Star Wars: Episode III - Labyrinth Of EvilHot
Hal cuts down a great deal of the movie, which is very welcome. In my experience, I've never seen an edit that I thought cut too much. His reshuffling of scenes and his use of a deleted scene is quite effective.
Although I wouldn't make this choice myself, I love Hal's gutsy use of a scene from a different Natalie Portman movie to imply that Padme lived and raised Leia. I understand that his goal was to make the lines in RotJ make sense, about Leia remembering her mother but Luke not remembering her. Unfortunately, there's no explanation as to why Padme would raise Leia but abandon Luke. Mind you, no explanation is possible with the available footage. The script would have to be rewritten from scratch to accommodate this, so what could any editor do? So, again, even though I wouldn't do it myself, I'm glad that such an edit exists, both for the uniqueness of it and for those who choose it as the way to fix the PT's inconsistencies with the OT.
The video and sound quality are excellent, and the editing is seamless. I can see why this edit ranks so highly among Star Wars edits. It's definitely one of the best of the bunch!
-He restructured the narrative so that Anakin experiences his political/philosophical motivations for joining the dark side first and THEN we see him have his vision of Padme dying. This makes his fall to the dark side more believable and logical. It provides a more solid foundation upon which all of his brutal actions take place. So when Anakin begins murdering Jedi in this fanedit, as an audience member it is far more logical because of the reordering of some scenes.
-He reinstated the subplot of deleted scenes with Padme and her fellow senators. This adds political tension between her and Anakin and gives Padme something to do for this third entry in the prequel trilogy.
-Anakin never murders children. This makes his fall more gradual and makes Padme look like less of an idiot. Great change.
-All awful dialogue/scenes are removed. This speaks for itself. It helps quicken the pace of the movie and improves the experience.
But for all these great things I disagree with Hal on one decision he made in the end. That is of keeping Padme alive. I totally understand where him and many other faneditors are coming from. It completely solves the plot hole in Return of the Jedi. But it brings about issues that I can't ignore. The addition of footage from a separate film is distracting because of the distinct color grading differences. It also has us lose the tragic irony of Anakin killing exactly who he was trying to save. And we lose the awesome moment of Padme taking her last breath and Vader taking his first. Again, this ain't a problem with the edit. It's done very well, I just disagree.
But in conclusion, this edit is an absolute home run. I really enjoy popping this in and watching such an improved version.
Overall, everything about this edit looks completely professional - the only thing that gives it away as an unofficial cut is the fact that it's so much better than one would expect from Lucas! Even the changes I was hesitant about are executed so well as to completely sell me on them. Highly recommended!
Whereas I believe HAL9000's TPM and AotC are the definitive go-to edits of the PT, somehow he really dropped the ball on RotS, and his final effort doesn't even come close to what L8wrtr accomplished with the same material.
The biggest problem is that this edit is where HAL9000's philosophy of maintaining continuity with the OT really fails him. The whole edit is overall inferior to L8wrtr's, but most of the problems occur at the end. Leia mentions in passing in RotJ that she retains memories of her mother from when she was young. Thus, HAL9000 bends over backwards to make it so Padme lives, and he literally breaks the movie in the process, going so far as to add footage from an entirely different movie (The Other Boleyn Girl). Unfortunately, even the few seconds or so that he uses is completely jarring because the respective films look and feel nothing alike. Also, in the theatrical release of RotS, and illustrated even better in L8wrtr's edit, Anakin joins the dark side to prevent Padme from dying, yet his descent is what ultimately leads to her death. This powerful irony is completely lost in HAL9000's edit. I'm sorry, but an enjoyable film experience is more important than continuity in this case. In the end this is George Lucas' movie, not ours. Making nips and tucks is one thing, but changing the overall plot of the story is not the job of an editor.
HAL9000's edit also includes Vader's "NOOOO!!!!!!" at the end and him throwing a hissy fit, whereas L8wrtr's scene is much more graceful and subdued...perfect, really. The original ending of RotS had a bloated ending and didn't know when to quit, and HAL9000 kept too many of these elements. On the other hand, after the climax in L8wrtr's edit, he ties things up nice and quick.
HAL9000's effort is noble but misguided. It is an okay edit, but there is nothing it does that L8wrtr's doesn't do better. Perhaps the problem is that with L8wrtr's edit of RotS, there really isn't much room for improvement, whereas with the other two prequel films, there was still a lot that needed fixing. I wish I could say that HAL9000's three PT edits constituted the definitive trilogy, but I can't. I recommend watching HAL9000's edits of episodes I and II, and L8wrtr's edit of episode III if you want the optimal experience watching the PT.
This edit gets a 4.0 largely for breaking the movie, which I find unforgivable, although there are a few niggling problems with cuts not being as seamless as they could be.
EDIT: I feel like I need to say more to defend why I gave this edit such a low score. Perhaps the fundamental problem is that the editor's efforts come from a place of contempt, not love. HAL9000 has said on the forums: "I think the prequels would be utterly forgettable were they not Star Wars films. They're obligatory more than anything else." I feel completely differently. I love the PT. I love the pre-empire universe created by it. I love The Clone Wars TV series. I would take Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan over Luke, Leia, and Han any day (yes, you read right). I was a teenager when the PT came out, and warts and all, I'm willing to embrace it as the Star Wars of my generation. I hope HAL9000 comes to realize that his efforts are important, not just to those who value the original trilogy, but to those who treasure the prequel trilogy as well. That's why I think breaking RotS in service of RotJ is such a travesty. RotJ is still good regardless of whether or not Luke and Leia's mom dies in childbirth. The challenge RotS faces is that everyone knows how it ends...Anakin ultimately turns to the dark side. So George Lucas re-indroduces the element of surprise by injecting a dose of irony in that Anakin inadvertently causes the very thing he's trying to prevent, i.e., Padme's death. I like Anakin because he's actually George Lucas' most nuanced character (despite giving him terrible dialogue at times). He's a good guy, but he can't endure loss, which runs contrary to his Jedi training. He loses his mother--yes, she DIES--and he vows not to let it happen again. He's so determined not to lose Padme, that she actually DIES AT HIS HANDS as a consequence of his efforts. This irony is so fundamental to the story--GL starts to set it up in AotC in fact--that I can't believe HAL9000 would do this. Sheer contempt, it seems.
Thank you for the very fair critique. You're appraisal of the edit's philosophical orientation is correct, and your opinion hanging on it is not without merit.
I would argue, however, that there is a different sense of irony to be found at the end of LOE from ROTS. The original irony still exists, but is relegated merely to Anakin's perspective. While we believes that Padmé is dead and that he caused it by trying to avoid it, the audience has been primed to appreciate the newly contrived dramatic irony that Palpatine is profiting from the strings he's been pulling and lies he's told Anakin. (The edit trades situation irony for dramatic irony, in ROTJ's favor.)
I've talked elsewhere about my reasons for keeping the "Nooo" scene, but suffice it to say that certain things about the edit were dictated by other choices I'd made. Things like that sort of ''have'' to stay, given the way everything else has been set up.
Again, I offer a sincere thank you for the insightful review, and for investing your brainpower into interacting with what I've done with this project. One of the benefits of having so many prequel edits is the freedom to mix and match, as you suggest. As far as I can tell, L8wrtr's and my edits can be hot swapped without discontinuity.