Hello OT! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Sheepish, am I’m working on a considerably radical edit to the Phantom Menace. This project began a couple of years ago (has it really been that long?!?!) around the time Episode VII hit theaters. Maybe slightly after. Anyway, so many changes have happened to the project since its initial inception, so I decided to write an entirely new introduction to it, that way there isn’t any confusion about what I’m cutting/adding/etc.
Anyway, this is what’s happening with “Shroud of the Sith” at the moment:
While I’ve come across some outright brilliant edits of Episodes I, II, and III, I have yet to really find one that satisfies my ideas of what the prequels should be. This isn’t intended to discount other edits in any way. I just wanted to do something different. Most edits I’ve seen tend to get some things right while missing the point of others (again, totally my opinion), or they’ll cut the film in a great way plot-wise while stumbling through some of the sound editing or recoloring. Or they won’t mess with the sound and color at all. Basically, I wanted to do a radical edit that makes me happy and hopefully gives the viewer a new experience with the film, instead of just trimming the fat. I wanted to make the prequels worthy of the name “Star Wars”.
Here’s what I did, and here’s what I’m doing:
COLORING – For starters, I took the original blu-ray of TPM and recolored everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Initially, I had tried to align TPM a bit with the newer films’ color palettes, but after careful consideration, I’ve realized that to be the wrong approach, at least for what I want out of the prequels. It makes much more sense to try and give them a “retro” feel of the 70s and 80s, as one of the biggest complaints I have about I-III is that they simply don’t “feel” like Star Wars in the way the OT does. I suppose nothing truly will, but we can dream, right? There were a lot of awkward red, blue, and purple filters in TPM that I did my best to neutralize. I desaturated a lot of the neutral colors and overhauled a lot of the yellows, oranges, lighter blues, and greens. I’ve recolored all of the gunfire (which I’m still tweaking), and all of the lightsaber hues (they all keep their same basic colors). Some scenes have been dramatically recolored, while others just touched on here and there. But every single scene has been adjusted in one way or another. And I’ve added a KD 5213 35mm full-frame grain to the film, to give it the same “feel” as the OT.
CUTTING - This was probably the most taxing process, minus maybe recoloring the gunfire. No scene was left untrimmed, though I managed to get the final cut to around 130 minutes (which is typically longer than your average fan-cut). There was a bit more I initially wanted to cut, but I decided that I would rather try to make certain things work with restructuring than cutting it altogether. However, some things most definitely had to go.
Midichlorians are no longer a thing, for obvious reasons. Instead, during Qui-Gon’s original explanation to Anakin, he now says to Anakin (after a bit of audio-engineering) “[…]Your focus determines your reality. Stay close to me, and you’ll be safe. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear the force. With time and training, Ani, you will.” This, I feel, is infinitely better with keeping the mythos of the original. Also, the “over 9000” midichlorian count scene has been cut. The scene now plays out with Qui-Gon checking Anakin’s blood for infection, and then Anakin’s mother calling out to him, after Anakin and Qui-Gon discuss the planets for a minute.
The “chosen one” prophecy is gone. Now, Qui-Gon simply tells the council he has discovered a vergence in the force, and wishes for Anakin to be tested.
Anakin’s immaculate conception is also a thing of the past. In this version, when Qui-Gon asks Anakin’s mother who the father was, she simply says “there was no father”, and Qui-Gon has a moment of realization. My intention is for this moment to imply Anakin’s father was not in the picture, but for any purists who might watch this, it can still be interpreted as an immaculate conception if you wish (though purists would probably dislike a lot of the more creative liberties I’ve taken with this as a whole).
Poop/fart jokes are gone. I don’t think an explanation is required.
The underwater “bigger fish” sequence is gone as well. Going through the planet core was always a weird plot device, and makes zero sense. In this version, Qui-Gon convinces Nass to spare Jar-Jar on the grounds of a life debt, solely because Jar-Jar claims to know how to get to the Royal Palace. So, they leave on the bonco, and they surface next to the palace. One of Jar-Jar’s (several) life debts is paid by this action. Which, in turn, adds another life debt to the mix, as Qui-Gon saves Jar-Jar from execution in Gunga city (in this version, Jar-Jar was never banished. But he is to be punished for bringing humans to the hidden city).
The whole sequence with Palpatine-Amidala leading into the Senate is drastically restructured to make for a much more compelling political sequence. Also, in the Senate scene, I’ve removed all traces of Naboo being a democracy (what planet, or nation, would choose to elect a 14 year old girl as the ruler of the free world?), which I think gives the whole Chancellor election greater weight anyway.
And speaking of Amidala, I’ve adjusted the pitch of her voice to make her sound around 2-3 years younger (mostly for Anakin’s sake). It sounds soooo much better this way, and makes her “caring” for Anakin less creepy. And conversely, Anakin’s voice has been deepened slightly.
Any super cheesy line I could find, like the “sitting ducks” bit, or any of the “yippeees” and such, are gone (which unfortunately means the existence of ducks is no longer canon in my series).
The Nemoidians have been redubbed, subtitled and professionally mixed. I’ve rewritten nearly all of their dialogue, in order to make them appear more menacing and less cowardly.
Jar-Jar’s dialogue has also been rewritten (however, his voice has not been finalized. I’m bouncing back and forth between giving him an English-speaking voice or alien garble). Jar-Jar’s new personality is something of a combination between Han Solo and Lando.
Sebulba dies in the podrace. Anakin straight up kills him (to the tune of a soft Imperial March, as the crowd cheers). Qui-Gon gives a look of extreme concern just before Anakin blows up Sebulba’s pod, but he appears to be the only one. I wanted to give some traction to the “he’s too dangerous” complaint that the Jedi keep throwing around. Originally, we’re just supposed to take their word for this, because he’s “too old” and we know he’ll be Darth Vader one day. Well, I wanted to plant the seeds early in this version. Plus, the podrace does nothing for the plot in the original version. I decided to give it’s “purpose” a bit of characterization for Anakin. And it makes for a really cool scene with the crowd cheering over the Imperial March for a young Darth Vader.
The final 15 minutes or so is where most of the restructuring happens. There’s so much going on, so I tried to mesh everything in a more cohesive way. As I said before, the Gungan battle takes place at sunset now (which really doesn’t add much to the story, but I felt like this battle needed feel a bit less…generic, I guess. Anyway, it looks much cooler at dusk). I’ve also set everything up to make Anakin do everything more or less on purpose, and his destroying the control ship is what causes Padme and co. to best the Viceroy (there is no “decoy” attack thing. It makes what Anakin does completely meaningless). Anakin is the hero of this story now, and I tried my best to mirror his shot at the control ship with Luke’s scene in ANH. Anakin now hears the voice of Qui-Gon prior to shooting, telling him “Trust your instincts, Anakin. Feel, don’t think”. It’s basically this film’s “use the force, Luke”, because, oh yeah, Qui-Gon dies immediately after being stabbed.
Obi-Wan’s final fight with Darth Maul has been cut to present a scene similar to Luke vs Vader in RotJ (where Luke just starts wailing on him). Obi-Wan is filled with rage and unleashes it on Maul. After he kills Maul, he just sort of stands there staring at the pit for a while (which is intercut with the Gungan victory). One of my favorite transitions in this version is cutting from the Gungans cheering to the hum of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber as he stares down into the pit, collecting himself as he realizes that he has killed someone for the first time. Then he runs over to Qui-Gon, simply saying “master…” before cutting to the “kiss your trade franchise goodbye” scene.
I’ve also done away with the final celebration scene. The film now ends on Qui-Gon’s funeral, with Dooku overseeing it from afar. When Yoda and Windu discuss the “master and apprentice” bit, the camera lingers on Dooku as he walks away. It felt much more appropriate to end the film this way, as sort of a contrast to the end of RotJ. The way I see it, when the Jedi are back, the ending is happy. When the Sith are back, the ending is not.
There are several other cuts, but these, I think, are the most important.
MUSIC – This one may rustle some jimmies, but a lot of the music here has been changed. It’s all John Williams’ music, however, and it makes sense if you’ll hear me out. In recoloring everything to give it a more retro feel and less of a 90s feel, one thing stood out even more so. John Williams’ score is great, but it’s also a different John Williams than he was in the 80s. So I figured the best way to try and recapture the lightning of the OT is to recapture the Williams of the OT. Now, I obviously don’t want to repeat the same music cues we know from the OT, so I outsourced to several films scored by John Williams in the 70s for my musical cues (mostly films that flew way under the radar even then), and I’ve got to say, I’m liking what I’m hearing. I’ve also given new pieces of music to the Senate scene (which was too quiet for my taste originally) and Watto’s introduction (to which I’ve added a piece from a Budapest Klezmer band, to give the scene a bit of similar characterization that the “cantina band” scene had in the original. Now, the droid Jar-Jar’s is messing with is actually producing the music, which I thought was really cool and gives the droid a purpose beyond Jar-Jar foolery). The podracing scene has been 110% re-scored for tension and character reveal (the Imperial March stuff I talked about above). Also, as I mentioned earlier, the film ends on a much more sinister note, even musically.
SOUND – There isn’t a whole lot to say here other than a LOT of the sound was recreated from scratch, in order to rescore the whole thing. I tried finding OT-era SFX to include, but in some cases, I had to improvise.
Anyway, I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of changes, but I wanted to get some opinions from this community. I’m about 90% done with the whole process (mostly just needing to record voices for the redubbing). It’s taken me a little over two months years on and off, but I believe the final product will be well worth it.