Often, when fans say they could have done a better job than someone perceived to have ruined the object of their devotion, it’s just a lot of hot air. Just fans being fans without any real way (or ability) to back up the claims at all.
Unless, of course, that fan is That 70s Show‘s Topher Grace who made major waves when he actually showed off something that few have tried to pull off. He made an 85-minute recut of the Star Wars prequels. You read that correctly.
Topher Grace re-edited George Lucas’ three prequel films – which run a collective 418 minutes – into one coherent feature-length film. And by all accounts, it’s pretty darn good!
In addition to slashing the running time (and to make those cuts and still have a coherent storyline), Grace shifted and refocused things a little from the prequels we know and argue over.
Gone are all the pod racing, unnecessary exposition, and obnoxious CGI characters that clutter Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Instead, Grace begins his film with the end of that one: with the final showdown between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul.
It’s hilarious to think that most of The Phantom Menace could effectively be eliminated without causing any real confusion in the overall story. Not a great look for George Lucas and company, but does speak to the problems fans had with the first prequel when it originally hit theaters.
Topher Grace kept much of the action from the Lucas films but eliminated any lightsaber battles unless they were relevant to the actual storylines he emphasizes. Those are largely about the Anakin-Padme relationship and Obi-Wan’s search for the individuals trying to assassinate politicians.
Scenes like the one where Padme brings Anakin home to meet her family that were deleted from Lucas’ films but shed light on characters and relationships are reinstated. In this way, Grace took out actual relevant pieces of the story that could find their way into the original final cut.
Grace provides a smooth transition to the original trilogy by ending his film on the image of the menacing Darth Vader sans that much-maligned “Nooo!”
This is yet another example of less is more in this kind of storytelling, especially where Star Wars is concerned. True fans already understand the depth of the pain here; it didn’t need to be hammered home in such an obvious (and kind of silly) way.
Of course, it’s not without its drawbacks. Cutting over 300 minutes out of a series will leave a few holes and move things at a pace that might be strange for those familiar with the originals.
According to Steve Weintraub at Collider and others who have been allowed to see it, Grace’s film is a thematically tight, action-packed, and enjoyable film.
Topher Grace’s cut, first completed in 2012, went on to inspire others to take up the Star Wars editing mantle in the years that followed. Topher Grace even helped produce and splice a 5-minute cut of the entire franchise, trailer-style that brings in elements from nearly every Star Wars production having to do with the original timeline and characters.
His 5-minute cut rather beautifully encapsulates the central ethos of the franchise while also shifting things into place from movies like Solo, Rogue One, and, of course, the other timeline movies as well.
Unfortunately, Topher Grace’s 85-minute Star Wars cut won’t be coming to a big or small screen near you soon (or ever). Disney would never allow it.
Topher Grace doesn’t plan to hold more public screenings or distribute the film, even though thousands of fans of Star Wars films would probably jump at the opportunity to see the prequels without Jar Jar Binks. He’s probably too afraid of being sued by Disney.