I’ve wanted to write about my thoughts regarding the release of extended cuts in film for a while. With 2016 seeing the release of several films which were apparently improved by the release of ‘extended cuts’ I started thinking to myself whether the makers of these projects are doing this because of a desire to fulfil creative vision or to make more money. My ultimate feeling regarding this would be based more on a subjective experience of film making, but it’d be interesting to figure out where extended films are done because of creative limitation or the addition of ‘downloadable content.’
Changes with films is something that shouldn’t be unexpected; I hear a lot about how the likes of Star Wars films, Suicide Squad and Fant4stic went through re-filming in order to adapt to new ideas that the creator or the studio has. Whether this works or not does depend on the film being made (Fant4stic being atrocious for the record) but there are times when those films have removed scenes put back in.
Most of my thoughts in respects to these Extended Cuts come from the numerous DC releases last year; Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad and Batman: The Killing Joke. Now, I didn’t particularly enjoy any of these films, but that was less to do with the amount of time given, and more with what they did with the amount of time given to them. Batman V Superman was ridiculous, nonsensical and boring, Suicide Squad was confusing and not particularly interesting to follow and Batman: The Killing Joke… well that was trouble to begin with.
All three of these films have had additional versions released for them (though in the latter case it was a 30 minute addition to an already established comic book story) reportedly including extensions to scenes for the sake of context, or redoing scenes that just didn’t make sense to begin with.
Do these improve the films in any particular way? In these cases I don’t think so. More bearable at least, and makes more sense for the story. But I can’t help but feel that if the films didn’t work particularly well in the first place then they’ve failed to capture my interest.
In all fairness, I did revise my opinion of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice after being told to watch it’s ‘Ultimate Edition’ by a friend of mine. That version did help to see certain scenes in a better light, and does a better job of setting up future plot lines in a way that the original didn’t.
But once again, that didn’t really alter my opinion of the film in general; it didn’t change my opinion of Batman (admirable performance, but did things that Batman wouldn’t) or of the film’s story in general. I said at the time that a lot of the feud between Batman and Superman could have been solved by a five minute conversation like in the hilarious How It Should Have Ended sketches.
You’ll note that I spent a lot of paragraphs discussing DC’s execution of their films, and you’ll likely think I hate their films…. okay, maybe I do a bit. However, it does serve a useful purpose; when does an extended cut fail to serve it’s purpose?
I can understand cutting down a film’s length in order to fill the time for a theatrical release, and then out of frustration for the lack of said scenes release another version later. But with DC? It almost feels like they know that they’re going to disappoint their viewers with the original version and so they announce another version to sate that disappointment.
That’s where the DLC comparison comes in; the existence of downloadable content in games designed to make players pay more money for content deliberately cut out of games for a complete experience. (Star Wars: Battlefront, Rainbow Six: Siege, Evolve as examples) It’s even gotten to the point where you essentially pre order that content before even knowing what it is. (called Season Passes)
Not that this is universal, of course, but in these specific cases it was essentially done for the sake of greed. I don’t think DC quite does it to the same extent, but were future films to employ the same tactics – even excluding entire scenes integral to future releases – then that’s more cause for concern.
Of course, there are times when a film works both as an extended edition and as a theatrical release. The most obvious example of this is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Rightfully gaining recognition for being excellent films, the addition of extra footage was a welcome bonus that added context to the trilogy. Those films were long on their own, so the removal of certain scenes made sense. (for the most part.. perhaps remove one of the endings and replace it with Saruman’s final scene)
I suppose what it comes down to is that when a film is good whether extended or not, then having more scenes can surely only help it when the faithful return. It’s just that when a film is bad and an extended edition is released so soon after getting that negative press, one can’t help but wonder whether or not that was a cynical business strategy.
For what it’s worth though, I’m not saying that they’re bad, just that it’s important to be mindful when a film is being intentionally manipulative. Whether those extra scenes were removed for good reason, or if it was part of a longer strategy to bring more money in, the practice of extended editions have continued to be a murky subject.
Ideally, I’d like to know in advance why scenes have been cut out? Why has this version been announced so soon after theatrical release? What value do these new scenes ultimately have?
Just questions to keep in mind folks.