by Brian M. Raftery and Dan Snierson
Even two years after Jar Jar Binks’ debut, some ”Star Wars” fans still have their lightsabers drawn over ”The Phantom Menace”’s all-digital sidekick. Hence ”Episode I.I: The Phantom Edit,” a slick reworking of George Lucas’ 1999 hit that runs about 18 minutes shorter and excises Binks-heavy moments like the underwater chase.
Finished in January, the tape spread wildly in June — and spawned other ”Phantom” tweaks on the Net. But who is this phantom editor? Turns out he’s a twentysomething aspiring L.A. filmmaker, well-versed in Macintosh’s Final Cut Pro but afraid to identify himself, lest he face the Lucas Empire’s wrath. (He stresses that he hasn’t tried to sell his tape.) The longtime ”Star Wars” fan says he was inspired after watching ”Episode I” on tape: ”[I thought”], ‘This is too painful to watch.’… [Lucas] had all the technology to do all the things he wanted, and he just forgot to concentrate on storytelling.”
Despite the hubbub, the Force may be with him. ”We’ve always allowed fans to have fun with ‘Star Wars,”’ says Lucasfilm rep Jeanne Cole, noting that Lucas hasn’t seen any of the alternate Phantoms. ”[But] once it gets into a case of duplication and distribution, it is an infringement.” In other words, they’d like to keep Maul in the family.