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George Lucas Knows He 'Went Too Far' With The Phantom Menace

George Lucas had a bad feeling about The Phantom Menace long before it hit theaters. 

Arguably the most maligned entry in the Star Wars canon, 1999's The Phantom Menace has long polarized fans and pained critics. And, as it turns out, Star Wars franchise creator Lucas admitted that he knew the film wasn't going to pan out well after he saw a rough cut of it and was incredibly confused by the climax, stating after the screening that he "may have gone too far in a few places."

Lucas opened up about this in a making-of featurette for the DVD release of The Phantom Menace. Entitled "The Beginning: Making Episode I," the hour-long mini-documentary explores the production and development of the first prequel, and includes Lucas' troubled reaction to his initial edits that ended up in the film's final cut. 

"It's a little disjointed. It's bold in terms of jerking people around. I may have gone too far in a few places," says Lucas after the fateful early screening, which left the film's producer Rick McCallum staring at the screen in horror, his hand covering his mouth.

The Phantom Menace film editor Ben Burtt chimed in to discus how the pacing and tone of the film felt off, and how slapdash the scene construction was. Viewers could barely keep up with the dip in emotion when they saw Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) fight to the death and Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) escape with a horde of troops, only to be force-fed a scene where Jar Jar Binks is acting goofy in the midst of 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 [Hayden Christiansen] returning," says Burtt. "It's a lot in a very short time." 

Lucas apparently agreed with Burtt's observations, but there was no way to fix it; it was simply too late in the game to make cuts or revisions. "It boggles the mind. 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," the filmmaker states. "And you can't jump because you don't know where you are."

The featurette shifts to show Lucas, Burtt, and McCallum analyzing the rough cut with a lot of worry and plenty of pointed words. "I do a particular kind of movie of which this is consistent," Lucas says. "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." 

Sadly, we all know how The Phantom Menace turned out: lambasted by reviewers, roasted by audiences. Still, we can't help but wonder what the end result might have been had there been enough time to re-edit the film.