Monday, February 19, 2007

Part II: Re-cuts

This is part two of my series discussing the marketing of DVDs, and the strengths and weaknesses of the decision to go through with them.

Today I’ll write about the state of more extensive re-cutting of a film. Part of the discussion is spill over from the directors/extended cut discussion, and another part is much bigger.

Instances where the more extensive re-cut of a film has benefited the movie watching experience can be a tough thing to weigh in on. Some people may feel the original version’s flow was superior, while others believe the additions are beneficial to the overall storytelling.

I would almost hazard to say that the Lord of the Rings films are probably the most recent example of having enough material cut from a film to give it a completely new cut. The amount of good, usable footage, that still hasn’t seen the day of light is extensive, hours worth. The film that benefited the most from the entire extended version was The Two Towers, while the film that didn’t benefit at all was Return of the King. Where Two Towers helped expand, and strengthen Tolkien’s original vision of Middle Earth, Return of the King destroyed it. It contained a few additional references to the book, but many of them were half hearted additions, or were completely out of place in a film that already had half the heart of the first two.

Apocalypse Now: Redux is a film that seems split entirely down the middle as to whether the film is superior or inferior to the original. I’ve seen both, and I really can’t tell you as I’m torn both ways. The longer, “Redux” version contains a lot more story, but much of it feels almost too surreal and other parts of it feel inconsequential to the overall story which is supposed to be unfolding.

The Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist is an interesting case. The original film “Dominion” was completed, and was then rejected by the studio. Renny Harlin then came in to film “The Beginning”, replacing 90 percent of the footage filmed. The new cut even had some completely different characters, while dropping others who were in the earlier cut. Again, I found neither cut was really spectacular, with some good things in the Harlin version (I know, gasp!), and other parts superior in the Paul Schrader version.

Superman II is the latest film to be “redone”, this time by the original director (before he was dismissed/fired/left the project), Richard Donner. The situation was much like the more recent Exorcist prequel, but overall (aside from the slight campy feel and no Brando in the “final” version) they’re exactly the same films. Many will praise this version, some of said praise is legitimate and another part of it feels too much like support based on spiteful vitriol poised directly on the man who took over as director, Richard Lester. I for one see some benefits to this newfound version of the story, but many many many problems with it. After seeing it, I realized the project was not done to make the best film possible, but to give a huge middle finger to Lester, as they almost completely cut any possible footage of his, not because it’s bad, but because “It’s Lester’s footage.” The unoriginal reuse of the first film’s copout ending only put the final nail in the coffin for this attempt.

One “new” version slated to be released sometime soon is Payback, the Mel Gibson revenge film. Apparently it drops the entire Kris Kristofferson subplot. It should be interesting to see.

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