually imagine watching it again, which really says something!
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.
HAL9000's tour-de-force continues with this improvement of Part II.
Editing remains outstanding. Trims continue to tighten the story without causing the feeling that you're missing something.
Does this make the Prequels a great story? Nope. Does this make a *better* story? Yes! HAL9000's Prequel trilogy is the only one you need.