Director’s Cuts and Special Editions: Artistry or Profit?

So, home video has provided us with more options for film than ever before. However, a lot of people are not fond of subsequent new versions of films coming out, whereas others are intrigued and liked the idea of an advanced cut, which is the umbrella term I’m using for any non-theatrical version sold to the general public. Now, for me it depends on how interested I was in the original movie; after seeing Kingdom of Heaven for the first time, I was very interested to see what was in the Director’s Cut, especially after noticing the run time was substantially longer. I’m a huge Ridley Scott fan, and was very impressed with his work, especially knowing that he is a master of editing his films; why would he cut so much out? Well, it was the studio, which didn’t feel the Baldwin V subplot warranted wide release, whereas others disagreed. The result is a profoundly different, and in my opinion, better movie, in which you understand the characters more clearly and without difficulty.

We can grabble over semantics, but suffice it to say there are two versions of any post-theatrical release; director-driven, or producer-driven. Pretty much every other term is marketing; after all, Zach Synder was being destroyed by fans, so packaging Batman vs. Superman as an ultimate edition was probably viewed as a smart move, which it was. On the other end, Warner Bros. assembled a new cut of Blade Runner in 1992 without Ridley Scott’s involvement, but based on his notes, which means the director’s cut isn’t really the director’s cut, but rather the 2006 Final Cut is the director’s cut, because he oversaw the HD transfer, re-edited a few portions, and actually shot a scene using modern techniques to deal with a public continuity error. Likewise, Peter Jackson just used the term extended version for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

However, all these issues aside, the real questions are: are they worth it? Should you watch them? Should you buy them?

I suppose a lot depends on timing. If a studio decides to release an advanced cut, it is not inherently bad, but a lot of fans feel like it’s a cash-grab if you need to buy two copies of the same movie, which is very fair, and one reason why few studios do that. However, many times studios wait months after the release of the first wave of blu-rays have gone out before releasing them, and it drives me nuts when I cannot find out ahead of time if they are going to do so before deciding whether or not to buy the movie sooner or later. (Usually, by the way, it’s later; after an initial wave of enthusiasm, prices come crashing down, and you get them at half the price six months later.) I also want to note that in some cases the advanced cuts come out to commemorate anniversaries or special occasions, which is usually fine by me.

I also feel like some people don’t understand how films are made, and how some filmmakers really don’t get a clean shot at the editing process, with Josh Trank and the disaster known as last year’s Fantastic Four being a great example; if Fox had patched things up with him, he would have been willing to release a director’s cut before fans lost all hope, which may have saved Fox’s attempt to reboot the franchise. On the other hand, after he was forced to remove an entire subplot from X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fox allowed Brian Singer to release his director’s cut, called the Rogue Cut for a key character in the missing subplot, which gave us a much longer, more thorough telling of the same story. Fans may complain about an advanced cut, or lack thereof, but I wonder how many of them take the time to wonder who’s behind the decision-making. People can be vocal without having the knowledge to back up their statements, which is hilarious in the right context, and downright dangerous in the wrong one.

I think that we need to remember that studios are run by people, and filmmakers are also people, and that people are not perfect, nor do they make perfect decisions all the time, so what I’m going to do is run through some advanced cuts and run over why I like them or not.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Peter Jackson’s masterpiece has been released several times, which is the problem. I love the extended versions, especially since they add more material relevant to the books. I also got a real kick out of how they were able to add proper introductions for some characters, as well as resolve subplots, which were really necessary, and should have been in the theatrical cut proper.

However, the new DVDs just kept coming out, each one with more “new” material, and therein lay the problem. After the second wave, it is a money grab, which is a bold capitalistic move, but only if it works and doesn’t tick off your fan base. I do know that after a while the only major release was on blu-ray disc, so I guess they learned their lesson.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: the Rogue Cut

So, rumors of the Rogue Cut came out around the time of the initial release, but there was never any news about it. It seemed like it was a nice story, but we’d never get to see it. However, the announcement came, relatively out of the blue, that the Rogue Cut would be released two weeks later, and indeed it was. I was a huge fan of the film, and I’m a fan of Anna Paquin, so I got it quickly, and to my relief, it did have both versions on it, and I appreciated the longer cut.

What I appreciated was that I don’t think there were plans to release it, but fans asked, so Fox decided to go for it. It didn’t feel like a money grab as much, because there was an artistic logic behind the release, and it also felt like Fox was making a serious effort for the fans, which was a nice change of pace.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

So, I haven’t seen the ultimate version yet, so this one will be brief, but I appreciate that Warner Bros. and DC recognized the faults in the second film of their would-be cinematic empire, and decided to offer the director’s cut right away.

The Alien Quadrilogy

When the Alien franchise released its nine-disk set on DVD, each film had two versions, an alternate cut, and the original cut. None of the alternate cuts were director’s cuts, though, because for Alien, Aliens, and Alien: Resurrection, the directors were happy with their efforts and viewed the theatrical cut as their preferred one. However, they were happy to work with the material and rework some old material that they had liked back in, and those versions of the films, especially Alien, all give me different views on the originals; how some concepts that were not on screen until later down the line actually had originated earlier, but were not used in that film. Alien 3 had an alternate cut based on David Fincher’s vision, but he refused involvement, due to his history with the film.

I like this approach because it gave you the best of both worlds, whilst celebrating a great franchise.

Blade Runner / Kingdom of Heaven

So, like I mentioned, the 1992 Director’s cut was not actually a director’s cut, but the 2006 Final Cut was. I will say that, based on what I know, Ridley Scott lost creative control of the project, and so coming back to it to truly fulfill his vision was the right move. Having seen the original theatrical release (with the narration), his version is better, but more significantly it is undeniably his. It is also worth noting that the set came out with all versions, plus Dangerous Days, one of the best making of documentaries I’ve ever seen.

Ridley Scott’s team was forced to heavily cut Kingdom of Heaven, as I mentioned above. I love the director’s cut, which is less confusing, and more enjoyable, and probably saved the legacy of the film, as far as I’m concerned.

Star Wars: Episodes I-VI

So, this is where the argument usually begins, which is why I haven’t mentioned it until now. George Lucas was at one point a marketing genius, who truly lost his touch when he tried to assert full creative control over the franchise, more specifically by limiting the versions released to his vision, and not the original. I’m not saying he can’t tinker with it until the end of time, but he needed to make the original versions available on all formats, along with his modified ones, and it is to the detriment of him and his films that he failed to do so.

SO, that wraps up my write up. Let me know if you agree, or disagree, the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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About brettryanclu

I reside in California, and I am a graduate from California Lutheran University, where I received my Masters in Public Policy and Administration. I like to write, talk politics, and exchange comments and opinions.
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