Following on from the news that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is coming to HBO Max in 2021, Anghus Houvouras picks four director’s cuts he’d like to see…
The idea of a Director’s Cut or ‘Extended Cut’ isn’t necessarily new. There was a time when letting the director back into the editing booth to take another shot at shaping their vision was unheard of. Stanley Kubrick would sometimes re-edit movies after they were already in theaters either because he was a staunch perfectionist or he accidentally switched the medication to control his obsessive compulsive disorder with tic-tacs.
A Director’s Cut was usually a chance to get a cleaner version of the film due to interference from studios, producers, or test screening audiences. There are Director’s Cuts which provide a lot of additional insight into their movies. Normally that insight being ‘Man, this was better before they went back in and made everything too damn long’. I certainly felt that working my way through the three and a half different cuts of Blade Runner. Talk about sucking the joy out of a movie you liked. The constant reexamination of the narrative did little to make me enjoy the movie more. The same thing applies to the Director’s Cut of Dune. No matter what Lynch wanted, the film I initially fell in love with as a weird 12-year-old isn’t the movie I’m watching now.
Most of the movies I love weren’t improved by Director’s Cuts. Mostly because it feels like an uphill battle in my brain when the movie deviates from what I remember. After watching the theatrical cut of Tombstone fifty times, I watched a longer Director’s Cut and was entertained, but the natural cadence and rhythm of the film I was familiar with felt… off.
The Director’s Cut has been changed to ‘Ultimate Cut’ or ‘Extended Cut’ which is a great move by studios because who the hell needs Directors interfering in the recutting process? Am I right? Longer version of films used to be something intellectually interesting, but now it’s little more than a marketing hook designed to make you think you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck. Sometimes it produces some interesting curiosities like The Director’s Cut of Payback which radically alters the original. Most of the time it’s an assemblage of extra scenes that feel like they were left our for a reason.
Still, there are cuts of movies out there that I want to see, and most of them aren’t very good.
1. Fantastic Four – The Josh Trank Cut
Possibly the most reviled comic book movie since Superman IV: A Quest for Peace, Josh Trank’s reboot of America’s least cared about super team is a hot mess. The writing is thin. The cast felt limp in their performances. Eventually Trank’s version was condemned to the depths of the negative zone and reshoots took the movie into fantastically familiar territory. And yet, I actually like the wart covered first hour of the film. Sure, Miles Teller looks like he’s running low on acting batteries and there are crazy lapses in common sense for people who are supposed to be geniuses. That doesn’t change the fact that I want to see where Trank was going to take the damn thing. He kept alluding to a Cronenberg style body horror film and claimed there is a great cut of the movie. I’d like to see what happened before the studio took this undercooked piece of meat and deep-fried it into oblivion.
2. World War Z – The Original Cut
Possibly one of the most plagued productions of the 21st century, World War Z was a film that almost ceased to be several times during the production. Rumors were abound the Pitt and Director Marc Forester would not speak to one another, and much of the original script was jettisoned including an entire third act that was filmed and never used. Matthew Fox actually had a role in the film that was cut down to about nine seconds of total screen time. Reportedly the original rough cut it so repellent that the entire project was almost scrapped never to be released. Some last-minute investors were able to keep the film going and Damon Lindelof was brought in to save the troubled production. Which is like sending in a butcher to help a wounded cow.
3. Rogue One – The Gareth Edwards Cut
Speaking of movies butchered by the studio, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was such an uninspired mess. Reshoots, constant references by the cast of a wildly different vision, and story editing by Tony Gilroy took the film out of Gareth Edwards’ hands. So instead of an original vision of the Star Wars Universe, we were given a studio mandated plate of steaming garbage. This is another movie that feels molested by reshoots and post production. Show us on the doll where Disney touched you Gareth! We’ll never know what Gareth Edwards’ original vision was since Disney would never allow an alternate cut to be released. But for old school Star Wars fans, a Rogue One cut prior to the reshoots and edits would be fascinating. What would an uncompromised version of a Galaxy Far, Far Away look like with zero interference look like?
Probably The Phantom Menace. Still, I’m morbidly curious.
4. American History X
A few years back director Tony Kaye came to Wilmington and attended a screening of American History X, the dark drama that he had undertaken with Edward Norton. The film was famously troubled and rather than compromise his vision, Kaye left the film and what we ended up with was a rather chaotic assemblage of ideas. The original concept of what Kaye wanted may never see the light of day, but you’d be hard pressed to find a fan of the film or a movie lover in general that wouldn’t be interested in seeing the original work print for the film and what Kaye’s ultimate vision of the project was.