Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

There are very few films out there that could be considered perfect. We often go away from a viewing entertained but a little disappointed about something. A quick look at a Youtube site like Whatculture, which specialises in finding the bad in films, can clue you into some of these. More often than not it’s the ending, but other things can be the culprit. Sometimes you just notice a missed opportunity, a direction not taken, an editing decision that should have been rethought. If you’re like me (ie, obsessed), you might take to righting this wrong by doing your own edit of a film using video editing software. Lots of people do it, so don’t feel guilty. I mean, someone’s done a complete overhaul of David Lynch’s Dune and put it up on Youtube, so us rebuild crazies are out there and proud of it.

Here’s a description of some of the film rebuilds I’ve done. I don’t know if I’ll ever go that extra step and put them up for show on Youtube (you’ve gotta watch those copyright cops), but presently, I’m content with knowing my own special edits of these films exist. I’d like to thank the humble DVD for making these possible. The commentaries and outtakes and other extra material on them helped inspire some of these rebuilds. The amazing app, DVDShrink, was also a boon in helping me reduce and burn these films onto disc (purely for home usage).

Passengers

I did a review of this film that appears on the Swamp Podcast section under Archives on this site. I liked the film, but there’s one problem with it. (Spoilers follow!) Due to a malfunction, Chris Pratt’s character wakes up too early on a space ship that’s going to a new planet, and realises he’s condemned to live his life out on the ship while in-transit before it gets to the planet. The crew and other colonists are still in deep sleep and will be awoken when they get to the planet, which will be in something like 100 years. Pratt decides to wake up another colonist, played by Jennifer Lawrence, to keep him company during the long journey. The film hinges on this moral dilemma. The Problem is, we are informed about this right from the start. We watch as Pratt obsesses over Lawrence’s character, still caught in her hibernation tube, until he can’t take his loneliness anymore and decides to revive her, thus robbing her of the life she was supposed to live. But of course, he doesn’t tell her he did this. He lets her believe it was another malfunction. For maximum dramatic impact, the film-makers should have let us in on this at the same time the Lawrence character discovered it, as she does in the film much later. This isn’t just my view of what should have happened, it’s something that’s occurred to many people who have watched the film. There’s lots of material on the net confirming this, and I agree with it.

Thus, I decided to do my own edit of the film where, this time, Pratt’s desperate plan is kept from us and we only discover it at the same time that Lawrence’s character does. It actually wasn’t too hard to do. Just before Pratt’s character takes this course of action, there’s a scene where he collapses on the floor in despair. I fade the scene at this point and pick the story up at a later point when Pratt is wandering the halls of the spaceship, looking, well, guilty as hell, but we’re not supposed to know it. This is when Lawrence’s character appears, having been inadvertently revived presumably by the same malfunction that revived Pratt. From there it was a simple matter of including a flashback of Pratt’s machinations at the point when Lawrence’s character discovers the truth of her situation (oh, I also had to cut out an earlier scene where Pratt tells the ship’s android bartender that what he did must remain a secret between them). I think it makes for a much more satisfying experience of the film. And, I said it before and I’ll say it again: I could handle living a lifetime on that ship alone with Jennifer Lawrence. Not sure if she could (with me), though!

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy

Let’s face it, this should have been at most a two-part film rather than a trilogy. So that’s what I did: made it into two films by contracting the second and third films into one.

I really liked the first part, An Unexpected Journey, so it stayed relatively intact. In fact, there were things in the extended home bluray version that I liked so much I included them in my cut of the film. One of these was the scene where the Goblin King (played brilliantly by Barry Humphries – his best work, in my opinion) sings (and dances) the song Down In Goblin Town. The other is a brief scene when the company are in Rivendell dining with the elves, and when one of the dwarves (I think it’s Fili) says he fancies one of the comely elf maidens, it turns out she’s a he (they all look so effeminate). I can’t believe Jackson left those scenes out of the theatrical version of the film, especially Down In Goblin Town. But I did cut one thing out of the film, and that’s old ‘poophead’ Radagast the Brown, as played by Sylvester McCoy. He seemed like such an unnecessary, stupid character. And I really hated the giant rabbit sleigh he uses to get around in Middle Earth. I cut all the scenes to do with him and the rabbits. In fact, watching the behind-the-scenes footage included in the bluray, there’s a part where Jackson introduces his idea of the sleigh and the giant rabbits to his crew, and you can see they think it’s a stupid idea. I guess they all went along with it because the Director was adamant. It was a bugger getting rid of Radagast, especially in the warg chase scene, and the conference at Rivendell between Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, Radagast and Elrond. But I did it.

Getting rid of Radagast in the first film also meant getting rid of him in the other two films. The plan was to cut the two films down and join them to make one reasonably long film, so a lot of things went. Needless to say, I only used the theatrical versions of both films. There was so much ‘padding’, I won’t go into all the things I excised. But I did cut down the Kili and Tauriel relationship, and I hacked at the long dwarves verses the dragon fight at the end of Desolation of Smaug. It was quite a job, and I’m still not happy with the end result, but I gave it a go.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

This Nicolas Roeg film featuring David Bowie as the titular alien is an amazing piece of work. Hugely eccentric and sprawling, like much of Roeg’s works, it was just the sprawl that I thought needed hemming in. The film’s last third, when the main characters (except Bowie’s Jerome Newton) are seen to age as the years go by, is the most disappointing. The aging makeup isn’t good, especially on Rip Torn and Candy Clark’s characters. Newton’s entrapment in that hotel seems to drag on so long before he finally escapes. And I’m not sure how necessary was the sex scene between Bowie and Candy Clark’s character – and a gun – in that hotel either.

My solution to all this was to cut much of it out and radically change the film’s ending. In the film and the book, Newton never gets back to his home planet. He ends his life in booze and dissipation on Earth, its vices getting the better of him. But Roeg includes a fantasy scene in the film where Newton does get back to his planet and is happily welcomed by his family. It’s just a dream that Newton has, but I took that scene and put it at the end, not long after the confusing sequence where Newton is about to make his (failed) attempted trip on the rocket Rip Torn’s company is building for him. So it looks like he gets home after all, and achieves his mission to bring water to his planet, and his slow slide on Earth is erased from our minds. Happy ending. I know that kills much of the point of the film and the book, but, well, it satisfies me. I so wanted him to get back, poor guy.

DVDs: Putting In the Outtake

Hi Fidelity, the film by Stephen Frears, starring John Cusack, was a terrific adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, which I read and enjoyed very much. There’s nothing really wrong with it as it is, but it left out one of my favourite scenes from the novel. It was a scene where Cusack’s record shop-owning character, Rob, goes to the home of a client, a woman, who is offering her husband’s amazing collection of records for sale. Rob is gobsmacked at what the husband owns (there’s a copy of the A&M version of God Save the Queen, for one), but when the wife offers $50 dollars for the collection (it’s an act of revenge at his infidelity), he demurs. He can’t do this to a fellow music fan. This scene is actually referenced in the film when we see Rob taking the phone call from the woman in his record shop, but nothing comes of it. Turns out, the scene was shot but left out of the finished film; it can be seen on the outtakes of the DVD version. I, of course, reinstated it into the film. It’s a fabulous scene, I don’t know why Frears had it cut.

A similar thing happened with the Austin Powers film, Goldmember, starring Mike Myers. There was a terrific outtake on the DVD, an extended scene of Austin wandering forlornly around London to the soundtrack of Alfie as sung by Susanna Hoffs (wife of the director, Jay Roach). Roach said in the commentary that leaving it out was one of the hardest decisions he had to make (he left it out mainly because of ‘pacing’).

Another, more recent film was Yesterday, the film about a world where no one but a handful of people, including the main character musician, have a recollection of the Beatles’ existence and songs. There’s a wonderful outtake on the DVD featuring the musician, played by Himesh Patel, as a guest on the James Corden Show. Corden encourages him to write a song on the spot. ‘Just something,’ he prods, and Patel comes up with Something by George Harrison. One of the other guests is a lovely actress, and Patel focuses on her as ‘inspiration’ for the song, which she responds to in kind. I’m pretty sure Director Danny Boyle decided not to include the scene because it potentially diverted Patel’s character away from the romance arc with his manager. But it’s a fine scene that sits alone there on the DVD. I could make an edit of the film that includes it, but the same as with Goldmember, I’m content to keep it in my head.

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