So, with all the Star Wars mania sweeping the land right now, I've been trying my best to avoid spoilers at all costs- so when I came across this interesting article on Slate about what various famous people/celebrities thought was the best order to watch the Star Wars movie in, I stumbled across something that I was sort of kind of tangentially aware of but had never bothered to track down.
Topher Grace (yes, of That 70s Show fame) apparently took the prequels and edited them together into one, coherent movie that is reportedly awesome. (Bobby Moynihan references this when asked about his preferred order- and recommends Star Wars Rebels... which I haven't seen, but I might pick Clone Wars back up here in the New Year, since I'm sort of in-between shows right now.) Now, I did some digging on the interwebs and YouTube and found this... it's called The Phantom Edit and I have no idea if this is the Topher Grace Special Edition they were referring too- since apparently that cut is 85 minutes and this one clocks in at just over two hours, but I watched it... and you know what... it sort of works.
Wisely dispensing with the vast majority of The Phantom Menace (we see Qui-Gon Jinn get killed and Obi-Wan take care of Darth Maul- and Qui-Gon makes Obi-Wan promise to protect the boy) it plunges instead into Attack of the Clones, keeping the focus on Anakin and Padme and managing something I didn't think was possible: it made their relationship seem... realistic. Maybe even, believable. It lacked some context- like how Anakin and Padme met, which could have been added in, I suppose. But there's no god-awful declaration of love on her part and when they kiss finally the tension between them seems real.
And as a result, Anakin's all-consuming fear of losing Padme, which proves to be key to his seduction to the Dark Side of the Force also seems a little less jarring. (The massacre of the Sand People to avenge his mother, however, still seems a little... well, psychotic?)
While the tight focus on Anakin and Padme helped bring the overall arc of the prequel trilogy more into focus (the decline, fall and turning of Anakin, etc) the laser beam focus on them made the rest of the story seem somewhat superfluous at times, confusing at other times. Part of that could be the edit, but part of that could be the source material as well- but either way, just a wee bit more context into how Anakin and Padme met and the chaotic times they are living in could have made a cohesive, competent edit into a genuinely good movie.
Perhaps that's the most interesting part of this whole exercise: what might have been. I'm not the world's biggest Star Wars fan, but I would say apart from the back half of Revenge of the Sith (which I found to be really good- apart from the whole, dying in childbirth, broken heart histrionics) the prequels were sort of... 'meh.' The novelty of having NEW STAR WARS sort of saved the first movie, but then the second movie was so bad and when we find out little tidbits like how Leonardo DiCaprio turned the role of Anakin down, then man oh man... edits like these only serve to underline the gap between what was and what might have been. (The Clone Wars illustrates this as well beautifully... it's animated, but plays with some pretty heavy themes for an animated show and fills in the gap between Episodes 2 and 3 perfectly with quality story-telling- at least so far. I have a ways to go until the end.)
Overall: an interesting thought exercise, I found the whole Padme-Anakin relationship to be entirely palatable with this edit and while cutting the fat of intricacies and Sith and Jedi and intergalactic politics made things a little jarring now and again, the overall end product was more focused and cohesive than the actual prequels themselves. I'd say ** 1/2 out of ****