It’s been a while since my last Star Wars movies post, but I needed a break after writing 10 movie reviews in two weeks, and then a bunch of things happened that made it so I needed a bit more of a break. But I’m back. Here is the first of my two mystery Star Wars Movie posts, and I’ll announce what the second one will be at the end of this post.
In case you’ve never heard of them, allow me to introduce to you the world of the fan edit. Fan edits are versions of movies, usually popular ones, to either experiment with editing skills, or to try and improve a movie that they either mostly love, or found very disappointing. I’m sure there are other reasons why people do fan edits, but let’s move on.
And yes, I’m going all-out with silly gifs on this one.
Some examples of fan edits available on fanedit.org are Superman Reimagined, which combines Richard Donner’s Superman I and II into a single movie that’s slightly over 3 hours long. You’ve got a bunch of Matrix fan edits that either combine the two sequels into one movie about the length of the original, or some that even combine all three, mostly using the original while adding a couple action scenes from Reloaded and Revolutions. There’s a Spider-Man edit from the Toby Maguire years that combines the origin story of the first movie, Doctor Octopus from the second, and a handful of scenes from the third to try to make the best possible single movie out of the trilogy. And while there’s no chance I’ll ever find the time to watch all of these fan edits, a lot of them sound fascinating.
But this post is specifically about Star Wars fan edits. I’ve actually seen the latter two on this list, but let’s talk about some of the most fascinating fan edits first.
The Phantom Edit
The Phantom Edit, a fan edit of The Phantom Menace, is fairly well known, even in mainstream circles. Around the time it started distribution in 2000 on both VHS and DVD, it even received attention from the mainstream media, including PBS, Salon.com and even BBC. Its creator, Mike J. Nicolas, wanted to make a much stronger version of the movie.
Among the major changes include a new text crawl explaining the reasons why Nicolas made the edit, removing as much of Jar Jar Binks as possible, removing or editing a lot of the battle droid dialogue, and limiting exposition throughout the movie as a whole. For example, there is no mention of those midi-chlorians that a lot of people complain about. Nicolas didn’t just remove dialogue and scenes though – he also added some of the deleted scene footage to fill in plot holes. But overall, the movie is 18 minutes shorter.
Surprisingly, despite The Phantom Edit being distributed on VHS and DVD, Lucasfilm didn’t pursue any kind of legal action or even give Nicolas any kind of cease and desist order. And when people like Kevin Smith gave it positive reviews, this edit really helped create the fan edit movement in the first place.
Nicolas also created a similar fan edit of Attack of the Clones, called Attack of the Phantom. This version ended up being a full 38 minutes shorter than the theatrical release. I haven’t watched either of these, nor do I plan to, but they both sound quite intriguing.
The Despecialized edition of the Original Star Wars is pulled together from multiple sources. The goal: to get as closed to the original theatrical release as possible, while also keeping it at the highest level of quality available.
It’s fairly well known that some of the DVD and even the first Blu-Ray release of the original Star Wars trilogy have colouration problems. For example, Darth Vader’s lightsaber in pretty much every DVD release is pink instead of red. Obi-Wan’s lightsaber also appears white instead of blue. This edit does a great job of restoring the colouring. There are other very similar cuts, like The Silver Screen Edition (restored from a single 35mm film print, restored over the course of 4 years). One thing both of these versions have in common – they don’t contain the “Episode IV: A New Hope” lines in the text crawl. This is keeping in faith with the very original release, which didn’t contain those words either. They were only added in re-releases.
Since it doesn’t look like the original versions of the original trilogy will be officially re-released any time soon, these two versions look like they’ll be the closest we’ll get to what Lucasfilm released in 1977, even if George Lucas has infamously disowned them.
Star Wars Uncut Director’s Cut
This one is fascinating. There’s really no other way to describe it.
This was actually a massive undertaking, organized online through a fan website. Basically what the makers behind this fan edit did was cut the movie into 15 second clips, have different people reserve different spots, and they’d remake those 15 seconds in whatever style they wanted. What you get is a bizarre mix of dramatic reenactments, comedic reenactments, animated segments, and all sorts of madness. Some moments are straight up trippy. Some moments are so hilarious it’s easy to miss the dialogue. There’s actually one brief skit performed by internet celebrities that I recognized. And there’s a brief moment during the Death Star battle where you get a bunch of archived World War II fighter jet footage.
This is almost a must watch, whether you usually pay attention to fan edits or not. With that said, you probably shouldn’t watch it on your own. It’s best viewed in a group. I remember watching this with some friends for my 30th birthday, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We enjoyed it enough that I might pull out The Empire Strikes Back: Uncut for my 31st this year. It’s basically the same thing, but The Empire Strikes Back, and even more insane.
Star Wars: The Adywan Cut
If one were to say that the Adywan Cut is made by a Star Wars super fan with too much time on his hands, it would be hard to argue against that. But of all the fan edits I’ve heard of, this is by far the most ambitious. His fan edit of A New Hope makes an effort to find the perfect middle ground between the theatrical release and the Special Edition. For example, the special edition added a lot to the Mos Eisley approach. It makes the streets of the space port busier, adds more buildings, and also adds some comedy that clashes with the darker tone of that part of the movie.
The Adywan cut keeps some of that additional background detail during the approach, but removes the comedy. No more is there a robot smashing another. No longer is there a giant beast that walks in front of Luke’s speeder just before he’s halted by Stormtroopers.
And that’s just a small example of the changes made in this movie. Colouration is fixed (this came out before the newer Blu-ray releases with fixed colouring). Lasers are changed so that they actually move where they appear to be shot, instead of somehow hitting a wall, yet the Stormtrooper falls anyway. Smoke and debris effects are added on occasion. But the most impressive part of this fan edit is the way he enhanced the Death Star Battle.
Remember the line “we counted 30 small ships …”? Well, in none of the official releases are there actually 30 ships. In the Adywan cut, there are actually 30 rebel fighters in the battle. He adds dogfighting into the background of a lot of shots, intensifies the pacing and makes it a more intense fight overall, while still keeping the serious tone of the original. Obviously there are budget limitations – it doesn’t’ look anywhere close to the space fights of the newer movies, but it does feel like a big improvement over the original. It feels like this would have been the better place for George Lucas to put his CGI efforts in the Special Editions.
Even though this is my favourite fan edit, and I tend to watch this more often than the official version these days, I still have some complaints about it. Adywan added some additional music here and there that wasn’t in the original movie, like a touch of the Imperial March when the Tie Fighters enter the fray of the Death Star battle. That’s alright. But what bugs me is that he also added Battle of Heroes to the fight between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. That fight scene is meant to not have music, and it feels more tense without it.
Here’s a comparison in case you’re interested.
But on the bright side, Han shoots first. And I believe he also released a purist version that doesn’t include any of his more drastic changes and just stuck with the special effects and colouring fixes. Adywan very recently released his edit of The Empire Strikes Back, and as ambitious as his A New Hope cut is, Empire Strikes Back blows it out of the water in terms of the effort he put in. He even built models of ATATs, Han Solo being frozen in Carbonite and added scorch marks to walls during the climactic lightsaber fight. But at the same time, it doesn’t change the storytelling nearly as much.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look into the world of fan edits. My next Star Wars movie post will be about the Lego shorts, of which there are two. That will likely be up sometime in the next week. In addition to editing a book next month, I’ll also likely do some sort of movie theme month as I take a bit more of a break from blogathons, before I start my Dreamworks blogathon.
I’m thinking of a theme month on movies based on true stories. If so, it would include Apollo 13, October Sky and a couple others I haven’t decided on yet. I might also go James Bond and look at the Sean Connery years, with the intention to do theme months on the other actors in the future. But either way, until I move closer to my new job (I’m not yet sure when that would be), I’m probably done with writing 3 or 4 movie posts in a single week. As much as I enjoy it, it quickly eats up what little free time I have. I’m falling way behind on my reading in general.