Franchise films have a way of making nerds out of all of us. Whether it’s superhero movies, Star Wars, Harry Potter or The Matrix, we’ve all got those franchises that are guaranteed to put us in the theater on opening night. Not only are they immensely entertaining, but there’s a sense of community around these movies that makes you feel welcome. So there’s nothing worse than getting excited about the newest film in the series and walking out of the theater disappointed. Sometimes, it just wasn’t quite what you wanted it to be, and other times, it’s an abomination that shames the franchise forever.
However, some fans aren’t content to just let those bad movies tarnish the reputation of an otherwise great legacy. Some amateur film editors take things into their own hands and fix what Hollywood couldn’t, whether that means restructuring a film entirely, or just cutting out Jar Jar Binks. Let’s face it, even great films sometimes have room to improve, sometimes a bloated trilogy really only deserved one movie, and sometimes it’s just fun to see what it would look like if you blend unrelated movies into a single storyline. Here are 15 fan edits so good, they put the original to shame!
15. STAR WARS PREQUEL TRILOGY: THE TOPHER GRACE CUT
Possibly the most famous fan edit in history is ironically one that you’ll probably never see. That ’70s Show star Topher Grace is a notoriously big Star Wars fan in real life and a fan edit enthusiast. In 2012, he screened his own personal cut of the Star Wars prequel trilogy edited together into one 85-minute film dubbed, The Editor Strikes Back.
The Phantom Menace is almost completely cut except for a shortened version of the lightsaber battle with Darth Maul. Almost all of the Senate scenes are cut, as is Jar Jar Binks and any mention of “midichlorians.” The focus is entirely on Anakin, his relationships and his fall to the Dark Side. While you’ll probably never see this exact version, there are other fan edits floating around that have attempted to accomplish the same goal.
14. SPIDER-MAN 3: REDEMPTION
Speaking of Topher Grace, Spider-Man fans don’t typically think of him as someone who makes movies better. His casting as Eddie Brock wasn’t the only issue that made Spider-Man 3 as bad as it was, but it certainly didn’t help. The movie was overcrowded with villains, pointless subplots and bad emo dance numbers.
Spider-Man 3: Redemption cuts the excess villains down to supporting roles to allow Peter and Harry’s story reach the deserved finale that the entire trilogy was building to. It also cuts the scene where Harry’s butler explains Norman’s death, so it adds emotional weight to Harry’s decision to help Peter in the end. Perhaps best of all, it undoes the ridiculous retcon of Flint Marko being Uncle Ben’s killer, so it’s actually more in canon with Sam Raimi’s trilogy than the official version.
13. THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS DECODED
Lots of franchises tend to take a dip in quality by the later films, but sadly, fans of The Matrix only got one really great film before everything that was cool about the original got buried in unnecessary sequences, poorly thought out twists and pseudoscience. The stylistic fighting that made the first film so iconic was amped up to a cartoonish degree, and the plot moves at a snail’s pace in between scenes of dancing, prophetic dreams and overly long and complicated monologues on philosophy that go on forever without really saying anything.
The Matrix: Revolutions Decoded is a massive edit, cutting together Reloaded and Revolutions along with scenes from The Animatrix and Enter The Matrix, to tell a complete story in only two hours and fifteen minutes. The ending is also edited so that Neo beats Smith by sheer force of will rather than surrender, and Trinity lives.
12. THE AVENGERS INITIATIVE
Fans being compelled to create their own edit doesn’t necessarily mean that the original films were bad. Sometimes it’s just fun to take films we love and look at them in a new way. Most fans of Marvel movies can marathon the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Iron Man to Spider-Man: Homecoming and then start all over again, but that can take up a good chunk of time.
The Avengers Initiative takes everything from after Tony Stark revealed to the world that he was Iron Man up until The Avengers and cuts it into a mostly chronological, cohesive timeline of events that led the formation of the Avengers. The edit also takes the liberty of cutting out lots of needless exposition and scenes that don’t move the plot forward in any way, bringing the original 351-minute run time down to 278 and creating a much more streamlined story.
2005’s Constantine wasn’t a terrible movie by any means. Audiences who weren’t familiar with the Hellblazer comic book that it was based on generally enjoyed it. The issue for a lot of people was that it steered too far away from the story, tone and message of the source material. The Hellblazer edit can only fix so much, but it does the best with what it has.
All the deleted scenes are added back in and reworked to fill in some of the holes in the story and put more of a focus on John. The needless scenes of the Spear of Destiny traveling around are deleted as is the bad CGI bug monster scene, which not only looked horrible, but it didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie.
10. STAR WARS ORIGINAL TRILOGY: THE DESPECIALIZED EDITIONS
Many people despise the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but by far the worst thing George Lucas ever did to Star Wars was going back to the original trilogy over the years and changing things for the Special Edition releases. A lot of it was just remastering the visual quality, but in some instances, the quality is actually worse like making Darth Vader’s lightsaber a dull pink with no white core. He also added in corny CGI where it was unnecessary and a terrible music sequence to Return of the Jedi.
Worst of all, he replaced Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen when Luke sees his father’s ghost, and he makes it so Greedo shot at Han first, which fundamentally weaken Han’s character and his redemption at the end of A New Hope. The Despecialized Editions replaces everything with the theatrical cuts, while still maintaining blu-ray quality remastering.
9. BATMAN FOREVER: RED BOOK EDITION
Batman Forever marked the beginning of the decline for the Batman series until Christopher Nolan would save it in 2005. Tim Burton left the series and was replaced by Joel Schumacher, Michale Keaton left the role as Batman to be replaced by Val Kilmer, and the darker, somewhat serious tone was replaced by cartoony visuals, over-the-top acting, and general goofiness. Joel Schumacher can’t be entirely to blame, as he’s stated that his original vision was a much more complex and dramatic tale for the Dark Knight.
The deleted scenes tend to support this statement with Bruce talking about his thoughts on death and flashbacks to his fall into the bat-infested cave that created the Batman persona. Batman Forever: Red Book Edition brings all these scenes back in and deletes some of campier jokes and acting to create an overall more mature and complex film.
8. ROGUE ONE: RISE OF THE REBELLION
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is considered by most to be a pretty great film and a worthy entry into the Star Wars universe. For some people, though, it didn’t quite feel like a Star Wars film. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it was trying to set itself apart, but it still begs the question of how it would stand up if the style was more in line with the rest of the saga.
Rise of the Rebellion is a pretty light edit, mostly aiming to make it feel more in line with other Star Wars films by making slight changes like adding an opening crawl and removing the planet title cards. It also restores the deleted scenes to fill narrative holes. The best change, however, is some minor color correction to the Tarkin and Leia CGI models that make them look a thousand times more realistic.
It would take most people an average of 60 hours to read all seven Harry Potter books. If you don’t have that much time watching the film series would take just over 17 hours, but if you’re really on a time crunch, Wizardhood condenses the entire film series down to just 78 minutes. Obviously, you don’t get the complete story since it cuts out about 93% of footage, but it’s surprising how cohesive the narrative remains even if you don’t have any experience with the original films.
The story focuses on Harry’s ongoing battle with Voldemort, using Sorcerer’s Stone to establish the world and characters. Then cursory scenes from Chamber of Secrets are used to establish texture, development and pace, before larger chunks of Half-Blood Prince through Deathly Hallows Part 2 are used to complete the narrative.
6. THE HOBBIT: THE TOLKIEN EDIT
The Hobbit is a fairly short book at just under 300 pages. It would take the average reader just over four hours to complete the whole book. Somehow, it would take nearly eight and a half hours to watch Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy. That shouldn’t even be possible, but the films are filled with tons of filler, pointless love triangles and subplots that feel tacked on to cash in on a trilogy rather than give audiences a single, well-paced film that’s all killer, no filler, just like the book was.
The Tolkien Edit aims to return the story back to what was laid out in the original book. The story is re-centered on Bilbo. The investigation of Dol Guldor, the Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle and the pale orc subplot are all cut.
5. TERMINATOR 3: THE COMING STORM
It may be hard to picture now, but Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a big deal when it was announced. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction films of all time and when it was released in 1991, it was way ahead of its time. So what happened with Terminator 3?
The story was bland and generic, its tone was way off from the rest of the series and it was filled with goofy jokes that made it seem like a parody of the series. The Coming Storm removes all the corny gags and gets rid of all the mentions of dates and ages that contradict information we got in the first two films, making T3 a worthy entry into the Terminator series.
4. BATMAN: DESCENT INTO MYSTERY
Tim Burton’s Batman was a leap forward for Batman movies. At the time, most general audiences were only familiar with Adam West’s take on the character which was famously more light-hearted and campy. Tim Burton’s first Batman movie was still somewhat campy, but it gave general audiences their first look at a darker Dark Knight.
Descent into Mystery takes that concept of a darker Batman to the next level, removing even more of the cheesiness to bring it closer in tone to the original comic books. This edit also removes the romance subplot between Vicki Vale and Bruce Wayne, which was only there because Hollywood always has to force in a love interest. The edit also cuts out all the pointless deviations from the source material to make it as close to comics-accurate as possible.
3. EVIL DEAD 4: ASH VS EVIL DEAD
Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were asked when a sequel to Army of Darkness was going to happen at nearly every single convention and media appearance they made, and after saying never for over 20 years, we got what was probably the best solution possible: a TV series. Ash vs Evil Dead may not have been exactly what some fans wanted, though.
We only get 25-minute bursts of story at a time and the humor can be a little silly at times, even for a successor to Army of Darkness. The Evil Dead 4 cut aims to make it feel more like the movie sequel that fans were asking for. Not only does it cut all 10 episodes from season one into one single three hour and 23-minute film, but it cuts out some of the more cringey lines.
2. THE SERENITY CHRONICLES
Firefly is without a doubt one of the greatest science fiction TV series of all time, and its follow-up finale film, Serenity, is a worthy follow-up to the series. As everyone knows, Firefly was canceled by Fox after just 14 amazing episodes. The Serenity Chronicles edits each episode and the movie into three epic volumes of around two hours each.
The edit restores some deleted scenes from a few episodes and adds in each of the “River Tam Sessions,” which were originally viral videos to advertise Serenity the movie. The Serenity Chronicles doesn’t take on the impossible task of trying to improve the series, but it does serve as an abridged version of the story of Malcolm Reynolds, his ragtag crew and the mysterious secrets of River Tam.
1. BATEMAN BEGINS: AN AMERICAN PSYCHO
By all standards, Bruce Wayne has had an extremely traumatic life. He watched both parents get murdered right in front of him, he lived with a cult of trained murderers who teach him that killing people is the morally correct thing to do, then he spends the rest of his life secretly going out at night and following the teachings of these cults. He ended up becoming a superhero, but a life like that could have led him down a far darker path.
Bateman Begins: An American Psycho attempts to explore that path by blending scenes from American Psycho and Batman Begins as well as a few scenes from The Machinist. Bruce never puts on the Batman costume, but he does become a symbol of fear for the criminals of Gotham with Alfred as his accomplice.
Which of these fan edits do you think did the best job of telling a better, more distilled story? Let us know in the comments!
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