Over the last few days, I’ve started work on my own fan edits of the prequels for the same reasons everyone else has done. I was first exposed to Episode I when I was a wee lad of 10, and at the time, I was a stupid kid. Over time, though, it’s obvious that this film (and II and III, respectively) have aged… Poorly. My loss of interest only continued after seeing Mr. Plinkett’s reviews from Red Letter Media.
Still, despite the issues, I always believed that there are some good movies in here somewhere. Having seen several fan edits (which I will get to in a minute), it’s clear that there are. This is my attempt to improve Episode I and fix many of the problems that have haunted this film since its theatrical release.
First, a little background…
I am cuckoo for movies. I have seen so many classics, it’s borderline pretentious (For example, my all-time favorite movie is a toss-up between Orson Welles’ incomplete masterpiece, The Magnificent Ambersons, or the silent film classic, The Passion of Joan of Arc). I have studied writing of many types, from screenwriting to comics to even novels and stage plays. But the one book I’ve gotten the most useful information from is Aristotle’s Poetics. I intend to approach these prequels with Aristotle’s techniques. The two rules that I am following religiously are 1. to make everything necessary, and 2. to make everything probable. It’s those two rules that I will do my best to follow throughout these edits.
In preparation for this fan edit, I have also taken inspiration from several other edits. The first edit is, well… The theatrical version. The second edit is the infamous Phantom Edit. The third, and my personal favorite, is the l8wrtr edit. And finally, we have the HAL9000 edit. I intend to make this edit my own version, but I have borrowed several ideas from these four edits of the film.
Next, let’s talk about what I’m using…
Right now, I’m editing Episode I on an open-source editing program called Shotcut. I’m still learning the ropes on this program, and I’m still wondering what I can do about sound editing. If I can’t find a solution to the sound, I might download another open-source program for sound and audio editing. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Audacity, so I might give that a try in the future.
Now, let’s talk about quality.
It’s a big concern, and alas, the only versions of the prequels I have for now are my DVDs, which have been sitting around collecting dust. Fortunately, the 2-disc DVD sets contain a few deleted scenes that are necessary for the plot. Still, this means that for now, I’m not editing in HD or 4K at the moment. However, I am looking for ways to remedy this problem. I’m curious about buying 4K downloads of the prequels (or 1080p, at least). So, I will try to amp up the quality factor in the future. For now, though, these edits are DVD quality. My apologies in advance. I think I’ve made it clear already, but the sound quality is also really choppy at the moment. On occasion, I’ve had some luck in finding a seamless edit, but there’s much to be done about the sound. That’s a work in progress.
Alright. Hopefully that’s enough technical stuff to keep you curious. Let me give you a taste by going through all the changes I’ve made to the opening “negotiations” scene in Episode I.
Changes I’ve made to the opening negotiations scene:
-The Neimoidian line about how the blockade is “perfectly legal” has been cut. Why do they need to tell the jedi that it’s legal?
-The flat-angle shot of the jedi meeting TC-14 has been cut. Now, we go from the ship landing to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon entering the room.
-Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s discussion ends after Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan to “be mindful of the living force.” All talk about how the viceroy may deal with the chancellor’s demands, how the Neimoidians are cowards, and how the negotiations will be short have been cut. And yes, Obi-Wan’s bad line about how the “negotiations were short” is also gone.
-The lines “What? What did you say?” “They’re here to force a settlement.” and “Are you brain-dead?” have been cut from the Neimoidians’ discussion on their discovery of the ambassadors being jedi.
-The moment where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have a drink is gone. This moment brings up a plot hole as to why the Neimoidians didn’t just put some poison in their drinks. Therefore, I have removed it.
-I have started the scene where the Neimoidians contact Sidious late. Now, the scene begins with Sidious saying, “This turn of events is unfortunate.” Thus, the moment when Sidious says “Viceroy, I don’t want this stunted slime in my sight again” has been cut, as well as all that annoying talk about how “The blockade is finished!”.
-“My lord, is that legal?” as well as “I will make it legal.” have been deleted. They’re the bad guys, and they take orders from a scary looking cloaked man. Why do the Neimoidians care about how legal this all is?
-The line “The chancellor should have never brought them into this.” has been deleted. Now, Sidious just says, “Kill them immediately.”
-I have removed the scene where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan turn on their lightsabers and Qui-Gon deducts the gas as “dioxysin.” or whatever the gas is called. How would Qui-Gon have known without smelling it and getting himself killed? Besides that, the only reason it’s in here is so that we know the jedi heard the explosion from the ship, which is a pretty halfhearted reason to keep it in.
-“They must be dead by now. Destroy what’s left of them.” has been removed.
-Most of the cutaways and dialogue from the Neimoidians are gone. Much of this dialogue puts the Neimoidians in a weak light, and ruins a lot of the tension in the scene. The lines I have kept, however, are more action oriented lines, such as “seal off the bridge.” and “close the blast doors.”
-Qui-Gon’s cutting into the bridge door has been edited differently. It used to be that Qui-Gon stabbed his lightsaber so hard it melted the blast door. This moment went through a lot of editing and I decided to remove the shots where the blast door melts apart. Now, he stabs into the blast door, but the droidekas show up immediately, and he is forced to stop. It makes the moment much faster, and it makes the jedi a little weaker, too, since Qui-Gon doesn’t take down the blast doors as effectively as before.
-The scene where the lady with the thing on her face tells the Neimoidians “They’ve gone up the ventilation shaft” has been deleted. How did she know that anyway?
-Again, the line “You were right about one thing, master. The negotiations were short” is gone.
One last thing…
Here are some changes I’m trying to make, but haven’t yet due to technical difficulties.
-I want to get rid of the droid dialogue. A lot of that is influenced by the l8wrtr fan edit. Since I’m still working on finding solutions to sound editing, the talking droids are still intact at the moment.
-Speaking of the droid dialogue, I’m still trying to fix the sound editing. For reasons I’ve already mentioned.
-The opening crawl definitely needs to be fixed. Let’s face it, any movie that begins with the taxation of trade routes just isn’t gonna do it. However, I have no idea how to rewrite the crawl in a manner that is… Star Wars-y. I am looking into other possibilities to rewrite the crawl, such as looking for an alternative for Adobe Illustrator (The software that the Phantom Editor used for his crawl). But for now, that part is incomplete.
I think that’s it for now. I will update everyone on the progress I’ve made so far as I continue editing this.