I recently forced myself to sit down and marathon complete a re-edit of Crystal Skull in order to make it more watchable to my tastes. My source was the 2008 Blu-Ray release. Because it was a brisk re-edit, my mentality was to prefer clunky edits to leaving in embarrassing original material, but in most cases I was able to make the cuts and alterations seem fairly seamless.
The most jarring change is actually at the very start, where I used some very amateurish matting to remove the gopher from the opening Paramount dissolve shot.
I made many, many edits along the course of the film, trimming the runtime from its original length of a little over two hours to around 96 minutes. In addition to the larger changes noted below, I also removed what I consider non-sensical dialogue and exchanges, as well as poor line deliveries in some cases. I also made small cuts to minimize the length of shots heavy in CGI material where I could.
Some examples of alterations:
- Every instance (I believe) of gophers removed.
- Instances of Indy making 'wink to the audience' statements like "Not as easy as it used to be" and "Damn, I thought that was closer" removed. Also similar lines of Mutt Williams making comments about Indy's age..."Get on gramps!" "What are you, like 80?". Essentially anything that shone with a veneer of audience winking storytelling/character development. In similar spirit, removed shot of the Ark of the Covenant.
- Removed 'Mexican Stand-Off' segment in Area 51, which never really made sense to me. In the original cut, Indy has his gun on Spalko while all of the Russian have their guns on him. He says 'Shoot me and she's dead' or something to that effect. All of the Russians lower their guns. Mac puts his gun on Indy, revealing his betrayal. All of the Russians now point their guns at Indy again. I never understood how Mac was anything more than another gun among dozens pointed at Indy and why the Russians decided that Mac pointing a gun at Indy eliminated Indy's threat enough for them to re-raise their guns. Anyway, I made it less convoluted by immediately showing Mac's betrayal and never having the Russians lower their guns.
- Made Indy an on-looker to the nuclear test town sequence from a distance. No fridges nuked.
- Cut out sequence of Indy teaching and being fired from his college. The whole sequence and acting between Jim Broadbent and Harrison Ford felt very over-the-top and the film seemed to cut to Indy's classroom just for the sake of rehashing old environments. Didn't seem necessary. My cut goes straight from Indy being told by government investigators that the FBI is monitoring him to him arranging in his house to leave.
- Added in a sentimental memory to the scene where Indy looks at his father's photo in his study using audio from Last Crusade. Probably the strangest change I made but it was an out of left field idea that I enjoyed.
- Removed segment of Indy's diner conversation with Mutt where Mutt tells Indy his mom's name is Mary and Indy fails to put together that it could be Marion Ravenwood.
- Cut out segment of motorbike chase where they wreck into and decapitate statue of Marcus Brody.
- Cut many many statements from Mutt that make him seem to have the intelligence of a seven year old in the original film. He no longer takes minutes to figure out simple logic puzzles.
- Made characters say less in general. Koepp's script is very heavy in making characters unnecessarily say things about what they are doing or what is happening in front of them. Couple that with the fact that the original film is littered with strange and poorly acted line deliveries, and it's no surprise that the film flows better and in better keeping with the original trilogy when the characters don't say as much about every little thing.
- In graveyard sequence I used the original 2008 teaser trailer audio for Indy's delivery of "Part time", which I much prefer to the take used in the real film.
- I cut down on Marion's lines significantly from her first appearance all the way to the end of the film. Some of Karen Allen's lines and delivery are nearly unwatchable for me in the real film.
- I removed entire sequence of Indy/Mutt/Ox/Marion escaping from Russian camp and sinking in quicksand/snake rope/ etc. In my cut it jumps right from Indy discussing how to find Akator with Spalko to the caravan searching for Akator in the jungle the next day.
- Removed a lot of the exchange between Indy and Marion when they are telling Mutt about his parentage. Also removed line where Indy tells Marion that the problem with all of the other women in his life is that "They weren't you, sweetheart".
- The jungle chase/fight sequence is trimmed down significantly. The order of some events is changed a good deal. I cut down the length of Spalko and Mutt's fencing to a few short moments, removed Mutt being hit in the groin by plants. I also entirely removed the segment of Mutt getting caught up on tree vines, swinging to the rescue with monkeys.
- Cut out the idea of Mac being a "triple agent".
...and many many more cuts. On average I would imagine that I made a change at least every twenty-to thirty seconds. The movie is much more streamlined and, hopefully, the characters don't seem to do and say so many stupid or pandering things.
In rewatching my cut after I completed it, I found that it leaves us with a much more serious Indy than the one in the theatrical cut of KOTCS, much more reflective of the guy I know from the original three. I was very pleased with the overall result.
I will hopefully be finding a way to get this out there soon, once I find out the best way to disseminate it. I'm not very technically minded, in that sense.
EDIT: It's out there now.