I have followed fan edits closely over the years. While I am no fan of the Star Wars films I have ended up buying the original trilogy multiple times. The only one I can say I truly just enjoy is ‘A New Hope’. When Congress decided to set up a library of the Oscar winning films they asked Lucas for a copy, he supplied his ‘improved’ version, which they rejected. There is a fan edit called the Despecialised Edition, this has used numerous sources including effects they have specially completed to fill in those ‘updated’ areas. The result is a broadly HD version of the original film, rather than the non-progressive print that Lucasfilm eventuially, and very grudgingly, made available. This is the ONLY version I watch of these films.
Despecialised is the gold standard, but involved no heavy editing of the original film, more a restoration.
Why would you want to edit the released film?
An example would be Raising Caine. This was a film that the director struggled with. When the original script eventually leaked online a fan reordered the film and this was later endorsed by De Palma, who then officially released it as the ‘Director’s Cut’. Other films have been re-edited by the actual director and circulated by the them, such as Soderburgh.
Another approach is to release a film having moved it into a different milieu, such as a silent film or an episode of a well known series. The Star Trek movies have been released in the original series format.
A further category would be people who want to excise elements of a film that they detest, such as Jar Jar Binks, or more gently re-shape a film, such as The Phantom Edit.
If you would like to get a feel for what these films look like then on YouTube you can quickly find:
Star Wars - Neon Noir; and
Star Wars - Dawn of the Empire.
The glory of these films is they edit the mess of the prequel trilogy excising most of the painful elements. The downside is that the flow of the story suffers. Either way they are an interesting watch, and I would bare a lot to remove Lucas’s dreadful love dialogue.
The film that first got me into fan edits was Spice Diver’s version of Dune, now available on YouTube again. This film adds on an extended prologue and slots in removed elements of the film. It does not turn a pigs ear into a silk purse, but it is probably nearer to Lynch’s intent.
The films where significant editing has almost saved a film are the VASTLY cut down versions of the original Godzilla & The Hobbit Trilogy.
One cut down version of The Hobbit is called The Cardinal Cut. Yes, some of the cuts are less than perfect, but as much of the film remains intact THIS is the version I watch of these films. My BluRays stay in their cases gathering much deserved dust. Here the editor has:
Total length of 3 hours, 48 minutes and 25 seconds (including credits)
Cut the opening titles from DoS and BoFA, and the ending credits from AUJ and DoS
Cut extended prologue (cut between Bilbo starting to write and “60 Years Earlier…”)
Cut the “Bilbo goes to the market” scene; trimmed the Dwarves’ arrival
Cut Azog as much as possible, reducing him to an unnamed background character
Trimmed the Trolls scene so that they use Bilbo as a hostage right away
Cut everything to do with Radagast, Saruman, Galadriel, the Necromancer, Dol Guldur, etc.
Heavily trimmed the chase to Rivendell, and the group’s stay there
Cut the “stone giants” scene
Heavily trimmed the “down to Goblin Town” sequence, and the Dwarves’ escape
Heavily trimmed the “five fir trees” sequence
Trimmed the stay with Beorn (heavily trimmed the reintroduction of the Dwarves)
Trimmed the Mirkwood sequence
Cut the Elves fighting with the Spiders (instead they simply arrive and arrest the Dwarves)
Cut the scenes with Tauriel and Kili
Cut the “river chase” (cut from Bilbo falling in the water to the group washing up downstream)
Trimmed Bard’s introduction
Heavily trimmed the arrival in Laketown, the Dwarves’ arrest, and the departure ceremony
Cut everything with Legolas and Tauriel tracking the Dwarves/Orcs
Cut the Orc attack on Laketown and Kili’s Morgul Blade injury/treatment
Lightly trimmed Bilbo’s confrontation with Smaug (mainly references to the Arkenstone/Sauron)
Cut the Dwarves/Smaug chase (cut from Smaug breathing fire at Bilbo to him leaving Erebor)
Trimmed Smaug’s attack on Laketown, aftermath of attack
Heavily trimmed Thorin’s descent into madness
Trimmed the Elves’ arrival and both sides’ preparations for battle
Trimmed Gandalf’s arrival and Bilbo’s sneaking out
Trimmed Dain’s arrival; cut the fighting between the Elves and Dwarves
Cut the “earth eaters”
Heavily trimmed the Battle of the Five Armies (cut >95% of it)
The result is FAR more watchable, while not solving all of Jackson’s unfortunate choices.