There’s really no point recounting the plot of “Episode I” because if you don’t know it by now, or were confused like many, you were probably born after 1999. I obtained this copy of “The Phantom Edit” from someone claiming to be the actual editor himself. I met him via e-mail and we’ve never actually spoken and I don’t even know his name. All I know is that he very kindly dropped off a copy of the film on two CD-ROMs in MPEG format and this is how I was able to view the picture. (And please don’t ask me for a copy because, well, I’m not that stupid. It’s out there on the net and you can find it if you look hard enough.)
The film begins exactly the same, Fox-logo/Lucasfilm-Ltd./A-Long-Time-Ago, blah, blah, blah, except for the opening crawl. Under the familiar John Williams music, those words now read: ^ STAR WARS ^ EPISODE 1.1 ^ THE PHANTOM EDIT
Anticipating the arrival of the newest Star Wars film, some fans, like myself, were extremely disappointed by the finished product.
So being someone of the “George Lucas Generation” I have re-edited a standard VHS version of, “The Phantom Menace,” into what I believe is a much stronger film by relieving the viewer of as much story redundancy, pointless Anakin action and dialog, and Jar Jar Binks as possible.
I created this version to bring new hope to a large group of Star Wars fans that felt unsatisfied by the seemingly misguided theatrical release of “The Phantom Menace.”
To Mr. Lucas and those that I may offend with this re-edit, I am sorry. 🙁 ^ – THE PHANTOM EDITOR
Basically, this is the same film as “The Phantom Menace,” though 20 minutes shorter and there’s a lot less of Jar Jar. He even seems more tolerable as an actual side character this time around. There was so much focus on him in the original cut and he had as much or more screen time than the principals. Missing scenes for Jar Jar include things like: ^ – Jar Jar’s goofy dive on the swim to Gunga city ^ – The entire segment in which Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar take the Bongo through Naboo’s planet core pursued by undersea creatures – this entire sequence has been cut ^ – The Tatooine dinner table scene in which Jar Jar eats with his tongue – the scene remains, but Jar Jar’s slurping has been sliced ^ – Jar Jar does not step in alien poop or get farted upon on Tatooine
Essentially, every dumbshit thing that Jar Jar does has been excised, and some of his dialog trimmed. I have to admit, now, he’s almost tolerable. Almost, I mean, he’s still there.
Anakin has just been toned down. His scenes are more crucial to the story, so he can’t really be cut out, but dialog has been trimmed. We no longer hear the “Yippees!” and the “Yahoos!” and the “Ooops!” It does make him less irritating but it cannot improve on Jake Lloyd’s godawful acting. I mean, let’s face it, this kid hasn’t worked since he made this movie and there’s a reason. Lloyd may be likable as a person, he’s really quite charming in interviews, which makes it difficult for anyone to criticize him, but as an actor, he is just plain terrible. It really stands out now in this fan-edited incarnation.
Yes, this version is tighter, it moves quicker, but in the end, it doesn’t seem all that changed. There is one major problem with this “Phantom Edit” and the editor can’t really be blamed. The main problem is that we cannot “un-see” scenes which have been excised. They are still somewhere in our minds. The absence of the atrocious Jar Jar antics are a definite improvement, however, the fact that we have already seen them, makes it impossible to block out that they never existed. One can only imagine what a viewer might feel if they had never seen the original “Menace.” It’s like striking something from the record in a courtroom – once someone has blurted something out, it’s difficult to expel it from one’s mind.
I have to say, that I admire the boldness of the filmmaker behind this project. It takes tremendous balls to take on George Lucas and the Lucas Empire. I have had first hand experience of challenging “the Flanneled One” myself. I did a freelance job in March of 1999 as the editor of a quickie one-shot magazine called “Collector’s Universe.” It was meant to capitalize on the Star Wars toy insanity at the time. Basically, it was a price guide with pictures and listings of old Star Wars toys and the new ones planned for “Episode I.” I put some effort into it thinking that if it were good enough, the publishers would want to make it into a regular magazine. They were ecstatic with the quality of the production and they immediately planned to make it a regular magazine. Then trouble struck. Within days of “Collector’s Universe” hitting the shelves, there was a lawsuit from LucasFilm. I went from editing the mag and planning the second issue, to suddenly doing depositions for attorneys. Lucas does not f**k around, let me tell you. All future magazines were halted and it was pulled from the shelves. If you can find it in a comic shop or on eBay, pick it up, because it’s a collector’s item now. (Can’t say I feel so bad about it really. I never aspired to be the editor of an action figure magazine but it would be fun.)
I actually hope that the Phantom Editor inspires other underground filmmakers to do the same thing. “The Phantom Edit” proves that playing around with little editing tools on a computer can result in something very professional. Though this re-edit is not a vast improvement, it is definitely better than what fans saw in May of ’99. As long as filmmakers share this among fans and themselves what’s the harm? Once fans start selling it, that’s where trouble begins. (I’m not a lawyer, I’m speaking purely as a fan here.) I am disappointed that the Phantom Editor actually issued an apology (clearly to avoid a lawsuit). However, Lucas should really take this whole situation very seriously. He needs to look at this version and listen to his audience for a moment. This represents the fans striking back! Many were not only disappointed with “Episode I”, some were hurt, depressed and emotionally wounded to witness an experience from their childhood destroyed before their eyes. And who knows what those souls who waited months in line thought? A very good friend of mine had a look on his face after the screening like someone had just shot his dog. I felt betrayed that Lucas would completely change some of the great ideas that he established with the original trilogy. (Don’t get me started on “midichlorians.”) Lucas should be on notice — if he doesn’t make a good film, the fans will do it for him. Heck, if he never makes that initially-planned third trilogy, I’m guessing the fans will. I bet if those final three films were made by fans, Episodes 7, 8 and 9, would stand a chance of actually being pretty good.
It might be more useful to test this version on someone who avoided seeing “Menace” in 1999. I’d love to see their reaction. I also truly hope that somehow “The Phantom Edit” is preserved on DVD for future generations as an improved, though still imperfect version.
Get the whole story and read a review of STAR WARS EPISODE 1.2: THE PHANTOM EDIT (East Coast Version), plus check out the feature story, “STAR WARS THE PHANTOM EDIT”: THE FAN’S CUT>>>