I’ve been thinking about the movie since you made this post, so I’ll share some random thoughts I’ve been having.
I like the direction of the crawl you posted, Eddie.
I think the big complaint of the original crawl is that it got people’s heads scratching before the movie even starts. The goal of the crawl should be clarify things for the audience. Get everyone on the same page, keep it simple. Think about the original Star Wars opening crawl. It gives some background, but we’re left with a few simple ideas: There’s a big, evil empire, and there’s a rebellion fighting against them. A easy to understand tale of underdogs fighting against tyranny. We also get the gist of the basic plot: the bad guys have a super weapon, and the good guys stole the secret plans for it. We also learn about Princess Leia and her crucial role in this mission.
With this TPM new crawl, there are a few key words used that I think help establish important themes or ideas for this trilogy: complacency, corruption, and greed. These words highlight the problems in the final years of the Galactic Republic, and it establishes people like Padmé trying to fight against this corruption, and personally paying a cost for it. I think centering Padmé as an important character in a new crawl is a great idea. It might do a better job at investing the audience in her journey from the get-go. Like you mentioned before, a common point made about this movie is how it feels like there isn’t a main protagonist. Maybe Padmé technically isn’t, but I think anything would help to give more characterization to this ensemble.
I think another thing worth discussing is runtime. There are a lot of TPM edits that really cut down the runtime of the film, but I personally think if you’re trying to make an edit of this film that could’ve realistically been a theatrical release, the runtime should be at least be 2-hours. Preferably not shorter than the original Star Wars film, but that’s just my opinion. But I do think such a rule can help editors prioritize which cuts are the most important to make. You might be able to make a great 90-minute movie, but would that be too short for a Star Wars movie?
Nemoidians and Sidious
I know I just mentioned being careful about cutting too much and making the movie too short, but if I were to want to cut any scenes, I think I would cut a lot of the scenes between Nute Gunray and Darth Sidious. There’s a few reasons for doing this. 1) I feel like the pacing just halts every time we cut back to what the bad guys are doing. 3) It feels like a lot of information is repeated in other scenes. 2) I actually think it would serve the narrative more if we kept the Sith’s involvement in the plot as mysterious as we can. I actually wonder how much it would actually hurt the movie if we cut all of Sidious’ scenes. Would it be better if the actual phantom menace was a figure only alluded to in the first film? I’m sure there are edits that have already done this. We are talking about the most fan-edited film in history, after all.
Jar Jar Binks
In regards to Jar Jar, instead of totally dubbing him, I’m curious if it would be possible to play around with his dialogue to simply tone down his sometimes confusing Gungan dialect. A few examples:
“I spake” to “I speak”
“You saved my again” to “You saved me again”
“More did you spake?” to “More did you say?”
“Ex-squeeze-me, but de mostest safest place would be Gunga City” to “De safest place would be Gunga City”
“’Tis embarrassing. My afraid my’ve been banished. My forgotten. Da bosses would do terrible things to me. Terrrrrible things to me if me goen back dere” to “Tis’ embarrassing. I afraid I’ve been banished. I’m forgotten. Da bosses would do terrible things to me. Terrible things to me if I go back dere.”
“Wesa goen underwater, okeyday?” to “We go underwater, okay?”
“My warning you. Gungans no liken outsiders, so don’t spect a warm welcome” to “I’m warning you. Gungans don’t like outsiders, so don’t espect a warm welcome.”
Obviously how doable this would be would depend on how easy it is to isolate Jar Jar’s dialogue, and if you could find the right pieces to frankenbyte the dialogue changes. I recall Brian Blessed (who voiced Boss Nass) gave an interview where he said “I tried to make sure my noises didn’t interfere with dialogue”. He basically said that he thought that Jar Jar sometimes made noises on the line, and he has a lot of plot, so the audience would go, “What’s he saying? What did he say?” Anyway, I’m not saying Brian Blessed should be the authority on this, but I think it is a fair point.
And of course, basically every TPM edit in the past has toned down Jar Jar by cutting certain scenes or lines whole cloth, or muting Jar Jar’s voice, but I’m curious how possible it would be improve the dialogue that is necessary without overdubbing Ahmed Best’s performance. Because I think one issue with cutting a lot of Jar Jar is that if you cut too much Jar Jar, the edits feel less invisible as they should if you’re going for an edit that could pass as a theatrical release. This method might allow an editor to keep more Jar Jar, but make him less annoying. Another positive thing about this route would be that you probably could get away with these dialogue changes without Jar Jar’s mouth movements being noticeably off, since the CGI twenty years ago wasn’t as true-to-life as it can be now. And I know this is something other editor’s have played around with, but maybe the pitch of Jar Jar’s voice could be played around for more grating lines and yells. Not sure how helpful it would be but maybe it could be.
But maybe this idea could also be used for Watto and the Nemoidians to some extent.
Speaking of pitch, something I would like to see would be to change the pitch of Queen Amidala’s voice back to Natalie Portman’s natural pitch. I’ve heard other people say this is difficult or impossible with how the audio is mixed, but I find this choice pretty unappealing, and it makes the Queen more relatable and human if she had something closer to her natural pitch. It’s honestly kind of impressive how George was able to get such a wooden performance out of Portman after her great role in The Professional. It’s crazy how much crap Jake Lloyd got for his performance as Anakin, but at least he was more emotive than Natalie was in this film.
It’s kind of funny, I know there is a video somewhere on YouTube where someone does exactly this, but all of the comments are saying how it’s supposed to be like that, and give all of the reasons and excuses. Like, sure, give all of the in-universe reasons for why that is cool or whatever, but I feel like it makes her less relatable and more boring to listen to, even if people are not consciously aware of it. I guess it’s just a testament to how opinions of the prequels have changed.
Not a lot to say about Anakin that hasn’t already been done, but there is one idea I recall regarding how Anakin gets connected with Qui-Gon and company. This was an idea I had back years ago, but I’m pretty sure the Phantom Editor also mentions in his commentary having this edit when he did his edit, but decided to not go with it. Basically, the idea would be that you would replace Jar Jar getting accosted by Sebulba, with Qui-Gon seeing Anakin in a fight and breaking it up. This deleted scene originally takes place after the pod race, and the Rodian thinks Anakin cheated at the pod race, but if you could assume they are just talking about a game they were playing. One benefit is that it would help you avoid another of Jar Jar’s goofy antics, and it also lets you see another side of Anakin that we mostly see as sweet and innocent. I think one of the reasons he didn’t use it was because of the quality of the scene, but perhaps there is a better quality version of the scene available now.
On the other hand, I do like Mrebo’s idea for the scene, which gives Anakin a little extra agency. Maybe you could use both ideas, since you would need to invent a way for Anakin to pair back up with the others (unless you just assumed Anakin caught up with them after Watto let him leave).
I’m sure I’ll have other ideas later, but that’s a lot for now. One other idea I had is that you could potentially use establishing shots of Mos Espa from the Book of Boba Fett somewhere in TPM, if you wanted to show a bit more of the city. Feels weird to talk about edit ideas that have been discussed for the past twenty years…