The Phantom Edit
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Star Wars Episode I.I: The Phantom Edit is a fan edit of the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, removing many elements of the original film. The purpose of the edit, according to creator Mike J. Nichols, was to make a much stronger version of The Phantom Menace based on the previous execution and philosophies of film storytelling and editing of George Lucas. The Phantom Edit was the first unauthorized re-edit of The Phantom Menace to receive major publicity and acclaim.
The Phantom Edit was originally circulated in Hollywood studios in 2000 and 2001, and was followed by media attention. Salon.com, NPR, PBS, and the BBC all covered the edit to various degrees.
Rumor attributed The Phantom Edit to Kevin Smith, who admitted to having seen the re-edit but denied that he was the editor. The editor was revealed to be Mike J. Nichols of Santa Clarita, California in the September 7, 2001, edition of the Washington Post.
Available on VHS, DVD and later via BitTorrent, the DVD contains two deleted scenes and a commentary track by the editor as well as a few Easter eggs. The DVD version has also been relabeled as Episode I.II, has a slightly different podrace from the VHS version, and contains more extensive editing to individual images and sounds that have not been entirely cut.
Changes made from the original film in The Phantom Edit
- Opening crawl replaced with a new one explaining why the edit was made
- Re-editing of nearly all scenes featuring Jar Jar Binks and removing some of what Nichols dubs 'Jar Jar Antics'
- Removal or re-editing of most of the Battle Droid dialogue
- Limiting of exposition throughout the film
- Trimming scenes involving politics
- Re-arrangement of shots and scenes to match the original Star Wars trilogy's presentation style
- Removal of "Yippee" and "Oops" from Anakin's dialogue
- Removal of dialogue that specifies the nature of midichlorians as a biological basis for Force sensitivity
- Reinstatement of deleted scenes in order to fill in plot holes in the film narrative
There were a total of 18 minutes cut from the original film, reducing the run time from 136 minutes to 118 minutes.
Critics and filmmakers have commented on the original Phantom Edit, in most cases providing the approval and recognition which furthered the fan edit movement.
- "Smart editing to say the least" — Kevin Smith, Film Director
- "...Materialized from out of nowhere was a good film that had been hidden inside the disappointing original one." — Daniel Kraus, Salon.com (November 5, 2001)
- "[Done by]; someone with a gift for editing!" — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune Film Critic
Sequel: Attack of the Phantom
Nichols followed up his edits of Episode I with an edit of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Called Star Wars Episode II.I: Attack of the Phantom, the DVD contains a re-edited version (38 minutes cut, new runtime of 104 minutes) of Episode II in surround sound, with a commentary track. At points during the commentary, the viewer has the option to pause the film to view in more detail some of the things that the editor is discussing.
- "This project began as a personal endeavor when I watched 'The Phantom Menace' as an audience, analyzed it with the care and attention of a Lucas team member, and carefully re-edited it, concentrating on creating the storytelling style that Lucas originally made famous. ... Although I definitely appreciate all the unexpected attention and support, I also respect and understand the discontent of Lucasfilm Ltd." The Phantom Editor, as quoted in the Salon article
- "The general consensus of fans on the Internet seems to be that the new edit is an improvement on the original version...."If you haven't watched [the original], you don't know," said Jercan. "Whoever did the job did a hell of a job. It's like there's no break. So it had to be a professional. Because two kids can't do this."" Zap2it. "The Phantom Editor had apparently used new, cheap computing power to assemble an alternative, professional-quality movie -- exactly the same kind of new, cheap computing power that had allowed Lucas to make the original film, with its digitally created characters and special effects." PBS.
- "Mystery of Star Wars phantom edit". BBC News. June 7, 2001.
- Greenberg, Daniel (7 September 2001). "Thumbs Down? Re-Edit the Flick Yourself". The Washington Post. pp. E.01. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
- "Jeanne Cole, a spokesperson for Lucas' company, Lucasfilm, added: 'At the end of the day, this is about everyone just having fun with Star Wars.' She said the company did not pursue fans 'as long as nobody crosses that line—either in bad taste or in profiting from the use of our characters'." As quoted in BBC article of June 7, 2001.
- Salon.com Arts & Entertainment | "The Phantom Edit"
- Mystery of Star Wars phantom edit, BBC News Article, Thursday, June 7, 2001
- All Things Considered, an NPR story, 'Star Wars' - The Phantom Edit, Robert Siegel talks with Andrew Rodgers from Zap2it.com, July 16, 2001
- "The Phantom Edit", a Salon.com article by Daniel Kraus, November 5, 2001
- Hollywood Goes Digital, Like It Or Not, a PBS Article by Charles C. Mann, November 22, 2001
- "The Phantom Editor Strikes Again", Joshua Griffin's April 29, 2005 review of Episode II.I: Attack of the Phantom, on TheForce.net fan site