Years ago I came across the Fall of the Jedi fan edits of the prequel trilogy and was very impressed. I felt they did a very good job of putting those movies into a state where they wouldn’t be as painful an experience.
Lately however I was thinking about putting Vader/Tarkin/the Death Star back into the end of the third film, but with the logic the fan edit used (watch in episodic order without spoiling Original Trilogy events) there really was no place for it. Not long after this, an old friend linked the Machete Order on Facebook. Now I’d heard of the Ernst Rister order (4-5-1-2-3-6) before and thought it was a decent idea, but wasn’t fond of the way you had to watch three bad films before Return of the Jedi. Machete order argues for the above, but gets rid of The Phantom Menace altogether, and as I read the article I became utterly convinced. It’s why Episode I is so “bad” in a nutshell; nothing important happens.
With machete order in mind, I rewatched Q2’s edit of Attack of the Clones last week to see how well it served the purpose. Mostly it worked, but scenes that were redundant with Episode I became necessary without it and had to be restored. Scenes such as the elevator ride Obi-Wan and Anakin take at the beginning, which is now the introduction of their characters. Then there’s Anakin meeting with Palpatine, unnecessary because they all just discussed doing what happens in this scene, is now the only way we know Anakin and Palpatine know each other or are close. Q2 had also removed any scenes with Darth Sidious anytime they could get away with it, but now the introduction of the character is the scene at the end with Dooku. While I was at it, I let the arguments made in the Machete order article persuade me to restore most of Yoda’s confrontation with Dooku, which had been cut. I still cut a few shots so it looks less like Yoda is doing his best bouncy ball imitation.
With Episode II tweaked to serve as half the prequel story, I turned my focus to Episode III. All references to Vader had been removed and had to (mostly) be restored. I was also convinced to restore the fight between Yoda and the Emperor. Without it, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel is uninterrupted and far more compelling in my opinion, so instead of restoring it to the way it was, I put the other fight scene into one scene as well and just had it take place first. Yoda barges in right as the Emperor’s last transmission to Vader ends, and Padme lands on Mustafar as soon as the fight is over. This makes more narrative sense anyway, since Yoda and Kenobi are at the Jedi Temple when they decide to fight the sith. Kenobi has to cross the galaxy while Yoda already has line-of-sight on his target.
I kept what I consider Q2’s stroke of brilliance, having Padme arrive on Alderaan with one of her children using footage from another film (the birth happens off screen and cuts out all the “She’s lost the will to live” crap). Not only is this what sold me on Q2’s edits in the first place, but it also fixes the biggest problem in Machete Order; seeing Padme die on camera and then an hour later into Return of the Jedi, Leia says she remembers her.
While scenes may be in a different order now I feel that they work well this way. I was amused to see that for Episode III my edit is ten minutes longer than Q2’s, but still manages to be half an hour shorter than the theatrical version. Granted, any cut scene that I put back in was trimmed at least a little, but having just watched it start to finish it felt complete and more polished despite the fact a couple of my edits had to be rougher than I’d prefer.