Since the VCR first entered people’s homes, many consumers have tried to edit Hollywood films. As the technology got more advanced and computer software became more powerful, fan edits have become commonplace with “fan trailers” popping up on YouTube every day. In fact, every week I get at least a dozen emails asking me to watch a fan-trailer. But while fan trailers are commonplace, trying to edit three movies into one eight-five minute film is not. But that’s what Topher Grace did with the Star Wars prequels, and shockingly it really worked!
Let me back up a second.
Last night, Topher Grace invited about 50 people to a one-time showing of his version of the prequels. While you may think there is no way to make the three films work as one coherent movie, Grace accomplished it with only a few minor flaws. His combined prequel trilogy moves quickly and omits huge chucks of story in favor of action and streamlining the narrative events of the prequels. Gone are the politics, General Grievous, Jar Jar Binks (except for one shot), the clone army, and about 99% of the first movie. More after the jump.
His version of the film has a new opening crawl asking people to forget about the prequels as you know them. He then offers a new beginning that says politicians are being targeted for assassination and it’s up to the Jedi to set things right (or something like that). As the movie begins, we get an establishing shot of a planet and then the city, and almost immediately we are watching Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon fight Darth Maul at the very end of Episode 1. It should be noted we see none of the hangar and Amidala. Instead, the film starts on the high platforms leading into the small hallway and the final battle scene. It’s a hell of a way to start with the film.
After the quick start, Grace’s version of the prequels focuses on a few things: the Anakin/Padme relationship, Obi-Wan trying to figure out who is trying to kill the politicians, and a ton of the action. But while there are some well-choreographed lightsaber battles in Lucas’ version of the prequels, Grace cut them unless they fit into his version of the story. It was an interesting choice, but it worked.
I do have a few complaints about Grace’s version. I think the eight-five minute running time moves a bit too fast and an extra five or ten minutes of dialogue might help you care about the characters a bit more. Obviously it’s hard for me to judge his version with virgin eyes since I’ve seen the prequels too many times to count. But the guy sitting next to me at the screening was having a blast and I think he had never seen Lucas’ version.
Something else to know about Grace’s version is that he used deleted scenes, alternate music and other tricks to help tell the story. One great use of a deleted scene is where Padme takes Anakin to meet her family and you get a real sense of their blossoming love. It definitely adds to the story and I’m left to wonder why Lucas cut it from the original release.
But for me, the highlight of the film is the very end. Instead of having Anakin scream “No!” as he learned that Padme died, Grace’s version shows Anakin getting the Vader costume put on and the film ends with Vader in the center of the screen looking evil. It’s a perfect way to connect the prequel to the original trilogy and it works perfectly.
I could write more about the experience, but shortly after the film ended I recorded a video blog with Peter from Slashfilm, Alex from First Showing and director Kyle Newman (Fanboys). Over twenty minutes, we discussed what we thought about the movie, and at a certain point, Newman and I had a rather lively debate about the prequels.
While I hope Grace changes his mind and shows his version at Comic-Con or another venue, I do know that for the foreseeable future, he’ll be asked about this during interviews. Here’s the video blog: