Rants and Raves: Raiding the Lost Ark

Beth Accommando on Monday, Feb. 6th

Once again George Lucas cannot leave well enough alone and we shall be assaulted by a 3D version of “The Phantom Menace” in theaters this weekend. But movie geek Jamie Benning has been toiling away on a series of fan-made documentaries that remind us why we fell in love with Lucas’ films in the first place.

Yes. I am a “Star Wars” geek. And I have a love/hate relationship with George Lucas. Take Jar Jar Binks… Please. (Apologies to Rodney Dangerfield and his wife.)

If George Lucas had never created that annoying, slapstick-prone CGI character in “The Phantom Menace,” history would be different. No amount of “meesa so sorry” can make up for this abomination. And to add insult to injury, Lucas is sending a 3D Jar Jar Binks into theaters on February 10th.

When “The Phantom Menace” first came out in 1999, Jar Jar became the focus of fan hatred and ridicule. Jar Jar was meant to be comic relief for the kiddies, but he came to symbolize what fans saw as Lucas’ flawed creative judgment. One fan was so incensed he re-cut the movie to minimize Jar Jar’s presence. He then distributed VHS and DVD copies this “improved” version for free to other fans. It came to be known as “The Phantom Edit,” and it gave “Star Wars” geek Jamie Benning his first taste of fan filmmaking.

“I think when ‘The Phantom Edit’ first came out of ‘The Phantom Menace,’ I think a lot of people realized that the ability for people to do this kind of thing had arrived,” says Benning.

In 2006, Benning joined an online group petitioning Lucas to release the “Star Wars” trilogy in its original form, you know the one where Han — not bounty hunter Greedo — shot first. Lucas ignored their pleas. So Benning, a professional editor in sports television and full-time Star Wars nerd, took matters into his own hands and created a fan film.

For more on Benning’s project, visit KPBS’s Cinema Junkie.

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