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Oof. Talk about putting the rough in rough cut.
George Lucas was not thrilled after he saw a rough cut of 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In fact, he appeared so perplexed by the climax of the film, he told the small screening room he “may have gone too far in a few places.”
With Star Wars: The Last Jedi polarizing fans, but continuing to dominate the box office, Heat Vision looks back at a making-of featurette that was included on The Phantom Menace DVD, which showed Lucas, in part … had a bad feeling about this.
There are multiple little moments in the interesting hourlong “The Beginning: Making Episode I” to mention, such as when Lucas told Frank Oz during a shot setup that they would “never catch Titanic” at the box office, but it is footage of the candid chatter after the rough cut screening that is somewhat surprising.
Critics did not care for the film (it holds a 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and fans were also pretty disappointed in the final product (it holds a 59 percent audience score). Thus, the angry fan cliche George Lucas “ruined my childhood” was born. One of the larger complaints, besides Jar Jar, was the disjointed climax of the film.
And it seems Lucas and crew had that same reaction. However, by the time it was realized, it was too late, according to the footage on the DVD special feature.
“It’s a little disjointed,” Lucas says after the screening ends. “It’s bold in terms of jerking people around. I may have gone too far in a few places.”
Film editor Ben Burtt goes on to talk about the pacing and tone of the scenes cut together, which include a lightsaber fight and subsequent death of Qui-Gon Jinn; Queen Amidala and troops escaping; Anakin flying and Jar Jar being goofy during a ground battle.
“In a space of about 90 seconds, you go from lamenting the death of a hero to escape to slightly comedic with Jar Jar to Anakin returning … It’s a lot in a very short time,” Burtt said.
Lucas seemed to agree, but said it was too late to make cuts.
The behind-the-scenes footage shows producer Rick McCallum sitting in silence, just staring at the screen with his hand over his mouth.
“It boggles the mind,” Lucas said, running his hands through his hair. “I have thought about this quite a bit, and the tricky part is you almost can’t take any of those pieces out of it now, because each one takes you to the next place. And you can’t jump because you don’t know where you are.”
The footage in the small theater ends and the camera starts rolling in a kitchen as Lucas, Burtt and McCallum have what seems like a slightly heated exchange.
“I do a particular kind of movie of which this is consistent,” Lucas says, breaking into Burtt and McCallum discussion. “But it is a very hard movie to follow. But, at the same time, I have done it a little more extremely than I have done it in the past. It’s stylistically designed to be that way, and you can’t undo that, but we can diminish the affects of it. We can slow it down a little bit, so if it’s intense for us, a regular person is going to go nuts.”
Check out the featurette below. The screening portion starts at the 54:42 mark.
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