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The Phantom Menace is without a doubt the biggest disappointment in film history and probably always will be. It's unsurprising that it inspires so many to try to correct it's myriad of flaws by re-editing the dross in to some kind of coherent film.

So it's a delight to watch this reconstruction by seciors, a real treat from the magnificent opening crawl. You can't immediately help feeling a bit sad too at the thought of what could have been.

Rather than just shorten the film, seciors has made some brave but excellent, common-sense decisions about the plot that massively improve it. Dropping the 'Trade' from 'Trade Federation' is a stroke of genius, simplifying things by depicting them as a group of rebellious planets (which will no doubt fit in nicely with subsequent edits of the remaining two prequels).

Other narrative decisions shine through as well. Retaining the mystery of the Force by ejecting the bizarre 'Medichlorian' and 'Chosen One' sub-plots works brilliantly. There are other changes to characters story arcs, such as Palpatine's (Ian McDiarmid) which I won't talk about for fear of spoilers (see 'criticisms / spoilers' below) - but every decision is pretty much spot-on.

The film is finally brought in to some kind of focus and characters get the screen time they deserve according to their role in the story. The idiotic Jar Jar Binks is relegated to a minor character, whose presence while still not making any sense no longer gets in the way of the film's progression. Long and drawn out chats about treaties and trade disputes are dumped in the bin where they belong.

All of this means that the story Lucas must have had originally, about a central wise Jedi trying to stop the Republic from falling apart, starts to tantalizingly come through. There is now a central character - Qui Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) is now without doubt the films main protagonist, something comically missing from the original. Whether he's a memorable protagonist or even an effective one is still debatable, although that's something even a Fan Edit as good as this will struggle to remedy.

In summary, Return of the Sith is the first time I've watched The Phantom Menace and actually enjoyed it. Sure, some of the enjoyment no doubt came from the wide-eyed appreciation of it all actually making some sort of sense and not ever getting boring (and incredible feat), but there's no doubt as well that seciors has somehow managed to put together a coherent film that can actually be watched in it's own right, and for that I'm very grateful.


* The title 'Return of the Sith' is an excellent one and is completely believable in the Star Wars canon. How excited would we all have been if that was the original title? There's one problem - the Sith played a small role (in the case of Darth Maul an unforgivably small one) in the original. With 'Darth Sideous' removed completely this title only actually refers to one character (however excellent) that suddenly appears fleetingly midway in the film and then at the end.

There's two possible solutions - include the conversation between Sideous and Darth Maul at the beginning ("at last we will have revenge") and maybe some of Sideous talking to the Federation through the film (even if it's just the part where Sideous says he's sending Maul - "Now there are two of them!" is actually one of the better lines in the film).

Otherwise we never actually know who Darth Maul is (even his name), why he's tracking the Jedi and why he confronts them in a fight to the death. In Star Wars films, characters have light sabre fights for massively important reasons in the plot. He's clearly on a mission that presents a lot of danger to his life and at the end he obviously hates the Jedi and they're his priority (he doesn't try and kill the Queen on sight for example). Why?

Otherwise, call the movie what it is, especially now in this re-edit; 'The Battle for Naboo' or something. We all wish the film was about the return of the Sith, but it isn't unfortunately. The title and excellent cover-art refer to a film that we wish we'd had, not the one we were presented with no matter how it's re-edited.

* The pod race is much more enjoyable now. Anakin's crossing the line in victory all feels a bit rushed though; it's a very important emotional part of the film whether we like it or not, and maybe the pacing could be looked at to emphasize that moment more.

* The re-cutting of the ending, going between the Naboo fighters attacking the Control Ship and the light-sabre fight on the planet, feels a bit jagged at times. Obi Wan now has to wait too long for the force field to go at one stage and the ships jumping from leaving the hangar to approaching the control ship is jarring. Finally, I can understand drastically cutting down the Naboo battle scenes to eliminate the hideous slapstick elements, but this again feels a little rushed.

* The running time of the film at 1hr 25min makes everything go by very, very quickly. In the case of this film, that's probably no bad thing. But maybe there's times to pause for breath, or elongate certain scenes as I've suggested above, to produce a running time maybe ten minutes longer that will feel even more natural and better paced.

I must emphasize though - this edit is fantastic.

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