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As is the case for many fans of Star Wars, the Phantom Edit went a long way toward rescuing the original Phantom Menace for me, and for quite some time it was my new 'definitive' version of the film, yet I could never escape the fact that I felt that Phantom Editor Mike Nichols did not go nearly far enough or cut deep enough from the original. Once I made the decision to start making fanedits of my own it wasn't long before I came to the conclusion that my first effort needed to be Episode I. Like every faneditor of this film it is my goal to create the most watchable, most enjoyable, and most 'Star Wars' like version of Episode I as possible.
EDITING DETAILS & CUTLIST:
With the edit I set out to accomplish three goals:
- Drastically improve the many flawed characters as much as possible.
- Drastically improve the overall tone and pacing of the film
- Restructure the narrative so that Anakin Skywalker is the true hero of the film.
This edit also benefits from the wonderful color work of Adywan who was so kind as to give his blessing for me to use his color corrected The Phantom Menace Theatrical Edition. Almost all footage of this edit uses Ady's color corrected footage, while the Deleted Scenes and a few short sequences that do not appear in the theatrical cut were taken from a standard DVD release and color corrected by myself, or with the assistance of Hebrides.
Boss Nass: Most critics of the Phantom Menace tend to focus their ire on Jar Jar Binks, and without a doubt, his character is the most obvious flaw in the movie. However what often gets lost is that Gungan race itself which was poorly conceived, particularly as a warrior race. Only Captain Tarpals was tolerable or believable.
My goal was to make the Gungans more ominous by removing as much of their bad dialog, slobbering, howling and shaking of lips as possible. They are now presented as distrustful of outsiders. Binks is going to be punished for bringing outsiders to Otah City rather than returning from banishment. The Jedi escape punishment for trespassing because they use mind-tricks (Jar Jar and a guard now share a shocked response when Boss Nass agrees to let them go and give them a Bonco).
Jar Jar Binks: Jar jar has been heavily edited to remove nearly all of his annoying screen presence. I removed toilet humor and as many antics as possible without removing key plot points or creating continuity errors. Because he owes Qui-gon a life-debt, he must follow him everywhere, similar to how Chewbacca shadows Han Solo. He quietly follows him and now no longer inserts himself into every scene possible. I completely removed the sub-plot of him being a bumbling idiot who was banished for being clumsy. The original movie plays this up but with no payoff outside creating an excuse for why he's out wandering around dry land, and creating an excuse for his antics.
As much as possible I sought to reduce their cowardice. I worked to make them more active participants in Palpatine's plot. While we still never find out what they have to gain by aligning with him, it doesn't matter. Because they now behave in a manner that appears to have unspoken motivation, we don't have to care about why. They made a deal with the Sith Lord, somehow he can manipulate the Senate to their advantage. Whatever they each get from the bargain is immaterial. This was largely achieved by removing their continual effort to justify their actions, both to outsiders (the Jedi and the Queen) as well as to themselves (constantly asking Palpatine if it's legal). They simply do things, because that's what bad-guys do.
Action, Action, Action!
Improve the pacing of the movie by getting to the point ASAP. When I first saw TPM I remember being confounded by the leisurely pace of the Jedi in trying to get to the queen, and lack of urgency on Tatooine. The two biggest offenders of this are the Planet Core and Pod Race sequences. The Planet core is gone entirely and the Pod Race is reduced heavily, including the Hanna Barbara announcers, all of the cartoonish sub-plots of how various pods blow-up/get disabled, as well as all of the slap-stick during the race. The race is now fast and focused.
Almost every scene has some modification to it in order to eliminate either redundant and/or obvious exposition as well as poorly written and/or delivered dialog. The only two scenes with dialog that emerge unscathed were the interplay between Palpatine and the Queen (the only scenes in the movie that are strictly between two living, breathing quality actors). I think this is one of those areas where the original Phantom Edit was far too conservative. Virtually every scene is now tightened.
Fix Lord Maul's demise.
I always hated how Maul simply watched Obi-Wan telegraph what he was going to do, and then have it play out so slowly that Maul should have cut Obi-Wan into 20 pieces. I have rescued this scene so that there is no telegraphing of intention, no confused look by Maul, and it happens lightening fast. Not only does it make it convincing, but it also has the effect of setting up the final confrontation with Anakin in Episode III. Obi Wan knows this move and is ready for it (my eventual Sith edit will highlight this by using Corgicar's timing)
There are two parts to my work here:
1) The first is the simple and obvious one first pioneered by Mike Nichols, improve Jake Lloyd's performance by eliminating as much of his dialogue as can be reasonably done. I don't think I did anything revolutionary here. Anakin is presented as much as possible as a boy of action and confidence. Gone are the yippees and woohoos. The insertion of the Greedo sequence also helps show that he's not a perfect angel, also I removed the terrible line by Schmi about him knowing nothing of greed.
2) I have recut Act 3 so that Anakin is truly the hero. In the theatrical cut, Padme and her team are the victors/heros. By capturing the Viceroy, she wins the battle because once captured the battle is effectively over, and Padme states as much by informing him that they will now discuss a new treaty. Now the queen's double never arrives, she never gets the upper hand, she is captured. Qui-gon is dead, the gungans have been captured, and Anakin is marooned inside the Trade Fedaration ship.. there should be only one hero, and now the Chosen One is the hero.
Eliminate the Disney Main Street Parade.
This sequence has no place in a movie titled THE PHANTOM freaking MENACE. The immolation scene is perhaps the best in the entire movie, it lays out everything that has happened and setting up the players of the next two movies. This should have been the final scene. Now it is.
- New Title and Crawl. No more disputes about taxation of trade routes.. blah blah.. there is a dispute between the Nomidians and the Naboo, the Nomidians have set up a blockade.. let's go.
- Eliminate Midichlorions. 'nough said.
- Eliminate the title of 'Darth'. He is simply referred to as an apprentice, or Lord Maul. My hope is to eliminate Darth as a generic Sith title throughout the PT, leaving Darth Vader as a truly unique Sith Name. I'm not sure it's possible but time will tell. At the least its removal doesn't worsen the movie, and could pay off later.
- Eliminate entire scene with the fake Queen hearing pro/con arguments of going to Tatooine and telling Padme to clean R2, and of course, Padme cleaning R2. We already watched Qui-gon and Captain Panaka debating Tatooine, so its duplication before the Queen is just useless and we also lose the painful interaction of R2's introduction and the fake queen ordering her superior to clean a filthy droid.
- Cut Wato saying he's immune to Jedi Mind tricks. Both Episode IV and Episode VI establish that the force can influence the weak-minded, but not against the strong-willed. Wato is many things, but weak-minded is not one. We've seen OT, we get it. This was the second-most controversial cut, but again, if you hadn't watched the movie before, you don't miss the clumsy explanation of why the mind-trick doesn't work. If Wato is smart enough to know that Jedi's can do Mind-tricks, he should probably be suspicious of an off-lander acting like he is doing mind-tricks, and certainly not consider getting into bets with a possible Jedi who just tried to trick him into accepting useless credits.
- Eliminate the crowd of kids while Anakin finishes his pod racer. Horrible scene that takes you out of the movie. With Anakin being so advanced that he can build a droid and pod racer out of free junk, I felt it appropriate to not have him be an obviously social kid, this is further reinforced by his fight with Greedo.
- Eliminated sequence of Qui-Gon talking to Wato in the box after the race.
- Eliminate scene of Nute Gunray on walking thrown taunting Governor Sio Bibble.
- Eliminate Jabba.
- Eliminate hill-billy Sand People firing at the pod race. While this was a genuinely funny scene, I feel that it conflicts with the Tuskin Raiders in Episodes II and IV. These are vicious creatures who are key in Anakin's journey to the Dark Side. Using them as a quick joke in TPM just feels out of place to me given the context of the full saga. Of all my cuts, this was the most controversial among my previewers as it was one of only a handful of fun moments they remember fondly. But ultimately it doesn't really add anything to the story, if you've never seen it, you'd never miss it, so with that as my ultimate standard, it was deleted.
- Recut the sequence where Anakin discovers he is free and will join Qui-gon for greater emotional impact
- Recut Anakin's goodbye with his mother for greater emotinal impact as well as eliminating reference to returning to free her. This promise is not fulfilled and is wishy-washy. The scene is much stronger without it.
- Reinserted portions of two deleted scenes; Anakin/Greedo fight (replaces Jar-Jar/Sebulba sequence) and the Sith Probe Droid, not only does this make their running to the ship understandable, for the first time in the movie, our characters have a sense of urgency and dread.
- Eliminate as much of Ric Olie's dialog as possible. This guy's delivery made Cpt. Panaka (Hugh Quarshie) seem like an Acadamy Award winner. All Ric ever does is explain to us what is going on, but the visuals already take care of this, and much more convincingly.
- Remove Obi-Wan's non-sensible rant about symbiotic relationships which is not explained, and has no payoff.
Presented in 5.1 Sound, NTSC Format on a DL dvd.
Special Features include Editor Commentary track and deleted scenes reel with introductory title cards.